Dara Hayes is a girl on fire. The 25-year-old Sydney-sider, better known as DJ Tigerlily, has gone from mixing tracks in her bedroom to becoming one of Australia’s elite performers, performed all over the globe including stages and festivals in Canada, USA, Asia, Australia and Europe to crowds of over tens of thousands. Undeniably captivating from the moment she enters the room, we chat to the bubbly DJ on her upcoming performance at Road to ULTRA, crossing into the pop realm and stepping away from her famous blue hair.
Hey, thank so much for chatting to me! Congrats on joining the bill for the debut of Road to ULTRA in Australia next year, that’s so exciting. What are you most excited about performing a set at this festival?
I’m really excited about this festival because I think that it’s exactly what the Australian dance music scene needs at the moment. We have no commercial dance festivals after the fall of Stereosonic and Future Music Festival; we haven’t really got any festivals like that. For this to come, it’s going to be great to be a part of something starting off (hopefully) a chain reaction of some awesome new events coming back to Australia.
You’re no stranger to performing at massive festivals and stages all over the world, what’s the thrill you get from been up there?
It’s definitely, amazingly exhilarating, it’s such a great feeling and such a kick of adrenaline and positive energy; there’s no feeling that can really replace that, especially coming off stage after you’ve just smashed a set and the crowd has just really reacted well. I think it’s a little bit addictive actually; my mum says I’m an adrenaline junkie, but a show adrenaline junkie, not a jumping out of planes adrenaline junkie.
Your music and sets are just full of good vibes and upbeat tracks which is also how you come across in your personality. Is your music an accurate reflection of your personality?
I like to think so. I can be a moody pain in the ass sometimes that’s for sure, my boyfriend would tell you that, but I definitely try and make sure that good vibes, good energy and positivity is surrounding everything I do. There’s so much bullshit and negativity and bullying that goes on in our world these days and it’s really overwhelming for young people and so whatever I do, I really try and do it with love and passion.
Your latest single ‘Ashes’ marks a new chapter as you cross into the pop realm with this electro ballad. Is this a direction you intend to continue in?
Musically yes and no. I’m still writing pop stuff, but I’m also writing old school dance stuff, I just finished off a remix and it’s like big room house going back to my original DJ roots, so I definitely think ‘Ashes’ was a leap of faith for me, and it was a challenge; it was the first time I’d ever put my vocals onto a record which was really nerve-racking and the first time I’ve ever done a pop song that’s really not dance at all. I had such a good time writing the record and singing on it, and I directed the video clip as well which was amazing that I could put my creative spin on it visually, so there’s so many elements of that project that I just love and feel really passionate about and I definitely want to continue doing that for future records.
Is pop music something you’ve always wanted to delve into and experiment with?
It’s always something I’ve wanted to try, but also the label is encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone and do different things; the market these days for DJ’s and for musicians is so broad and we have the opportunity and the ability to move between different areas that once were only single areas of music; you can be a DJ, you can be a producer, you can be a singer, heck you can probably be a dancer all at the same time, and I really wanted to celebrate and explore that versatility that we have available to us these days.
The video clip to ‘Ashes’ presents itself as a commentary on a society obsessed with body image. Is this something you find quite prevalent in the music industry specifically as a female DJ?
It’s interesting because I’m super proud of my body and I love my body and I love showing my body and the hard work I do every day in the yoga studio or in the gym, and it’s definitely a part of me – body confidence – and I really try to show that to young women that they can be empowered by their image. It can also be quite negative that it is such a huge focus in an industry like the music industry where people almost expect you to look a certain way, and expect you to be healthy, fit, and sexy all at the same time. It’s something I’ve kind of struggled with grappling for a long time; obviously what people want you to be and how you perceive yourself and what kind of image you want to present to your audience. I think a lot of female DJs are really scared to be sexy, because sexy DJs get so much hate, for some reason, people don’t think that women can be intelligent, musically talented and sexy. There’s just blockages in people’s minds that you can’t be all three. I really like to stand up against that and be like I can look really hot, and I can also play a killer set and I’ve also got a bachelor degree so eff you all.
That is 100 per cent an admirable attitude to have! Is this the reason you’ve gone back to your natural hair colour after spending years sporting blue mermaid hair?
Potentially part of the reason. I think the move back to my natural hair colour was maybe a shift in me as a person as well as an artist. I changed at the time when I was pretty sick actually and I had been working so hard and touring so much and I really felt like I wasn’t me any more, and I needed to really take a step back and reassess what I was doing. The past 12 months after changing my hair, I’ve just really focused on my health, what I’m doing in regards to my personal life and my career, and just kind of focusing on what’s important to me and what isn’t. I think I realised that with the hair thing, I was potentially keeping it crazy colours for everyone else’s happiness, and wasn’t really focusing on what I wanted, and what I wanted was to be myself and to be as natural as possible. I did something for myself and I was really happy that I did that even though a lot of people were really upset, but that’s not my problem to deal with!
Sometimes there seems to be a stigma for female DJs to be the party girl and just be in it for the party. Was there a time where that was why you were doing it, and was there a turning point for you to take it on seriously?
Totally! When I first started I was like a party animal. Oh my goodness, I loved to party. I would just go crazy and drink with all the boys all the time, and when I actually stopped doing that, was when my career took off. It’s crazy, there’s literally the clearest correlation between when I stopped partying and the progression of my career. It’s amazing what looking after yourself physically and mentally can do for a career.
Alright, I’m going to free you from your interview chains and let you run wild. Thanks so much for chatting!
Yay! Thanks so much for the interview.
When & Where: Road To Ultra Australia @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne – February 24
Tickets for Road To ULTRA Australia are now on sale, exclusively at https://ultraaustralia.com.
Check out her track below.
Written by Talia Rinaldo