We had the opportunity to sit down with Powell, better known as Surf Mesa, at Life Is Beautiful. The 21-year-old DJ and producer is taking over streaming platforms, TikTok, and recently, the Netflix reimagining of She’s All That, He’s All That, with his hits “Carried Away” featuring Madison Beer, and Platinum-hit, “ily” featuring Emilee.
BTS: What is it like to be at Life Is Beautiful? Is this your first time here?
Surf Mesa: It’s my first time! It’s my first time in Vegas. And I was saying earlier to my friend, that it’s so cool that my first time in Vegas gets to be at a festival to perform because for a lot of kids who turned 21 this year, as I did, their first time in Vegas is with their friends and they fly out and just have a good time. I feel blessed and privileged that my first experience gets to be digested this way and that I’m playing for this crowd. It’s such a fun festival. And I’m seeing a lot of faces that are familiar just from my friendships and the music world. It’s such a cool experience to dive in and just be here. And it’s amazing so far.
BTS: Who/what is influencing the music that you are releasing today?
Surf Mesa: I mean, a lot of stuff. I’ve been working with artists that inspire me at a young age because, now with the success of “ily”, it’s given me the freedom to take a step back and really draw out the story of what I want to write and that includes collaborating with these artists that have inspired me for such a long time. So I’ve been in the studio with Jauz. We’ve been working on stuff and I’m going to premiere what we made tonight actually in the set.
A lot of people are inspiring me, both melodically and production-wise, and a lot of singers out there are killing it. I think more than ever this year my music taste has been all over, which has been interesting. But to name a few, Jauz, Paul Woolford, and Kareen Lomax.
BTS: Congrats on “Carried Away” and “ily” featured in He’s All That. How did this opportunity come about?
Surf Mesa: I mean, what a blessing first off. Watching the movie on Netflix, the first audio that plays is the Netflix intro, and then “Carried Away” just starts playing!
It all came about because I think their [He’s All That] production team was looking for songs so they went to my label and we sent a lot of options.
I think what’s cool about it is that the movie, He’s All That, is a rendition from the 90’s rom-com, She’s All That, and that they featured “ily”, which is a rendition of an older song Frankie Valli song. I have two songs in that film – it’s just incredible. And the experience of going to the movie premiere and meeting Addison Rae was a lot of fun.
BTS: What’s it like to go from posting EDM songs on SoundCloud to now having “ily” go Platinum? What have you learned on this journey? Where did your journey of music really begin?
Surf Mesa: I’ve just learned that what will get you the furthest is just chasing your heart and not chasing someone else and not chasing someone else’s sound or their craft. I told myself in high school this over and over and again because I was making music every day and putting it out, but the only thing holding me back was seeing the stats on SoundCloud – not getting likes, not getting the positive feedback that you would hope for. More motivation than anything was just telling myself that I started doing this because I wanted to in the first place and if I can keep that initial intention, it will be immortal.
I think people need to put their blinders on and look ahead and reflect on themselves and care about what THEY do because THEY like to do it. And that went a long way for me because that was the only thing that was keeping me consistent, because other than that, I would have been discouraged by comparing. Just do what you do because you enjoy it. Life is too short to just chase something else.
BTS: Who is your dream collaboration?
Surf Mesa: I think one cool “legend” kind of in the production world would be Calvin Harris. His sound has always stood out to me. It’s very unique, melodic, simple, but just driving and those to me are words that I want to make my music.
To name a singer off the bat… Dua Lipa. She’s honestly been killing it for sure and I’m a fan of her.
BTS: What message do you have for your fans?
Surf Mesa: I want to see fans more as people under the umbrella of my music. That word “fans” kind of blankets this whole mass population of people that want to follow you. I think to me it can come off like an ego thing and I don’t want to come off narcissistic by calling someone a “fan”. They’re friends. These people enjoy the stuff that you also like. And so what other name to call it other than “friend”?
I think, too, what I said earlier about just doing what you do because you love can go a long way.
BTS: What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
Surf Mesa: There is a release coming with a super talented artist…
And a lot of shows. This is the third show that I’ve ever played – I’m so new to it! I want the shows to get better and better and I want people living their lives while attending my show.