Derek Vincent Smith, the producer behind Pretty Lights, is headlining CounterPoint Music Festival this weekend alongside other high-profile electronic dance music artists, including Skrillex and Bassnectar. The Colorado native's eight-album canon consists of originally produced tracks laced with obscure soul and hip-hop samples over glitchy beats. Though he's a native of Colorado, Smith is no stranger to Atlanta. So we caught up with him to see how he compares Atlanta's EDM scene to other cities, what distinguishes his live sets from his discography, and why he prefers giving all of his music away for free.
How are you doing today?
I just had a nap, so I kind of have sleepy voice. And I just came from a rave in L.A., and those are always kind of strange. It was off-tour, so that's why I flew from Houston and came back. But I'm back on tour with the proper show and the proper crew and the proper homies. All the properness is coming to ATL.
What are your thoughts on playing at CounterPoint?
I'm really excited for CounterPoint because it's in Atlanta, one, and I have a huge fan base there, which is one super cool thing about it. And I kind of did a little growing up there in Atlanta. I used to spend some of the summers with my dad, who lived there. I am familiar with the area, and I love doing shows in Georgia, man. People show so much love.
How would you say the EDM scene is in Atlanta as compared to other cities?
I'd say Atlanta is more on the North American dancing trip — and when I say North American, like the new school shit. When I go to Europe or when Bassnectar goes to Europe, people don't know about it on the street. But here, there's a handful of cities that have really pushed it forward. And we're the first to really embrace it and make it bigger and have the community to really support that. It is blowing up in all kinds of directions, from dubstep and electro hip-hop and glitch-hop and all that stuff they don't really do in Europe. Although they definitely have dubstep in Europe.
But Europe has a pretty big dance music scene, right?
With the more traditional EDM genres, for sure. But in terms of what Pretty Lights Music is — more a fusion of hip-hop and soul and electronic music — Atlanta was one of the first cities to embrace that music. And Atlanta was one of the first cities I played out in when I started touring.
So your classic rock samples are really popular online. How are they received live? And what are some of your tracks that the crowd responds to the best?
I don't bring a lot of classic rock into my discography. I do classic rock mixes for fun sometimes, and they never show up on my albums; I just do them for fun in live shows. I have a Led Zeppelin remix and a Pink Floyd remix and a Steve Miller Band remix. I don't really sample classic rock. I try to keep to super-obscure: soul, funk, and jazz is what makes it on my tracks. I put out a lot of music. I put out eight records so far, so that's pretty cool for me because I have such a wide discography to produce live while I'm performing. I don't play anyone else's music, which not many headlining DJs or producers can say. It's usually 50/50, or they mix it up. I've always only played my own original productions live.
How is it going with you putting your music out for free online? Do people actually donate enough for you to support yourself some?
I support myself mainly through touring, and I give my music out for free because I just believe in that philosophy, really. I want as many people to hear it as possible. And yes, they do give donations, and I do make income off it — not enough as if I strictly sold my music, but I'm in it just to make fresh music and have it spread around the globe.
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