[INTERVIEW] Budding Trance Artist Billy Gillies Sheds Light On New Single 'Don't Call Me Baby' And His Creative Process
Billy Gillies is rapidly making a name for himself in the international dance music scene. After over a decade of honing his craft, the Belfast, Northern Ireland-based DJ and producer's hard work is finally paying off. He has been touring internationally, bringing his upbeat and melodic brand of trance music to festivals and clubs across Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas.
Billy's bid to become a household name seemingly began a few years ago, when he earned a spot on the lineup of Luminosity 2019 alongside trance legends like Paul Van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, and Gareth Emery. His potential became undeniable when the recording of his set – which was posted to Soundcloud – garnered more plays than any of the headliners.
In 2022, his self-released track “Lagoon” caught fire on TikTok, propelling Billy to the cusp of stardom. Now, he's starting 2023 with a bang, having just released his rework of Madison Avenue’s chart-topping 1999 club classic, “Don’t Call Me Baby”.
Check out iEDM's exclusive interview with Billy Gillies below.
iEDM: In the last several months you’ve played shows in Thailand, the United States, the Netherlands, and Singapore. Does your experience at any of those shows stand out? What kind of differences in the crowd energy do you feel in places around the world?
Billy Gillies: I'm at the early stage of my career but am very grateful to already have experience playing my music to all different countries and cultures around the world. Every country has its own unique vibe on the dance floor, but no matter where I go, I always feel the same energy from the crowd singing all the songs and having a great night! I feel very grateful to be in this position – traveling to these amazing places and feeling the love and support for my music.
iEDM: Your songs have varied feels to them, but without fail, they all seem to have that “Billy Gillies” flavor. How do you approach exploring diverse vibes while staying true to your sound and production style?
Billy Gillies: When starting a track, I never really have a genre or idea in mind. I like to just get in the zone and see what comes out. I am very open-minded and love many different types of music – bringing their influences into my sound is what keeps it fresh and exciting in the studio. Putting in lots of work over the years has helped me develop my own sound, stay true to what I love when making music, and express the different genres I loved growing up. Cramming them all into my own style is what brings out my personality in my music and makes it unique.
iEDM: What artists have you taken the most inspiration from recently, and why?
Billy Gillies: Lots of amazing artists inspire me in all kinds of different genres, but it’s always the ones that make something new and unique that catch my attention.
iEDM: When you’re producing a new song, does your creative process begin with a certain foundational element of the song every time? Or does the foundation – and the way you build upon it – vary from song to song?
Billy Gillies: A track always starts differently in each production session. It could be a vocal that inspires me, or a melody could randomly pop into my head – then I would open the laptop and put my ideas down as quickly as possible! Sometimes, later that night, a full track is written from that simple idea in my head earlier in the day. This is what makes producing exciting – you just never know which direction a track is going to go in when starting with a blank slate.
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iEDM: You recently released “Don’t Call Me Baby” – your rework of Madison Avenue’s 1999 hit song. What inspired you to create a modern version of that track in particular?
Billy Gillies: I always love putting my own twist on tracks I loved when I was growing up, and “Don’t Call Me Baby” was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I remember coming across it again flicking through Spotify, and I instantly wanted to make a more banging version of it to fit in my sets. It was done a day later and really goes off when I drop it in front of a crowd! The vocal is so catchy and iconic and I’m very grateful to have the chance to release it with my twist on it!
iEDM: Did you work directly with Madison Avenue on the new track? If so, what was the most interesting or rewarding aspect of that collaboration for you?
Billy Gillies: I posted a 20-second clip of the track across all my social platforms and it blew up on TikTok, which gained a lot of interest from labels and more. Then Madison Avenue reached out saying they were interested in releasing it on their label, Vicious Recordings. I was absolutely buzzing that these guys – who made such an iconic track – got in touch! We then stayed in contact and shared ideas on the track and finished it together.
iEDM: How would you say that “Don’t Call Me Baby” is representative of where you are on your journey as an artist?
Billy Gillies: In the past, I was making remixes of older tracks, but never had the chance to release them due to licensing. Now, I am at the point where I am making these remixes of tracks and getting the chance to officially release them alongside names like Madison Avenue. It’s another massive milestone in my career.
iEDM: Besides “Don’t Call Me Baby,” if you were introducing someone new to your music, which tracks do you feel are most characteristic of your sound?
Billy Gillies: I would tell them to listen to one of my DJ sets and not just one track, as I think my DJ sets represent my wide range of styles and tastes as an artist.
iEDM: Before releasing a track, do you feel you can anticipate how it will be popularly and critically received? Or is the world’s reaction to your music a surprise each time?
Billy Gillies: It's always the tracks I’m unsure about putting out that turn out to be my biggest. It's exciting to await my fans' reaction to my new music, and I’ve had great support from them with all my releases and gigs.
iEDM: In your 2022 Creamfields set, you had a packed crowd singing the melody to your track “Lagoon”. It must have seemed like a true “I’ve made it” moment. How did that feel at the time?
Billy Gillies: This was definitely one of the highlights of my career so far. It was my first time playing at Creamfields. I was a bit anxious if anyone would come to my tent, since it was 4 days into the festival and I was one of the first DJs playing. As soon as I came on, the tent filled out and security stopped letting people in. Once I dropped “Lagoon”, the place erupted. Feeling the energy from the crowd singing the melody when the music went down was something I will never forget! What a moment!
iEDM: What are your thoughts on the state of the EDM scene in Northern Ireland?
Billy Gillies: After Covid, the dance music scene in Northern Ireland is thriving again with places like the Telegraph Building bringing lots of amazing DJs in weekly, and festivals like Belsonic this June, which I’ll be playing at with other great DJs. It just shows the demand for dance music in such a small country.
iEDM: Do you feel an extra weight of responsibility as a producer from a country that isn’t generally recognized worldwide as an EDM hotbed?
Billy Gillies: No, I don’t feel the pressure of that, as I always just keep my focus on the music and keep it simple! Everything that happens after that is a massive bonus and I’m always grateful for whatever opportunities come my way.
iEDM: Where do you see your life and career in five years? What are your long-term goals, and how do you plan to reach them?
Billy Gillies: For me, it’s just about enjoying the process and not looking too far ahead. Each year levels up to more opportunities and playing to bigger crowds – but it just comes down to enjoying each day of putting in the work.
Photos courtesy of Stephen Bondio, Alive Coverage, and Billy Gillies