THERE are few people in the music world that have such a profound effect on me in terms of my life plan and desires. Carly Wilford is someone I have been watching for a while; admiring the progression of her career. Starting from humble beginnings: she has grown into one of the most influential and hard-working people in music. Whether running/support her projects SISTER and I Am Music; D.J.-ing around the world or promoting great musicians- she never seems to have a day off! This year has been an especially busy one for the Carly. Keen to chat and learn more about her; I have been lucky enough to get an insight into one of Britain’s most important musical figures.
Hi Carly. How has your week been? What are you working on at the moment?
It’s been great you know. I’m currently in Prague for Beats Evolution Conference. I’m moderating panels here, it’s the first ever Drum & Bass conference so I feel really blessed to have been part of it. I have completely fallen in love with this city.
I can’t believe you got to interview/hang with Big Narstie a few days ago! That must have been a very special and incredible experience? What is he like in the flesh?
What a guy. I tell you what, it’s the first time in any interview that I have been genuinely lost for words. He’s a dude. Super-funny but also really sharp. He’s an amazing businessman and I love the fact he’s killing it right now.
Your enthusiasm and passion for music (and artists) is boundless. Where did that deep love of music begin? Was there a particular moment you knew music was going to be your career path?
Music has always played a really important part in my life. I was a dancer from a really young age so music naturally becomes part of you. Growing up we were surrounded by it. From jumping around in the front room with my mum and sisters to Phil Collins; to driving in the back of my dad’s car with the roof down to The Pogues. It brought our family together. My grandad played the piano & me and my sisters used to stand around and sing. It’s always played such a pivotal part in the decisions that I have made. Music speaks when words can’t. My main move to working in the industry happened when I realised its power. I was at a real turning point in my life and had decided to walk away from everything. I had always wanted to be a presenter and was told I should decide a field to focus on. Music was my heart beat so my decision was made.
You have interviewed a whole range of artists and actors; musicians and talent; played around the world and travelled the world. This year has seen you particularly busy. Which moments from this year stand out as especially memorable?
It has been the most incredible year. Playing Glastonbury was really special. I have the best crew of people in my life right now and sharing four crazy days with them is something I will never forget.
I also spent some time in L.A. at the beginning of the year. We were there for The Grammys so found ourselves in some ridiculous situations. Talking to Calvin Harris about S.G. Lewis at The Weeknd’s party in The Hills was awesome as I have been really close to S.G. and his journey. Ending up at a party that turned into a jam; watching Seal harmonising with Nicole Scherzinger as Quincey Jones, Gerard Butler, Wesley Snipes; Manny Norte, Bashy and Lucy Lu danced and watched on was also crazy.
What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?
Who knows. My life and plans seem to change every day. I am really excited about my D.J. sets right now and everything that is happening with SISTER. We have found a unique lane that no one else seems to be in and it’s really starting to fly.
Part of my ‘job’ (reviewing and sniffing out the freshest new music) is discovering the best artists and talent out there. You are in a position where you connect with musicians/D.J.s on a daily basis. Any hot tips or emerging stars you feel people should seek out?
It’s such a ground-breaking time for new musicians. They are in the driving seat of their futures and there are so many platforms to help the world to hear them when they are ready. It’s all about Jorja Smith. Check out Blue Lights. The end. Haha. I have a really good feeling about Anne-Marie. She’s toured with Rudimental for a long time and she knows who she is as an artist. The pop world needs a role model like her and the doorway is wide open. I saw Nadia Rose at The Great Escape this year and she slayed it. I love Liv Dawson: check out her song Tapestry. I really rate Bibi Bourelly, Will Heard and Wolfie. It’s also going to be a big year for Jarreau Vandal, Mella Dee; Kojey Radical and 808INK.
I Am Music is one of your babies: intending to help find the new generation and create a legacy. What compelled you to start it and who have been your proudest discoveries?
