Creativity is a gift. It’s easy to recognize. There is just an ease in which the essence of an artist is revealed by the way he acts, speaks or displays his talent. Surf Mesa is a DJ that is rapidly gaining popularity. His music is dance-based and considering the 3.5 billion streams he’s had so far, it’s spreading fast and wide.
Surf Mesa is also thoughtful and articulate. This makes him atypical of the usual perception of a DJ. Most see a DJ as an extension of music, someone who can match beats and adjust moods by manipulating sound levels, and mixes of different pieces of music that work when played against each other. other or nested. The usual conversation about “sick beats” rarely extends to whether the performer behind the board is inherently articulate. Surf Mesa is a project that means “sounds with good feelings”. This is also the impression he leaves.
The path to a DJ career is to create good songs and attract attention. Surf’s break came just as he was leaving high school, TikTok took ily (I love you, baby) with Emilee to wide distribution. Surf saw over 300 million streams in just a few months. The song has since received platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has been featured in 7.6 million videos collectively viewed five billion times on TikTok. Listen to how the song grabs you and holds you:
Like many gifted people, Surf spent his time learning the craft rather than paying attention to academics. He barely graduated from high school because all of his efforts went towards mastering song production. Surf has four older siblings who were able to pass down the technological tools that allowed him to create songs and distribute them with little more than a computer and an internet connection.
Surf started making music at the age of eleven and mixing songs at the age of twelve. He is a digital native who has become proficient in using software tools to mix the sounds produced by musicians. The job of making house music is to organize the audio and export the sound. Surf’s take on music is that it’s about positive energy and good vibes.
Surf started doing house music collaborations with pop artists. He has worked with Gus Dapperton, Madison Beer, Bipolar Sunshine, as well as remixes with Marshmello & Halsey, Shawn Mendes and Becky G.
His latest release Fanfare has a darker grove edge and is more complex than it did before. Next comes a hybrid. The idea is a top line with a danceable groove that Surf is happy to share. Its target is environments where people are young and feel included.
Surf will be playing festivals for the rest of this year, including appearing at Outside Lands and traveling for some of Lollapalooza’s overseas shows. His songs reflect what he heard. Surfing is just trying to get people to dance more.
It was making music he loves that landed Surf his record label deal. As of early 2020, Surf was living in Venice Beach, California. there’s was exploding on TikTok. He got a “DM” from Natalie Dodge, vice president A&R (artists and repertoire) at Astralwerks. The DM worked. His approach led to a business relationship that currently benefits both Surf and his record label.
For artists, there is the freedom to develop a deep relationship with their label. The label’s team helps him build his brand and spread what inspires him. He shows them his current obsessions. They are part of it. Meanwhile, in one of the greatest turns of phrase of all time, Surf works to build its catalog. He “tries to Michelangelo this David.”
As a DJ, Surf travels light, usually alone, but sometimes with a tour manager. Arriving at the living room, it’s him and a USB drive plus 3 backup discs just in case. The show he is about to present was created in anticipation of the event and recorded on discs.
Surf’s struggle is about balancing his desire to create new music with the rigors of travel and performance. And, in this new world of constantly existing on social media, “be a video content guru” is the advice he hears repeatedly.
I really enjoyed talking with Surf Mesa. He is both passionate about his work and articulate in the way he describes the process. Below is our conversation in audio and video podcast format:
It always makes sense that someone ends up where they are. Surf knows that if he was still partying in high school and then went to college and got into this social scene, he never would have mastered his craft.
Instead, he skipped a lot of school and didn’t hang out with popular kids. Barely qualified surfing. He even had to take 2 more online courses just to be able to finish high school. But if it had happened otherwise, it wouldn’t have happened at all. It was Surf’s total focus on music that brought him here. Everyone ends up with what their foundation supports and, in the long run, the reward follows the effort. Surf Mesa has all the tools to quickly climb the ladder to major festival slots. Watch, or better yet, listen.