The presenter and DJ talks her new venture, the challenges she faced in lockdown and how she’s ready to take on 2022.
It goes without saying, but January has been a long month and these last couple have days have come for us hard. But getting us back in the mood to party is Arielle Free with her debut single “Soul Full”. Brimming with high octane energy and plenty of summer vibes, the BBC Radio 1 presenter-turned-DJ and producer takes us straight to the main room of the club with her release and instantly gets the party going. From the heady bassline to the ear-worming vocals, the Glaswegian star pushes the boundary on house and club music, and introduces to a fresh and warming sound.
Speaking on the single, the DJ said, “I didn’t really have an intention of releasing ‘Soul Full’. It was a product of a full fun-filled day at Mortimer’s studio down in Bristol. We were introduced through a friend, who mentioned I’d just started producing.”
Coming at 2022 full force with a range of shows and appearances, we caught up with the star talking her new venture, the challenges she faced in lockdown and how she’s ready for what is to come.
Check out the interview below now…
Hey Arielle, how are you? How was 2021 for you?
I’m good! 2021 was like a weird sci-fi movie. I started my new midweek daytime slot on BBC Radio 1 on the first day of the January lockdown and the nation’s mood was that of being fed up, and terrified again. Then being there throughout with the listeners as things began to open, freedom weekends, the return of gigs, live music and festivals. Going full pelt into a routine of 3.30am alarms Mon-Thursday then squeezing in up to five DJ gigs at the weekend including gigs in Croatia, Mexico and Ibiza as well as the UK. Then it all coming back to craziness with Omicron being this rapid assassin. 2021 was both a dream year of amazing gigs, achievements and memories being made but I’m also glad we’ve made it to 2022! The beginning of the year I dragged my feet into getting things rolling but now I’m back to storming through everything at 100mph. I released my first ever single release last week and it started with an overactive and anxious brain, now I’m full of buzzy anticipation.
What was one thing you learned about yourself this past year?
Living on 2.45hrs of average sleep was not good for my health. That I can have a deep sleep most nights. That I can still learn new skills but it takes me a lot longer to accomplish and master them than when I was at school. That I’m actually quite good at bowling. Who knew?! And that despite my brain trying to tell me otherwise that I do belong on stage, playing alongside the boys who have ruled the dance world for a long long time.
Did you face any challenges?
Coming out of lockdown and going back to DJing in front of crowds (not just from my living room) caused the worst imposter syndrome I’ve ever experienced. I used to go into gigs, usbs full but no set prepared. Play whatever I wanted, vibe and not care if it went well or not. Summer 2021 I was suddenly a nervous wreck, shaking and hyperventilating before gigs. No matter how much I prepped my set I felt like I had so much to prove. I’d go into panic overdrive. I was sitting higher on billings and playing bigger gigs alongside the pros. I felt like I didn’t belong there and still do sometimes but I know now chatting to fellow DJs that everyone had the same experience when re-entering the gig world. Also the imposter syndrome will never leave you. I’ve learned to relax and enjoy my gigs again as that’s the whole reason I got into this. Making people dance and having fun on the dancefloor.
You originally started off producing, what inspired you to start this?
I’d tried and given up so many times. I was frustrated with not being able to make edits for my sets. Songs that I wanted to play but needed to add a few things or cut a few things, or even tracks for my radio show that needed editing and I couldn’t figure out how. I wanted the skills to be able to make my shows sound slicker whether that be on the airwaves or out at the club. I was trying to do it on Ableton and I was hitting my head off a brick wall. Then one of my friends suggested I try Logic Pro and see if that spoke to me better. It did and with the help of some mates and a fair few lessons, Youtube videos, masterclasses etc I’m at a point where I feel confident to make a track and go through the process of making it fit for the dancefloor and play it out to the world.
And now you’re venturing into music with your debut single “Soul Full”, what made you want to make this jump?
I didn’t really have an intention of releasing Soul Full. It was a product of a full fun-filled day at Mortimer’s studio down in Bristol. We were introduced through a friend, who mentioned I’d just started producing. Mortimer are unbelievably skilled and gifted producers. I’ve been a huge fan of their work under their numerous aliases for a long long time so I jumped at the chance of being in the studio together. Purely so I could soak in all their knowledge and wisdom! We put ‘Soul Full’ down and were vibing from it. So I slid into Joe Killington’s DM’s to ask him if he would be up for putting some vocals down for it and he literally sent me a topline on whats app straight away and it was perfect! Wez Saunders at Defected Records had heard me chatting about it, asked me to send it over and he snapped it up straight away for D4 D4NCE. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind!
What was your mindset going into this single?
Let’s make a track that makes people dance their socks off whilst grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
Joy. Simple as that. I’m not underground, I’m not one of the cool kids, never have been. I’m here to make you dance and fill your heart, head and bones with pure unadulterated joy.
Who would you say inspires you?
All of the ladies, non-binary, LGBTQIA DJ’s in the dance world who are changing the game and holding their own in a male-dominated world. TSHA, LP Giobbi, Annie Mac who paved the way for all of us, Sam Divine, Honey Dijon, The Blessed Madonna, Jayda G, Chloe Robinson, Syreeta, Bklava, Meg Ward, Jaguar, Amyelle, India Jordan, Elkka, Coco Cole, Jess Bays, Carly Wilford, Emily Nash there are so many I could list! And all our male allies who point out lineups with zero representation. The ones who challenge and demand their own bills be filled with not just the boys.
What are you most excited for this year?
Playing new places to people I’ve never played before. I love the challenge of seeing what they vibe off and what they like. Changing things up adding in fresh new releases alongside the staples and then adding my tracks in. I just love it. I love exceeding people’s expectations. I’ve had so many gigs where I’ve been on a bill full of tech house boys, shitting myself because I don’t necessarily play that sound. Then I come in with my big piano, huge house and disco tinged numbers (alongside the harder club stuff) and I put every single ounce of my energy into making it the best set ever. It becomes infectious and usually I win the crowd over or surprise them at least! Then once I’m finished I walk off stage, electric and full to the brim from what I’ve just shared and experienced. Sounds bonkers I know but there is no better feeling than that connection. It’s like an out of body experience and I love it.