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Deroza Interview - In The Studio

Emerging New York-based Artist, Deroza's sets are known for their dynamic range, often incorporating elements of afro, deep, and tech-house, which create an immersive and energetic experience on the dance floor. 

Her ability to seamlessly blend these genres has earned her a loyal following and frequent bookings at some of NYC's hottest venues supporting artists such as Nervo, Kream, Joel Corry, and Autograph to name a few.  

Deroza’s Must-Hear Tracks

Follow DEROZA’s Journey on TIKTOK

We discussed DJ techniques, finding new music, and how to take the risk of giving up your 9-5 to become a full-time DJ. 

Hi Deroza, thanks for talking to us! For starters, how did you get into DJing? #

I've always had a passion for music and a desire to control what music was playing, no matter where I was. I would make CDs for my parents' cars. I was obsessed with all genres of music and got really into house music in college.

Fast forward to COVID-19, I found myself with a lot of free time and decided to pursue my dream of being a DJ. I got a DJ deck and started with a small Pioneer board. I taught myself by watching countless hours of YouTube tutorials. It was definitely frustrating at first, but it eventually clicked.

Once the city reopened, I networked with people in New York City and made a friend who was a DJ. He helped me put the final pieces together and showed me how to build a full mix. I finally got comfortable enough to perform in front of people. My first gig was at a small Irish pub. We convinced the owner to let me DJ there, and I made up this whole story to get the chance. From that moment, I was hooked. Performing in front of people was so much fun. I loved the music and the energy in the room when DJing.

Since then, I've been networking with people in the industry, including fellow DJs, music producers, promoters, and club owners. I've been grinding ever since.

How did you start to get more gigs, and make your career start to snowball? #

I leveraged my social media a lot. I quickly learned that promoters and club owners care about the music you're playing, but also judge the value you can bring to their venue. With my marketing background and a degree in business, I immediately understood what they were saying. So, I decided to build my own community on social media. When I got the chance to get booked, I used that as leverage, showing that I could bring out a crowd or sell a few tables. That approach really helped me grow my bookings.

I used my business skills for the promotional side and my creativity to build the best sets for my gigs. Making a good first impression was crucial. I aimed to create lasting relationships with promoters, club owners, and other DJs. I've focused on building relationships, networking, and providing as much value as I can to those who book me.

You recently left your 9-5 to pursue DJing as a full-time career - that must be scary but very exciting. How did you make the decision and how did you know it was the right time? #

I've been performing live gigs for about two and a half years now. During that time, I was also working a 9-to-5 corporate job in client relations, which was very people-facing. A few months ago, I started feeling like it was time to pursue my DJ career full-time. I was gaining some opportunities and traction on social media, and I thought, if I could allocate all my time to this, I know I can grow it. It was a scary and hard decision, but here we are. So far, it's been going really well.

Being a creative person, especially with DJing and creating content, makes it hard to balance different types of jobs. I feel my best when I'm being creative. When I'm DJing and producing, it's something I'm passionate about and happy doing, so it almost doesn't feel like a job. There are definitely days when I question my decision, but then there are days when I know this was the right choice and how I want to live my life.

I also thought, if I never try this full-time, I'll regret it. Like most people, I don't want to have any regrets. So, I decided to give it a shot. If all else fails, I can always get another job. Jobs are always around.

It's a risky move, but if you’re passionate about something you can make it work. #

I did build out a plan, like a game plan, figuring out how much money I would need to make each month and assessing my savings. It was definitely planned; it wasn't just like I woke up one day and decided to quit. There was more thought and preparation involved. But yeah, it's definitely scary. So far, it's working out.

Do you play most of your shows in New York? #

Right now, my focus is definitely on the New York market. I have played in LA and Miami, but I'm looking to expand to different markets over the next year. Currently, I'm organizing my summer with several shows in the New York City area. At the same time, I'm really concentrating on music production. Once I have that solidified, I believe I'll be able to expand further into new cities.

