GayCalgary® Magazine [copy]

DJ Tracy Young is a Giver

“I give my heart, soul and body to every performance that I do”

Celebrity Interview by Farley FooFoo (From GayCalgary® Magazine, May 2014, page 20)
DJ Tracy Young
DJ Tracy Young

Tracy Young has already had the kind of career most DJs dream of – a career that has spanned nearly two and a half decades and has allowed her the opportunity to work with an astonishing number of the top musical acts in the world, including Cher, Pink, Britney Spears, and Madonna.

She has been asked to lend her talents to such enviable gigs as the Emmys, Britney Spears’s 21st birthday bash, Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite Tour, and was hand picked by Madonna herself to DJ her 2000 wedding to Guy Ritchie.

Never one to miss an opportunity to give back, Young has also graciously involved herself in a vast array of charities including numerous GLAAD awards, The Elton John AIDS Foundation, The White Party held annually in Miami, as well as breast cancer and animal rights fundraisers.

Known for her crowd thrilling DJ sets and chart topping remixes, Young is set to release her first album of all original material. In anticipation of her upcoming performance at Edmonton’s Girl: Pride 2014 party being held on Friday, June 13th at the Starlite Room, Young spoke with Gay Calgary about her remarkable career as a DJ, party promoter and head of her own record label, FEROSH Records.

GC: So, Montreal is sort of your Canadian home, but have you ever spun for us here in Calgary or Edmonton before?

TY: I feel like I’ve been to Calgary. It’s been a while, I have been to Winnipeg. I’ve never been to Edmonton. I’m going to Montreal actually on Tuesday, just for a vacation, because I love it there. And I play in Toronto and Montreal but I have never been to Edmonton, no.

GC: OK, so it will be your first time here in our city and hopefully we bring a good crowd out for you.

TY: [laughs] I hope so, yeah! I’m excited! I love Canada!

GC: You spin all over the world; do you find that you have to vary up your style depending on whether you’re spinning in Miami or New York or L.A.?

TY: You know, that’s interesting. Yes, I do sometimes. That might be something I personally do myself. I know other DJs that don’t, but I always feel that my job is to make the crowd happy. Part of that is, of course, playing new stuff and trying new sounds etc., but also letting the customer have a good time. I mean, that’s my job at the end of the day; to make sure everybody at the club has a good time.

GC: And also depending on where it is, there are always flavours that sort of work: New York might like a deeper house sound whereas in Miami they like-

TY: They like the Cha Cha! [laughs]

GC: Yeah the Latin flavour, and Latin house!

TY: Yeah it’s true! I’ve never had somebody ask me that question but it’s definitely true. And you know, there are certain signature songs and sounds that each city likes. But there’s also part of it, that goes into, you know, you want the Tracy Young experience [laughs]. You know, they hire me because they want something different and what I do, and I get that too. But I kind of mix it up, and throw little surprises in here and there.

GC: And because you are based out of Miami and New York, there is something to be said for bringing things that are maybe blowing up there but maybe haven’t hit Edmonton yet. And if you can bring that to Edmonton, you can kind of introduce the crowd to what’s happening in the Miami scene.

TY: Yeah, exactly! I think there’s a part of that as well. But... I do like to hear requests because I like to know what people are listening to. I’m not unapproachable, like some. [laughs] I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just meant, you know, the only way you stay in touch and stay relevant is to know what people want.

GC: To stay in touch with the crowd and the changing musical tastes.

TY: Yeah. Maybe they know something I don’t. I doubt it because I’m pretty awesome! [Big laugh] No, I’m just kidding.

GC: You’re a pioneer for female DJs in the industry, and you’ve been in the game for a minute (been in the industry a long time) so I was wondering how you feel the house music scene has changed over the last couple of decades.