I was fed up with what I was reading in the press and the way a lot of it tore people apart. I realised it was tough for new artists to break the scene as physical sales of music were plummeting and the streaming world hadn’t quite found its feet. I decided to start a platform that highlighted the artists I believed had something special and tell the world about them. This soon became more of a consultancy and management platform. Sitting with artists helping them to understand who they were and the best path to take. I manage Josh Barry who is currently on tour with Gorgon City; have worked with Bloom Twins, Tom Prior; S.G. Lewis (who I mentioned earlier) and Longy, to name just a few.
SISTER– “Global rave material”- sees you join forces with Shan McGinley on Dash Radio. For those who have not heard of SISTER: what can new listeners expect to find?
SISTER bridges the gap between the U.K. & U.S. Electronic music scenes. We release an hour-long show once a month. It’s really bassy, forward thinking and brings together the very best of the music we have discovered. After spending time in the U.S., I realised that their radio was very different to the U.K. I also watched the size of the E.D.M. crowds and knew at some point those fans would want to discover a different sound. Shan and I worked together for a long time on I Am Music. He is one of the only people who matches my relentless work-rate and vision to shake things up. We send emails and reply to one another as most of the word is sleeping.
The way you work and your tireless approach really astounds me. You have been championed by the likes of Zane Lowe and ranked as one of the most influential female D.J.s/musical entrepreneurs in the country. How does this make you feel? Have there been any particular people that have helped you get this far? Any heroes or heroines that you take guidance from?
You just made me blush. Haha. I really respect anyone who has had a vision and gone out there and created it. Meeting Skrillex changed my life. Not only is he one of the nicest guys in music he has built his career from nothing- even when people have tried to stop him. I have a lot of respect for Annie Mac as she has kept complete authenticity and integrity even though she has taken on more shows at the B.B.C. I am really lucky that I am surrounded by so many pioneering musicians and creatives- they inspire me daily.
Sigourney Standley (Siggy Smalls) is another human that bowls me with her verve and talent. You two are very close and work together. How did you two meet, and what is it like travelling around with her? You both D.J. together but are there any plans to work more together in the future? Maybe a business venture or musical enterprise?
Siggy Smalls. What a legend. I met her when I was on Rinse F.M. She was down in the studio at a party one evening; we got talking and just clicked. She’s one of the most down-to-earth yet talented and beautiful people I have ever met. We have a lot of fun, some hilarious memories and cause quite a lot of mayhem together (follow me on Snapchat). When you travel so much it’s important that you are on a level with the people around you. We party hard but can also chill out and not say a word to one another. The back to back D.J. thing is something that happened by accident. We were on a yacht in Barcelona recently for a D.J. competition that Mazda were running. We weren’t part of the competition but I had a U.S.B. with my tunes on in my bag and asked the organisers if we could jump on the decks for a laugh. It was hilarious and we kinda smashed it so decided to start doing more sets together. It seems to be becoming a thing so let’s see what happens from here…
You travel around the U.K./world but London is your base. What is it about the city that draws so many musicians/artists in?
London is so important not only for music but fashion, the arts, food, and culture. So many new musical genres have been born in its streets. Its heritage, the people and the history of the music scene are carved into its gritty pavements. There are so many different scenes in London that collide. Look at the Grime scene right now. I’ve watched it rise, fall and now completely take-off since living in the city. I think a lot of music is born out of people’s struggle. It’s not an easy city to live in so people have to be real and I think that makes the music really authentic. A lot of us don’t do it for the money so we take risks; try things that other people might be afraid to and collaborate with one another which is key.
Knowing how demanding your work-life is; how do you unwind and decompress?
Spending time with my family is really important. They love me no matter what madness is going on in my life and they help to keep my feet on the floor. Making sure I stay connected with myself is essential too. Walking through London at night, going to Hyde Park, turning my phone off; running a deep bath with candles and a book and getting a good night’s sleep. When you are jumping across time zones, it becomes one of your most precious commodities. I also meditate but only once a month.
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