New York must be a really competitive scene for DJs, so how do you stand out from the crowd? #

Like you mentioned, the DJ field is crowded and can be intimidating. However, I've found that staying consistent and driven, and putting yourself out there has been immensely beneficial. I've spoken to many DJs, both seasoned and aspiring, and it's apparent when someone lacks commitment. Maintaining a strong commitment and consistency really helps you stand out, and people notice and want to support you.

I've made it a point to network everywhere I go. Whenever I meet someone, I mention I'm a DJ, which often leads to connections in the industry. Additionally, I focus on creating setlists that resonate with people, which helps build a following. People genuinely enjoy the music I play, which further establishes my reputation.

What challenges have you faced? I know there must have been a few tricky moments in this transition to being a full time DJ.#

The real challenge often comes when you get booked. Promoters are primarily focused on ticket sales, which can be stressful. When they demand a large crowd, it feels daunting, but building out my social media presence has helped mitigate that pressure somewhat.

Another significant challenge I face in the industry is being a female DJ. Initially, many don't take you seriously, assuming bookings are based merely on gender. I've even had instances where bouncers didn't believe I was the DJ and wouldn't let me into the club. These situations can be overwhelming, but I use them as motivation to keep going and to prove skeptics wrong.

Despite these challenges, I've met many supportive people in the industry, especially in New York, who are advocates for female DJs. It’s a strong community. Overall, being a female in a male-dominated field presents its hurdles, but it also drives me to excel and break barriers.

You mentioned you're doing music production, is that something you've picked up recently? What are your goals with that? #

I recently picked up music production, despite having no background in music theory. I’m teaching myself and working with several producers in New York who have been incredibly helpful. I’ve also taken some courses and found mentors to guide me. My ultimate goal is to produce my own music, release it on Spotify, and build out my artist profile. Eventually, I want to tour and play my original tracks in my sets.

What kind of music would you like to make? How would that fit in with the music that you DJ?#

I'm a big fan of house music, and currently, I'm in a unique position of deciding which genre to specifically focus on. Right now, I'm exploring the integration of various styles in my productions, essentially creating my own unique sound. I'm particularly drawn to Afro house, deep house, and tech house, and I hope to blend elements from all these genres into my work. However, I'm open to evolving my tastes as trends shift over time.

When you have a show, do you prepare your setlist ahead of time or is it improvised? #

I always prepare meticulously for my sets, creating playlists that consider the energy level, venue, and time of day. Preparation is crucial to avoid the stress of scrambling for the next track during a live performance or struggling with transitions. However, it's important to note that while I do prepare, I also stay responsive to the audience. If they aren't connecting with a track, I'm ready to pivot—whether that means switching genres or adjusting the energy.

Even when I freestyle, it's within a framework that I've thought out ahead of time, allowing for both structure and flexibility. This approach ensures I can adapt to the audience's mood while maintaining a smooth flow in my set.

What steps do you take when you're preparing a mix? How do you decide on an order?#

When preparing my sets, I consider the environment and the emotions I want to evoke. For instance, the vibe for a rooftop or club set will differ significantly, influencing my choice of music. I typically organize the flow of songs by energy level while sticking to a similar genre.

My process involves creating a rough draft of the songs, then experimenting with transitions on my DJ equipment. For significant events, I might record a practice set and listen to it later - perhaps at the gym or while walking down the street—to refine the mix. This helps me identify any changes needed, like if a particular song doesn't fit a transition.

I find building sets incredibly enjoyable. Music is a big part of my life, and I love listening to it. Crafting these experiences is not just work; it's a passion.

Where do you find new tunes and discover music?#

I frequently use 1001 Tracklists to discover songs listed in DJ sets and mixes. SoundCloud is another go-to resource where I find many new artists and unique tracks, including cool remixes and mashups from independent producers. Additionally, I use a record pool called Zip DJ for official releases. When I’m searching for a specific song that’s hard to find, I turn to Beatport or Bandcamp to purchase tracks individually. Overall, I have a variety of resources that I rely on to curate my music library.

Nice, those platforms are really good. DJ.Studio has a cool integration with 1001Tracklists. Have you tried DJ.Studio yet?#

I've created a radio show before, and I need to get back into it. It was such a cool experience. The integrations on DJ Studio, like taking your Spotify playlist and making a mix, are amazing. It's a great tool for enhancing my sets.

