NALA on Manifesting Dream Career, Opportunity with Dirtybird [Interview]
The Law of Attraction calls for a set intention in order to forge one’s dreams into reality. Producer/DJ Nala has always hustled hard to manifest, but not even she could have imagined that the universe would present her with such a perfect situation.
Rooted in the lively and culturally rich city of Miami, Nala (real name Stefania Aronin) got her start playing the underground nightclub circuit in South Florida. She quickly became known for her versatility as a selector, not shying away from performances that offered variety in techno, house and breaks. This notoriety helped market her as one of the top female DJs in Miami, and later gigs at events like Ultra, III Points and Splash House.
Nala’s original intent with her project and sound was to take a more experimental approach; to shy away from what moved people in the club and instead feed into her wide array of interests.
“I was releasing independently and I had a different mindset about music,” Nala told MP3 MAG. “I was like, ‘I’m going to do what I want, I don’t care what it sounds like.’”
In 2015, Nala felt like she had outgrown Miami and opted for a move across the country to Los Angeles, where she felt she’d be presented more opportunities. Worried to lose any momentum, however, she continued booking gigs across the country in Florida. Nala would jet back for a week at a time to play a few shows, then return to L.A. to attend to her local residencies and personal life. This constant grind and tireless approach were doable early on, but as the producer matured, this lifestyle weighed on her and ultimately, became unsustainable.
In addition to a hectic travel schedule and inequitable compensation, the lack of impact her music was making became the focal issue for the artist. She was producing music she loved (which ranged from downtempo to alternative), but the tracks weren’t doing enough for her and were largely unusable in her own DJ sets, where she was receiving the most reception. After taking this into consideration, Nala began to refocus her intention on creating more danceable ‘rave’ music.
Only a few months after this realization, an opportunity of a lifetime arose. Through a friend, Nala was able to connect with Dirtybird Records founder, Claude VonStroke, who had taken notice of her positive, infectious approach to music. Despite ‘CVS’ being one of the foremost house acts in the country, she initially had her doubts about the match.
“I’ll talk to him, but I don’t really make Dirtybird music,” recalled Nala, who admitted to at first being skeptical about the fit with Dirtybird. “I make weird, experimental, but I want to be more house and electronic, so let’s see If I can do it.”
Dirtybird is the staple of American underground dance music, while Nala’s previous preference was to create downtempo, more experimental music. Much to her surprise, this wasn’t an issue for the DB founder, who loved the different experiences and background she brought to the table. The initial meeting went so well, VonStroke would not only offer Nala an invitation into the Dirtybird family, but to manage her project himself. Looking to expand beyond its niche, Dirtybird was ready to champion Nala and the diversity she had to offer.
VonStroke now regularly provides help with her production style and process, while his wife and Dirtybird Head of Operations, Aundy Crenshaw, meets with her weekly to go over career goals and checklists. Being self-taught in production and managing herself prior, this newfound partnership and family provided a support system and bolstered her sense of confidence as a producer. What’s more, it dispelled any negative notions she had about working with a label, who were giving her an opportunity to use their platform and amplify music she was truly passionate about.
“I don’t know if any other label experience would have been as good for me,” said Nala. “I could release on another label and then they’d move on to their next release, but this is different. I feel very grateful for Dirtybird.”
Dirtybird quickly introduced Nala to their rabid, supportive community by launching a weekly stream series on DB Live, Nala Presents: TV Party, to an average of 7,500 viewers. Subsequently, she began providing direct support to VonStroke at various gigs and in March 2021, released her first ever Dirtybird EP, Psychic Attack. The project showcased how the producer plans to implement her style, while remaining seamlessly at home on the DB catalogue.
“It was kind of fun trying to marry where I came from with Barclay’s history,” said Nala. “Like ‘Sun is Hot’ is a really good bridge track that blends my sound with house, [while] ‘Psychic Attack’ is more leaning towards Dirtybird with my love for punk rock and rave mixed in.”
In under a year and through a pandemic, NALA successfully cultivated a wide audience and fanbase via the Dirtybird spotlight and platform. Her music has received recognition from their global audience, and has helped her rack up 25k monthly listeners on Spotify. What’s more, her music is connecting on a personal level around the world, which the producer says means more to her than anything.
“At the end of the day, as long as I’m communicating some emotion or message,” said Nala. “I’m happy with whatever I’m releasing. I’m not married to any style or sound.”
This new success and team environment have allowed Nala to slow down, enjoy the moment and improve as a producer. No longer having to do everything herself, she’s able to write 20 tracks a week and only take gigs that make her feel valued and fairly compensated.
Today, the Nala project is far more intentional. Nala is no longer kicking rocks or putting time in with a vague hope of success, but instead relying on the experience and team around her to push her to the next level with each career move.
“It’s more refined,” said Nala. “I was doing every single thing before and running myself down, [but now] it’s more intentional. Who do I want to work with? What do I like sonically? What kind of shows do I want to play? I’m more calculated about the things I’m doing now.”
NALA doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon, either. The producer plans for a follow up on Dirtybird later this Fall with an anticipated collab EP, as well as another yet-to-be-named project before the end of the year. This month, she’ll be making her Dirtybird event debut at Dirtybird CampINN, a lock-in style resort festival offering the best of the label and their extended sonic interests.
These opportunities and continued rise are things Nala has worked long and hard for, but it’s not lost on her that the universe might just be on her side. After long envisioning the life and career she wanted, these things are slowly but surely becoming a reality for the producer. While this exciting journey continues to offer a surprise at every turn, Nala knows she can rely on the power of manifesting your dreams as a source of confidence and inspiration.
“Scribble out your manifestations, because you just never know.”