For Chicago’s Able Grey, music is far more than just an auditory experience. Music, especially the electronic sounds he creates, is a way to deeply connect to the human spirit and express feelings in a way that is both stimulating and tangible. Combining beautiful melodic soundscapes and euphoric drops of bass, the Chicago producer has figured out a way to take listeners on a sonic journey through live instrumentation and raw emotion. Determined to push the notion of live performances in the EDM world further into the spotlight, Able Grey has not only emerged from the underground Chicago scene but is quickly rising to stardom.
On top of playing festivals like Summer Camp and releasing massive tracks like Blinding Lights and I Need You, Able Grey somehow found the time to launch the collective turned label, Ex Medias, at the beginning of 2022. Now, as he looks toward 2023, the rising Chicago producer aims to take both his sound and his label to even higher heights. The Daily Frequency caught up with Able Grey to discuss Ex Medias, touring with Jason Leech, and a whole lot more.
Check out the exclusive interview with Able Grey below.
DF: Thanks for talking with us! You’ve been on quite the run this year, from headlining shows to booking festivals like Summer Camp! How does it feel to have all this success coming your way?
Able Grey: It feels amazing! Like everything is finally all falling into place! So far, it’s been a journey and a half to get to where I’m currently at, but the journey is far from over. If anything, it’s showing me what is possible, and I’m grinding even harder now than I ever was before to keep the momentum going. I am beyond grateful for all the opportunities that have been coming my way. This would not be possible if it wasn’t for all my friends and fans supporting me and gassing me up. Surrounding yourself with the right people is very crucial. Also, having the right mindset to quiet all the negativity that comes with being in this position is something I always strive for. It’s a constant battle with myself, but I feel like I’m finally winning it.
DF: Speaking of shows, you just had the opportunity to open up for Apashe at Chicago’s Concord Music Hall. What was it like sharing the stage and offering support to such a legendary artist?
Able Grey: It was absolutely unreal! I had reached out to open for Apashe when the show was first announced. I never heard anything back, and then sometime later, they ended up dropping the support for the show. I had been waiting for Apashe to come back to Chicago for so long, so once I saw I wasn’t on the line-up, I bought some tickets. I wasn’t going to miss him.
Fast-forward to a week or so before the show, and friends were all shooting me screenshots of his Instagram story saying they were hosting a contest for an opener for his show. I immediately started to plan my entry. As a live performer, I don’t have the liberty of recording DJ mixes very often, but that’s what they wanted to hear. So I cranked out a 20-30 minute mini-mix and submitted it. Two days before the show, I got an email saying I won the contest. My adrenaline shot through the roof. I was scrambling to put together a condensed live set that encompassed the best of the best of my music while fitting the vibe of the night. On top of this, I was also rushing to finish up an unreleased track to debut.
Cut to the sound check of the show. Apashe and I were talking, and he brought up that as they were going through all of the submissions, he and his team all simultaneously chose my submission. To be validated by someone who constantly pushes the boundaries in the way he does, meant the world to me.
Thankfully I ended up doing a live set and not a DJ set because given the tracks he sprinkled in throughout his set, we have a very, very similar taste in music. Being able to open up for someone who is an idol of mine, especially in the live performance aspect of EDM, was beyond surreal. And the fact he has been rocking one of my hats since is also a really cool and mind-blowing thing I have yet to get over.
DF: Would you say performing live allows you to have a deeper connection to your sound as a whole?
Able Grey: I absolutely would. While the world was locked away during Covid, I used that time to piece together the live elements you see now. I always wanted to make my shows more of an experience, and I feel like that has finally been achieved. Not only does it allow me to have a deeper connection to my sound but to the audience as well. I always found it way cooler and more entertaining when artists would utilize live components in their sets. Jamming on drums and playing out songs on my other controller gives such a personal touch to my performances. It’s hard to go back to DJing because I’m always like, “what do I do with my hands in between songs” insert a Ricky Bobby gif. Because of this, my DJ sets are now way more complex than they used to be.
DF: You have such a transportive sound filled with so many beautiful and melodic elements. How important is it to create a journey-like experience in both your tracks and your live performances?
Able Grey: Thank you! It is extremely important to me to curate a journey-like experience during my shows and my music. While attending a show of mine, I want people to feel a vibe and flow. I’ve learned that you need to balance a set with highs and lows and moments of going hard with moments of relaxation and space. I try my best to incorporate this in both aspects. I have realized that this has been creeping into my production more and more now. I am further aware of what would be cool while performing live while working on my songs, whereas before, I would just make music that would fit more within the beaten path. I am super excited to see where this mindset takes my music going forward.
DF: Not only are you a full-time DJ and producer, but you are the founder of Ex Medias, which just launched at the beginning of the year. What were the ideas and inspirations behind starting the collective?
