Our interview with talented Canadian international DJ, actress, and filmmaker, Samantha Michelle who makes her way back to the US with her hugely popular and spirited DJ sets that can only be described as distinctly vintage, upbeat and classical, as she fuses familiar tunes with rare records moving swiftly between the genres of rhythm and blues, ska, reggae, soul, and funk. Bringing with her a deep passion to share good vibes and great times, the successful creator is a force to be reckoned with, already holding residencies at Omar’s Park Avenue, The Morrison Hotel Gallery, and Sunset Marquis, and DJ’ing for various events for Saks Fifth Avenue, Good Luck Dry Cleaners, God’s Love We Deliver, and the reception and closing gala of the exhibition of “The Lost Warhols” where she also managed the creative content and experiential programming for the entire 3 weeklong exhibition.
Her love of music and inclinations towards all things rock-n-roll surface in her work as a filmmaker and all-around storyteller. Her glamorous aesthetic, whilst nodding to a bygone era, ultimately reflects her own individualized and vividly irreverent approach to creative expression, and as she continues to make films and tell stories, she’s creating a narrative-oriented content designed to bridge the worlds of cinema and commerce. Her first fashion film for the iconic 70s shoe cobbler Terry De Havilland was selected as a finalist for the ELLE Canada Fashion Film Competition. Her first dramatic short, The Dark Side of The Sun, was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner and has screened internationally at various festivals including NewFilmmakers NY, EuroShorts, and The Groucho Club Short Film Festival.
Hi Samantha, please tell us a little about you?
I’m a Canadian DJ, actress, and filmmaker living in New York City.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Spirited, raucous, surprising.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life? Why?
My dad. Without question. He’s my best friend and is an absolutely extraordinary human. He’s incredibly creative, and daring and he lives to challenge himself, and to test his own boundaries. He values passion above experience, he’s not bothered by how or what anyone else is doing, and he lives kindly and graciously but truly by his own rules, with the most abundant generosity of spirit.
When and how did you get started
It all happened as a bit of a happy accident. I’ve always loved music and my relationship to music has always been this sort of mystical thing that for me, transcends comprehension and explicability. One night, about five years ago, I was ‘working’ the Groucho Club staff party in London – it’s an annual affair where a handful of members serve the staff as an expression of gratitude for all their wondrous work over the Christmas season. As it turns out, I had little skill when it came to making cocktails, and so I asked if I could plug in my iPod and pick some tunes to play; the next thing I knew I found myself parked behind the decks (which I had no idea how to work at the time) for the evening, just playing songs really, but it was amazing what happened. I still have this precise image fixed in my mind of everyone there stood on the bar, on the furniture, forming this great almost-spiritual circle, entwined hands in the air, chanting the words to ‘Hey Jude.’ It was all kind of magical, and it led to a series of confusions about me actually being a DJ that I decided to sort of seize the opportunity, follow the breadcrumbs as they appeared, and years later, I suppose, here we are.
Do you have any music influence?
I think I’m influenced by eras and it’s the sounds and the musical icons of those spaces of time that I find most inspiring. I love the 60s and 70s; I’m particularly fascinated by what was happening in America at that time; they’re hugely formative decades, especially for women, for artists, for outsiders, for those with irreverent blood beating. So I suppose the music that for me, represents that period is ever entrancing – I love Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the sounds coming out of Atlantic and Chess Records… Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, and even a little earlier… with the blues masters. I also love that swampy vibe developed in New Orleans… Lee Moses, Lee Dorsey, Fats Domino. It was just such an incredibly rich and exciting time for ‘American’ music, when ‘rock and roll’ was starting to take its shape, and then when you widen the view to include the interchange between British and American artists, exploring and expanding on the bluesy roots of rock and roll, it’s all pretty fascinating, I think.
Explain your sound in 3 words?
Vintage. Upbeat. Classic.
What is the best part of life as a DJ?
I love that every day is different; there is no routine. Personally, I hate routine, I find it to be the death of all creativity, pardon the extremity. I feel very, very lucky to be able to live a work life that is filled with elements of the unknown, and so I’m gratefully able to find myself endlessly challenged in new ways. And with that constant change in scenery and surroundings, you get to meet some pretty remarkable people, and for me, that’s what life is kind of all about.
What does it feel like when you are up on stage?
