Josie Martin (Candyland): DJ

  • Name: Josie Martin (Candyland)
  • Age: 23
  • Job Title: DJ
  • Job Description: Produce, perform, and market Candyland’s music.
  • Location: Fullerton, CA

Tell me about the path that led to where you are today.

I didn’t feel like I had a purpose in high school. I stopped playing basketball because of an injury and felt like I had nothing to do since basketball had taken over my life for so long. I had always played music for fun so I felt like I should give it a real shot. I starting playing shows around UCSB at first. My mom knew I really wanted to learn more about DJing so she didn’t pay rent for two months in order to buy me CDJs (turntables). That was a huge deal for me.

I was also writing about the music scene at the time. I joined the school newspaper and began working at SB Nightlife. I actually started a music magazine within their website where I would interview people like Benny Benassi. The crew at SB Nightlife mentored me and taught me graphic design and pretty much everything I know about music marketing so I took those skills and applied them to Candyland — I still do all of our graphic design and marketing today.

I also met my former DJ partner Ethan in high school. We weren’t really planning on doing anything big with it — it was just kind of fun at the time — but we ended up getting signed after releasing our first song. We got a manager the next day and things just went really fast from there and I haven’t stopped since.

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Candyland started as a duo with Ethan and now you are doing your own thing. Can you tell me more about that decision? Has the music changed since you’ve taken on a solo career?

Ethan decided to pursue other projects so I’ve taken over Candyland. The music has changed a bit — my vibe is more dark and hip hop influenced.

Why the name Candyland?

Ethan wanted something that people could easily chant at shows and Candyland seemed like a good fit. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse now. People don’t take me as seriously, which is fine sometimes because I don’t always take myself super seriously, but I need to be taken seriously in the sense that this is my passion and my career.

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Was there a certain show or moment when you knew you could really make it?

We opened for this group called PeaceTreaty at Velvet Jones in 2011. It was sold out and Ethan crowd surfed — it was the craziest show we had ever done up until then. PeaceTreaty actually complained that we stole the show and went too hard — when we got that email it was a realization that we could be headlining shows.

You play multiple instruments, right?

I play drums, piano, guitar, bass, violin, really anything I can get my hands on.

So where did the love for dance music come from?

I was introduced to dance music through this one kid in math class. He was the weird one in the back listening to dance music and when I asked him what it was, he told me about Basshunter and all of this experimental dance music. It was the weirdest thing that I had ever heard so I downloaded the song and played it at a party in 2009. This is when everyone was listening to hip hop music and grinding at parties. When I played Basshunter, everyone started jumping up and down. I went home after that night and got on Myspace (I might have been the last person to still have Myspace) and I found Steve Aoki and DJ AM. I started to get really into turntablism, scratching, beat juggling, and all the crazy things that DJ AM was doing.

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How does one learn how to DJ?

I taught myself. You can always look at YouTube videos to learn new things. That’s how I learned to scratch. For producing, everyone goes to YouTube and watches different tutorials. But for DJing, well, I taught my brother how to DJ in like two hours. The whole concept is so easy. It’s just a matter of mixing everything well. If you want to DJ, you need to know how to mix a key and know what works together — that’s all you really need to know to get started. Well, you need to learn the decks and the mixer and how those work too but it’s all so easy to learn.

What does it take to be a big DJ then?

A solid team and a good vision. Dance music has evolved a lot. There’s a marketing strategy that goes into it. You need to have a vision and take yourself seriously in that regard.

Does the equipment make a big difference?

Not really. If you have a computer and some good monitors, then you’re good to go on the production end. Every club has the best equipment. I have CDJs at my house but I’m not going to pack them up and bring them to every show. You really don’t need to even buy them at this point — you can go to a guitar center and teach yourself if you’re on a budget.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about dance music?

The fact that the Top 40 songs are all being made by bedroom dance music producers and no one knows it. There are so many DJs who are making music for the Top 40 artists. Chris Brown, will.i.am, all the big ones — the DJs make their music. Even Zedd who is a huge DJ produces a ton of music for Justin Bieber. Cashmere Cat and Lido produce almost all of Ariana Grande’s music. Wolfgang Gartner makes music for Britney Spears. It’s funny when people say they don’t like DJs or dance music when we are the ones producing for all the biggest artists.

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What hardware and software goes into producing?

I went to the Jim Henson studio and they have huge soundboards and crazy booths for people to sing in — the big studios have a lot of hardware. But most people I know just have different computer software — Ableton and FL are the most common ones. It’s all online. It’s all downloadable.

What do you use?

FL.

Some people believe that DJing is just making a playlist and hitting play. Tell me about what actually goes on onstage.

There are definitely people who just hit play. I’ve seen it. People like Paris Hilton have a master mix where they click play and might come up with a few effects during the show.

So what do you do onstage?

Most DJs have an idea of what works together. You can’t just mix random songs and have it sound perfect, you know? So you make a playlist of songs that you think might work well together and then you really have to feel the crowd out. I use Serato, which allows me to play and mix anything I have on my iTunes. I have every song on my iTunes arranged by key so I know what songs might go well together. Serato allows me to see what songs have the same general beat and then I just kind of go for it. If I’m playing in the South, I know they like more trap music. If I play in Colorado, I know they love dubstep and bass. In New York they like the weirdest stuff you can give them — it always depends on the crowd.

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Was there a certain DJ who inspired you to start making this type of music?

First it was DJ AM. He was the only person I ever cared about when it came to DJing. When he died, A-Trak kind of took his place in terms of turntablism. Lately DJ Snake has been taking the cake for me. His style of DJing is something I really like and the music is just phenomenal. He’s my number one influence at this point.

It seems like there are so many aspiring DJs out there. What advice would you give someone who wants to stand out? 

Be as original as possible. People get blinded by the trends that happen with dance music. If you follow them, it might be easier to get seen but you can make pretty much any sound you want with dance music so instead of following the trend, try to be the person who creates the trend.

How long does it usually take to make a song?

It depends how much time you want to put into the song. It’s normal if you think it’s good to go in two or three weeks. I’ve had friends knock songs out in hours. And then I have friends like Seven Lions who was making song with Ellie Goulding and spent two months on it — everyone has their own speed.

What is Candyland’s most popular song?

We made a Sandstorm remix four years ago that blew up.

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Can you share a bit about what you are working on now?

I’m putting out a song called Speechless with RKCB. And I just released a remix for Grace. She did a song with G-Eazy called You Don’t Own Me. That one is already out but SoundCloud and Sony are in a huge legal battle right now so if you release anything on Sony, you can’t put it out on SoundCloud. I also have a bunch of originals that I’m working on. Other than that, I’ve gotten really into making hip hop beats and I’m trying to get into Top 40 production.

Question from the last interviewee: At what age did you realize you wanted to pursue this as a career and why?

I think I was 16 years old. And I wanted to do it because I didn’t want to feel like a loner anymore.

What one question do you want the next interviewee on People With Cool Jobs to answer? (You can ask anything!)

Was there anyone telling you that you shouldn’t pursue the career you’re in?

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