Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Next week, thousands of bands and tens of thousands of spectators will decend on Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW). Each year at the festival mtvU hosts the Woodie Awards, given to artists who have risen to fame through college campuses. And, like always, you have a voice in deciding who gets a Woodie.
The Daily Gazette spoke to three bands on the ballot to give you the inside scoop on a few of the emerging artists being celebrated this Spring Break. We heard from nominees Machine Gun Kelly, Dillon Francias and A$AP Rocky, but Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and fun. are also among the seven on the ballot.
The “mtvU Woodie Awards” originated from the “indie tradition” of giving a wooden award to artists who received a passionate response to their music. The show was established in 2004 and has propelled famous acts, such as The Killers (Breaking Woodie ’04) and Gym Class Heroes (Woodie of the Year ’07) into the next level of their careers.
Eric Conte, Executive Producer of the Woodie Awards, described the awards as a way to celebrate artists that are making fantastic music but don’t have the spotlight.
“We are celebrating the artists that college students love. We’re celebrating the artists that make amazing music that the college audience lives their lives to,” he said.
Dillon Francis, known for his pioneering work in moombahton – a fusion genre of house music and reggaeton – is leading in nominations alongside Jack White. This year, Francis has been nominated for “Breaking Woodie” (for brand-new artists) and “Tag Team Woodie” (for collaborations).
Francis started getting serious about music after his DUI at the age of 18. “The DUI really kick-started my work ethic and trying to work as hard as possible,” he said. Francis started his career in music by DJ’ing, which later got him interested in making his own electronic music. After a period of only DJ’ing in Top 40 clubs, Francis moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in producing.
Francis draws some of his inspiration from artists like Blink 182. “I just like doing funny stuff . . . I was considered the class clown in school because I would just like comment too much and make jokes so I just keep doing that in music,” he said.
For Francis, the most exciting time in his career as a musician has been working with Calvin Harris.
“Never in my wildest dreams I thought that I’d be able to work with him or just be friends with him,” Francis said, “so it’s really bizarre that I’ve been able to make a song with him and put it out on his album.” The song, “Here 2 China,” is on Harris’s album 18 Months.
Francis is currently on world tour. His new single “Messages” will be released on March 28.
Photo courtesy of youtellconcerts.com
A$AP Rocky, nominated for this year’s “Woodie of the Year,” is an American rapper and part of the hip hop collective A$AP Mob. He performed “Purple Swag” at last year’s Woodie Festival, where he was a runner-up for “Breaking Woodie of the Year.” Rocky said that despite being very sick at last year’s festival, he had a great experience and advises future performers to have as much fun as they can on stage, “else it’s going to eat you alive.
As an artist, Rocky believes he is still developing. “Right now, I’m working on a lot of production, I’m doing my own piece, so the next project I do is going to be all my production,” he said. Rocky identifies his style as being unique and being “straight up trill.”
Rocky said that his dream collaboration would be with John Lennon or Tame Impala. Until now, Rocky has mostly collaborated with Mike “Clams Casino” Volpe, an Italian-American electronic musician and hip-hop producer.
Photo courtesy Ysa Perez
Machine Gun Kelly “MGK,” who grabbed the “Breaking Woodie of the Year” and performed at the 2012 Woodies Festival, is now running for the top prize – “Woodie of the Year” – alongside A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar.
Like Rocky, MGK had a great experience performing at last year’s festival. He described it as “nerve wracking” but “cool.” MGK added that he was proud of the achievement of winning a Woodie Award last year. “The Woodie Award is something that is in my room now, it’s something that I’m very proud of along with other awards we won from MTV last year and I hope to see them pile up,” he said.
MGK later received an MTV award for the live performance of “Invisible” at the Woodies Festival last year. He feels that even though his competition for Woodie of the Year is tough this year, his fans will pull him through: “if you put my fans against any other fans, everyone loses.”
Fans can expect a new album to be released in the next year and a new mixtape, Black Flags, in April. “Then I’m going to do what I do best, which is go on a world tour, I’m just going to continue to put on good shows for the fans really,” he said. Unlike in the past, MGK will be touring an album, so fans can expect a full production.
MGK said that he considers Black Flags to be an inspirational staple with the message that, “we’re not going to give up but we’re going to keep going til we win ‘Woodie of the Year,’ til we win a Grammy,” he said. MGK also described himself and his music as the voice of a generation.
All three artists agreed that winning a Woodie Award would not affect their music or their career but it would be a great honor and achievement.
Performing artists for this year’s festival include Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. For a complete list of the performing artists click here. You can also follow the Woodie Awards on Twitter and you can vote for your favorite artists at woodies.mtv.com. College students across America will be able to vote on their favorite bands through March 14.
Photo courtesy of eatinghiphop.com