Listening to Big Wild feels like a party. You come alive, ready to dance and laugh and exist in a moment of recalibration. On Big Wild’s new album,“Superdream,” the level of production and vocals are so high that all you care about is how you feel in this very moment.
And now, Missoula can party with Big Wild, too.
The electronic producer is coming back to Missoula to complete what he says is a “natural pairing” created by the crowds and musical eagerness of the city.
Big Wild grew up in Massachusetts as Jackson Stell, later becoming producer J Beatz. Across the country, he developed a fascination with the mystery and freedom of the West.
“I think I’m always going to be from Massachusetts, and that’s what shaped me growing up. But when I look at my music and where I want to go in my life, it always involves the West Coast in some way,” he says. Missoula may not be the Californian version of the West, but it is wild and it is free.
“Superdream” is the first album that features Stell’s vocals. Unlike other electronic artists, his voice isn’t buried deep in the background. According to him, this was one of the most nerve-wracking things he has done.
“I wanted to make a statement and present my voice in an upfront way, but I’m still not 100% sure of myself.” Stell has had to learn things as he goes, diving into the training of a vocalist while staying true to the values he cultivated as a producer.
He hasn’t lost the authenticity in his music during this transition. “[The music] has to come from an instinctual place,” Stell says. “That’s how I make sure I’m making something that is me.”
He does acknowledge that there was a change, however. Now he focuses more on how he would perform a song, something that didn’t cross his mind when he was still performing as J Beatz. “When I was making instrumentals, I wasn’t thinking of performing’” he says. “Now, I go into it with the mindset of how I would present this to people in the crowd.”
Big Wild will be accompanied by a posse of talented musicians, including vocalist and collaborator iDA HAWK. When talking about Big Wild as a musical entity, Stell refers to the entity as a “we.” However, he stays away from the word “band,” while still acknowledging that he wouldn’t be able to give the show he does without the musicians he has supporting him.
Other artists may use prerecorded tracks instead of live musicians, but that’s not Big Wild’s style. He wants to give audiences a performance that feels alive and dynamic.
Stell struggled even more when asked to compare himself to his musical identity, Big Wild. He is a quiet and reserved individual, someone so introverted that you wouldn’t expect him to find the spotlight. But the spotlight is where his music really thrives. “Music is the extroverted side of me coming out,” he explains. “It helps me get out my thoughts and energy, which is something I don’t know how to do in a normal setting.”
There is an intimacy behind his answer. Many musicians feel the need to put on a show, even in an interview. Stell has learned how to turn off the superstar persona, making him easy to talk to. There are times in our conversation that I forget he has over a million people streaming his music and is one of the biggest up-and-coming electronic artists.
I forget when we talk about our love of California, I forget when we talk about the energy of the outdoors, I forget when we talk about being scared of change. But I don’t forget when I listen to his music.
Big Wild’s music brings peace and joy in a way that doesn’t feel invasive or over-the-top. It’s perfect for ambient study nights or long drives. “At the end of the day,” Stell says, “I just want [my music] to shift people’s perspectives for the better.”
Big Wild plays Wednesday, Nov. 20 with EVAN GIIA and Ark Patrol. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8. $20 advanced tickets, $23 day of show.