The rapidly shifting world of top tier EDM centres on excess, ego and, at times, insanity. Its leading DJs boast rock star profiles and bulging profit margins, and the cultural phenomenon doesn’t shy from its downright absurdities (cue hundreds of thousands of people losing their mind over Deadmau5 dropping a remix of ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’, or David Guetta staring vacantly into the abyss mid-set).

While EDM’s promoters, artists, label managers and listeners might have different tastes in aesthetics and lifestyles to those of ‘70s and ‘80s rock and roll, it’s not a far stretch to compare the outlandishness of the genres.

Australia’s EDM Queen DJ Tigerlily (aka Dara Hayes) has her own unlikely tie to rock; one that inadvertently pushed her out of small Sydney rooms and into the international circuit when eminent Dutch DJ and producer Tiësto spotted her modified Acca Dacca shirt at a festival.

We both share a love for dance music – and Jager

“I was wearing a t-shirt that said ‘ACID’ in the font of the old ‘AC/DC’ logo,” Hayes explains. “It was a little bit stand out and a little bit rude.

“I suppose he thought it was funny. We got chatting and ended up getting along, of course, as we both share a love for dance music – and Jager,” she adds. “Much to my disbelief, we stayed in touch after that.”

Tigerlily has returned with her new single, ‘Ashes’

Hayes now has serious industry experience under her belt, having been voted Australia’s #1 female DJ three years in a row via Inthemix and charting #1 on Beatport Overall for her collab with KSHMR’s ‘Invisible Children’. She’s landed residencies in Australia’s major clubs, signed to Universal Records, and joined Tiësto on a tour across Asia.

“He has been a great friend and mentor for me over the past few years of my career,” says Hayes. “He’s provided me with opportunities to warm up the dance floor at his own concerts with up to 30,000 people. We went back-to-back about a year ago in Vegas and I’ve never mixed with anyone like him before.”

I don’t think I was thrust into the spotlight as quickly as it seems… it was a bit of a long, hard slog

It’s common for young EDM stars to be thrown into the limelight after just a few years on the decks — see: Martin Garrix, Marshmello and Skrillex to name a few — earning themselves fortunes in a blip of the time that it took artists like Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna.

But for Hayes, it was a little different. “I don’t think I was thrust into the spotlight as quickly as it seems,” she says. “From an outside perspective it always seems a lot faster, but it was a bit of a long, hard slog.”

While developing her craft, Hayes was inspired by Aussie locals such as Ember, Minx, What So Not and Will Sparks, as well as bigger names.“Deadmau5 was the first artist that I really idolised,” she says. “Coming from a classical music upbringing, I was really able to resonate with his music. It blew me away with its intricacy and beauty.”

Tigerlily made the jump from DJ to producer with huge hits like ‘Paradise’

EDM remains a goldmine industry; this year, Calvin Harris earned $48.5 million, making him the world’s most profitable DJ for his fifth year in a row according to Forbes, and Dutch DJ Afrojack has confessed to the New Yorker, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with all of this money.”

But Hayes has a slightly more down to earth approach when it comes to the biz. “You can be a rock star, a billionaire, so famous with the latest hit on the radio … but ultimately, if you’re not healthy and happy then nothing is worth it.”

If you’re not healthy and happy then nothing is worth it

She’s an avid campaigner for physical fitness and mental health awareness, and has since become an ambassador for Lifeline, Australia’s crisis support and suicide prevention service. “I actually got really sick and run down after about 18 months of doing the global touring thing, and made a conscious decision to slow down, focus more on Australian shows, and look after my health,” she says. “It was a really hard decision to make; to turn my back on huge opportunities, shows, and tours.”

On women in the field, Hayes says, “I always really looked up to the NERVO girls. In my eyes they’re really the only girls that have broken through into the top tier of DJs in the EDM scene.” Like rock n roll, dance music can be traced back to minority groups; EDM’s roots go back to black and queer artists in cities like Detroit and Chicago, who aimed to carve out a space for marginalised groups to let off steam.

Tigerlily’s collab with Spinnin’ Records’ KSHMR hit #1 on Beatport

However, all it takes is a simple Google search of the words ‘EDM’ and ‘sexism’ and you’ll find a plethora of articles that point to the barriers women still face in the industry. Well-regarded DJ The Black Madonna told Electronic Beats, “It seems like every month there’s some story about how ‘women are finally breaking through in dance music’… we’ve been breaking through for 30 years… I want to broaden the discussion a little bit and say that women have always been in electronic music.”

More and more women are coming forward with not only the confidence, but also with incredible ability

Hayes says, “If we look slightly to the left, to more alternate genres you can find so much happening by very talented women. More and more women are coming forward with not only the confidence, but also with incredible ability — and they’re smashing it out of the park.”

So, what’s next for Tigerlily? “I’m writing new music at the moment for some upcoming releases, going back to my old roots of more pure dance music; experimenting with what I used to play, being progressive house, minimal, techno.

“I feel more confident than ever that we are working in a market now which is so flexible and open minded, and artists like myself can really experiment and move around genre-wise with what they’re putting out to the public.”

Tigerlily‘s latest single ‘Ashes’ is out now through Island Records/Universal – check it out below.

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