TY: I have to say, honestly, with any change there is an adjustment. And it’s also good and bad. The good thing is dance music is now mainstream and it’s popular. It’s on the radio. The bad thing is that there are so many different genres of house music as it was once called. And I feel that sometimes certain sounds get overlooked. But it happened with hip hop as well. You know, there was one style of hip hop that made it on the radio, and then it kind of opened up to different styles of hip hop. So I’m kind of thinking that would be the same thing that would happen with dance music. But as far as like the festivals and the EDM and all that, I mean, it’s kind of starting to sound the same to me. I’m more of a melodic, musical type of a person. I don’t really like all that noise [laughs]. But I’m not mad that it exists because it is opening people’s minds musically, including mine. I would have never created sounds like that in my studio but I’m happy that it exists because that’s what art is and that’s what growing is. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all; in fact I think it’s a good thing. It’s just, the only thing that I do miss is the culture sometimes. The dance floor experience. Because it has become so mainstream, people can get the club experience in different elements. I miss the club culture! I miss being able to go to a dance floor and dance until I have to wring out my t-shirt! I feel like the club is dying but, I don’t know; it is very different now.

GC: You are always going to lose something anytime you take something that is relatively underground and it becomes mainstream. There will always be a loss of a little bit of the flavour that kept it underground.

TY: Exactly! It becomes pop. It becomes popular. So, [in a sarcastic tone] it loses its cool because, oh God, everybody is doing it. But that’s what we want! It’s like gay marriage. That is what we want! I could go on and on, so, you’ll just have to cut me off. [laughs]

C: I would never cut you off! [more laughter] Now, I know that Madonna has been a really big influence on your career, but I was wondering if there have been any heroes or any influences that have been a big factor in your life that have not been in the music industry?

TY: Oh yeah of course. My grandmother... I like you! Your questions are really cool!

GC: Thank you! [laughs]

TY: My grandmother. My family of course. Yeah actually and there was, I don’t think she would want me to mention her name, but I had some unfortunate experiences growing up and there is [someone] who is still in my life, who was my roommate. She took me in, gave me a place to live. And we are still in touch to this day, but she kind of saved my life at a time when it was kind of difficult. I would rather leave her anonymous because I know she wouldn’t want me to mention her name. She lives in Washington DC and we were roommates for a very long time, and I owe a lot to her because without her I probably wouldn’t be in this business or have my college education because [getting] those were the prerequisites of moving in with her. You know, I came out when I was gay and certain family members didn’t like that so I ended up moving in with her. Thank God that has changed too. I mean, everything is fine now with my family but it wasn’t always.

GC: Well society had to change, and people coming out when they did, that is what changed society. Because all of a sudden instead of being that one gay guy that they may have known, there are hundreds of gay people and...

TY: Yeah and they have children and they have cousins and, yeah you’re right. You are absolutely right.

GC: Have you ever found yourself being able to be that for another person as well? To take someone under your wing, or kind of mentor them?

TY: I have always wanted to do that and when I have it has backfired [laughs]. I love to help people and I love to give advice. Yeah, I have done it, because I’ve always wanted to give back the way that I was given a shot. But it has kind of never worked out that way so, I’m done with that part of my life [laughs]. I love people, I love giving. I’m a giver. But you have got to be careful when you’ve got that in your personality.

GC: Yeah, you can sometimes be taken advantage of.

TY: Especially in my position. But it’s ok.

GC: I guess it comes with the territory, right?

TY: I like to see people happy. Maybe that’s why I’m a DJ. I like for people to have a good time, that’s what makes me happy. I’m a giver so, I give musically I guess. I never thought about it. Maybe I should write you a $150 cheque for my psychology appointment [laughs]. I always like to make sure everybody else is ok before myself.

GC: I think that is probably a common characteristic of some of the top DJs and party producers. Everyone is having a good time and everyone is partying and celebrating and you are up there working. But you don’t mind doing that work because you’re seeing so many other people enjoying the benefits.

TY: Exactly. I mean, it is exhausting at times but for the most part I love it.

GC: Which artists or acts are you heavily rotating into your sets these days?

TY: I have actually been in the studio a lot lately. I’m getting ready to release a bunch of new original material... that I have been testing out. It’s Tracy Young originals so be on the lookout! And I’m working on an album which I’ve been working on for like four or five years but it’s finally coming together. And I’ve remixed recently Cher, Kylie Minogue, Demi Lovato, Katy Perry... I’m really name dropping right now actually [laughs].

GC: I love the ZZ Ward Last Love remix, I was just listening to that.

TY: I love the way that turned out! I was just getting ready to say ZZ Ward and Christina Perry. I do play a lot of my own remixes. And I’m also working on the new Beyoncé right now so hopefully that will be done before I get to Edmonton. So I will be able to premier it there!

