Eric Sharp has been a tastemaking DJ on the West Coast for more than a decade. Playing clubs, festivals, raves, and other one-off events, the Cali-based talent has earned a devoted fanbase in the underground and has served as a resident at Sound, Hollywood’s top nightspot. But his evolution as a music-making artist has been no less impressive.
After making a slew of remixes, Sharp began releasing original productions in 2013. Starting out with ethereal groovers on his Sharp Cuts EP, Sharp began to create tracks with wider ranging sounds. He also launched the Rock It Science Laboratories (RIS Labs) label/platform and licensed music to a variety of outlets in sports, TV, film, and ads.
Recently, Sharp has eased into more thoughtful, deeper-leaning house tracks. Exemplified by 2019’s “Monday Blues,” featuring frequent collaborator Zhao, Sharp’s current output offers heartfelt lyrical meaning to go with musical depth.
Fast-forward to 2022 and he’s done it again with Emergence (Create Music Group), a five-track EP (three originals with two remixes) that mixes dancefloor and earworm qualities. Strong cuts like the gospely “Scream & Shout” (with Laurent John), the melodic, introspective “The Gift” (with Zhao), and the mega-grooving “Like Water” (with Doe Paoro) should win over any lovers of quality house.
We recently caught up with the L.A.-based Eric Sharp to discuss his DJ career and his artistic evolution.
DJ Life Mag: Creatively, how did you approach your Emergence EP? What were you trying to accomplish?
Eric Sharp: My arc in production started with just making sample-based club bangers for DJ sets. I then let go of the creative constraint of making tracks for my DJ sets, instead focusing on composition and songwriting. I also stopped sampling at that point. My goal with the Emergence EP was to bring these strands together, using chord progressions melodies and original vocals, while implementing an arrangement structure and sound design that makes the dancefloor go off. I was also trying to share a message with my audience.
DJ Life Mag: “Like Water” is a really gorgeous vocal track and “The Gift” should really get some attention, too. You’ve got some different sounds going on there, not to mention current ideas.
Eric Sharp: Thanks! “Like Water” is themed around serenity and going with the flow. “The Gift” is a thought-provoking missive about the commodification of artists and people, in general, and the stratification of wealth inherent in capitalism. “Scream & Shout” was born out of feeling frustrated by elected officials who don’t serve their constituents.
DJ Life Mag: What was the process in doing the EP? How did you collaborate with some of the other talents on the EP – for example, “Like Water” with Doe Paoro?
Eric Sharp: This offering started, like most, with a few demos I’d been working on over the last few years. I wrote “Like Water” in the same vein as my more indie-dance-focused songs, at the studio of my buddy Kyle McCammon, aka Plus. The first draft was really mellow, wavy, and spacious, and I do plan to release that as a chill version later this summer. I’d met Doe Paoro at a DJ gig of mine several years back, and I’d been waiting for the right project to approach her for a feature on. I sent her the demo and she came into the studio where we co-wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies and then took another couple of sessions to record.
DJ Life Mag: And “The Gift” with Zhao, a frequent collaborator?
Eric Sharp: Right, Zhao and I have been writing together for years. I hit him up during the shutdowns to see if he wanted to make something together via Zoom, but he told me he wasn’t inspired to do any songwriting at that moment. A few weeks later, he surprised me with the spoken-word portion of “The Gift,” which he’d laid down over a simple chord arrangement. I related to the poem so much that I wanted to bring it to life and share it with the world.
DJ Life Mag: And finishing the record?
Eric Sharp: When it came to finalizing the EP, I got into the lab with my good friend 28mm to bring the tracks to the finish line. I’ve been studying sound design, but I’m not quite where I want to be with it yet, and Christian was a huge help there. I’ve learned that it’s really important to acknowledge my weak points as a producer, and ask for assistance when I need it.
DJ Life Mag: What were your initial musical influences? What made you want to pursue music?
Eric Sharp: My very first influences musically would have been Michael Jackson, early hip hop, grunge, and metal. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered house and techno, and I was immediately hooked. Growing up in New England, I would listen to Liquid Todd’s live show from Axis [in Boston] on Saturdays, while dancing in my bedroom. When I got old enough to go to the underground parties, I remember getting down to Slugo, Osheen, Bad Boy Bill, DJ Dan, Felix Da Housecat, Armand Van Helden, Green Velvet, Joeski, and a lot of other ’90s rave DJs. My crew and I would drive to parties together and spend all night house dancing and b-boying. This was such a formative experience for me. No matter what kind of strife was happening in my life – and there was plenty – I could just lose myself in the music and feel one with the universe. I ultimately decided to pursue music, so that I could effectuate this kind of uplifting experience for others.
DJ Life Mag: What was lockdown like for you?
Eric Sharp: The lockdown was really tough on my mental health. Lifting weights at the gym, going to shows, DJing out, doing studio sessions, and spending time with friends are important habits that I’ve built. Losing access to these outlets was depressing. The first six to nine months of the lockdown put me into a downward spiral, uncertain if my career would ever come back or if I would ever be able to do the things I want to do with my life. Over time, I was able to come to a place of acceptance and just keep things in the day without stressing so much about the future. I took stock of what areas I could focus on to improve as an artist, and enrolled in a marketing course and production classes.
DJ Life Mag: Was it a creative time for you?
