Going wild with Big Wild

By Nikko Van Wyck

Big Wild, the moniker Jackson Stell produces and performs under, has not so quietly hit the festival scene the last several years. Known for creating immediately catchy ear candy, his particular brand of dance music cascades through a wide variety of different styles. From surfy and mellow with live instrumentation, to upbeat, pure electronic dance bliss, to even trap-esque bass heavy beats, Big Wild navigates multiple styles of electronic based production with the efficacy of a weathered captain.

Jackson grew up in a small town in central Massachusetts, and only moved to the West Coast three years ago. He started with learning the trumpet in grade school, he turned to his computer for creativity and creating hip hop beats. “It was all on fruity loops to start. I used to go by J Beatz haha. I switched my name to Big Wild when I decided I wanted to take things in a more electronic direction.” Jackson really started turning heads when Western Washington University heroes Odesza invited him on tour back in 2015, and he subsequently released a remix of their song “Say My Name.”

Part of what makes Jackson’s music so intriguing is the innumerable amount of different soundscapes and textures he uses to blend his style of dance music. His writing process reflects this, as he starts the process with a different initial take on a lot of his work. “The writing process is always changing for me. Sometimes I start with the drums, sometimes I find a really cool sound that inspires me, sometimes it’s an awesome chord progression. There’s no formula and that’s what keeps me inspired.” He also has a slew of remixes and collaborative efforts that keep the gears grinding, though when asked, he mentioned, “I tend to find it easier to make music on my own. I do love working with vocalists and working their perspective into my music.”

His creative efforts have no doubt paid off, as he is pretty consistently traveling to perform. As a touring musician myself, I wanted to dive into what his favorite performances were and why. I had to ask, “What’s been your favorite stop?” and he showed the last frontier some real love. “I feel like I’m always on the road haha. There have been so many shows at this point and many have been special to me. My favorite recently have been two shows I performed in Alaska. One in Anchorage and the other in Fairbanks. Besides the great hospitality and experiences I had while I was there, the crowds were so into the music. I could tell they don’t get many shows like the one I put on, so it was awesome to share my music with them.”

I also had to ask about his tour rhythm, just because every artist has their own peculiar way of doing things on the road. “If I’m flying, my day usually consists of trying not to lose my equipment and writing music haha. On a tour bus, it’s much more relaxed. I try to start my day by checking out the venue and then writing music or explore the city we’re in. I try and keep things simple on the road because it’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed.”

Jackson really seems to have an even keel about him, which is definitely embodied in his art. As I asked him for any last words of wisdom, he mentioned, “Attitude and perspective are everything. Keep a cool head, take advice from people you trust, stay open minded, and make sure what you do has an overall positive impact.”

With his music in the background, it’s pretty easy to take a step back and put everything into perspective, and Big Wild is definitely having a positive impact as his live shows are seemingly followed with a rush of endorphins.

Be sure to catch him perform at Western Washington University on Nov. 18 with Tokimonsta, Manatee Commune, and Cash Bandicoot. For more information, see his Facebook page at Big Wild or the website at bigwildmusic.com.

Published in the November 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine