With a decade in the game and a lifetime of musical knowledge, we are happy to introduce you to Toronto based, DJ Waves, a resident DJ for Live Nation’s Budweiser Stage since 2014, where she provides pre + post show dance parties for summer concerts as well as part of the roster for VIP Nation, where she provides VIP DJ sets for global tours such as Red Hot Chili Peppers Unlimited Love Tour 2022, and The Weeknd’s After Hours Til Dawn tour. Her sets span every genre and time-period, making for an eclectic collection of sounds that is groovy, nostalgic, daring, and euphoric.
Waves is the official DJ of the Toronto Marlies hockey team and resident DJ for the Lemmon Stage – a weekly discovery series based out of Toronto’s legendary venue The Rivoli. She was voted one of the Top 2 DJs in Toronto by NOWMAGAZINE’s Readers’ Choice 2021. If those accolades aren’t enough, as of the spring of 2022, some of us in the states get to hear her killer sets as she’s becoming more of a fixture in the California desert scene, with regular residencies at the likes of Red Dog Saloon and Kitchen In The Desert.
Outside of work, “I’m very much an introvert so I love spending time reading in a coffee shop, aimlessly driving around (car or motorcycle), watching horror movies or documentaries, and going to concerts”.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I fell into the industry through my growing record collecting addiction; I made friends with a local DJ at my favourite record store and he became my mentor. I was always very open-minded about music and listened to various genres and decades, so he saw that as good base knowledge and asked if I’d ever thought about DJing. Initially I learned because I was simply curious about how vinyl DJing and record collecting worked–I didn’t think it was anything more than a fun hobby. Fast-forward 10 years and I’ve grown to make DJing my full-time career.
What is a day in the life like?
My typical day starts with multiple cups of coffee and blasting house, soul, funk, or Motown music because it’s impossible to be in a bad mood when that’s playing. I try to have slow mornings and just let my mind wander and get inspired. I often read, journal, and watch/listen to music interviews. A lot of my days are spent just constantly consuming and learning by reading blogs and listening to online radio and DJ sets to source new tunes and stay in the loop. By late afternoon I start to get dressed up and packed for a gig, and then I’m off for the evening. I usually get home around 3am, at which point I do invoices and respond to emails to help me decompress before bed.
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
I’ve been developing a new all-vinyl rock n’ roll night in Toronto with Lemmon Stage and it’s something very near and dear to my heart. I’ve been booked for plenty of awesome vinyl gigs over the years, but this one is completely my own design; everything from the marketing and visuals, to the ambiance of the room, and the featured live music acts that play with me. It’s been a long process of planning but to finally see the idea take form and have this night where people can hopefully feel like they’ve stepped into another world is really exciting. Toronto doesn’t have many vinyl DJs, let alone female ones, so I’m excited to have a platform to grow that community.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
I wish it wasn’t so cliche, but being a female in a male-dominated industry can be a challenge; less than 10% of DJs are female, and females make up about 20% of the music industry as a whole. I’m constantly underestimated in terms of my talent and knowledge, which can be exhausting to have to “prove” myself and shut down mansplaining. I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I KNOW I know my shit, and I know what my strengths and weaknesses are–but not everyone is at a point where they can confidently stand up for themselves, which is why it’s still so important that representation grows.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Learn what you can from the people who came before you, make it easier for the people coming after you, and stay true to yourself.
As someone who was mentored, I firmly believe in learning first hand from people in the community rather than locking yourself in a basement with YouTube tutorials–you’ll grow much quicker and learn skills that are actually applicable to DJing for crowds. Sharing your knowledge and constantly having a willingness to learn more will keep you sharp and (hopefully) stop gate-keeping in the industry. Being true to yourself means that you’ll feel fulfilled by what you’re doing and ultimately attract others that are on the same wave length as you, which is pretty damn fun.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
The only thing worse than my coffee addiction is my record addiction. Nothing beats being able to physically hold a piece of music that you love and to pour over the liner notes or cool jackets inserts. Initially I had just bought artists I loved, but now I take risks when I buy and I feel like that’s something unique to record collecting. It’s exciting to crate dig and buy something you don’t know just based on cool artwork, or to travel and see what’s popular in the local shops. I’ve been collecting for about 15 years so once I got past the essentials I started to really nerd out on what I collect (thank you, Discogs). A major part of my collection now is b-movie soundtracks from the 1960s and 70s, along with library music (KPM, DeWolfe, etc). Vinyl has also been a fun way to merge my love of music, art and film.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
More and more bars seem to have turntables now in addition to CDJs for their house setup. It’s giving the option for DJs to incorporate vinyl and have easier access to decks if they can’t bring their own to the club.
Younger generations are also really eager to learn about vinyl which is exciting because it means that the medium is growing again. I spent some time working in a record shop early in the pandemic and was blown away by how young the clientele was, and how much they wanted to know about collecting.
Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry?
Honestly too many to count (especially in the beginning) but recently I’ve connected with a lot of female DJs and it’s been life changing. I met Jayda via Instagram during the pandemic, and then we finally met in person last month at a gig she played in LA. It was amazing to be able to talk about our journeys and lean on each other as we both navigate the industry. Kate also gave me my first DJ gig in the USA so I’m eternally grateful to her for that and how welcoming she’s been about introducing me to others in the California desert scene.
Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you’re listening to:
Find DJ Waves: