Nick Miller aka Illenium was just as happy as anyone else to be at Electric Forest 2017 -- totally vibing off the energy. "Everybody's saying 'Happy Forest' -- like it's a holiday!" he smiled.
Backstage at Tripolee, I was lucky enough to catch up with him weekend 2, right before he jumped on stage (to completely crush it, by the way). Not only did we talk the magic of Electric Forest, but his musical upbringings, those who inspire him, including Bassnectar, and how his life has completely changed since finding music.
Illenium is an unstoppable force in the electronic music scene, and with a summer's worth of festivals on the way, along with a new tour and album (details below) -- there's no stopping this Phoenix!
Karlie: What type of music were you connecting with growing up?
Nick: I kind of had a weird musical upbringing. My whole family is kind of musically inept and they listen to country music nonstop. So, I actually kind of have an appreciation for that stuff. I don't listen to it nowadays, but that's big time what they listen to. My dad loves classic rock, too. Then, I got into a lot of the pop/punk stuff and in high school I listened to a lot of bad rap. I didn't really feel like I actually found music I really loved until I was 19 or 20 when I got into the more melodic dance stuff. I got into the ravier stuff at first and then kind of moved away from it. But, yeah, I remember country music as my whole musical beginnings, which is good and bad.
Karlie: Your story is that you left a Red Rocks show super inspired, went home, downloaded Ableton, and just got to work... Before that, did you have any musical experience?
Nick: I dabbled with a little bit of guitar and made some really bad hip hop beats in GarageBand. It was so bad. I'm a harsh critic, but I think anyone could realize that it was some bad stuff. But, what it did do was prove to me that there is a creative outlet out there that is really cool. You can spend hours in being productive in a creative space, versus being outside, or doing anything. It's kind of a nice mental break.
Karlie: You've completely blown up since then... What's it like performing as one of the top tier acts at Electric Forest?
Nick: It's amazing! I love this place. It's like my favorite place. Last week was really cool. I really like that stage over there -- Sherwood Court. To be able to close that out is just insane. Last year, Porter had that set. I think Flume had a similar set there 2 years ago. So, it's really amazing company to be in. It was awesome! The crowd was amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better show, really. I loved it.
Karlie: Last week, you closed out the Sherwood Court stage, directly leading into Bassnectar... How did that feel?
Nick: So cool! Yeah crazy. I love Nectar, and I've always loved his music. What I love about his music is that he goes so hard and then he opens up into these absolutely breathtaking moments of his set, and that's what I latch onto. And, I try to make my set all of that. I feel like it's very fitting going from my music into his music. It was really cool.
Karlie: Are you changing anything up in your set this week?
Nick: I'm changing a little bit up, but not too much because I love it so much! I always change my sets up, but I'm finally at a point where it's like -- this is exactly what I want to represent. It's like 90% my own music and I feel like I'm there for my fans and new listeners. I'm not just going to go randomly heavy and crazy to change it up. I want to keep it the same sound.
Karlie: Let's say you're just here to just enjoy the festival... Who would you ride the rail for?
Nick: I mean I wasn't up front row -- but I was getting after it at Nectar. I was riding the rail technically [to the side of stage]. It was a different rail than the front rail, but I really loved that. I loved watching Odesza, I really like all of their new music. I love Dabin, he's amazing and crushing it. Echos. I get down to some Cheese and stuff, too.
Karlie: What would be on your totem?
Nick: I've always thought about getting a bass drop tattoo. So, I'd probably do some type of Nectar totem. Even though they're so common, he's a very big inspiration.
Karlie: While you have made so much musical progress over the years... What kind of personal changes or growth have you went through along with dedicating yourself to music?
Nick: There's a lot, actually. Before I was passionate about making music I was definitely not in the best head space. I wasn't doing the best recreational activities. And, since I've found music, it's been a total savior honestly. I'm really grateful for that huge life change I've had. Now that's a career, there's a lot of other things that come up, but it always feels good. Crazy life changes!
I've definitely spent multiple hours every day over the past five years on music, whatever it is. And, I can't imagine my life without it. It's a very serene, meditative thing for me to do -- to be able to zone out and make music. It's a totally spiritual experience.
Karlie: What have been your biggest wow moments?
Nick: Anytime I play at Red Rocks is a wow moment for sure. Like three times... But this last time was crazy. My whole family was out. Everytime I go to that venue I'm always like, "This is the best place ever!" Sherwood Court was crazy. EDC was crazy.
Forest for me is huge. It was my first out of state festival I ever played two years ago, and so it has a special place with me for sure. So be able to close out Sherwood, or Tripolee, it's crazy.
Karlie: What do you listen to in order to get inspired for your own stuff?
Nick: I listen to a lot of old stuff like Blink and Senses Fail. This kid, Eden. A lot of really different stuff. Bon Iver -- he's amazing. Not a lot of electronic music.
Karlie: Your song with Gryffin, "Feel Good" ft. Daya is so beautiful... Can you talk about how that collaboration came to be?
Nick: Gryffin had hit me up. Daya had written that vocal, and I think through the "Don't Let Me Down" [The Chainsmokers ft. Daya] remix he just had me in mind. It was awesome, because I love Daya. I love her voice. It worked really smoothly. He's a really easy person to work with and I love his sound. It's a very poppy song, and I don't always do that, so it was nice to feel free to do that, and experiment with it.
Karlie: Any dream collaborations?
Nick: Dream collaborations would probably be Porter [Robinson], Odesza, Nectar. Those three. Pop wise, like vocalist wise... I really love Ellie [Goulding]. Halsey is tight.
Karlie: You have a huge summer's worth of festivals ahead of you... What comes after that?
Nick: The album is almost done. I took this week off to get it almost finished. I'm hoping to release that late summer or very early fall -- and then we're doing a huge tour that will be announced in the next few weeks. That's probably what I'm looking forward to most.
Karlie: Any bucket list venues or festivals?
Nick: Venues -- headline Red Rocks. We co-headlined this year, but I want to headline it. The Gorge one day. Festivals -- I'd love to get on Outside Lands in the Bay Area, because I'm from San Francisco originally. Coachella.
Karlie: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Nick: Rocket League!!! I've spent way too much time on Rocket League. I just bought a brand new gaming computer just to dedicate to Rocket League. Once my album is done, I'm just going to go radio silence. Just zone out and play for hours.
Karlie: If you could give everyone who listened to your music a subliminal message, what would it be?
Nick: I try to do it with my logo and with being a Phoenix, and a lot of the lyrics... I just want people to be able to heal through music. Whatever that is. Everybody has sh*t, their personal struggles, or family struggles, or relationships. To be able to escape reality for three minutes through a song and to be completely content is a really powerful thing. It's helped me a lot in my life. That's definitely what I want people to do when they listen to my music... to be at peace with sh*t.