Eric Sharp: I wouldn’t say that it was difficult to find my muse per se, but my production process was interrupted. I found that focusing on more technical aspects was great in that situation, because there was no pressure to make something “good enough” to release. It was more like sharpening my tools for when it was time to get to work on a project, and I think that served me well in making Emergence.
DJ Life Mag: Were you streaming during lockdown? What’s your take on that platform for DJs?
Eric Sharp: I chose not to stream. I’ve actually done a couple of streams after things reopened. I think there are some interesting things happening in the AR/VR space that can simulate a live show, and it can be a cool way to reach people who couldn’t physically attend a show because of geographic constraints or physical limitations. That said, I’m not in love with the digitization of life. I’ll take a packed dancefloor with real people dancing together and building community in real life any day over a virtual party.
DJ Life Mag: How has it been like returning to the clubs?
Eric Sharp: In a word, getting back to DJing for a crowd has been blissful. My best shows have been at Sound Nightclub where I’ve shared the decks with Dirty South, Eelke Kleijn, CID and Chris Lake this past year. Lately, I’ve been DJing on the patio at the newly opened Mirus Gallery in Downtown L.A., which is a super-cool space that hosted my birthday and a record-release party for my EP. I also played a boat party last fall for L’Affaire Musicale with Goldroom, and have a Fourth of July Pool Party for Orlove Entertainment coming up at Skybar in West Hollywood.
DJ Life Mag: What are a few tracks that are always in your “DJ box” and why?
Eric Sharp: Felix Da Housecat’s “Sinner Winner (Green Velvet Remix).” This track plays to both house and techno crowds, and smashes nearly any dancefloor at its peak. I am not even sure if this ever got an official release, but it is an absolute weapon. Also, Booka Shade’s “In White Rooms.” As someone who has been DJing for a long time, I take a sense of responsibility in educating crowds about classic tracks. “In White Rooms” is a versatile, timeless record, and I find it working in many different situations. And there’s Kölsch & Tiga’s “HAL.” These are two of my favorite producers, and this collaboration is sublime. “HAL” is melodic, sophisticated, and floaty, but still whips an educated crowd into a frenzy.
DJ Life Mag: What’s your main studio gear?
Eric Sharp: My home set-up is pretty simple. I run Ableton Live 11 Suite with the Push 2. I don’t mix here, so I’m still happy to write in headphones or my KRK Rokit 6 monitors. I find myself using Juno synths a lot when I’m in hardware rooms – the 106 and 60 are probably my favorites. Both have such a rich, warm tone. My favorite reverb is Valhalla Vintage, and for synths I like Sylenth, Diva, and Ableton’s own Wavetable.
DJ Life Mag: Which producer/remixers do you most admire and why?
Eric Sharp: I look up to producer/remixers who have a diverse body of work. CamelPhat, Kölsch, Tiga, Eelke Kleijn, Kidnap, Green Velvet/Cajmere, and Armand Van Helden are some of my favorites. They’ve all been releasing quality music for years without pigeonholing. I’m always excited to hear new music from them, and find myself going back to their prior work in my sets.
DJ Life Mag: In the DJ booth, what do you use and why?
Eric Sharp: Pioneer CDJs and mixer are my go-to units. I’m familiar with them, as I’ve been using them for years, and I like the effects. If I’m playing a tech-ier set, I love to have four decks, so that I can layer three tracks together at the same time while cueing a fourth. My style of DJing favors long, layered mixes, and I aim to take dancers on a cohesive musical journey, as opposed to just caning the same sound over and over for a set.
DJ Life Mag: Which DJs do you admire and why? Did anyone inspire you to get started on the decks?
Eric Sharp: Some of my favorite producers are also some of my favorite DJs, such as Green Velvet and Tiga. Fatboy Slim played one of the best sets I’ve heard in recent years. I’m a big fan of Nora En Pure, too. I like DJs that aren’t afraid to take risks, and who pleasantly surprise me when I go to hear them. A great DJ makes me lose myself in sound like I’m a teenager again. Roy Davis, Jr., inspired me to get started on the decks, when I met him at WMC in 2005 right when I started DJing. He played parties I threw in San Francisco, gave me vinyl promos of his releases, mentored me with DJing, and even did an edit for me on my first solo EP. I’m not sure I’d be where I am today without Roy taking a chance on working with a noob.
DJ Life Mag: What are some places you love to play – club, festival or one-off – and why?
Eric Sharp: Sound is my favorite club to play. The rig is just pristine, and the room is designed in a way that completely focuses the energy on the dancefloor. I’ve had so many amazing nights there. My favorite one-offs have to be underground warehouse parties. These are the roots of our scene, and a great reminder that all you need is a DJ, a sound system, a red light, and a crowd to have an amazing time. My favorite festival experience was SF LovEvolution. It was free, outdoors, massive, and completely bonkers. It encapsulates everything I loved about living in San Francisco at the time — weird, over-the-top, musically open-minded, and absolutely fun-loving.
DJ Life Mag: What’s next for you?
Eric Sharp: I’ve just turned in a remix for a New York artist named Hello Lightfoot, and wrapped up a track with my buddy Bosa that we are in the process of signing. I plan to release collaborations while I’m working on my next solo EP. As I mentioned before, I’ll also be sharing chill versions of “Like Water” and “The Gift” this summer. Beyond releasing music, I have some live shows in the works and hope to expand beyond the L.A. market in the near future. I try to never be complacent, and to continue growing in as many directions as possible, both personally and as an artist.
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