Interview | Xenia Ghali

Founder of the independent label Funky Sheep Records, Xenia Ghali walks the line between gaining mainstream success and having the technical skills for underground credibility.  Trained as a classical musician since her youth and having worked to further her education in a master’s program at New York University in film scoring, she didn’t expect to be in the DJ world.  She just knew that it took an entrepreneurship mindset and heavy collaborations. 

In starting out, there weren’t many opportunities for her.  Having the technically trained background in music scoring gave her the confidence to create her own record label in lieu of finding one to sign her.  It has now led her to successful partnerships with brands such as Adidas and G-Star Raw. 

The stylistic compositions of her work has led her meeting other artists of international distinction.  She has worked with such reputable names such as Pitbull and the Grammy-nominated Wyclef Jean.  Xenia really set the tone for her own career with her biggest track yet in the summer of 2016, ‘Under These Lights’, which reached #1 in the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart and was followed up with ‘Places’, which also hit the top spot.  Currently, she has a new music video out for her charting song, ‘Lay in Your Arms.’ 

Let’s get her scope on what has defined her in intermingling the synergy of her expertise in classical music and mixing new sounds that top the charts. 

Turntablism and the art and culture that goes with it – what initially attracted you to it?

It’s amazing that you ask as my master’s thesis was on turntablism, the culture, the aesthetic and as an actual performance medium. Quite literally everything intrigued me about turntablism. To me the idea of using existing material to create on the spot was an extremely interesting form of art.

One could say that you offer a technical aspect to the re-imagination of songs when it comes to production and remixing – what is something you would say about your work ethic that really stands out?

I always try to push my creative limits and when I create something, I always try to go a step further or completely change the angle of the next thing I create. That is very much reflected in the fact that none of my songs sound alike, as well as how different each music video is.

As a classically trained musician who started with learning the piano and flute at the age of five, moving on to playing the drums in a band in high school, and then going to earn a Master’s at the prestigious New York University in Film Scoring, Music Composition and Production, was being a world renowned DJ ever what you had thought of for your future? 

To be honest no, that wasn’t my goal, I started DJing because I started going to underground house parties when I was studying in the United Kingdom, and I was completely intrigued by the DJs who were spinning on vinyl.

I saved up money, bought a couple of technics turntables and taught myself how to DJ because it was something I completely felt in love with. I never thought I would do this for a living, in fact I was studying to become a film composer.

You’re now topping dance charts, would you do classical music again?

Definitely! I plan on doing so in the future. It is my dream to score a film.

What would you tell women musicians starting out in the game?

First, the most important thing is to believe in yourself.  As cheesy as that may sometimes sound, I can’t stress how vital [it] is.

The next thing I would say is that they would need to be prepared to hear a lot of “No’s.” However, instead of being disheartened, they should become even more persistent and learn from a potential mistake or reason which led to hearing that “No.”

Lastly, gender has absolutely nothing to do with ability, skill, talent, passion and potential.