Ryan Hemsworth Is Getting the Hang of the DJ Lifestyle

The Toronto-based producer discusses his debut album 'Guilt Trips'

Ryan Hemsworth performs in Chicago, Illinois.
Roger Kisby/Getty Images
November 6, 2013 3:05 PM ET

Over the last few years, Ryan Hemsworth has received praise from the likes of A-Trak and Diplo, met Skrillex backstage at an EDM festival, and played a New York Fashion Week runway show where Justin Bieber and Rihanna were in attendance. But one of the more surreal experiences of the Canadian DJ's career came from an encounter with a diehard fan.

"I got this email from a girl asking very seriously if she could dance onstage in a Stormtrooper outfit," the Canadian DJ/producer tells Rolling Stone over the phone from his hotel room in Washington, D.C. "Apparently it was her thing that she did. I was like 'Uh. . . maybe I'll pass on this one.'"

The 25 DJ's That Rule the Earth

You can't blame him for still feeling uneasy about the spotlight. In only two years, the 23-year-old Halifax-born, Toronto-based Hemsworth has quickly built a name for himself, thanks to a nonstop stream of guest mixes, remixes (both bootleg and official) of songs by Cat Power, Frank Ocean, Grimes, Lana Del Rey, and others, not to mention a handful of free online EPs of original music that deftly merges ambient beats with looped vocal samples.

These releases have culminated in Guilt Trips, Hemsworth's debut full-length on Last Gang Records, which he recorded mostly on his laptop in airports and hotels while on the road. It features guest vocals from a variety of artists including L.A. electronic musician Baths, young rapper Kitty (née Pryde), and R&B singer Tinashe.

"I guess my sound jumps around a lot but I wanted it to be held together by a mood more than a genre," he says. "They're different vocalists who play different styles of music but I think they hold it together in a sort of melancholic way. Even though it's ten tracks I wanted it to feel like a full body of work."

His diverse tastes also translate to his live shows, where you can expect to hear everything from trap rap to video game soundtracks to A$AP Rocky mashed up with Britney Spears' "Everytime."

"When I'm standing up there and see people not moving I get an insecure feeling, like 'Oh, I'm not doing something right'," explains the producer, who describes his typical audience being a mix of "music nerds, people who are obsessed with video games and Pokemon, hot girls and gay dudes". "But then I realize what people seem to enjoy is not necessarily the dancier moments but more of the melodies and the weird song choices. It's about finding that balance and realizing people don't need to be fully dancing and going crazy to have a good time."

This laidback approach to performing suits the self-described "Shy Diplo" just fine, who unlike many of his contemporaries, prefers to unwind after a show by watching Netflix or interacting with fans and friends on Twitter than partying.

"The whole lifestyle can be weird and a bit exhausting sometimes," he admits. "But I think I'm getting the hang of it."


To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »