Mickey Calvin, a Chicago native began his love for music as a collector at a young age. While he was still a club kid himself, not really intending on being in front of an audience; he began DJing as a hobby. With great influences like his dad – who bought him his first set of “12’s” and the support of his friends Jamil Monley, Scooter B, Eric Jones and Cody Shorter who taught him the craft of Djing; Mickey finally decided it was time to test his skills before live audiences.
Like most DJs in the 80’s and early 90’s, Mickey began to refine his sound by spinning at old school ‘house’ parties and opening in clubs for other House DJs. He’s played alongside some very notable DJs.
He started doing events on a larger scale with promoter Marvin Terry and with the Help of George Jackson, He ended up doing venues such as Medinah Temple, The Armory and various other cool ‘house’ music party’s. DJ Mickey Calvin was in demand enough to establish an opening residency, with the help of his Mentor DJ LiL John at the hottest ‘house’ music club in Chicago - “Red Dog” from 2000 until 2003 (now closed) on North Avenue. In 2004-2009 relocating to Nashville, TN Mickey connected to a small house scene and started doing a summer event called The Tea Dance, and also House Music Nashville. In his time there he also started doing an internet show on Pressure Radio that was based out of the UK. 2012 came fast and DJ Mickey Calvin teamed up with DJ/Producer Deejay Alicia in the creation and launch of MAC Productions. Together they started a weekly Thursday Residence at the Licorice Lounge on the Southside of Chicago.
In 2014 he extended his branches a little further and became a partner with the tee shirt company “It's House Baby/U'Memba dat with Mace and Tim who started out in 2007 with a simple idea, to have a tee shirt that represented our love for House Music and the culture we were raised in. The same year he also was asked by Steve Silk Hurley and Shannon “DJ Skip” Syas of S&S Chicago to edit songs on the forthcoming The Chicago LP. In 2015 DJ Mickey Calvin partnered with Devo Entertainment to form House Music Monday at The Family Den which is still one of the hottest ‘house’ music parties running on a Monday night on the Southside of Chicago. 2015 also marks the year that Mickey became a member of FREE UR SOUL in Atlanta where he participated in the Atlanta Weekender and the parties surrounding noted ‘House in the Park’.
In 2016 he developed Mickcal Entertainment and was invited by Farley “Jackmaster Funk to play at the 35th year Anniversary Festival of the legendary Hot Mix 5 DJ’s and repeated that event the following year. In 2018 he partnered with (Lady Alicia, DJ LIL John, and Renee Sonya to form M.A.J.R. Moves Chicago where the four friends decided to grow their friendship into a more social yet productive level. In this same year DJ Mickey Calvin also served as a guest DJ at the Phoenix House Fest in Arizona.
This year has been an incredible year for Mickey Calvin as he released his first E.P. ON Campo Alegre Productions and was chosen to play the 2019 Chosen Few Picnic & Festival.
I had a chance to talk to Mickey about his career and his thoughts on playing this year’s Festival and Picnic.
Black Widow: What was your introduction to House Music and what made you want to become a DJ?
Mickey Calvin: I was introduced to house music in high school. I loved the music and was in a dance crew. I started collecting music and hooked up with a few friends who taught me the art of DJing. I learned about BPMs and how to mix and how to know your music. It really just grew from there.
Black Widow: When did you know DJing was more than a hobby?
Mickey Calvin: Initially when I started to DJ it was really just for me. I wanted to make mixes for myself that I could take with me and listen to. I would be creating mixes at home and some people, who later became friends, would knock on my door and ask who’s that playing? From there people would ask me to DJ their parties. I started doing parties around the neighborhood. From there I would do high school and college parties and it eventually led to me DJing in clubs.
Black Widow: What would you consider to be the key to longevity in this scene, especially in Chicago, where the market is so saturated?
Mickey Calvin: I think putting my time in, studying my music and my craft has really been the key. When I first started, I would practice almost 5 hours a day. I still practice now. I think acquiring good music, keeping your ears to the street and knowing what’s going on in the scene all help. I really think there aren’t any bad DJs…
Black Widow: Really?
Mickey Calvin: Yeah, I say that because when I go hear another DJ play, I’m always learning. I’m either learning what to do or what not to do.
