Denver-based DJ and producer Willbeaux hoped 2020 was going to be a big year for him professionally.
“It was kind of going to be the first summer that I was really booking more things,” he says. “It was kind of going to be a breakout summer for me. … It was kind of about to happen. And then it all got canceled.”
Life is hard for a DJ in a world where the clubs and venues in which he’d normally ply his trade are closed because of an outbreak of a respiratory virus. Willbeaux, the stage name of Will Sheehan, was slated to play in at least two music festivals this year. Now that isn’t happening, but he’s making do. He’s played online sets on Facebook, one with the Arise Festival and another to benefit employees of Denver club the Black Box.
So he’s hanging in there. And so are the rest of us. Even though summer is upon us, outside can seem far off, a cruel abstraction during a time when a trip to the lake can end in a trip to the intensive care unit. Fun almost seems like a relic of the past.
But this unfortunate convergence of circumstance helped inspire Willbeaux’s upcoming five-song EP, Waiting for Summer, as well as the single "Gravity," a house track meant to invoke the spirit of summer. The song features vocals from Milk Blossoms singer Michelle Rocqet and a catchy saxophone hook courtesy of Tanner Fruit from NoBide.
“Gravity is the most uplifting, happy type song (on the EP),” he says. “They all have the same beat — the house tempo. They’re all very danceable. I tried to make them as unique as possible, but they still have that house rhythm.”
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Willbeaux crafted the EP with his collaborators, including Michelle Rocqet, via email.
“I still haven’t met her in person, believe it or not, mostly because of quarantine,” he says. “She agreed to get on it right away, which was great, and came back with some recordings. I think we only went back and forth two or three times before we got what we wanted.”
Willbeaux says that the five songs on Waiting for Summer mark a stylistic departure from his previous material, including the EP Colorize.
“That one was a good practice experience,” he says of Colorize. “I’m definitely straying away from that now. I think back then I was kind of copying a little bit and sort of all over the place. Late last year, I realized house music came easier to me.”
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He has embraced a more up-tempo, more overt house style on his most recent singles and upcoming EP. Regarding the direction his new sound has taken, he counts French/Floridian DJ Dombresky, Detroit-born producer MK, and South African/Swiss DJ Nora En Pure as influences.
Willbeaux says he sees himself continuing on this new house groove, at least for the immediate future. He feels more comfortable composing it, and he likes to play it live. It’s hard to say what the future will hold, courtesy of COVID-19, but he hopes as more people hear his music, more local artists will want to collaborate on tracks. Nonetheless, being cooped up and away from live performance has taken its toll on his mental health. He just wants to get back out there — to play, but also just to enjoy the music.
“I also just want to get back in the groove of having local venues open,” he says. “I’m not even talking about playing myself, but just going back inside of them and seeing some music.”
"Gravity" premiered on July 31. Willbeaux’s upcoming EP, Waiting for Summer, drops on August 14. For more information, check out willbeauxmusic.com.