Greek DJ Xenia Ghali discusses her creative process, owning a record label and her love for vinyls
"As a DJ, vinyls were the start of my love for what I do now. [They] provide a warm, analog sound which digital mediums and formats don’t."
Xenia Ghali is a Greek songwriter, record producer and DJ who's been taking the dance music circuit around Europe by storm.
A child prodigy of sorts, 29-year-old Ghali has been classically trained on the piano and flute since the age of 5. At the age of 15 years she taught herself the guitar and the drums after forming a high school band in which she played lead guitar.
During her time in the band, Ghali began songwriting.
Her debut single, 2014's ‘Broken’, featuring Katt Rockell, was released on Pitbull’s Mr. 305 Records, whilst her second offering ‘Get Dirty’ was a collaboration with Grammy-winning artist Wyclef Jean.
However, Xenia’s breakthrough moment came when her summer hit ‘Under These Lights’ reached number one on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart. Ghali also remixed a number of tracks on Mr 305, such as Pitbull's 'Fun' (ft. Chris Brown) and for Mr Vegas' 'My Jam' (ft. Pitbull).
Displaying a clarity of vision when it comes to her artistry, Xenia creatively directs all her music videos to ensure her ideas are realized. Xenia’s latest single ‘Stick Around’, recently dropped on EDX’s Sirup label, complete with a music video for which she was the creative director herself.
The song is hovering over 1 million streams on Spotify and has been included in some of their most followed official electronic playlists, including Mint and Dance Hits. The track has been supported by the likes of Martin Garrix, Tiësto, Sam Feldt and Swanky Tunes.
Owner of the independent label Funky Sheep Records, Xenia walks the line between mainstream success and underground credibility. Both an enigmatic and dynamic figure, Xenia Ghali’s DJ sets are defined by their combining of soulful house and pulsating beats, bringing together shimmering synth melodies and vintage groove-laden rhythms for a unique brand of modern electronic dance music.
Additionally, remixes for top-tier pop stars such as Pitbull (feat. Chris Brown) have demonstrated a keen ear for reinterpretation and undoubtedly bear her distinctive signature.
Having DJed on Greece’s version of The X Factor, composed the soundtrack for internationally renowned designer Michael Costello’s Fashion show video, Xenia Ghali is making sizeable waves in the dance music community, as well as the music industry at large, and remains an artist worth keeping an eye on through 2018.
I recently caught up with the Greek DJ for an email interview discussing her new single, her creative process for her music videos, musical tastes and influences, and the privilege of owning a record label at such a relatively early stage of her career.
Here's what I got!
Meaww: Your latest single ‘Stick Around’ has crossed half a million streams on Spotify and has become quite a club favorite. What does the song mean to you?
Xenia Ghali: Stick Around is a record I worked on completely organically. I actually did something I don’t usually do, which was to produce the track first and then write the song. I produced a record which combined all my favorite things, bass, melody, harmony and rhythm. The next day I had a writing session and I presented a few tracks I had done in the past which I never released (as options to rework or write a new topline to). I was hesitant to show the track I produced the night before because I felt insecure about it. Eventually, I decided to play the track and that was it. We mutually felt the urge to write to it and so we did! The song is an edgy take on love, making it very relatable, fun but also emotional.
The fact that it is nearing 1 million streams on Spotify at the moment is something I feel extremely grateful for. The amount of support it has received from listeners and the industry is more than I could have imagined.
Meaww: For your music videos, you often take up the role of creative director yourself as is evident from the credits. How do you translate your music into a visual medium?
Xenia: I have always found it easiest to express myself through art. Whenever I write or produce music, I automatically have a visual attached to it in my head. It almost goes in hand in hand for me, as a lot of the times I actually picture specific sounds as shapes or a chordal progression as a feeling. While I was working on Stick Around, the visuals I had in mind where pretty much what the music video turned out to be.
Meaww: The music video for ‘Stick Around’ depicts a house party where people are checking out vinyl records. As a DJ and a musician, what do vinyls mean to you?
Xenia: When I started DJing, I never actually thought of doing it as a career. It all started when I was in the UK studying for my Bachelors Degree. I started to notice the DJs who were playing at a lot of the parties and clubs I went to. They were using vinyl records and turntables while mixing 3-4 records at the same time. This infatuated me and I began to realize what the art and culture of turntablism was. I invested in a couple of second hand Technics turntables and taught myself how to spin using vinyl. For the longest time, that’s all I know with regards to how DJs perform. After I started performing more frequently, I learnt that CDs and USB sticks were a much more efficient way to DJ.
As a DJ, vinyls were the start of my love for what I do now. Additionally, as a musician and a producer, vinyls provide a warm, analog sound which digital mediums and formats don’t have.
Meaww: You studied Film Scoring, Music Composition in New York. Do you incorporate what you learnt there into your art?
Xenia: My studies and my training comes to use every day in what I do. Writing and producing music with a classical background provides me with a huge sense of control. Being classically also helps me immensely in my DJing and performances as I mix in key, create mashups and remixes on the spot and even compose my own orchestral intros for festival shows.
Meaww: It’s been three months since ‘Stick Around’ dropped. Any plans of another single or EP before the year ends?
Xenia: I am currently in the studio before my summer tour kicks off. I will be releasing a lot of music and new singles and I’m very excited for you to hear them!
Meaww: You have your very own record label, Funky Sheep Records. What went behind the decision to start your own label?
Xenia: Initially I started the label to distribute my own music since at the time I didn’t have any deals with any other labels. Currently, I am using my label for myself in partnership with other labels around the world as well as using it as a home for other producers, DJs and artists.
Meaww: Could you name some artists from the contemporary scene that you particularly enjoy?
Xenia: Sia - she is an artist who I have always admired for her writing skills, her incredible voice and for what she stands for. I would love to collaborate with her.
Meaww: You’ve worked with industry greats like Wyclef Jean and Pitbull before. Any collaborations coming soon that we should know about?
Xenia: I am currently in the studio before my summer tour kicks off. I wrote and produced the official song for the Color Day Festival titled “Colors” which will be released in the next few days and an official remix of Stick Around which I’m very excited about, will be released mid-summer. Additionally, I will be releasing a few more singles in the next few months.
Meaww: Any big gigs coming up soon?
Xenia: My summer tour is kicking off shortly and amongst over 40 shows, I will be headlining the Color Day Festival for a third time in a row which is held at the Olympic Stadium in Athens with over 100,000 people attending. I will also be headlining the Summer Paradise Lindos Festival in Rhodes alongside world-renowned DJs Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano. And to wrap my summer tour I will be playing at Cavo Paradiso in Mykonos (one of the top clubs in the world).