Pretty Lights is still shin­ing bright

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Dy­lan Owens

Pretty Lights has gone quiet. De­spite his steady stream of live per­for­mances, it’s been more than three years since the pro­lific Colorado-bred elec­tronic mu­sic com­poser re­leased “Color Map of the Sun,” his last al­bum — or, aside from one sin­gle to pro­mote his sec­ond an­nual minifes­ti­val in Tel­luride’s Town Park this sum­mer, any new stu­dio mu­sic at all.

He’s been just as scarce in print. But with a mas­sive so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing — more than 850,000 fol­low­ers on Face­book — Pretty Lights (born Derek Vin­cent Smith) doesn’t need tra­di­tional me­dia any­more.

On the cusp of a big year, Smith made a rare ex­cep­tion, agree­ing to a phone in­ter­view as a part of a fea­ture we’re run­ning next week on Den­ver’s elec­tronic mu­sic scene.

Pretty Lights spoke at length about why he’s shied away from tra­di­tional me­dia and shared the first de­tails about his new al­bum, which is set to come out in early 2017 — po­ten­tially, he men­tioned, on April 20.

Read the ex­tended cut of our con­ver­sa­tion with the pro­ducer be­low.

Q: You’ve haven’t made many ap­pear­ances in the me­dia in this year. Is there a rea­son for that?

A: I don’t even con­verse with the me­dia any­more. Kids don’t have to look to the mag­a­zines or charts to find mu­sic. I’m sure the me­dia has some in­flu­ence, but it seems like there’s so much more of an or­ganic cross-pol­li­na­tion of tastes on­line. (The in­ter­net) lev­eled the play­ing field. That’s trick­led over to not just peo­ple mak­ing mu­sic, but peo­ple who love to lis­ten to it.

Q: You moved from Colorado to New Or­leans a cou­ple of years ago. What led to that de­ci­sion?

A: I had a good ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing on “Color Map of the Sun” in New Or­leans and put

the feel­ers out and found a dude in New Or­leans who was ren­o­vat­ing old houses in the Gar­den District. He was from Colorado, and had a place he thought would be per­fect.

I feel pretty fa­mous ev­ery time I come to Den­ver. Be­fore I moved, I would go up to a Star­bucks and look in the win­dows and be like, “There’s no­body in there with fit­ted hats or hemp neck­laces on, so I’m good to go.” But then older peo­ple and guys in suits started rec­og­niz­ing me. I’m like 6 9 , so I kind of stand out.

At that point in my life I felt … you know, I was a lit­tle in­tim­i­dated by the fame. I was in my head about com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple. Now, I love to come back to Den­ver. I do get rec­og­nized, but I like it. Peo­ple are re­ally re­spect­ful.

Q: Do you think you’d ever move back to the area?

A: My fam­ily is out in Colorado, so I’ve been pa­tiently shop­ping around, wait­ing for the right prop­erty to come up so I can get a place there again. I want to get a piece of land. I looked at Cari­bou Ranch, and came close to get­ting Phan­tom Lake Ranch in Red Feather Lakes. It al­ready had my “P.L.” ini­tials ev­ery­where. I wanted to do a fes­ti­val out there, too, but water ir­ri­ga­tion is­sues ended that.

Q: Speak­ing of fes­ti­vals, what do you think of Buena Vista’s Ver­tex mu­sic fes­ti­val? I don’t know if you heard, but they pulled out of their planned sec­ond year af­ter com­plaints from town res­i­dents. A: I hadn’t heard that. That’s a bum­mer. I’m re­ally psyched about that Ver­tex lo­ca­tion. They were ask­ing me to head­line. I said I wanted to play at that place, but I didn’t want it to be at Ver­tex — I wanted to have my own fes­ti­val there.

Tel­luride has been great — the fact that Tesla has a power sta­tion at the top of the val­ley around there speaks mas­sively to its en­ergy — but ev­ery year, they’re like, “This might be the last one!”

Q: In 10 years, you’ve gone from play­ing Mugs Cof­fee in Fort Collins to reg­u­larly sell­ing out mas­sive, 10,000-per­son venues like Red Rocks. What do you have in store for 2017?

A: I’m re­ally ex­cited about what I’m work­ing on. I’ve got an al­bum that’s al­most ready. It’s slated for an early 2017 re­lease.

It’s not just a mu­sic record — I’m ac­tu­ally mak­ing a film with it as well. Q: What will that look like?

A: I’m try­ing to make a film and a record that’s re­ally about the con­nec­tion of peo­ple — the amaz­ing things that hap­pen be­tween peo­ple on the same fre­quency. It will be an episodic thing that makes a full piece. Ev­ery song has an episode.

It con­nects to my episodic mu­sic fes­ti­val. When I was book­ing that tour, I wanted to call it “The Week­end’s Episodic Fes­ti­vals.” I didn’t know why I wanted to call it that, but it’s all go­ing to­gether. Ev­ery fes­ti­val, we’d have a film shoot that be­came the build­ing blocks of th­ese episodic film pieces. It’s pretty (cool).

Den­ver Post file

Pretty Lights, a.k.a. Derek Vin­cent Smith, per­form­ing at Red Rocks Am­phithe­atre in 2015.

Pretty Lights, a.k.a. Derek Vin­cent Smith, per­form­ing at Red Rocks Am­phithe­atre in 2015.

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