Go in-depth with Gareth Emery as we talk family, touring, and life lessons from this beloved artist!
One of the most memorable dance music event memories I have was over three years ago. Let’s take it back to June 21st, 2013, a Friday. It was midnight in Las Vegas as I walked into a massive feat of human engineering that was breathtaking to behold, the structure known as circuitGROUNDS at the Electric Daisy Carnival. As I walked into circuitGROUNDS, I was in awe of how many people fit into this MegaStructure, even more than the year prior. Soon I heard the intro track of a set that would end up sticking with me for some time, though at the time I didn’t know it. That intro track turned out to be “Entrada” by Gareth Emery. A song which he would not be releasing for almost a year after the fact. I stayed for the entire length of the set and was in love with the mixing, the song selection, the crowd engagement and so much more. Following the event, I probably listened to the recording of that set over a hundred times as I went back to relive those memories in my head. I hadn’t heard of Gareth Emery up until that point but in those moments he made me a fan for life.
Since EDC Las Vegas 2013, Gareth Emery has made massive strides in the scene. He’s played countless shows, curated hundreds of podcasts and mixes, released three albums, and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down anytime soon. In 2014 he released his second studio album titled “Drive”, which featured songs like “U” with Bo Bruce, “Solider” with Roxanne Emery (Gareth’s sister), and many more. In 2016 he went on to release ‘100 Reasons To Live’ his third studio album and in my opinion, the best one yet. Throughout the album, he displays his aptitude at a variety of musical styles and genres from the follow-up to “Concrete Angel” in “Save Me” with Christina Novelli to the hilariously named “CVNT5” with Ashley Wallbridge.
We had the chance to catch up with Gareth Emery before his set onboard Groove Cruise Cabo 2016. A five-day musical festival on a ship that set sail from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and back. Read on as he talks life advice, family, collaborations, touring, and more in this in-depth interview!
Missed out on our Groove Cruise Cabo coverage? Check our out event review by clicking here.
You’ve spoken in previous interviews about struggles you’ve had, how much you’ve progressed in life, and things you’ve learned along the way. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned that you think more people could benefit from?
Be your fucking self. It’s a lot harder than it sounds because it’s easy when you start. So when you start your career, you don’t know what the industry is like. So you naturally have quite an authentic version of yourself out there in the world. And then once you start to have a career, and you start to see the way other DJs act it’s quite easy to start acting the way other people act. So if everyone on Twitter spends all day going “Yeah bro, yeah bro!” to each other, it’s quite easy to become part of the “Yeah bro!” crew. Even if you’re not a “Yeah bro!” person. And I’m not a “Yeah bro!” person but for a few years, I was writing “Yeah bro!” on Twitter. I feel like in the last two years I realized it was ok to be who the fuck I am. And there was probably like five or six years where I was trying to fit in. Because it can be a bit of a clique, a bit of a jocks and popular kids in school type of thing. I think, whoever the fuck you are, be that person and never fucking change. Even when you achieve success in whatever you do be it music or life, stay true to who you are. It’s much easier.
Your latest album, ‘100 Reasons To Live’, is heavily based on enjoying yourself, embracing positivity, and gratitude in life. What are the top 3 things in life that you enjoy more than anything?
Spending time with my family, number one. By a long way number one. Becoming a parent the last two years has blown my fucking mind. It really is like the greatest gift that life has to offer. And the time I spend with my daughter and my wife is so much the next level it’s fucking crazy. Number two, shows, right? Being able to play shows like [Groove Cruise] today or festivals like EDC or whatever, really is an incredible gift. And those moments when you look out and just see that sea of people. You get these little moments of quietness in between the madness where you just look out and you’re like “Woah, this is my fucking job and this is my fucking life.” That definitely is one. The third one, I don’t know. What else is good in life? Gigs and family… I don’t know what the third would be, friends is always a good one. I don’t get many times when I get to sit and hang out with friends so that makes the times I do get special. That’s the one thing you kind of sacrifice touring the world non-stop. So those times when I do get to see my old school friends who don’t give a fuck about Gareth Emery the DJ or whatever. Who have just known me since I was 10 years old, and we get to sit in the pub and drink beers and talk about football and shit, that’s pretty amazing.
So your daughter Sansa was born almost 2 years ago, you even named a track after her on the new album, and you work with your sister Roxanne quite frequently it seems. How important is family to you?
