Entire schools of American art have been inspired and influenced by the sweeping vistas of the western U.S., from the great landscape painters to the philosophical writings of naturalist John Muir.
When Jackson Stell, an electronic dance musician (EDM) known as Big Wild, visited California for the first time, it was “an eye-opener,” he says.
“It felt like a new chapter in my life,” he tells me over the phone from Portland.
Stell is taking a break from assembling the light and stage show for his upcoming tour in support of Superdream, Big Wild’s latest release. The Superdream tour stops in Eugene March 14 at McDonald Theatre.
Big Wild’s current tour has “ramped up the visual and light show,” Stell says. “That, to me, is a huge component.”
Stell grew up in Massachusetts before he moved to California. Just recently, he’s relocated to Portland. Seeing Big Sur and the desert for the first time changed Stell.
“I wanted to create a music project that encapsulated that feeling,” he says.
Stell’s been making music, mostly alone, since high school.
“I was making instrumentals,” he says. “Falling in love with producing on a computer,” and hip-hop artists like Dr. Dre and The Neptunes influenced him early on.
What’s most important for Stell, however, is to always try something new with his music and offer an experience for the audience.
In the world of EDM, Superdream is varied in terms of style, from pop to soul and R&B, with elements of house and even rave music from 1990s-era Manchester, England. It’s gauzy and translucent music, capturing moments that only seem to happen out West, like how it can be raining on one side of the street while the sun shines on the other.
The album also focuses heavily on vocal work, something new for Stell, whose falsetto, along with soulful backup singers, provides the core of the music’s pop backbone. The lyrics speak to living a beautiful life, and love taking us all higher.
“On this project I was diving into vocals and singing and songwriting for the first time ever,” Stell says. “That’s how the vocals became such a feature in this project.”
Singing in front of an audience has been nerve-wracking for Stell, but he’s pushing through it. “I’ve been singing a little bit — six to eight months,” he says, adding that he’s growing into the role.
Stell’s played Eugene several times before. “I had a great time,” he says. “There’s a lot of energy for sure.”
Big Wild with Robotaki and Mild Minds
Thursday, March 14 • 8 pm
$22 advance / $27 door