I believe staying current with trends is essential, and social media plays a big role in that. Some DJs might not be as in tune with platforms like TikTok and Instagram, but I find them incredibly useful. While some people dismiss trending music, saying it's not good, it's what most people are engaging with nowadays.

Through social media, I discover many producers who create their own music or remix popular songs. This helps me stay on top of trends. If I find a producer gaining traction, I might include one of their songs in my set. Social media not only keeps me updated but also helps me uncover hidden gems from different decades, reintroducing them to audiences who may have forgotten or never heard them before.

What advice would you give to new DJs who want to get gigs and recognition? #

I would say, definitely stay consistent and don't give up if you don't get the booking you want or if someone criticizes your DJing. Just keep grinding and remain persistent. If you have a dream of being a DJ, no one can stop you from achieving it except yourself. That's a piece of advice I hold dear.

Also, network with everyone you meet; you never know who they might know. Even if you're booked for a non-peak time and the club is nearly empty, still play your best set. You never know who might be listening and what new opportunities could arise from it.

What are some of the most memorable moments of your DJ career so far, good and bad?#

I remember one of my first gigs in a club setting with CDJs. I accidentally stopped the music when I plugged in my USB, ejecting the other DJ's USB because I thought it was done. That was definitely a core memory—an "Oh my God, that was terrible" moment.

On the flip side, a great memory is from last summer when I played on a rooftop overlooking New York City. I was used to playing in dark night clubs where people are close and can't really see you well. But on this rooftop, the sun was setting, creating a beautiful scene. It was a bit nerve-wracking being in the spotlight, but it was also the moment I felt truly recognized as a DJ. It was really fun and a memorable experience for sure.

Yeah, that’s a mistake you have to learn the hard way…#

Now, every time I insert a USB, I'm extra cautious. I take a moment to make sure it's mine, thinking about it for a good two minutes before I do it.

What techniques would you recommend for new DJs to learn as the foundation of their skills?#

I'm pretty basic with my technique. If you're new, definitely start by learning the basics of EQ and blending. Also, watch a video on phrasing. Understanding the structure of a song is crucial because most genres have a similar structure, making it easier to mix. When I learned about phrasing, it was a game-changer for me.

Additionally, download songs with intros and outros. This gives you more time to mix, which is really helpful for beginners.

What are some skills you’re working on at the moment? #

I want to get better at adding effects to my transitions. Right now, I rely on echo or reverb as my go-to effects, but I want to be more creative with my mixes. I'm also interested in using the stems software in Rekordbox to create mashups throughout my mix by isolating stems. I think this would make my transitions unique.

I've also been testing out the stems feature in DJ Studio, which has been really cool. I'm excited to explore these tools further and enhance my sets.

So are you practicing at home a lot? #

I try. I do music production and then I also do live streams on TikTok. I kind of use that as practice. I usually download a bunch of new songs for it that I found throughout the week. And then kind of like playing around with songs, testing out some new transitions, and using that as my practice. 

That’s cool, so you can test things out on an online audience first…#

It's definitely not the same as playing for a live crowd, but live streaming allows me to test new tracks and transitions. Viewers' reactions, like "Oh, that was sick" or "I love this track," help me gauge what works. Their feedback helps me decide which tracks to include in my live sets.

It’s an interesting approach - so how are things going on social media?#

My following is growing, with around 14,000 followers on TikTok and almost 10,000 on Instagram. Building a fan base is really fun, and I love posting content. I especially enjoy helping new DJs, particularly females, learn the ropes. Many people reach out to me since I was self-taught, and I find it inspiring to help others because I was in their position two years ago. Now, I'm doing this full-time.

I enjoy sharing my journey and making it more accessible to others. I remember when I started and wondered how I would ever become a competent DJ. Watching someone's journey can be very inspiring for others, and I'm happy to be that source of inspiration.

How can DJs refine their signature sound? #

I'm still trying to figure that out. If anyone has good tips, let me know! Recently, I was talking to a producer, and he asked me what music speaks to me. He encouraged me to think about what I love in a song—the melodies, the bassline, or other elements.

