Ask A DJ: sillygirlcarmen and Thrice Groove Go Beyond the Music
DJs sillygirlcarmen (Carmen Johnson – @sillygirlcarmen) and Thrice Groove (Travis Robinson – @thricegroove) share some insights that help paint a picture of how DJing is largely the practice of connecting with the community around them.
This ultimately creates a relationship between the artist, the curator, and the listeners, where unified energy is the currency and every transaction supports an undying and mutually rewarding cycle.
There are some in music who often go underappreciated, despite their ability to invoke all of life’s emotions by being curators of the beat that moves us. These pioneers in music are DJs, who speak a universal language with a unique understanding of music.
sillygirlcarmen and Thrice Groove Interview:
What is your background?
sillygirlcarmen: I’m a DJ, music artist, model, and actress from Detroit, MI. I grew up in a musical and creative household, and expressing myself through any avenue of art was always my driving passion. I got into the entertainment industry through modeling when I was 13 years old, and then jumped more into the music and acting side. I’ve become a jack of many trades over the years, as you learn a lot of DIY tactics as an artist. On top of my main focus on music, I have a hand in visual art, graphic design, and marketing.
Thrice Groove: I was born on the West Coast (Cali actually!), but Atlanta has been my home and environment for essentially my entire upbringing. I am a DJ, a creative mind & most importantly a community builder. I’m also heavy into sci-fi (Star Wars for life!) & love West Indian cuisine.
How did you get started in music, and what has your journey been like over the years?
sillygirlcarmen: Growing up around music was the major influence that was always in the background of everything I did. I moved to LA when I was fresh out of high school in 2010 and began making music in a variety of genres, writing, and singing.
After years of developing my style, and going through many industry bumps and bruises, I came back to my “roots” if you will – HOUSE MUSIC. Moved back to Detroit and dived into the craft as a new DJ and producer. Steadily building my space in the Detroit music scene and connecting the dots have been so impactful and important.
The journey has been amazing, with a lot of uphill excitement and I’m only getting started. Detroit is my home ground but the music is now allowing me to expand my roots around the world.
Thrice Groove: Delving into music has been a very unique journey but wasn’t always the direct plan/ambition. I was very involved in sports, primarily playing basketball, and also ran track growing up. However, I was always into music no matter what with my family upbringing.
From reggae & soul records to the most hardcore hip-hop, there was so much I was being exposed to at an early age. Traveling also planted the seed to where I am today. As a kid, I got to experience London for the first time. This was during the height of house music really permeating through the region, as well as discovering new records that blended multiple genres (jazz fusion, soul, etc).
Through that experience alone, I said that if I was going to be on this journey, it would be on my terms, and not adhering to what’s considered mainstream. I have felt most fulfilled living by that standard, and things have been very serendipitous as a result. [I’m] very thankful, music saved my life.
What is a little-known fact about your profession that more people should know and understand?
sillygirlcarmen: Djing is definitely about your passion to cultivate great music but it also is about your intuitive ability to connect with your audience. Being present in the moment and sharing space with people is a synergistic exchange.
Thrice Groove: DJing & music curation is something that requires good taste, and that doesn’t come overnight. It should be a true reflection of what energizes you, and that translates to the time you put in. It takes true practice, self-immersion, and passion. You have to love what you do, can’t be a temporary fling, you know?
How did you cope with the shutdown brought on by COVID?
sillygirlcarmen: Very shortly into the shutdown it became clear that the virtual world is a powerful tool to build upon. Streaming from my bedroom and starting a female-focused radio show allowed me to connect with even more people around the world and still stay consistent in my craft.
Thrice Groove: Essentially, not having a job for a period of time really checked me and brought a lot to the light. However, it reminded me of what I was already working towards in the first place: to pace myself and not get caught up in trying to keep up.
That’s an endless dilemma that I believe creatives face because of the transactional nature of the space. So just to make sure you’re taking care of your mental [health], and having a true support system around you. This time also allowed me to unplug and re-energize as well.
I have a lot more clarity on how I choose to feel moving forward, to continue to uplift as growth and change is always imminent.
What does 2022 mean to you now that live, in-person events are back in action?
sillygirlcarmen: It means everything! The world is in a highly energized state. Everyone is ready to bring color back to life and define what it means to enjoy the human experience. Every new festival or venue I play feels like a return home. We were made to be around each other in high vibration, and sharing music makes this possible.
Thrice Groove: It reminded me of what I was already working towards in the first place: to pace myself and not get caught up in trying to keep up. That’s an endless dilemma that I believe creatives face because of the transactional nature of the space. So just make sure you’re taking care of your mental [state], and having a true support system around you.
This time also allowed me to unplug and re-energize as well. I have a lot more clarity on how I choose to feel moving forward, to continue to uplift as growth and change is always imminent.
What are some of your initiatives and/or projects that you’d like readers to be aware of?
sillygirlcarmen: During the shutdown, I took the time to build out my female-focused platform called Wonderful (@wonderfuldjs) in partnership with Charivari Detroit. Every episode features a [hour-long] mix from a female artist / DJ, along with a brief Q&A highlight. We have featured women from all around the world and love the network we are building through this space.
Wonderful originated as an all-female stage concept at Charivari Detroit Music Festival 2019 and will be a returning concept for the 2022 festival coming this August 11th-14th. This year we are happy to add The Wonderful Experience VIP tent, sponsored by a variety of female-owned brands such as Little Words Project, Bonne Femme, Little Saints, and many more. Guests can buy admission to the VIP experience taking place Saturday, August 13th during the festival.