It’s the most important, it’s the thing. And it hasn’t always been that way. There have definitely been times when I didn’t appreciate my family as I should have done. I think it’s something we all do from time to time and take those people for granted. I was lucky because I became a parent at a point where I was already successful enough and mostly financially secure enough that I could give that the time it deserved. I’ve just seen too many artists who had kids and they kind of missed the first seven or eight years of their life. Because they were just blowing up, and when you’re blowing up you just wanted to travel and take every opportunity that comes your way. I didn’t want to be that person. And for me, I was kind of lucky. I’ve got no issue now with going “No I don’t want to do that, I want to spend time with the family.” Because I’ve done enough shit already. But yeah it’s been the most important thing. And Roxanne has been the best manager I’ve ever had, it’s been nearly three years now. And yeah… it’s the thing.
In the past, you’ve stated that you changed the way you worked in order to be able to spend more time with your daughter. Do you feel like you accomplished your goal?
It’s been kind of crazy. ‘Drive’ which was the album before ‘100 Reasons To Live’ took four years. And then, I became a dad just as I was starting to work on ‘100 Reasons To Live’. And the amount of time I could put into the studio became dramatically less. But in the last two years, I did ‘100 Reasons To Live’ which was the most successful album, number one on fucking iTunes in like sixteen countries or whatever the fuck it was (Editor’s note: it was eighteen). Started a new project which was CVNT5. To be honest, having less time and knowing that I want to finish work at like 5:30 when I’m home has allowed me to do a whole lot more. Sometimes deadlines are really fucking useful. Before, other than work I didn’t do anything. So every day was like, get up at ten o’clock and the day just stretched ahead of me. And there was very little urgency to do anything. So I’ve leaned that when you have less time for whatever reason, you can accomplish much more with fewer hours in the day.
We heard “Entrada” as the intro track for your EDC Las Vegas 2013 set and it wasn’t released or known for a year/year and a half after…
Another track from ‘Drive’, “Javelin” with Ben Gold played in 2012 didn’t get released for two fucking years. Like that’s how long the album took. And it didn’t need to take four years, could have been done in two. ‘Northern Lights’ was 2010, ‘Drive’ was 2014, but then in 2012 I released ‘Concrete Angel’. And that was such a runaway success I was like, I don’t need to do a fucking album right now, that track is big enough. I was having fun going around playing shows, getting drunk and shit.
That’s a pretty huge track though. It’s still going strong and you hear people dropping it in sets all the time too.
My ambition honestly, on a musical level, is to make tracks that live on and not just, you know… ‘Concrete Angel’ is coming up on five years. But tracks that will be living for twenty or thirty years. I don’t think I’ve done it yet. but ‘Concrete Angel’ is the closest I’ve got.
You want your own version of Sandstorm basically…*laughs*
Yeah! And probably more of a song I guess. ‘Sandstorm’ is the one that always comes into my head. Approaching twenty years, people still listen to it. And it’s difficult when you look at most tracks out there these days, to find tracks that anybody is going to give a fuck about in twenty months let alone twenty years. And I’m not saying I’ve done it. ‘Concrete Angel’ is the closest. Will people still be listening to it ten years after it was released? Probably. Twenty years? Not sure. Definitely won’t be as big as like… ‘Sandstorm’. It’s bigger now than it was twenty years ago. So there’s a goal.
You’re on the road, touring and playing shows quite frequently, does it ever get hard being away from them [your family] that much?
Really fucking hard. To be honest, even when you don’t have a family, it’s hard. I’d say, the optimum amount of shows to do a month that you can enjoy and appreciate every one is about five. Anything above five, once you start doing two or three shows every weekend it becomes a grind. Those shows are not always equal, so there’s always some ones that will be better than others. So the average standard of shows is very, very high. Like I don’t go and do shows to fucking three people like what used to happen. But there’s still some that are fucking incredible and some that are merely ok. And when you’re doing lots, the ones that are merely ok you’re like ehh… it starts to feel a little bit like work. So ideally I would probably do less. And I would probably split my life up into different sections. So I’d maybe spend three months doing no shows, just purely writing. And then spend three months touring, kind of like a band would. But you know, it’s still a pretty fucking sweet life. And I get a real kick out of tweaking things about my life. And trying to work out how to make it better. And trying to figure out how to fuck around with my touring schedule and my studio schedule to make life more efficient and more fun. So I’ve always got things I want to change but that’s kind of the challenge and one of the things I enjoy as well.
In the past, you’ve discussed that each album you have released tells a story and is a reflection of where you’re at in life. How have things been going since the album release and are you working on anything new you’d like to talk about?
