photos by Jose Valdovinos for Festival Squad
If you’ve seen Big Wild perform live, you know what to expect. Golden blonde locks swinging from side-to-side, drums beat with excitement, and the fans going, well, wild. Big Wild’s music doesn’t just make you dance. It makes you feel alive, and thats exactly what he has been aiming for. Jackson Stell, better known as Big Wild, has been Invincible since he connected with Seattle-based ODESZA on Soundcloud years ago. Now, this easy-going 27 year old is getting ready to headline his very first festival, UpNorth in Michigan next month. We were lucky to catch up with Big Wild at Bonanza Campout in Herber City, Utah in June to discuss all things music, the creation of his EP, and what lies ahead. The Foreign Family producer has revealed that hes making some strides in his music world, and hes about to shake up his already incredible performance. He humbly explains that new music, emotional and personal revelations combined with singing/songwriting are making their way to your speakers.
Want the full scoop? Check out the interview below!
Festival Squad: Hey Festival Squad this is Stephanie and today we are sitting here with Jackson Stell, better known as Big Wild, at Bonanza Campout here in Utah. Thank you for sitting down with us today, Jackson!
Big Wild: Yeah, of course, my pleasure.
Festival Squad: You are one busy guy! You just came here from Electric Forest, you’re here with us at Bonanza, and you’ve got several other festivals that you’ve hit as well as Red Rocks that’s coming up this summer and this fall. So, how does it feel to get this far in such a short amount of time?
Big Wild: Its funny cause for me it hasn’t felt like that short of a time, cause I’ve been making music since I was 13. But, recently its definitely picked up. Its been really cool to see more and more people vibe with your music. You can see your hard work pay off, you know. And its all about sticking and focusing on making the best music you can and giving people a unique experience they can’t get anywhere else. That’s kind of where my heads at and I guess its starting to pay off a little bit.
Festival Squad: Well the fans continue to support you and your music and in fact, as a fan curated site, because we are as Festival Squad, we decided to ask some of your fans for questions that they would like you to answer. That is what a lot of these questions are here today. First lets stay on the topic of festivals, how does it feel to be headlining Up North?
Big Wild: That’s going to be awesome. You know, I have done a lot of supporting roles and its slowly creeping in where I get to do more of these bigger shows like Up North and I really get to showcase what my show is. And to start to get those opportunities is really cool. And like I said before, its awesome to see your work slowly pay off and start to get more opportunities like that. Its cool.
Festival Squad: That is fantastic, and like I said the fans are definitely appreciating what you’re doing and following the journey on the way up. Switching over to your music, can you tell us what was the most impactful moment on your Invincible tour and can you tell us a little about the process in creating Invincible?
Big Wild: Well, I’ll start with the EP. I wanted to create a project that had both music that would make people dance and want to move, as simple as that is; while at the same time having songwriting and vocals in it that made people feel something more than just a simple beat. I wanted to have both an emotional and a physical component to my music. And that’s how that came together. And then I wanted the tour to reflect that as well. Really my show is based around just having its own unique experience and also having a really fun, good time. I brought that on tour while at the same time, working with visual artist Dan Sanfronan on tour. We wanted to create visuals that also reflected more emotional aspect to the music. And bring it all together in a whirlwind of a show. [As for the most impactful moment] I think it would be the shows we did in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and the crowds were sold out and the crowds were big and we were like “wow, this is different than the tour before”, you know. This is bigger and people are really feeling it. IT was really inspiring and kept me motivated because when you start a tour, it’s a little nerve racking. Its like, I don’t know how this is going to go. It’s a risk. And to get that immediate payoff was really really reassuring.
Festival Squad: I think that the live element to what you’re doing with the electronic component is really what draws people in and gets people going. I do think that plays into a lot of that experience. Kind of tying into what you were talking about, because you were talking a little bit about trying to draw some emotion from the crowd, what kind of story are you really trying to tell with your music?
Big Wild: For the Invincible EP, it was a lot of themes of self-empowerment, and being able to conquer your own fears and demons. At least, with the song Invincible and Empty Room and then I guess overall I touch on a lot of things especially… I haven’t released this new music but a lot of the music I’m working on touches on themes around love around a lot of things I deal with. Its kind of like.. I wouldn’t want to say self doubt but kind of doubting myself but at the same time wanting to keep exploring and trying new things. A lot of themes that I deal with personally. I just want to get out there and share my little slice of my human experience.
Festival Squad: So its very personal is what you’re telling us.