GC: That would be amazing! An exclusive for the Edmonton crowd – that would be dope! So your album coming out, is it going to be mostly instrumental or are you going to be teaming up with some artists or even local artists or vocalists?

TY: I’m working on the vocal part. I have about five vocal tracks that I’ve been working with local people. I’m releasing one as a single in the next month. It’s called Give It Up. Yeah, it’s gonna be a combination of both instrumentals and vocals. Kind of like a Groove Armada or Fat Boy Slim back in the day type stuff.

GC: That kind of goes back to the fact that your sound, rather than the bass heavy, pumping [EDM], tends to be very melodic, melody driven, with a classical edge. That is kind of the secret to your longevity. I don’t think that will ever go out of style.

TY: I just like melody. I think it’s so important.... for me music is all about melody and harmonies, and the melody is what creates the emotion and the feeling and what makes you gravitate toward a song. I just don’t understand – I don’t hear melody in a lot of the new music now... I’m not judging, I just prefer something else.

GC: Some people kind of want to tune out, but then there are other people, like myself, who really like to hear music with a soul. I find a lot of the music and the electro that comes out today is soulless.

TY: Yeah, I agree. And like I said there is a place for everybody. And that’s the beauty of dance music. Because it’s so open format. There are so many different ways; there is so much up-tempo music that is so good right now. And with the evolution of SoundCloud and YouTube and Mixcloud, the listener is much more educated. And I love that. It puts you on top of your game a little more.

GC: You have worked with almost all of the biggest names in music from Madonna to Pink to Idina Menzel; is there anybody you have yet to work with that you really want to collaborate with?

TY: Beyoncé [laughs]. Annie Lennox and Sarah McLachlan too. They are brilliant. I was gonna say Stevie Nicks but I forgot – I did work with her! [laughs]

GC: One of your earlier remixes, I think, was Stevie Nicks?

TY: Yeah, I did Planets of the Universe and then she gave me two more: Stand Back and Edge of Seventeen. Edge of Seventeennever came out though. I play it in [some of] my sets. I loved the way it turned out but, sometimes that’s how it goes. Not everything sees the light of day.

GC: We actually have an amazing amount of [queer and] lesbian acts that have come out of Alberta: from Kinnie Starr to Jann Arden, KD Lang to Tegan and Sara. Any of those ladies that you would want to work with?

TY: Oh God yeah! I would work with any of them. Actually KD I’ve met several times. She is amazing! I was talking about her the other day; her voice is unbelievable! Tegan and Sara I would love to work with.

GC: Do you prefer to be in the studio, producing your own tracks and remixes, or playing out at gigs in front of a crowd?

TY: You know, I’m actually quite shy believe it or not. I like it all though. I get bored very easily. I get bored doing the same thing over and over. So the fact that I wear so many hats is good for me. I have a record label, I’m a producer, I’m a DJ, I promote parties myself. I do it all, otherwise I would be bored. I’m super hyper; I’m always doing something.

GC: When you’re not spinning or making music what are some of the things that you really enjoy doing?

TY: [Spending time with] my dogs. I actually like landscaping and being in my yard, as dorky as that sounds [laughs]. I love biking. I just love being outside. I’m an outdoors person. I love to go for long walks and stuff like that.

GC: I guess that’s why you moved to Miami; you can actually be outdoors 365 days of the year.

TY: Yeah, pretty much. But you can be outside in Montreal, you just got to bundle up! I don’t mind the cold. I will go out in any type of weather...I like the seasons. That’s why I like going back and forth from [Miami] and New York. I love Christmas in a cold environment. I’m from Virginia so I’m a country girl at heart.

GC: Because you travel a lot, what are the three apps on your phone that you just can’t do without?

TY: [Laughing] My American Airlines app, Facebook and Twitter! No, forget those because everybody’s on those. Uber, American Airlines, and my GPS! I’ve just been turned on to Uber and it’s such a great thing. It’s like a taxi cab service, [but] it’s cheaper and you don’t have to exchange money. It’s on your credit card. You get a receipt in your email. In and out. It’s amazing.

GC: In a place like New York that would be so crucial. When you’re in New York, do you have a favourite borough?

TY: Manhattan baby! I’m a Manhattan girl. Most people like Brooklyn. I like Manhattan for sure.

GC: Do you like being in Chelsea?

