At just 21 years old, Ansel Elgort attended his fourth Electric Zoo during Labor Day weekend. For the second year in a row, the actor — who has built an impressive career as a leading man in teen blockbusters like The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series — played an early afternoon set under his DJ alter-ego, Ansolo.
After a year of gaining exposure as a DJ — playing festivals, headlining Pacha, establishing a SoundCloud — Ansolo is ready to take his music career to the level of his acting. He’s off to a good start after inking a deal with Island Records. “I went to a few different labels and was playing everyone my music, and Island was really interested in stuff I didn’t think labels would be interested in,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I played them some tracks and said, ‘These are more poppy. These are more clubby. These are more radio-friendly.’ The ones that were more radio-friendly, they were like, ‘No, we’ve heard this before. We want the different ones. We want the special records.’ I was like, ‘Major labels aren’t supposed to like these records!’ I thought the point of a major label was to just release crap! But Island totally proved that wrong and was like, ‘We want the best record that all the kids at the dance-music festivals are going to love.'”
Before his Saturday set, Elgort is visibly stoked for his time onstage. While performing, he shows his youthful enthusiasm, jumping around the stage and fist-pumping voraciously to his eclectic mix of funk, disco and straightforward EDM tracks. Elgort spoke with Rolling Stone about his new signing, his forthcoming single, “To Life,” and what he’ll add to the world of dance music.
When did you first start to get into music?
I did musical theater a lot growing up, so I was singing and dancing and stuff. Then I started playing piano and writing songs. I’m really inspired by John Legend. I heard this remix of a John Legend song, because on iTunes sometimes the songs are packaged [with remixes]. It was the Laidback Luke version of “Heartbreaker.” [Singing] “You’re in my mind/You’re in my heart.” I thought it was really cool!
Then I heard some of the really early Avicii stuff and the really early Skrillex remixes before he had released his EP. Just like his remix of La Roux’s “Going in for the Kill.” I thought it was so cool. I was writing music all the time and had just written seven or eight songs on the piano — just piano and vocal. With piano, I thought of it as just two channels. That’s it. Whereas with dance music, it was like writing whole symphonies. I had no clue how to do it, but then I downloaded Ableton during senior year of high school. It took me about a year before I ever made anything I was happy with. I would write melodies, but I had no idea how to produce. Over the next year, my production really came together, and now it’s been a little over three years. Four years in October.