So, I've been listening to music that I genuinely enjoy, reminding myself that I don't have to play music just because other DJs are playing it or because it's trending on Instagram or TikTok. I believe that if you stay true to what you love, you'll eventually find an audience that appreciates it too.

My advice is to be yourself and play the music you love. That way, you'll attract the right bookings and crowd.

What are some valuable lessons you’ve learned DJing and in your personal life? #

You can't care about what people think of you. Be yourself and do your own thing. If people talk down on you or make fun of your hobby or passion, just block them out and stay consistent. You know what you're working towards, so keep at it.

I also struggle with this, but it's important not to compare your journey to others. It's easy to go on Instagram and see DJs in New York City and think, "How did they get that booking? I should be doing that." It can be discouraging. However, I remind myself that I'm on my own journey, and the right opportunities will come my way if I keep working hard.

Don't compare yourself to others, especially on social media, because half of it could be fake. Stay focused on your path, and things will eventually work out.

How do you approach networking and meeting new people? #

I'm really big on using DMs for networking. If I see a music producer or DJ in my city playing the shows I want to play, I reach out via DM. I'll introduce myself, say I'm a DJ, and express interest in catching up over coffee. If they're busy, sometimes I just ask a question or tell them I love their music and play it in my sets. Tagging them can also be a good way to connect.

Networking in person is also crucial. I attend a lot of DJ sets and, if I meet someone, I follow up with a DM the next day to say it was nice meeting them. It's important to be genuine and not immediately ask for favors. I focus on building relationships first and then, over time, might ask for an introduction to a booker or for help with opening sets.

I always try to be professional. If I'm at a club where I want to work, I avoid drinking heavily or partying too hard. I look at it from a business standpoint, even though it's a nightclub setting.

Yeah there’s not many jobs where you get offered booze in the middle of your shift. How do you balance DJing with your personal life? #

When I had my nine-to-five job, it was definitely challenging because most of my free time was taken up by DJing. However, DJing is unique in that I can live a full day and then work at night since gigs are often late. It does get tiring, but it allows for a balance. For example, I could still attend a dinner party or event with friends and then DJ later in the evening.

Now that I'm doing DJing full-time, I have more free time to dedicate to it, which provides a better balance. As I mentioned earlier, I love everything about DJing, so it doesn't really feel like work to me. I truly enjoy it.

My friends are always excited to come to my gigs. They're often asking, "Where should we go?" and I'm able to say, "Come to my show!" This makes DJing a social job, which I really enjoy.

What are your future plans and goals as a DJ? #

My number one goal right now is to produce my own music and define a unique sound. I want people to come to my sets and have an idea of what type of music to expect, maybe even recognize some tracks. Building out a fan base and growing a community through social media, live sets, and releasing music are my short-term goals.

If everything falls into place, I would love to tour and have shows all over the world. That would be amazing.

What shows have you got coming up? #

I have a few rooftop sets this summer in New York City, which I'm super excited about. I love DJing during the day when the sun is setting—it’s the best time. I also have a big show opening for Kream on June 22 in New York City and another opening for Joel Corry in July, also in New York City. These are my major headliner slots this summer.

Additionally, I'm going to Europe for a few weeks and will be DJing there as well. I'm sure there will be some other exciting events too. But for now, Kream and Joel Corry are my big ones this summer.

What advice would you give to the next generation of aspiring DJs? #

I know this is a heavy question, but my advice would be to stay consistent. If it's your dream, go for it and don't let anyone tell you that you can't achieve it. No matter how unattainable it seems, if you keep being consistent, eventually the right opportunities will come your way.

I think that's a nice note to finish on - thanks for talking to us!#

Thanks for having me!

Keep up to date with DEROZA’s TIKTOK!

Noah Feasey-Kemp
I started DJing when I was 15. Started a record label, residency by a club in Bristol. I’ve played at all the biggest clubs in Bristol (and the small ones) and have entertained thousands of dancers! I love writing about music, DJing, and technology. I've been blogging for DJ.Studio since the start of the project, and am always happy to answer questions and help fellow DJs out!

Excited to start mixing?