TY: I used to live in Chelsea in ’82. I’m actually really enjoying Harlem right now. That place is gonna explode. There is real music up there! They have a lot of jazz shows, obviously, the Apollo [theatre] is there. There is a lot of music up there so I like to be up there. I’m doing the GLAAD awards in New York so I will [be there].

GC: You do a lot of the GLAAD awards. Do you find that, because of the nature of the awards, that it is so community oriented and people are in such a generous and celebratory mood, that it translates to the crowd when you are playing for them? That they really get into it?

TY: I don’t know... I believe in that organization 500 per cent. I think it is such a necessary [entity]. They have done so much for the media and the images that we see on television and the verbiage and the language; protecting gays and transgendered [people] and bisexuals. I have always [felt] images and words are so powerful. We don’t even realize it. So I have been working with them for a very long time. I just find it such a necessary organization to be a part of. It is an honour that they ask me to DJ. There are so many DJs that they could ask.

GC: Going from the really good, being the GLAAD awards, to the opposite. Are there any festivals or countries or cities that you have played in that you would never go back to because you haven’t had the best experiences with them?

TY: You know, no. I have never really had a bad experience anywhere. I mean, everybody is entitled to a bad day, right? I don’t blame a country or a city on an experience that I’ve had with a particular person or promoter. It’s not the city’s fault.

GC: What about if they wanted to book you in Russia right now? Would you have some second thoughts?

TY: Knowing what I do know, no I wouldn’t go there at all. I know it’s just ridiculous [referring to Russia’s current anti-gay legislation].

GC: I guess that comes with not only being a queer artist but even as a female artist; we don’t have that white, heterosexual privilege. There are still these roadblocks for female artists or for queer artists having to go to places that are not gay friendly that maybe a lot of other artists don’t realize and don’t have to contend with.

TY: I’m used to being the underdog though. My whole life I have been the underdog. But when it’s a safety issue, that’s a different thing. I’m used to running an uphill battle. It has been my whole career. People would tell me no, you can’t DJ, you’re a girl. I heard people say that. Stuff like that doesn’t bother me... When you’re telling me no you can’t do something that just motivates me to prove you wrong! [laughs] That is the Scorpio in me. If someone says Tracy I don’t want to be with you I just walk away. But if somebody tells me you can’t do this because you’re a girl, or you don’t have the right sound or this or that, that is in my control. I will prove you wrong for sure if it’s important to me. [laughs]

GC: I like that tenacity!

TY: [laughing] I have been called that before – tenacious.

GC: You need to be very tenacious to be the head of a record label. Where would you like to see FEROSH Records go over the coming years?

TY: You know, that is just more of a way for me to have creative control over my own art. Because when you are working with another label, you kind of have to go under their direction, unfortunately. It’s more of an artistic outlet. It’s a business decision too, to have a record label. Obviously you don’t want to lose money, or you want to make money; this is how I live. For me, when I started this record label, it was at a time when, once again, people were telling me we can’t release a compilation by a girl or we can’t release a full length album from a girl so I said, well, fuck you then. I’ll just make my own label and do it myself. So the label is there. It’s not my main focus to be developing artists and things, it is more of a way that I can control my art, and when I release [projects], and who I work with, etc.

GC: I would imagine there might come a time where you see an artist  whom you don’t think is getting the recognition or the opportunities they deserve, and having your own record label and doing your own music gives you a chance to help them.

TY: Definitely. I’m not closed to it. I just, you know, I’m so busy with a lot of other things. But the label is there, and I have done a lot of things with it, and it is a primary focus. But I’m not looking for demos, unless one comes in that I like... If somebody sends me a fantastic song, Ill put it out. Stuff like that. But I’m more focused on my DJing and my own productions rather than developing artists at this point in my career. That part will come, because I’m getting older, as we all are. [laughs]

GC: It also speaks to the giving back. Once you reach a point in your career where you have done a lot of things, you like to help nurture new upcoming talent and people who you sort of see a bit of yourself in.

TY: Yeah, exactly.

GC: And finally, what can an Edmonton crowd expect when coming to see DJ Tracy Young spin?

TY: I give my heart, soul and body to every performance that I do, so I guarantee that you will have a good time. Lots of great new music, lots of great classics and some great remixes.

GC: And hopefully a lot of Tracy Young remixes?

TY: Yeah, of course! And I like to support other people’s remixes as well.


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