Black Widow: So even when they are bad, you still take something away from their set, you are always observing and learning from other DJs?
Mickey Calvin: Absolutely! Yes!
Black Widow: Over the years, you’ve had different residencies. You are currently a resident at House Music Fridays, and House Music Mondays. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned as a resident DJ?
Mickey Calvin: Pick the place you want to have your residency carefully, talk to the owner, go in on different nights and see what they do. If you start something you want it to last and it won’t if you don’t know the crowd and how they may vary on different nights. You also have to have a dope team. It has to be like a family. Everyone has to be on the same page, the bar staff, the security…everyone. Honestly, everyone on the team should like house music because if they don’t, your patrons can see and feel that energy. You don’t want that. When people come to an event and see your bouncer bopping his head and your bartenders feeling the music, it helps create the atmosphere for a great party.
Black Widow: it’s more than having a great place and DJ…
Mickey Calvin: Right, because that’s what makes or breaks an event. People come to feel connected and when the team feels like family, that energy translates throughout the party. That’s part of the experience. The customer service, the atmosphere…that’s what we are selling. If you don’t have that, people are going to stop coming. It’s a complete experience. You can have the best music on the planet but if the atmosphere sucks, people won’t care. They can’t focus on the music because everything else is messed up. Each piece is an essential.
Black Widow: When did you decide you wanted to stretch into production?
Mickey Calvin: Most DJs want to make their dance floor different so I started doing edits. From there I started to try to create stuff on my own. I started with remixes and would remix my own remix.
Black Widow: What would be some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
Mickey Calvin: I spend time worrying about my craft. My focus is always on how I can be better next year. Whether it’s marketing and promotion, DJing, my musical selections, I’m always focused on being better. I don’t like to spend a lot of time focusing on the past or the negative. I don’t like to look back. I look at it like this, if I’m a conductor on a train, I’m not looking back to see where I’m going. I’m looking forward to what’s coming ahead.
Black Widow: Onward and Upward…
Mickey Calvin: Yes…always.
Black Widow: How did it feel to get the call to play the Chosen Few Festival and picnic?
Mickey Calvin: WOW! It felt amazing. Wayne called me on a Friday. He was so casual. He said I’m just checking to see if you are busy July 6th. I’m having an event, I want to you participate in. It was so funny because it hadn’t clicked yet. I remember saying well yeah, I think so. I actually thought they selected the DJs for the picnic, so I thought he was asking me to play a pre or post party. When he said he wanted me to play the picnic, I got quiet at first. [Laughter] Then I was like OH MY GOD! OF COURSE I’M AVAILABLE!
It was quite overwhelming and humbling. That was the best call I’ve received this year. It’s just so amazing. It means so much. Playing the picnic feels like I’m accepted by my city, the birthplace of this genre, the mecca. It’s such an honor. We have so many talented DJs in Chicago, so to be mentioned, looked at, selected or chosen is such an honor. It means what I’m doing matters to somebody and people have noticed what I’ve been doing over the span of my career.
Black Widow: Like a validation…
Mickey Calvin: Yes, exactly
Black Widow: So what are you looking forward to the most at the festival?
Mickey Calvin: I can’t wait to play the first record because that’s the hardest part. That first record sets the tone.
Black Widow: Have you given thought of the direction you want to go?
Mickey Calvin: I have some songs but it’s probably going to be more of freestyle because when you play events like this your idea can change. When I see the people, when I feel that energy, I’ll know exactly what I want to do. It’s about feeling the vibe when I get there.
Black Widow: Well I cannot wait to hear you play. You know I’ll be there from sunup to sundown…
Mickey Calvin: RIGHT! You know how we do! We are Chosen Few Professionals! [Laughter]
Black Widow: Indeed! [Laughter] We will definitely celebrate after your set. I’m excited for you!
Mickey Calvin: Thank you so much! I’m excited too. It’s going to be great!!!
In addition to this year’s Chosen Few Festival, You can catch Mickey Calvin each and every Monday at the Family Den and on Friday nights at VIP Bar & Grill and on the following social media sites:
Until next time, See you at the Chosen Few Festival and Picnic July 6th!!!