Ekali

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The Newly engaged B.C. producer is finally feeling complete following the release of his cathartic debut LP A World Away

Belly Up Aspen | February 20
Ogden Theatre | February 21

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By Franz Hilberath

At the age of 15, Nathan Shaw left high school to pursue his dream of being a musician, playing in bands formed out of his hometown, Vancouver, British Columbia. Today, Shaw successfully tours as DJ/producer act, Ekali, playing top-flight club and festival billings not just in the United States, but around the world. Despite his success, the disassociation that comes with fame leaves him feeling as if there’s a “layer between [him]and other people.”

“I never really felt like I had a home because I was always on tour,” said Shaw, who talked to The Marquee a few days before heading back out on a 20-date headlining trek. “There was this weird sort of transience between two worlds, and that’s a state I’ve always felt I’ve been in.”

Since 2014, Shaw’s Ekali project has stood out for its lush and masterfully mixed production. Whereas modern electronic music has largely striven for digitally-perfected beats and sounds, Shaw’s work reflects the human touch via vivid textures and instrumentals. Through this, Shaw has seemingly perfected conveying and tying emotion into his art. In years past, the emotion seemed to be more tied in to this disassociation, but with this latest project, it would appear Shaw is feeling closer to being complete.

On January 24, Shaw released his debut LP, A World Away, and the immediate takeaway is that the 28-year-old is growing as a producer and person. The 12-track project finds Ekali zeroing in on the “more melodic and immersive” music style found on his Soundcloud-based Awakening mixes. It’s also left him feeling more fulfilled now that the life-long achievement of putting out a solo album is behind him.

“Looking at it from track one is daunting, like, ‘How the fuck am I going to do all of this work all on my own,’” said Shaw. “In the past, I’ve made albums with bands, but even then, it was five people all writing songs. This is a challenge I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”

While the title, A World Away, represents the dissonance he’s felt from what he considers a normal existence, the music itself shows how cathartic the album’s release has been in helping him grow as a person. “Faithless,”  is a sonic sequel to the 2015 track, “Unfaith” (which earned two credits on Drake’s 2015 project, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late), and represents “overcoming that self-doubt” from the past.

Another reason behind Shaw’s blossoming overall happiness is that he’ll be entering the new decade with an impending wedding to his fiancé Sam Blacky, also a professional touring DJ. The two originally met in Cabo on Spring Break last year, and despite being “turned down” at first, Shaw was hooked from the start.

“The moment I saw her I was instantly floored. I wanted to talk to her, I wanted to get to know her.”

After reconnecting in Monterey, the two hit it off and kept in touch. They spent the past year “traveling the world together,” meeting at or in between gigs in various exotic locales around the globe, before Shaw proposed to Blacky on a trip to Acapulco, Mexico.

“I had a little private firework show for her over dinner,” said Shaw, who popped the question last November. “Not sure when the wedding is yet, but hopefully this year.”

On top of entering the new decade with an engagement and a new album, Ekali’s newfound confidence already has him conceptualizing a new project for later this year. In the past, Shaw has flirted with mixing house music. While mixing his style up isn’t necessarily news, Ekali “House” performances sparked demand and intrigue among fans.

While the new project is in the “vein of house music,” Shaw promises he’s anything but a trend-hopper and has something special in store. “I’ve actually been working on this for a while. I’ve always wanted to do it,” said Shaw of the new project. “The sound is less hi-fi and it’s more drawing on influences like Caribou or Bonobo — highly melodic.”

Providing direct support for the upcoming shows which focus on the album are Graves, a hip-hop leaning producer who has earned production credits on a bevy of rap projects, including Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and tour opener, Juelz, an equally satiable talent who Shaw has known for years and now considers a good friend.

“For a long time, Juelz was sort of this unsung hero in EDM where people didn’t really know much about,” said Shaw. “But his music is finally starting to pop off, so I’m really happy for him.”

Belly Up Aspen | February 20
Ogden Theatre | February 21

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