Musically I’ve got a new single which will come out in,.. I think it’s going to be January. Which I think is the best trance record I’ve ever made. It’s not as poppy as ‘Concrete Angel’. It’s a big fucking track. I’m really happy for that one, so that’s going to come out in January. I’ve got a couple of other singles kicking around. I’m not going to rush into doing a new album. Because I’ve done three, and I’m glad to say, I can look back on all three albums and there’s very little I would have changed. Each one was difficult to write because I didn’t just get ten tracks and go bang there it is there’s an album. I worked my fucking bollocks off on every one to try to make not just the best music but the flow. I wanted them to work as individual bits of music. And I can genuinely say, hand on heart that those three albums were as good as I could have fucking made them. But I also don’t want to just keep repeating that format over and over again. The record label would love me to do that. They’d be like “Cool! ‘100 Reasons To Live’ was a great fucking success, when’s the next one? Two years? Cool!” Two years from then and I just get bored and want to do different shit. So there probably will be another album by me, at some point. But I don’t know how it’s going to sound and I don’t know when it’s going to be. For now, I’m just going kick out some singles and see what happens.
Is that kind of where the remix albums fit in? You can have 12 different artists and say “Oh, go make this track for me.” And you don’t have to do as much work really.
Yeah, the remix album is just a great way of scraping the fucking barrel. It’s money for old rope. Honestly, none of the remixes are old rope, because some of the remixes on ‘1000 Reasons To Live’ are actually very good. But like, yeah exactly, it’s basically where I can do nothing, and get to release another album. But it never does as well as the original which is probably exactly what it deserves. So I can’t complain.
You’re someone that’s collaborated with quite a few artists and vocalists. Who’s someone you want to collaborate or work with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
It would normally be people outside the dance music genre. I love to work with bands and songwriters. I guess that’s where my head is at right now. I’d love to do some more shit with bands and songwriters. Like my dream collaborations, Noah Gallagher from Oasis would be number one, probably never gonna happen. Ed Sheeran would be number two, probably never gonna happen. You never know though, maybe in like five years, if I continue getting bigger, and his fame drops off it might meet right in the middle *laughing*. But no, those would be like my two biggest ones but usually, it’s just on a track by track basis. Sometimes you’re just in the same town as somebody and they’re just like “Hey should we go into the studio?” And you write something, and it turns out well.
So saying you don’t like working with people in the dance music scene, we won’t likely see…say a “Gareth Emery x Armin Van Buuren” anytime soon then?
I’d never rule it out. To be honest, the only thing that would stop me from working with somebody, in all honesty, is if I don’t like them. I like Armin, decent guy. There are some people out there I just wouldn’t want to work with, however successful they are.
Not gonna name names?
*Laughing* Nah, there’s some people who are just dicks and honestly, life is too short to sit in the studio with someone who is a fucking dick. But you know Armin is a cool fucking guy, Ferry’s a cool guy. You know, if we had a chance, go sit in the studio for a day, and see if something good comes out. They’re probably not like, my number one ideas for a collab, just because what they do is kind of close to what I do anyway. I just get more of a buzz working with people who are a little outside of the area. I like to change things up. I don’t generally try to make like, another trance record. I like to try to do things that are different. So usually it’s people in a slightly different world. I’d never rule anything out.
Who are 3 artists that you look up to/ have inspired you recently?
I’m just going to give one because I’m so overwhelmingly in love with what these artists have done. That is Oasis, and I’ll tell you why. They just released their Supersonic documentary and honestly, it kind of one level blew my mind in that, how good they were, and in how single-mindedly focused they were on writing fucking incredible songs. And on another level, it also made me kind of sad. Look right, I’ve done a lot of fucking shit, but when I was like 15 years old I wanted to be Oasis. And when I look at what they’ve done and when I look at what I’ve done, I’m like fuck yeah you’re still not close. But it kind of put a rocket up my ass to go and write some incredible music. Because I looked at what they did and those songs are still going to be getting played 50 fucking years after they’re dead. That’s a big fucking achievement. So it made me really want to get back to being a songwriter, and not just taking a song or taking a vocal that’s already written like say “U” or “Concrete Angel” and making it into a dance song. Being involved as a songwriter from day 1. So I’m extremely inspired by their crew right now, and that’s where I’m at.
You’re someone who doesn’t like to be defined by a genre it seems. Most people know you as kind of a trance DJ or producer but you’ve shown your aptitude at DJing and producing in a multitude of styles. Is there a particular style or type of track that you want to make or maybe have made that you think the fans wouldn’t like so you haven’t released it?
