For those of you who don’t know – Aussie DJ, producer, singer & songwriter Alison Wonderland is making her way back to our shores this weekend on her Awake tour, following the release of her sophomore album earlier this year.
Alison Wonderland (real name Alexandra Sholler) has been on the scene for years now, releasing her debut EP Calm Down in 2013, before releasing her debut album Run. She’s been making music and touring the world ever since, and was recently announced as Coachella’s highest paid female DJ in the history of the festival – an impressive title for a girl from Sydney. Her success has ignited the conversation about inequality in the electronic music industry, and has inspired a new wave of female producers and DJ’s to build their own careers, encouraging more diversity throughout the EDM world.
It’s obviously an issue close to Alex’s heart, as she is arguably the most successful female DJ in electronic music right now. On the topic she explained, ‘This is how I feel – when I’m on stage I don’t really think about my gender, I’m not defining myself as a woman or a man up there. I think the more people talk about it, the more it actually separates men and women in the music industry.’ She continued with ‘But in saying that, I think it’s really important to see that women are moving up on bills, which is great because the divide is getting smaller and smaller — that is amazing.’
Alex’s quick succession to fame has humble beginnings. She was well on her way to becoming a professional cello player, playing for the Sydney Youth Orchestra. But when she felt her passion for classical music start to dwindle, it pushed her to take her wide musical knowledge and use it to explore DJing and producing. By 2012 she had found her place in the industry, with her official remixes for Little Dragon’s ‘Shuffle a Dream’ and Sam Sparrow’s ‘I Wish I Never Met You’ becoming critical successes in 2012. Annie Mac and Pete Tong played her Sam Sparrow remix, and given that they are both legends in the UK scene this earned her some well deserved exposure. 2012 also marked her debut at many Australian festivals, playing major gigs like Splendor in the Grass, Park Life, Falls Festival and more. 2012’s successful remixes and shows then paved the way for her own solo releases – in 2013 she had her first big hit with ‘I Want U’, from her Calm Down EP.
Come 2015 and Alison Wonderland has taken over the EDM charts globally, is touring the world, playing the biggest festivals, and has successfully released her first album ‘Run’. Not to mention creating and embarking on her own creation – the Warehouse Project tour. From her new home in LA she’s continued to grind away over the years, growing her following, and working away on her second album ‘Awake’ that she shared with the world in April 2018.
Sharing her vision for the album, she said, ‘this album … is about discovering self value again. Being around things that were very toxic for me really brought me down for a long time, and I realized that I finally had the strength and the choice to get out of those environments.’
Her follow up album Awake continued to build on the foundations of Run, further refining her own sound and experimenting with different genres, which she’s known for in her sets. The album toyed between trap beats and emotionally vulnerable lyrics, securing her as an artist to watch – and not to be defined by genre (or gender).
Riding off the success of Awake, Alex has been touring the album around the world, including the worlds best festivals. Among them of course, is her record breaking Coachella set on the main stage, and more recently her incredible performance at Electric Daisy Carnival.
So what does her success say for the state of the music industry when it comes to females? Alison Wonderland certainly has earned her success over the years, but look at any electronic festival line up she’s played and you’ll see an obvious discrepancy between female and male DJ’s playing. And it’s not because there aren’t any females DJing – rather, it appears that many are overlooked as artists suitable for festival line ups, or are not given the same exposure and support as some of the male artists in the scene.
The last five years especially have seen a rise in female producers and DJ’s, but there still needs to be a bigger conversation about what’s going on. Coachella’s 2018 line up starred many more females than previous years, and Alison Wonderland’s record breaking pay rate (along with Canadian DJ & Producer, Rezz) is a move in the right direction. As she argues – her success speaks for itself. As for the other talented female DJ’s making a mark on the scene – Alex’s success is helping those women prove their right to be an important part of the industry.