A Conversation with DJ Spivey

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Originally from Detroit, now living and working in Miami, DJ Spivey fell in love with Dance music at the age of 13 when he was given his first set of turntables and has been in love with the music ever since.  After a break from the music, he returned in 2012 and his journey began again.  The dance music prompted him to start mixing on the internet via his YouTube channel with over 30k followers and his SoundCloud account with over 5k followers.  Those mixes caught people’s interest and he became a DJ in demand traveling as far as China.  He is currently DJ'ing and producing edits and remixes and working on Producing original music.   I had a chance to speak with him about his journey and playing at this year’s Summer Oasis Music Festival for the second time!

Black Widow:  What was your introduction to House Music and House Culture?

DJ Spivey:  I’m originally from Detroit.  It wasn’t called house music back then.  We were playing what we call, Progressive Music”.  This around 1980/81.  It was dance, euro, and disco music.  The music all had that 4/4.   It was a lot of R&B Artists that created dance songs. That’s what we were playing.  I had a guy who was somewhat of a mentor to me. I remember going in his basement and I fell in love with the DJ gear. I begged my grandmother and mom to buy me a system and I started to collect records. From that point on and all throughout high school, I was spinning records. 

Black Widow:  You fell in love with the art form before the music?

DJ Spivey:  Yes! I fell in love with DJ’ing before the music. I loved music but when I saw the setup I was infatuated with it. It wowed me.  I wanted to know how to do and he walked me through it. I started collecting music after and from there I started buying music with more intention. I was purchasing music I wanted to spin.  I remember the first record I ever bought was “Don’t Make Me Wait” by the Peech Boys.  I used to love the crack in the song. I thought it was so cool.  I remember the day I found my first milk crate in the back of the store. I remember bringing it home and putting my records in it.

Black Widow:  Once you get the crate you are official! [LAUGHTER]

DJ Spivey:  Yes! [LAUGHTER] Exactly I had the bug for sure!

Black Widow:  So what was your first gig? How did you know this was more than a hobby?

DJ Spivey:  In Detroit we had social clubs and I was a member of one. Social clubs threw parties and I was the DJ for the social club I was a member of.   I loved spinning records. It was fulfilling and I loved making tapes too.   We would pass those tapes out at schools and such.   It was just fun.

Black Widow: I told you earlier but I actually learned about you from a DJ Friend of mine, who sent me one of your YouTube Mixes.  She knew I was a huge Jill Scott fan and you had a mix of some of her classics.  What I noticed is that many of your mixes on YouTube and SoundCloud are artists specific.  What makes you create so many artist specific mixes?

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DJ Spivey:  I do. I like to look at them as tributes.  The first one I did was at the suggestion of a friend. I did a best of Josh Milan mix.  I was hesitant initially but did it and was amazed at the incredible response.  It was a huge hit.  I had no idea people were going to dig it like they did. It felt like I was on to something.  Since then I’ve done a few; Sade, Jamiroquai, Monique Bingham.  I collect so much music and I loved so many artists and their catalog so it’s fun to create mixes covering the catalog of certain artists.   It also brings a lot of people to listen who may not necessarily be “househeads’ to the genre.   They listen and end up enjoying the groove because they love the artists.  It may turn them on to another house song and artist.  

Black Widow: I found your marketing style to be really interesting.  You’ve built your brand and following almost completely via social media.  

DJ Spivey:  I started while living in Atlanta. I was a bedroom DJ. I didn’t think it was going to get big but it gave me a chance to play and get my ideas out there when I wasn’t being booked.   From there people started to contact me and booking me for jobs.  AS my audience grew, I got more offers.

Black Widow:  Everyone has to start somewhere and it looks like you’ve utilized social media to your advantage to help you create and build a brand and create even more opportunities for yourself.

DJ Spivey: Yes absolutely! Even now in Miami, it’s not a big house town. We don’t have a scene.   We get the big stars but we don’t have a week to week scene like you have in Chicago. I keep my energy out there by continuing to play online and putting my mixes out when I’m not playing clubs and such. It’s been instrumental in getting my name out there and I’ve been able to travel quite a bit as a result.

Black Widow:  Do you find that Social Media is a double edge sword for you?

DJ Spivey:  I haven’t had too many negative experiences with social media.  What I like about social media it is that it keeps my wheels turning. I’m learning new things, meeting new people, learning new ideas.  One of my favorite artists of all time is Herbie Hancock.  He is constantly evolving and reaching out to younger artists. He just did a project with Carl Craig who’s a Detroit techno guy.   I’m always trying to keep my mind open to new ideas, new directions and see where it takes me.

