Everything is changing for Jackson Stell. And the Massachusetts-born, Portland-based DJ, producer and singer known as Big Wild wouldn’t want it any other way.
Breaking through after acclaimed production duo Odesza took him on tour with them in 2015, Stell earned his reputation remixing the likes of Sylvan Esso, GRiZ, CHVRCHES, and Zhu, as well as the pair that helped jumpstart his career.
His 2017 5-track EP, Invincible, introduced fans to the synth-based funk that has become Stell’s trademark and recently caused Pandora to call him an Artist To Watch in 2019.
Last month he dropped Superdream, his debut full-length, and not only does it pick up right where the EP left off, with only two guest features, the album looks to showcase the young composer’s own vocals and dedication to composition.
“Superdream is really about establishing my identity,” Stell said recently during a rehearsal break in Phoenix. “I wanted to make a statement by going more into my singing and songwriting. Making a full-length album felt like the best way to do that. I think that’s the best way to get an idea of an artist.”
He’ll be keeping the theme running during his 17-date U.S. tour, which makes a stop at the Observatory in North Park on Thursday night. Not only will many of the songs from the new album get their first chance in the live setting, Stell will essentially be hitting the reset button in every way.
“It’s a whole new set,” he said. “And it’s a whole new stage show as well — visuals, lights, everything. And it’s usually just me up there, but I’m going to have a couple of back-up singers who will also be playing guitar and bass. And I’m going to have a guest vocalist, too. So a few of my friends will be there with me on stage.”
Branching out into a more organic presentation is just a way for Stell to better replicate what he’s doing on the album. In an age where outside producers and pre-packaged sounds are the norm, it’s important for him to honor all of the elements he’s incorporating into his creations.
“You can buy pre-made loops and melodies,” said Stell. “People piece that together and call it producing. But it isn’t to me. That’s just stitching things together. I build it all from scratch. That’s how you build your own sound.”
The rest of this year will be dominated by Big Wild shows across the globe, not only highlighting the music of Superdream, but new live versions of old material to help “keep it spicy.” The musician and engineer also is looking into doing some live session work, as well as some stripped-back versions of his new songs.
And with his latest album amassing 5 million Spotify plays in little less than a month, Stell is moving forward both happily and confidently.
“The rest of this year is touring this album,” he said. “But I do have a really strong idea of what I want to do for the future. I’ll be creating a lot of new demos right away. And I don’t know how that’s going to go, but I am feeling very excited to take that next step.”
Big Wild with Robotaki & Mild Minds
When: 7 p.m. March 7
Where: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave, North Park
Cost: Sold out