Big Wild: Always. If it wasn’t personal, I wouldn’t really be able to make it and come up with ideas. It has to be based on something I can relate to and understand.
Festival Squad: So you’ve talked about some difficult times you may have gone through which have brought about some of these great songs or struggles sometimes, and I know you mentioned love as well. But what about difficult times in terms of creativity? Where do you find motivation when you go through some of those dips?
Big Wild: Yeah, hitting a roadblock can be very frustrating. And sometimes it really depends. Sometimes that frustration… if you just keep working at something, you can get that moment where its like “oh wow, I just had a great idea”. Typicaly I find its best to just switch to something else. If you really feel like you’re getting upset and you’re not getting anywhere for a long period of time. Maybe I’ll stop working on making new music and go work on something on my live show or mess around with a new instrument I’ve never used before. Or just not even doing anything musical, just go out on a hike or take a couple days and let it breathe. Its really understanding yourself and when you’ve reached a point when you can tell you’re really not getting anything done anymore. So you really have to know yourself which comes with creating a lot and doing it over and over again. And being like “Ok, I’ve been here before. I am going to take it easy and come back and I’m gonna knock it out of the park”. Just knowing that about yourself allows you to overcome those kinds of obstacles and roadblocks.
Festival Squad: That makes sense and it seems like you look for more of an organic way to be motivated with your music. Like you mentioned hiking and just seeking things about yourself rather than trying to force it.
Big Wild: Yeah, totally.
Festival Squad: Touching on music still, any plans with collaborations, and specifically a fan has asked if you’re planning to collaborate with ODESZA?
BW: With ODESZA [chuckles]. We don’t have anything currently in the works, we have made music together though and its not like it doesn’t sound like Big Wild or ODESZA, but it sounds like kind of its own separate thing. We make music for fun occasionally, whether we put it out or what I don’t know. But I definitely love making music with those guys, they’re really good friends of mine too. We do have tracks we’ve made together and I think I could see at some point we’d put something out together because we bond so well, and musically too. Sometime in the future we’ll do that. I do have a couple of things in the works with a few vocalists, but for the most part what I’ve been doing going forward is actually doing all the parts of the song of my own. I’ve been writing lyrics, I’ve been singing, and I’ve been doing the production. So its kind of like I’m a producer/singer/songwriter kind of thing. Cause that’s what been inspiring me lately and I’m kind of seeing where that goes. And trying to put together a project around it really.
FS: You’ve mentioned new music several times throughout this conversation so we’ve got to ask… when can we expect an album?
BW: I have no idea to be honest. [Laughs] I know that’s not the answer you want. But this summer, when I’m not playing festivals on the weekends I go home and really work on new things. And I’m just kind of playing it all by ear and making what’s inspiring me at the moment. And figuring how I’m going to bring it all together in the end. Right now I’m kind of in that starting phase where I’m just making a bunch of ideas and a bunch of demos and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t.
FS: Well a lot of fans have asked for that, let me tell you. Several fans asked that question when we put out that we wanted some questions. Just a couple more questions here for you, Jackson. We’d like a little more insight into you and I know that you have delved a little into your personal life in this conversation but specifically do you have any pre-show rituals?
BW: You know, I have been asked this a lot. It sounds boring but I don’t. I think my preshow ritual is that I don’t have a ritual. Its always random whatever I’m doing before. Usually I would say the one consistent thing is I might have like a small shot of tequila then I go on stage and do my thing usually. Yeah, its always different because usually its hard to make something be the same every time. Theres always different people backstage…depending on how I’m feeling. I think the ritual is that there is no ritual.
FS: That’s ok too, but I like the tequila one! We did already talk about when we can expect an album. We will wait on that and hopefully see that announcement come out sometime in the near future. Last question for you: how do you keep that luscious hair on point?
BW: There’s honestly no secret to it, I use very normal shampoo and I wish I could give some kind of like.. special tip. I think, I don’t know, maybe just got a little lucky with how it came out. I never had long hair before two years ago. I always had it short. So when I decided to grow it out it was kind of like a big experiment just to like… alright I want to do this, lets try it. And I ended up really liking it. Its you know, shampoo maybe twice a week, rinse it once or twice a week and that’s it. Nothing crazy.
FS: Well, fantastic – it looks good on you [laughs]!
BW: Thank you, thank you.
FS: Well thank you so much Jackson for sitting with us today and we are signing off!
BW: Great to be here, thanks!
Keep up to date with everything Big Wild and follow him on Facebook, SoundCloud & be sure to check his website for announcements!