Black Widow:   What inspires you to create?

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DJ Spivey: wow…good question.  I get inspired by other songs, things I like, or even photos. Movies too! It hits you in crazy ways. Some of my best ideas come from movie soundtracks.  Even long road trips where I’ll listen to the radio and hear certain songs that are so random. 

Black Widow: I definitely relate. For me it can be a party that I attend or other music that I hear. I actually write songs while listening to other people’s songs sometimes.  It’s weird; I’m usually creating new house songs while listening to neo soul music! [Laughter] it’s really about allowing life to inspire you.

DJ Spivey:  I feel you! 

Black Widow:  I think it’s so interesting to speak with other artists, especially DJs because you have such a vast array of music to pick from and get inspired by.    Music from all genres.  That’s always reflected in a DJs set. 

DJ Spivey:  Right, you have a million records to choose from so now which ones are you going to choose? I always find that interesting

Black Widow:   Exactly! I would be totally overwhelmed! [Laughter] you really have to think fast and really have an incredible ear in order to blend music property, put songs together that work…it’s definitely something I know I couldn’t do! [LAUGHTER]

DJ Spivey: It definitely gets interesting.  I’m usually more relaxed when I start the event. I get nervous beforehand sometimes.  Once the system is on, I’m free.

Black Widow:  I noticed you do remixes and edits, are you breaking into producing?

DJ Spivey:   I’m trying to find my sound and what direction I want to go in.   I definitely want to get into it.

Black Widow:  My dad always says your art will make space for you if you allow it.

DJ Spivey:  That’s exactly where I am.

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Black Widow: so let’s talk about Summer Oasis! This is your second year playing this event.    What do you love about Summer Oasis and playing this event?

DJ Spivey:  It was so magical last year!  I didn’t know what to expect but it was almost spiritual. Once I arrived, I felt free and connected with people I didn’t even know.  I’m looking forward to that again. I don’t know if it was the spirit of the ancestors or what but it felt great. 

Black Widow:  I really believe it is the ancestors. Just knowing the history of that land. I remember walking around and just being transported in a way. I totally get it.  Their spirit is definitely present.  I really felt connected to that space knowing our ancestors came to kick it and let their hair down and be free…

DJ Spivey: …Yes! It was a safe space! That’s really it!  That’s what Summer Oasis is too in a sense. It’s a time for us to leave that hustle and bustle and let our guards down and just enjoy. No TV…just free.

There was a little spot right by the campsite and there was a man, the owner I think. I was literally talking to him most of Friday. He and his friends would grab a beer and just tell stories. I loved it.  They reminded me of men I knew growing up.  He was amazing. It was so much history; he was funny and had a cool demeanor. I’m looking forward to the entire vibe. The entire vibe of Summer Oasis is just amazing.

Black Widow:  I agree.  It’s the peace of the lake, the music, the community…

DJ Spivey:  It’s a magical thing! 

Black Widow:  I can’t wait to hear you play! You gotta stop by my Moroccan Hideaway!

DJ Spivey:  Oh for sure! Absolutely!   I’m looking forward to it.

Black Widow: See you in Idlewild!!!

You can listen to DJ Spivey on the following:

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/djspivey

MixCloud: https://www.mixcloud.com/discover/dj-spivey/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3V1k-v-bMwDsvxtUZCwBgA

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Black Widow

D.Sanders, a Chicago native, is a devoted mother, blogger and writer who is passionate about her family, friends, women's rights, living authentically and telling her story.   She is also a spoken word recording artist under the name, Black Widow. She has been writing and blogging for over 15 years providing commentary and expressing thought on life, love and relationships. Her artistry can be heard on two house music singles, “Rough”, and “Gruv Me” released by Grammy Nominated Producer and CEO of T’s Box Records & T’s Crates, Terry Hunter under the production of Mike Dunn and Dee Jay Alicia. . Both singles reached #1 on Traxsource’s Afrohouse and charted top ten overall as well reaching the top ten in their year of release.  She splits her time blogging about the Chicago Dance Music Scene on www.blkwidowmusic.com and on her book’s website, www.thesumofmanythings.com.  She is excited about her debut book, The Sum of Many Things, scheduled for release in June 2017.   She wears many hats but refuses to be placed in a box.  She believes that women are "The Sum of Many Things".  Embracing all of her roles as a woman, she firmly believes in breaking free of preconceived notions of womanhood.   She believes it is her mission to define her own life experience, femininity and sexuality and not have it defined by society.  She openly shares her story with hopes that women understand their worth, power and place in this world.