For those who might not know you, please introduce yourself!
I am Carly Wilford a DJ, Presenter and Tastemaker based in London. I live for discovering breaking artists and new music and then sharing it with the world. I work hard, love to travel and meet people from every walk of life. I head up a bass music collective called SISTER which bridges the gap between the UK and US dance scenes as well as managing artists through my other platform IAmMusic.
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey from being a teen until now?
I grew up in Northamptonshire with a family that encouraged me to go after anything I put my mind to. My teenage years weren’t that easy as there was a lot of turbulence and change but it taught me to be fiercely independent, take risks and understand what the real world was like. I came alive with anything creative. I studied Performing Arts at school and used to spend all of my free time at dance classes, taking part in different stage productions and jumping in front of the camera whenever I got the chance. Music was always in my heart. From my Grandad playing the piano to my parents dancing around the front room to Phil Collins.
I left school after my A Levels and went straight in to work so that I could move out and pave my own way. I hustled hard and tried every job I thought I might love until I found what really made me happy. I tried retail, recruitment, and different sales jobs before setting up my own Personal Training business and training to become a Dance Teacher. I was one of the early teachers of Pole Dancing for fitness. After trying a class at my local gym in London after work one day I decided to bring it back to Northampton and share it with the world. I built my own studio and ended up teaching thousands of people across the UK working at Pineapple, Italia Conti for the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company. It taught me to be fearless and I overcame so many boundaries within myself that my whole life changed.
How did you get into the music industry?
I had always wanted to be a Presenter; I had tried years before but given up because I didn’t believe I could make it. Teaching Pole Dancing had given me a new confidence in myself and I realised the only person that was ever in the way of my dreams was me. I decided to leap and walked away from everything. I started auditioning for presenting jobs and landed my first gig working back stage at an unsigned music competition that toured the UK. I started at the very bottom working for free. I learnt to film, edit and create my own content and how to use social media to promote it. I realised there was a gap between new artists being discovered and major label record deals and decided to play my part in helping them the break the scene.
Why did you want to work in the music industry?
Growing up in a small town it can be frowned upon if you stand out and I sometimes felt like I needed to conform to fit in, but being surrounded by so many forward thinking artists helped me to understand who I really was.
"BEING SURROUNDED BY SO MANY OPEN MINDED, FORWARD THINKING AND NON-JUDGMENTAL ARTISTS HELPED ME TO UNDERSTAND WHO I WAS"
What are you currently working on? Why have you chosen those projects?
I have created a collective called SISTER that is super exciting. After spending a lot of time in the US I realised that the EDM sound was changing. Americans are really open to the music that we listen to and look to us for new sounds. I decided to create a radio show that bridged the gap between our scenes. Our community is made up of DJ’s, Producers, MC’s, Photographers, Videographers and artists from all walks of life. We hit the stage together and it’s complete madness.
My other project is IAmMusic. It has been one of the platforms that has helped to bring through so many new and developing artists. It started as a blog writing about the things that I love and it's now become a management and consultancy company as well as helping to run educational workshops for musicians. I have been managing Josh Barry for the last four years. He is on the road with Gorgon City at the moment but also working on his own sound, which I can't wait for the world to hear.
What excites you about music currently?
The internet and streaming have changed everything. Artists are not only breaking independently but globally and on their terms. I admire the new wave of artists that are coming through. A lot of them have learned to make music from school and have grown up on a digital age. They really are setting the pace and carving an exciting new path for the industry of the future.
"THE DOORWAYS OF OPPORTUNITY ARE WIDE OPEN RIGHT NOW. FOR EVERYONE."
How do you think that the music industry will change for the better over the next year?
I think that we are really close to music finding a solid footing within the new streaming model and new music discovery is being led by curators and trusted brands. With more and more incredible music being released every day this is going to become more important than ever. The way that we communicate, share and digest information is faster than ever. More and more artists are realising the importance of interacting with their audience. With the introduction of Virtual Reality and 360 degree cameras, immersive live experiences both during and after events are one of the most exciting breakthroughs for music lovers and the industry alike.
What have you learnt about yourself in 2016 that you will be taking with you into the year ahead?
For me, 2016 was a real turning point in my career. I learnt so much about my own limitations and how to overcome them. I have had so many life changing decisions to make and then follow through with. It’s meant completely trusting my intuition even when rationality questioned it. I have really valued the powerful team around me, also the genuine support of so many of my friends and family. When you are trying to make a difference, you need to be totally fearless.
I have learnt the importance of knowing myself and embracing my individuality. To be gentle with my body, to sleep, rest and be healthy when I travel. Late nights, different time zones and the temptations that come with working in a hedonistic environment can take hold of you if you aren't careful. It’s essential to be your own best friend and be mindful of your limits.
"AS I GREW UP I QUESTIONED THINGS. IF I HADN'T HAVE DONE IT, I WOULDN'T BE IN THE PLACE THAT I AM NOW"
If you had one piece of advice for anyone, in life, work, love or play what would that be?
Know who you are, be authentic, be honest, and be true. It's really easy to be what other people want you to be or to conform to a set of rules or beliefs. Stepping outside of that is when you really fly. You're the one that is in control of your life, no one else, which means you really can achieve anything. Zero limits.
WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SPOTS IN THE WORLD?
My Grandparents Kitchen
My family mean the world to me and my grandparents are the most incredible people. Whenever I go back home I love catching up with them in their kitchen over a cup of tea. They have taught me grace, unconditional love and understanding and they never judge me no matter what colour hair I turn up with.
The Maldives is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. Crystal blue waters, clear skies and stunning sea life. I love diving so seeing Manta Rays, Sharks, and Turtles so closely makes you appreciate this beautiful planet. There is no where else I have been in the world like it.
My Own Bed
Coming home after being away, jumping in to my own bed and getting a good nights sleep is an irreplaceable feeling. Sometimes sleep becomes a rare commodity when I am really busy so I cherish every second that I am home.
The Serpentine Hyde Park
Living in London can get crazy. Whenever I need to breathe and reflect I head here. It's beautiful in the winter by the lake watching the swans as the sun sets drinking the best hot chocolate.
Playing Glastonbury this year for the first time was a real moment. I have been to so many festivals and nowhere quite touches it. It's one of the most magical places not only for the music programming but it's size and it's meticulous detail and planning. Glastonbury has an energy that moves things in your life.
A real turning point for me was going to a Know Wave talk with Virgil Abloh, Tremaine Emory, Acyde, Jammer from BBK and a few others at The Ace Hotel. They were talking about changing the world...I stood forward and asked a question about the importance of balance after seeing it was a mainly male dominated room. Tremaine answered:
“What everybody’s got to remember who’s listening and in this room, it’s on you. It’s for men to be less patriarchal but also it’s on women to pull a Rosa Parks and be like, turn the fuck up” From that day onwards I looked back at what she did and decided to be much bolder.
I wrote a feature about it for Huffington Post.
Honestly, Annie Nightingale inspires me daily.
I love what she stands for, the music she backs, and the fact that she still DJ's at some of the biggest festivals in the world, alongside the fact that she was Radio 1s first female DJ (and now it's longest serving DJ too!)
I love the fact that she bucks the trend when it comes to industry stereotypes and is still super relevant.
When I interview people I always know when I meet a future star by looking in their eyes.
For me, someone that really stood out recently is Bibi Bourelly.
She is wise beyond her years, is an incredible artist in every sense of the word and talks so much realness in her songs and online.
I have a feeling that the future for her is going to be really bright.
The pop world needs honest Heroines to lead the way and she does it brilliantly.