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Steamboat Magazine

Summer Festivals: We talk with Ill-Esha at Sonic Bloom

06/15/2013 06:24PM ● By Grant Johnson
This morning at Sonic Bloom we talked with Ill-Esha, a music producer, performer and recent transplant to Colorado. Ill-Esha is performing tonight in Steamboat Springs' very own Taphouse Sports Grill at 10:30. We picked a nice spot along the river to chat for a few minutes about what brings her to Colorado and how her music is making the world a better place to be.

You  recently moved to Denver from San Francisco; what brought you here?
This is a great base for touring, it's very central as far as the U.S. goes, and on top of that the people here have a real generosity of spirit that makes it really nice to live here.

How does Colorado compare to other places you've lived or performed in?
My two favorite states to perform in are Colorado and California. Colorado has so many open minded music-savvy people, as well as a family feeling. In Colorado everyone wants to hold each other up. They're really just genuine, honest mountain people who want other people to do well. I think because the surroundings here are so beautiful it's easy to get to a high quality of life, and that goes a long way towards getting people's spirits up. You see it especially in people who grow up here, they have so much lasting happiness.

What's keeping you busy at the moment?
Well I spent the whole winter working on some new albums! There's an EP that will drop at the end of July. I'm always working on new things to bring into my live set, like last night I performed with a turntablist who was cutting and scratching my tracks and layering it over what I was doing. I like bringing new things into my set, even if it's just a new piece of equipment. It allows me to maintain some degree of stage fright or nervousness, which gets my adrenalin going and I don't look bored and jaded on the stage. The day I stop feeling nervous before a performance is the day I'm not having fun anymore. The summer is a nice time to work on things because I don't get booked as tightly around festivals. It's interesting though, the more successful you get, the less you get to make from the heart. You have to start treating what you do as a business and making some tough decisions about what you need more of in your set. 

Can you tell us a bit about the Critical Beats project you recently allied with?
Actually the seed for that was planted right here in Colorado. I was touring with Bluetech, so we rented a car and drove for two days together. I wasn't sure how we would get a long, but by the end of the two days I was blown away by what he was telling me. I've always wanted to use my music as a vehicle for change, and I decided that if I don't start doing this in my life now, I won't ever be happy. It was like the missing link that was keeping me from feeling fulfilled. So through Critical Beats I've started communicating with some tribes in South America in order to use their indigenous sounds in my music and in turn raise money to help preserve their culture and educate the next generation. I want to feel like I'm doing something to make things better. So many people are not doing anything or are even making things worse.

Who's at the top of your playlist right now?
It would have to be a tie between Cashmere Cat and Mr. Carmack, who are both very forward thinking beatmakers. They're music is melodic and heavy, which is what I like.

What's the first show you ever went to?
It was Lollapalooza 1995, I remember seeing Cypress Hill as they were just getting big, and Sonic Youth. My mom insisted on chaperoning me and having me run back between sets to check in. In the end she said the experience was worse than the pain giving birth to me.

Well thank you very much for the interview Ill-Esha! It's great hearing how Colorado is becoming the place to be for performers such as yourself.