It’s often pretty amazing. You feel incredibly empowered and in control – which is not something I think we often feel as artists in life, in general. But what’s happening is a real interchange of energy between yourself and the audience – it’s electrifying, and it’s a partnership – you feed off of each other in a pretty awesome way, and there are elements of trust, faith, and collaboration in that wave of communication and that’s pretty cool.
Any future collaborations?
Hang tight. Lips presently sealed.
Are there any other artists you would love to collaborate with or remix?
Absolutely, and the list is long. There’s an old friend of mine, a DJ called Jason Steingold, who is currently on the road/ in the air doing some awesome stuff with Mike D from Rhe Beastie Boys. I met Jason when he was DJ’g at Soho House in LA years ago and I loved the way he was swiftly mashing up all these amazing Motown records, so I went over and introduced myself and we’ve kept in touch. He’s incredibly talented, and so I would love to have the chance to learn from him one day.
Your top 3 festivals?
Red Rooster in Suffolk. It’s an incredible, relatively tranquil, rhythm and blues, country, Americana festival; my DJ partner and I (The Smoking Guns) have headlined it for the last three years and the people there are just inspiring. And it’s stunning. And, the food is excellent. Hands down, my favorite festival.
Glastonbury in Somerset. The mud is something extraordinary, but the festival feels endless, there’s always more you can discover, you feel like you can just never stop exploring there. And of course you get to see such an eclectic variety of artists perform. I personally prefer to wander about, let myself get lost, as opposed to rushing to make sure you catch a particular act, because you never know what you might stumble across and who you might fall for there.
The Secret Garden Party. Another one of the UK’s finest, the Brits are really the masters of the music festival, in my experience. We did a back-to-back Bowie VS. Prince tribute there, the year we lost both of them. That was a pretty phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime at 4am sort of experience. Filled with secrets of its own, it’s one I’ll treasure forever.
What is the best city that you have traveled for work?
Cannes. The south of France is honestly one of my favorite places in the world, ever since my teenage days obsessing over F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a stunning, magical place, that for some strange reason has always brought me peace and clarity and so it was exceptionally joyous to be able to travel there to play tunes and spread that positivity. It was sort of a special full circle for me personally.
What makes you decide to play a particular record during one of your sets?
It’s something I can’t put into words, honestly. You feel the energy in the room and you watch what’s happening and you allow yourself to follow your own instincts and desires, and play what you want to hear at that particular moment in time and the answer is almost always very, very clear.
What is your favorite healthy food?
Any Whole Foods Salad Bar, any time, in any city. Special shout out though to Lifethyme Market on 6th Ave in the West Village, the independent equivalent which I love and have lived by for a long time.
And your favorite cheat food?
Anything sweet, involving coconut.
What’s your motto or the advice you live by?
It’s all about the adventure. Cause it is, isn’t it?
Funniest thing that ever happened at an event?
I’ll never tell.
What are your plans for 2018?
Lots of DJ’ing! It’s exciting to be over on this side of the pond after spending five years in England. I love working with new clients in new places, and in many ways it feels like coming back to building from a beginning which is challenging but rewarding, work feels fresh and new and I reckon I’m pretty addicted to that feeling of discovering what is unknown. I’m also flipping back and forth to Europe a fair bit, which I’m perfectly happy about. I’m one of those strange people who loves to fly, well, I love all forms of transport really – trains, car journeys, bring it all on. There’s something real thrilling about just changing the wallpaper of life for a second. I head back overseas later next month for some fun gigs, and then I’ll be back in NYC and I’m working on developing this new short film I’ve written and plan to direct. It expands on and explores the themes at work in my last short, The Dark Side of The Sun – sexploitation in Hollywood, the twenty-something experience, the actor’s experience – but the story contextualizes these ideas in a vividly American setting… the project’s inspired by Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” album and is sort of a meditation on the fallacy of the American dream, the bewitching quality of our aspirations, an artists’ essential vulnerability, the complicated interplay between sex and power… a whole bunch of beautifully, bewitchingly dark things, I suppose.
How do you spend your spare time?
I really like connecting with people, so it’s fun to go out to dinner and invite various friends and characters along, because you never know what magic can be made of those connections. I’m also a big fan of staying in these days. I’ve got this amazing blue velvet sofa, and so many shaggy pillows that live on top of it; it’s nice to curl up, watch a film, throw a party of snacks, and just let your mind wander a little. And, I like to write. I mean, I hate the process of writing but there is no greater feeling than having written.
Where can we follow you?
You can find me on Instagram at @samanthamichelle.x
Photo Credit: Christina Buscarino