I do like to experiment. But I think listening back to my body of work. The best shit has always been melodic. That’s where my biggest hits have been and when I look back those are the ones that have done best and there’s probably a reason for that. I think it’s the shit I’m best at. I’ve made less melodic tracks, you know “The Saga”, “Huracan”, and those tracks have kind of paled in significance compared to the ‘Concrete Angel’s and ‘U’s. So I think melodic music can be at a house beat, or it can be a trance beat, or it can be even fucking slower than that. But as long as it’s melodic it fits.
Garuda has released albums from multiple amazing artists and you’ve mentioned that you like to work with artists who may not be as big or who haven’t made dance music before. Who are some artists you’ve been listening to recently or are excited to watch progress in the years to come?
I think Ashley Wallbridge has been my favorite up and coming artist for like five years. Hopefully, at some point, he’s going to come because I keep fucking tipping him. He makes amazing music. He’s kicked around his style and tried some different stuff. I think he’s best at making this kind of progressive house/trance. Like honestly, Ashley Wallbridge, and this is a big fucking statement. When he puts his fucking heart to it, on a good day, is as good as Eric fucking Prydz. And nobody knows it, and it’s a crying fucking shame. And if he got focused and made proper fucking dance music, rather than trying to make this stupid EDM crossover shit which he occasionally does. He would be the next Eric Prydz because he is that fucking talented.
So he needs to quit making music like those CVNT5?
Exactly! So keep the cunt stuff for CVNT5 and the real stuff under your own name. So yeah he’s one of my favorite artists.
You’ve been in the music industry for quite some time and have played all over the world. Is there a country or event that you want to play more than any other that you haven’t had the chance yet?
Not really. I just think anywhere new excites me, I get to go back to a lot of great places right? And those places are always amazing, EDC Las Vegas, always an incredible fucking festival. Big ones in Europe like Creamfields, always big. I just get a bit of a buzz about going to places I haven’t been to before, because I like to tick a box of going to another country. Charlotte, North Carolina was great. Here’s the thing. I’m going to paraphrase a great man who had an amazing club called Zouk in Singapore, Lincoln Cheng I believe his name was. Raving is a very organic thing, and there are many, many factors that can change the direction of a night. So the best nights tend to come quite spontaneously. So it’s very difficult for me to know which shows are going to be good because they’re usually not the ones I think are going to be good. They kind of come out of blue. So I can say “Hey I’d love to go play in Egypt.” I got a load of fans there and I’ve never been there. But I could go and it could suck because you just never know regardless of the size of the crowds whether the show is going to be a good one. And that’s part of the fun of it, you really never know what you’re walking into until you get on the stage.
Out of the events that you have played, what’s your favorite event or do you even have a favorite?
Probably not. I mean there’s just so many. There’s just so many that have been amazing. Like, say for instance just to name like three. The Shrine, six-hour all night set in Los Angeles with nobody else on the bill other than me, sold out with 5,000 people. Then trying to compare that to the first ever time I played Electric Daisy Carnival. Then trying to compare that to the first time I sold out Sankeys in Manchester a city that had no fucking trance scene and we basically built one. And then to sell out a show in a fucking day, which nobody said you could ever do. There’s just so many amazing shows that those are three of them. But I’m happy to say, new ones that are kind of in the running, are happening all the time.
There’s quite a variety there, are you someone that kind of prefers big festival sets like EDC or someone who prefers those more intimate all night long Electric For Life, selling out The Shrine type events?
Yeah. I think the Electric For Life at The Shrine was one of the most unique shows I had ever done. And if I was to pick the greatest, that would be it and I’ll tell you why. Because with 5,000 people there, it’s basically a festival but it was six hours of me. So I got to play the length of a club set, in a festival environment. I’ve never done that before. Like no festival is going to let you play to 5,000 people with the stage to yourself all day, so that was incredibly unique. I think they both have their pros and cons. I love the intimacy of a club set, I love the fact that they’re dark and fucking smokey, and you’re only a couple meters away from the crowd. But then you also can’t beat the roar you get from a big fucking festival crowd. When you hear the roar of fucking 10,000 people or 15,000 people there’s this insane visceral kind of rush it gives you, which is on a level with any drug I’ve tried and I’ve tried a lot of the good ones. I’ve had great festivals, and I’ve had great club shows. And I’ve had shit festivals and I’ve had shit club shows. I just love them both equally.
So you’re originally from the UK but live in Los Angeles. What’s your favorite UK food that you aren’t able to get in the US?