Able Grey: The idea of EX MEDIAS was something I had been cultivating for quite a long time. It was just recently that I decided to pull the trigger and bring it into the world. I feel like the timing worked out perfectly. Everything happens for a reason, right? What I wanted to create was a community for similar artists as myself. A place I wish existed when I was starting out. A place where artists all push and help each other with the goal of everyone succeeding and, in the process, creating a name that is synonymous with finding and showcasing amazing artists that people should be looking out for.
DF: Why the name Ex Medias and do you have plans for any Ex Medias shows or events?
Able Grey: We’ve already done a takeover, and I want to continue to cultivate shows and experiences through EX MEDIAS. We want to be constantly adding on new artists to our shows and roster in order to help push along a different scene that I feel is not currently represented in Chicago. The name EX MEDIAS came from the Latin phrase ‘in media res.’ This is a term used in films and books where the story begins ‘in the middle of things .’EX MEDIAS translates to ‘out of or ‘from the middle .’And that’s what we are. A collection of artists emerging from the middle of things in order to disrupt the known.
DF: You just dropped We Are Ex Medias V. II with a bunch of incredibly talented artists! How does it feel to have not one but two compilations out?
Able Grey: It feels unreal, haha. If you would have told younger me this, I would not have believed it. I am extremely proud of the community and artists we have cultivated in such a short time, and I cannot wait to expand it in the next coming months. We have some big things planned for EX MEDIAS coming up. To think of what has been accomplished in such a short time is insane. We have had write-ups from blogs I remember reading and following since I started making music. We are nationwide, and we are throwing shows that are able to showcase our artists and give them opportunities that seemed unfathomable for a time. EX MEDIAS has just started and is already exceeding expectations. I cannot wait to see where it goes and what it becomes in the next couple years!
DF: Now a almost a year in Ex Medias is making the transition from a collective to a label. What’s the motivation behind the change, and what can fans expect from Ex Medias going forward?
Able Grey: The reason for this change is for more artists to have the opportunities and resources that I’ve curated for the artists currently a part of EX MEDIAS. There are so many amazing artists out there that aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. Being in Chicago, it’s hard to get your foot in the door, especially if you don’t make tech-house, lol. As one of these artists, I feel like it is important for us to band together in order to achieve more. I want to create these opportunities for more artists. I want to be the person I wish I had when I was just starting out. The main change will be instead of just doing compilations, we will be releasing singles as well. This will allow more artists the chance to release music through EX MEDIAS. Everything else will be the same. We will still be a community, just a larger one with open doors to artists who are trying to push themselves and become the artists they know they can be.
DF: It was recently announced that you’ll be joining Jason Leech for some stops on his tour! What can fans expect once you take the stage?
Able Grey: I am very excited for that! Jason is a good friend and to see what he has accomplished since we first met is amazing! Super proud of him and grateful to be brought along on some stops.
New and unreleased music will play a role in those performances, as well as versions of my songs that you will only be able to hear at shows of mine. Every time I perform live, I am refining my sets little by little to really bring my vision together. So definitely a new and improved performance while also staying true to myself and where I started from. I’ll also be bringing along one of my vocalists, Noelle Michelle. Noelle has been making music with me from the beginning, and we have so much more to come, including some new tracks to be debuted at these stops. I love having Noelle with me because she brings such an amazing energy and performance aspect to my sets! Whenever possible, you can expect to see her singing on stage for my shows!
DF: Between upcoming artists like Jason Leech and yourself, among others, do you feel there is a new avenue opening up for live music within the electronic scene?
Able Grey: I do, and I am here for it! Thanks to larger artists such as Porter, Apashe, Odesza, Madeon, San Holo, Said The Sky, The Glitch Mob, Big Wild, Rufus Du Sol, etc…etc…(the list goes on and on), it is becoming more applicable to do live performance electronic music. They are showing audiences and artists what can be possible. The best part is that no two live acts are the same when it comes to set-ups and hardware used. I always love seeing which avenues live performances artists take when it comes to this.
On top of all of that, it adds so much more to a show’s experience. What would you rather see, someone just using CDjs or a controller? Or would you rather see artists banging away on some drums or ripping a lead on a keyboard or guitar? I feel like it adds to a more intimate experience and brings back the human aspect to music that had sadly fallen off when EDM broke onto the scene. I’m not knocking DJ sets at all. I still love to rip a DJ set, and there are some exceptionally talented DJs out there. I just think it’s time to bring more to the table, and I’m so glad it is becoming more of a common practice.
DF: Lastly, if you could accomplish one thing with your music career, what would it be and why?
Able Grey: There are so many things it’s hard to list. If I had to choose one, I’d say being able to continue to do this for the rest of my life. Obviously, there are more specific things such as creating a clothing line, playing all the venues and festivals I’ve always dreamed of, collaborating with all my idols, and being able to help other artists. But at the end of the day, being able to create and perform my music is all I want. As long as that keeps going, I’ll be super grateful and happy.
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