The experience offers vegan-friendly catered food by CozyLo, henna body art, custom cocktails, and plenty of sponsored goodies. I’m looking forward to hosting this VIP experience and bringing the brand to life in this activation. To find out more about Wonderful visit www.wonderfuldjs.com and to buy VIP wonderful tickets please visit www.charivaridetroit.com.
Thrice Groove: There is a creative agency & collective that I have the honor of being a part of and co-founded called Player 99 (@player99intl). A hub that represents our community and worldwide through lifestyle, music, visual arts, etc. Telling the proper story through our lens with our endeavors, while also presenting quality & progressive experiences. We also have a 24/7 live radio network, and partner with brands to activate on a more profound scale.
A few notable events we throw are Get Away Sundays, one that includes a very unique and lighthearted essence to a weekend day party incorporating food, music & live visual installations.
We also have Theory, a DJ-driven series that offers up a progressive lens through music and feel. It’s a high production caliber event that we activate monthly in [Atlanta] @ Aisle 5, a notable concert venue in the city. I also lend my creative talents with Global Entry (@globalenteyofficial) a cultural immersion experience that highlights & celebrates the global soundtrack.
Where do you find inspiration?
sillygirlcarmen: Simply, life and the alignment of mind, body, and soul. I find inspiration through my thoughts, my movement, my emotions, and my everyday experiences. I’m a believer in the abundance of the universe and the inspiration it provides.
Thrice Groove: Inspiration is daily for me, and has become more elevated throughout this time. I have always been moved by the inner workings of life and what makes us who we are in our respective capacities. My community, people & nature are always very grounding to me.
Knowing the context of my heritage really inspires me because collectively we have broken down barriers with so much more work to do. So that inspires me to be a light, and move with grace to achieve the absolute highest. And so, we keep going. That’s a phrase that I truly abide by in this life. The gift of life is truly a privilege.
What is the best advice you’ve received, and what would you share with other musical creatives who wish to pursue a career in the industry?
sillygirlcarmen: It may be cliché but I’ve heard it many times and it is best applied. Remember to HAVE FUN!
Keep the spark alive, keep it playful, and keep it passionate. The moment you stop enjoying the journey, you are going in the wrong direction.
Thrice Groove: “Focus on your focus.” As one person in such a vast world/society, it’s important to understand that we can only control so much. We’re aware of so much every single day, that it’s sensory overload. Take time for yourself, and what you can do day in and out to truly grow and learn. I’m always a student and express that curiosity in my own life.
I encourage anyone looking to make their mark, to always be curious and interested. Also to find what really moves you within, and surround yourself with people and things that help fuel that. Treating others with respect is also important.
That’s the key to bridging all gaps and getting us closer to understanding each other so that we may move in harmony as close as possible.
Do you have any mentors who have been influential in your career?
sillygirlcarmen: I didn’t exactly have specific mentors but I will say I’ve had numerous influences and assistance as I grew up around the entire Detroit DJ community. DJ Sarena Tyler, Mike Todd, Tony Dennis, Terrence Parker, DJ Cent, and Delano Smith to name a few.
Thrice Groove: There are definitely a few individuals that have paved the way, that I have always shown gratitude towards over the years. Believe it or not, a lot of my journey was self-taught & discovery. So I feel like it’s always been a mix of utilizing resources (the internet, etc.) and my own commitment to getting better.
Discipline & confidence can allow you to bloom exponentially. Make sure to always stay focused, and go for what you want.
What is your dream collaboration?
sillygirlcarmen: Whew! A moment to manifest! I would love to collaborate with Shermanology, Kaytranada, Waajeed, Osunlade, Karizma, and Blond:ish.
Thrice Groove: My dream collaboration would truly be to activate an endeavor, in some way, that all my friends & peers around can have a stake in. I look at so many people around me as the real movers & shakers, so that motivates me to pay it forward and lend my helping hand to the maximum to have ownership! I’m often building worlds in my head, so now applying what’s necessary to make that a reality. I feel like that’s been how I’ve thrived in my line of work thus far.
A highlight of my career, I definitely have to say, is getting the chance to open up for the incomparable Kaytranada in ATL, in October 2021. Big love to my brother Sango, who also played that show and was the real hand in helping to make that happen.
I’ve been DJing for about 9 years now, and that moment really reminded me that you’re always going to be in the right place at the right time. I’ve been one of the people in my community that has been action-driven in pushing music culture forward.
I’m embracing the next 9 years (and beyond!) to pave the way, while also extending into avenues that fully exhibit the vision and capability that I feel is tangible in this space. Grateful beyond measure, while wanting to shape and cultivate a legacy. We’re here for a good time, not a long time.
Be sure to follow sillygirlcarmen and Thrice for more information about their endeavors and planned events and projects. sillygirlcarmen has a series of songs releasing over the next few months, leading with “Steady,” for a May release; “Try,” for a June release with Nervous Records, NY; and “Bad Blues,” for a July release.
In addition, sillygirlcarmen will be performing at the West Coast Weekender Show Dates below:
San Diego, CA: June 10th-12th
Chicago Queens of House Picnic: August 7th
Charivari Detroit Music Festival: August 11th-14th
Stay Social With DJs sillygirlcarmen and Thrice Groove