You Are My Family! DJ Joe Gauthreaux
With his last name coming from the word Gauldheri, meaning army ruler, Joe Gauthreaux’s role as a DJ seems like destiny. Growing up in New Orleans, seduced by the call of nightlife, Joe worked hard to become the resident DJ of the legendary club OZ. Inspired by circuit superstar Susan Morabito, he followed his dreams to move to New York and conquer the circuit scene. It was a big challenge and there were struggles along the way, but he persevered and achieved his goals. Joe travels the world spinning all the big events and his original songs and remixes grace the sets of every major DJ. Celebrating twenty years on the scene, Joe shares the stories of his journey and what excites him for the future.
Ron Slomowicz: Were you born in New Orleans?
Joe Gauthreaux: Yes. August 16, 1976. Can't believe it's been 40 years!
RS: What was the music scene like when you first started clubbing?
Joe Gauthreaux: Back in the mid-1990s, techno was the big sound at the clubs in New Orleans, along with the vocal anthems of that era. I remember hearing M People’s “Movin' On Up” alot in my coming out years.
RS: How did the DJ bug bite?
Joe Gauthreaux: Just by going out to the club every Saturday night and loving the music I was hearing. I was also very fascinated with how DJs mixed two songs together seamlessly and have it turn into something completely different and be moved by that.
RS: And Susan Morabito was one of your favorites?
Joe Gauthreaux: I started out as a complete fangirl. She would send out playlists from her gigs to her eMail list and I would look at them to see what they were playing on Fire Island because New York and Fire Island were huge goals of mine to play. It's the place you went to "make it."
RS: What was it like when you first moved to New York?
Joe Gauthreaux: Very scary and very lonely. Nothing makes you feel more alone in the world than being surrounded by 9 million people and feeling like you know nobody. Plus, coming from New Orleans where I was already so established as a DJ, to now being a little tiny fish in this big huge pond. It was intimidating all the way around. But that's why New York is so amazing because it's true what they say: if you can make it there, then you can make it anywhere!
RS: New York is also a big hub of the circuit. People in the circuit scene work hard and party hard. How have you survived with your sanity for so long?
Joe Gauthreaux: Well I think for me the trick has been to take the "party hard" out of the equation. Not to say I don't know how to have fun every once a while, but there's no way to keep that up every weekend and still accomplish the goals you want to accomplish in your professional life. Certainly not for me at least, ha ha.
RS: How do you balance your life traveling and producing and keeping a healthy lifestyle?
Joe Gauthreaux: That is always very challenging. I will say this—I can sleep through any flight. When I'm ready for sleep, I can sleep, so I'm thankful for that. Because sometimes all I have is that three-hour flight to reset.
RS: All that travel can definitely wear you down. What has been the influence of international DJs entering the US circuit scene?
Joe Gauthreaux: I think social media changed everything because now we're all connected all over the world. There are a lot of international DJs coming into the US and I'm going places I've only dreamed of as well, like Brazil, Asia, and all over Europe. I think it's a global circuit now. It has to be.
RS: Yeah, like Madonna sang, “music makes the people come together.” How has the music changed over the years?
Joe Gauthreaux: I think that's my favorite thing about this job—that the music is constantly changing. Every few years I kind of feel like this new DJ with a new sound. Right now tech house is the big thing and I'm really into it. I wouldn't go so far as to call me a tech house DJ, but I have definitely been incorporating it into my sets a lot more.
RS: Speaking of tech house, the EDM movement has definitely changed the way people experience dance music. How do you think the EDM movement affects you and the circuit world?
Joe Gauthreaux: I think it made the promoters up their game because they saw what was going on in that world and the new club kids were responding to it. Clubland and the circuit will always be a young person's paradise— it always has been. They are the ones who have the energy to do this every weekend! I personally really like the EDM scene because I love the whole technology aspect of it. I play better when I have video and all the effects—I’m a big room DJ with a big sound and my music compliments that very well. It's a goal of mine to get my career to a place where I can put on a show at a theater or venue on my name alone like the EDM guys do.
RS: So you see the new generation of teens and twentysomethings embracing the circuit lifestyle?
Joe Gauthreaux: Every day. A large percentage of my fanbase is under 30 years old. I'm meeting new people all the time and that makes me really happy. The gay circuit is its own living, breathing organism and it's evolving all the time. That is one of the biggest things that keeps me going—seeing new faces among the familiar ones, and how much fun they're having, discovering life outside of mom and dad and learning about themselves and dancing to their own beat, meeting their community.
RS: The EDM generation has also blurred the perception of DJ and producer. What inspired you to start producing?
Joe Gauthreaux: Producing and songwriting is something I've wanted to do since I was a kid. But it was a lot harder to do back then that it is now because the computer software wasn't as available as it is now. So luckily, DJing kind of satisfied my creative need until about ten years ago when I decided I was finally ready to take the next step and pursue something I've wanted to do my whole life.
RS: When you were DJing back in New Orleans—did you ever imagine that one day you would be producing songs with singers like Inaya Day and Abigail?
Joe Gauthreaux: Honestly, I did have dreams of it, of course. I've wanted to produce my whole life. To be able to collaborate with these gifted women now is like a dream.
RS: How did your song with Inaya “You Are My Family” come about?
Joe Gauthreaux: I wrote that song for a friend of mine who had recently broken up with his boyfriend. We were on the couch in my apartment and several lines in that song are some of the things I said to him in that conversation. Basically it's about letting someone know that they're not alone, even though they may feel like they are. And when you're gay, your friends are your family.
RS: Did it work the same way with Abigail on February?
Joe Gauthreaux: No, I sent Abigail a rough idea of the verses and chorus and what the song was about because I wasn't finished writing the song yet. My keyboard player cut the demo of just the first verse and the chorus. I sent it to her because from the time I started writing that song in my head, her voice was the one that played. She and I totally hit it off from a songwriting perspective. We're both very picky and honest so it makes for a great songwriting session. I love her so much. We're working on a follow up now. I could do a whole album with her.
RS: What else are you working on now?
Joe Gauthreaux: There are so many things that I'm very excited about. I guess I can announce that I've written a song called "URGE" for the Urge party in Miami. It's a real song that stands alone on its own merit. Everyone involved on the project wanted this song to be something a DJ or listener could play and relate to even if they don't know about the Urge party. It's actually a personal song for me, but I'm super happy that it's now going to be the new Urge anthem. Inaya Day cut the vocals and she killed it. We're all really excited about the project and it'll be out in November. There's another surprise collaboration coming that I think will make people happy and some other stuff too. So yeah, lots of new music is coming very soon.
RS: Aside from Taylor Swift, if you could work with any other singer in the studio, who would it be?
Joe Gauthreaux: Probably Ellie Goulding, because I love her voice so much and the way she sings.
RS: If you could talk to yourself at age 18, what would you say?
Joe Gauthreaux: Have a little more fun. Don't take it all so seriously. Then again, maybe I wouldn't be here if I didn’t.
RS: When they make the movie of your life, what actor will play you?
Joe Gauthreaux: I get told I look like Keanu Reeves a lot.
RS: What do you want to say to all of your fans out there?
Joe Gauthreaux: Thank you so much for sticking by me the last 20 years. You guys are my family and yes, flashing lights and beats don't mean a thing without you in my life, so thank you!