Very easy answer and that’s Indian. We have a huge Indian population in England, which means that Indian food is… I’m going to be controversial here. I’m going to say it’s the best Indian food in the world. I’ve had Indian food in India which taste wise is better, but is also much more likely to poison you. So, you have to be very fucking careful eating Indian food in India. Most DJs will go and they get sick. So in England, you have a brilliant quality of Indian food, but it also probably won’t make you sick. In Los Angeles there are just not that many Indian restaurants, so the quality tends to be lower. I’m kind of sad to say that’s the only cuisine that I think England does better. Pretty much anything else, LA probably wins at. Did you know the popular dish in England, our national dish, is Chicken Tikka Masala? It’s the number one dish in the UK. More so than a roast, more so than Fish and Chips, we’re obsessed with Indian. If you find a town with like 200 people, it will have like one post office, one pub, one shop, and four Indian restaurants. It’s fucking crazy.
Are there any other things you miss about the UK other than the food?
Just my family, I guess. I think what I missed at first was just knowing how everything worked, but after four years in LA I kind of know how things work there. It’s kind of cool that I didn’t have to learn another language. You guys speak English in America which is awesome because it makes moving here very easy, and people generally tend to understand me which is good as well. I don’t get asked to repeat what I’m saying too much. So no it’s been a very easy and very enjoyable move. There was like six months of pain at the start when I had to go and like… pass my driving test, get social security… but once those things were done it’s been very fucking easy. It’s been fucking great. If my family were closer, we’d probably stay in LA forever. Just because of the family thing, at some point we’ll be back in Europe and closer to them. But it’s been the most amazing place to live, to create and make music in LA. There are so many talented people in the town. Whatever you want, you want a fucking singer, you need somebody to come play guitar on a record, you can guarantee they’re very nearby. It’s been an amazing place to live, and my wife has loved it too. She started an art gallery which has done really well. So it’s been a fucking great four years.
So we noticed you talked about driving a bit in the interview, and had the album Drive where you took a road trip with your wife, and post on social media about your cars and such. How big is driving to you and what is your favorite car that you’ve ever driven?
I love driving. And when we moved to America, me and my wife landed in New York, and then we FedEx’d our bags across the country and we drove from New York to LA. That’s the story behind Drive. So we did Route 66 half the way, Oklahoma to LA. America is just the most amazing country for long distance driving. Especially when you get out of the fucking cities, the amount of empty space and the scenery is mind blowing. Especially for a European, because Britain is a small country, you don’t get that much empty space; the towns are pretty close together. You go through one town, ten minutes later you’re in the next one. Driving through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and those places, there’s not a town for an hour and a half in either direction, the level of isolation, the natural beauty, is pretty fucking incredible. And obviously LA is also a driving city, I think you have to like driving to be an LA person.
Although right now I don’t even have a car. I had the Lamborghini which… I loved that car but it was a very poor choice in Los Angeles because the roads are shit and it’s that fucking high off the ground, and the visibility is awful. It’s horrendous. You have this mental image of what it’s going to be like having a Lamborghini in Los Angeles and the reality is very different. I should have just kept with the mental image and never actually got one. The mental image is being this cool as fuck dude in your Lamborghini, the reality is, pulling up to restaurants and having this anxiety that you’re going to scrape the front and somebody is going to video you and it’ll be on YouTube the next day “Idiot Lamborghini Driver in Los Angeles Scrapes Front of Car”. So I had the Lamborghini and then I was like this car isn’t working in LA, so I sold it… but I didn’t want to downsize too much so I bought a Rolls Royce Wraith which was a really fucking poor decision. It was at least comfortable and I could put a child seat in the back.
That was the most comfortable car I’ve ever driven, but then I went back on tour and I’d go a month without driving it. I was watching the price of the car on the secondary market, it was depreciating $10,000 a fucking month, and I’m not even driving it. I said, “This car is costing me way too fucking much,” so I sold it. And rather than rush into another probably very bad purchase, I just took some time without having a car which I’m still having now. My wife’s got a supercharged Range Rover which, if you can afford the maintenance, and they do break a lot, but in terms of day to day cars they’re just amazing. You can shove lots of things in the trunk, they’re comfortable, you’re high up so it just feels great driving them, and they’re safe. So I’d say the Range Rover is like my all-time convenient day to day car. But there will be a time when I’ll buy another Lamborghini. I love Lamborghinis. I think maybe whatever comes after the Aventador. I think the Aventador is just too much of a lump. It’s a good looking car, but like, the gearbox on it fucking sucks, there’s already a lot better technology, the Huracan has a better fucking gearbox I think than the Aventador. So I think when the Aventador’s successor comes in, that will be the next Lamborghini I’ll buy.
Well, that were all the questions we had for you. Thanks for taking the time out to talk with us, and good luck with your set tonight.
No problem, it was a pleasure, thanks!