Going Country: An Interview with Pretty Lights

In one of the most unique musical documentaries, five different DJs are facing with remixing and changing the prevalent norm of traditional genres of music. The documentary, “Re:Generation: The Remix of Time, Genre, and Change: 5 DJS Turn the Tables on the History of Music,” follows Pretty Lights as he tries out country with Dr. Ralph Stanley and LeAnn Rimes. Pretty Lights took some time out to talk to us about his experience making the film, experimenting with country music, and his upcoming album.

Alexandria Chong: Hey, How’s it going?

Pretty Lights: I’m doing well today, thanks!

A.C.: Could you tell me a little about how you were approached to create this documentary and what made you ultimately decide to work on it?

P.L.: For sure. I was working in the warehouse on tour actually. My manager hit me up with the pitch for the movie and it sounded really cool, until I found out I was working with country music. I was a little skeptical but they told me they were willing to go after anyone I would want to work with. I did some research and found Mr. Stanley who didn’t sound too country. I said if I could work with him then I’d go for it, and after they sealed the deal, that was the point where I agreed to work on the project.

A.C.: What was it like delving into country music?

P.L.: It was cool. I learned that there are a lot of similarities from country music to what I do, electro production. It was simply old school, the process of just taking from past to breathing new life for the present day audience. Similar to how they did it back then where people’s grandparents passed down songs and they recreated them. Artists weren’t really writing, they were just recreating and evolving with a new twist. It’s the same as what I did in the past. Learning that, I was more excited to dive into it and embrace these connections. I realized as musicians, we’re striving for the same thing in electro soul production as the bluegrass country artist did 100 years ago, we evolve and create longevity in music – I’ll take that with me.

A.C.: How was it working with LeAnn Rimes and Dr. Ralph Stanley?

P.L.: Working with vocalists was new to me, I’ve worked with musicians in studios but this was different. Ralph Stanley is fuckin’ incredible. He’s so soulful and raw and that’s exactly what I love about music. They really played up our first meeting in the studio in the documentary and I realized I should approached him a little more cautiously. He’s a stubborn fuckin’ legend but of course he has the right to be. LeAnn was a lot more open, willing and wanting to make her voice instrumental. She was ready to take any advice I had for her so I was working with two different ends of the spectrum.

A.C.: Was it ever frustrating?

P.L.: Well, you take and learn from it. It happened quickly, at first Mr. Stanley didn’t understand why I went to his guitarist and changed chords, and the entire melody sounded different. So yes there were small moments when they started playing together and it wasn’t what I was picturing, but once I told each what to do and explained my vision to them, I realized it was going to work out. They were willing to play it and had a lot more respect for what we were creating.

A.C.: What was the timing like regarding production?  Was there a strict deadline that your new track had to be finished by?

P.L.: I actually had a studio built on my tour bus so I could finish producing the track. In the documentary, they show us working on respective tracks and you can’t really tell from the film, but my studio was on my tour bus so yes there was a deadline for the track to be finished.

A.C.: What’s it like to be part of the legacy of “Wayfaring Stranger”?

P.L.: I mean, I don’t know. The song is beautiful and ambiguous. It’s been done so many different ways, some that I like and some that I don’t, one that I love. I’m glad I got to put my style on that song, to leave my imprint on anyone who looks into that song. It’s cool to become part of it along with all the other people who’ve worked on it. All I can tell you is that I put my emotion and soul into that track and tried to make it modern and old school at the same time. I’m really glad that I got to be a part of it.

A.C.: What was the most challenging part about filming Re:Generation?

P.L.: The most challenging thing about the documentary was when they had me walking through Nashville, pretending to be myself, alone, drinking a beer, and listening to country music. It wasn’t the most fun thing to do for me but it’s part of professional documentary filming. The second day, however, was in the studio. It was a lot more hands off and more my place.

A.C.: Any fun stories you could tell us from filming?

P.L: Yeah, there was such a massive crew from 15 – 20 people lugging things around, so there was a lot of down time. During a prep, they told me to take 20 minutes while they got ready for a shot. My girlfriend, Krystle, was there while we were filming and she had her own camera and she’d also film. They sent me out one time for about an hour and I met three street musicians and that was a huge part of my educational process which they didn’t get to film. There were just some of the most fun moments that helped with my educational process that they didn’t get on tape.

A.C.: How has this film changed your outlook on music, if it has?

P.L.: It hasn’t really changed my outlook on music, but I did learn a lot about working with people who don’t know who you are and bringing new life to the old classics. My primary objective was to infuse all of my music with as much emotion and soul as possible. I read and see all of the interviews of everyone involved with the project and I think they want the same thing, to infuse as much emotion as possible, to create something that has longevity, to breathe new life into the old. 

A.C.: What are you currently working on musically?

P.L.: Now this is something I’m much more excited to talk about. I’m working on a new Pretty Lights record. I didn’t do my traditional old school vinyl – I went into the studio with an array of artists from different genres such as new jazz, funk, and soul. I’m trying to create a cutting edge album for 2012 in a way that they would have in the 1960′s with a retro sound. I’m trying to pave way for electro music so it sounds new and futuristic. 

A.C.: Any collabs?

P.L.: Yes, some good ones actually. But I can’t tell you about those just yet. 

A.C.: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers?

P.L.: I think we’ve covered most of it. I was stoked to be a part of the film. It was really cool, the biggest thing was reaching a new audience, opening more eyes and minds, creating new from old. And moving forward I’ll be doing the same, trying to create something beautiful that lasts a long time.

A.C.: Thank you for your time! Good luck with everything!

P.L.: Yeah I appreciate it, It was nice talking to you.



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