Amrit (@itsamrit) is a DJ, musician and tastemaker. The multitalented beauty is also pretty good at Instagram. Originally from Australia, she now lives in New York City, where she works in casting at a creative agency. Whether she’s in the office or prepping for her next high-profile DJ gig, Amrit remains focused on finding and featuring up-and-coming talent. She talked to us about what it means to be a DJ in an age when computers can do everything for you, the weird thing that happens every time she takes a selfie, and why it’s always better to hand your phone to a woman if you want someone to take your photo.
How would you describe your Instagram to someone who’s never looked at it before?
It’s fun, playful. It’s pretty easygoing and not very well thought out. I know a lot of people are really into curating a brand or a vibe, but I just sort of post as I go. I’m more in the moment.
Do you have particular people in your life who you trust to photograph you or do you just hand the phone to whoever’s around?
I’m used to being on the other side of the camera. Usually, I’m directing talent, so I’ll be like, “Stand in this light. Use this frame.” And so when I hand people my phone to take pictures, I have to chill out. I’ll be like, “See this frame? See this cropping?” and they’re like, “Relax. This is not Vogue.” I’m really pedantic with stuff like that. I trust my girlfriends to take photos because women love to take pictures. You give them a phone, and they’ll give you 20 options. You give a guy a phone, and he’ll take one picture, and give your phone back to you. We want options, dammit!
What are a few Instagram accounts you find inspiring?
There’s an Australian account I like called @itsnowcool. It features new swimwear lines, and it’s always shot on the beach. It’s nostalgic for me.
There’s a girl called @lilmiquela who I’m obsessed with. She’s down and doing cool shit.
I love @VogueIndia, too. I see myself in the women that they post. When I grew up, I liked Cosmopolitan and Elle, and it was always a blonde, size-zero girl on the cover, and when I found Vogue India, I was like, “Wow! There’s actually girls in magazines who look like me.”
How much do you interact with your followers?
I get a lot of people who write to me privately through video messages. If it’s a girl asking where I got something or somebody asking about music, I always respond, unless it’s something creepy. It’s usually 99% positive, like “I love what you do!” I think it’s nice to engage because if somebody’s interested in what you’re doing and they’re supporting you, it’s the very least you can do, you know? And I’m not huge; I don’t have a million followers. It’s easy for me to engage with people.
What’s something most of your followers probably don’t know about you?
I actually have to take, like, maybe ten or twenty photos before I get a picture with my eyes open. I have a fake account, and it’s just pictures of me with my eyes closed. I don’t know what it is, but I just close my eyes. My fake account is basically a thousand photos of me that are closed-eye selfies.
Why do you think you do that?
I don’t know. It’s weird! It’s like a reflex. I don’t have a very good success rate. That’s how my fake Instagram account started. I was like, “I have all this amazing content of photos with my eyes closed.” And so I started posting them.
How did you get started as a DJ?
I went to school for music, and I studied jazz. I lived with a bunch of guys who were all really amazing musicians, and they all DJ’ed. We had a ton of vinyl, and they were like, “If you learned how to DJ, you’d probably get all the gigs because you’re a girl.” This was before the wave when everyone had a laptop. It’s easier now. So I started that way, and I got to travel, so I moved from place to place doing that. I fell into it really naturally.
So you were DJ-ing the old-school way?
I still do. I don’t use a computer. I just use the turntables.
What have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to a lot of unreleased Tommy Genesis. She’s a friend of mine, and she’s about to put out a record, and it’s so good. I’m her DJ, too, but I’m not biased. I think it’s going to be really huge.
You also make your own music. Are you planning to put out an album?
That has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I think I’ll put out an instrumental first. My next project’s going to be a beat tape. I sang on my EP, and I worked with an amazing producer, but I enjoy being behind the scenes more than in front of it. When I put out the EP, I didn’t want to perform it because I’m quite shy by nature.
You’re always seeking out unknown talent, both at your day job and because you’re a DJ. What kinds of people are you drawn to?
I think the most important thing is authenticity. There are so many people who are good at things, but what draws me to somebody is if they’re uniquely themselves. These days, we’re so good at faking it, and I feel like people are starting to look the same, sound the same, dress the same, act the same.
I’m drawn to people who are embracing their individuality, whether it’s in their sound or style or look. That’s what I look for, and that’s what the brands and publications that I work with look for. If your job is to be a tastemaker and expose people to new talent, you’ve got to show them something they don’t already know.
As a DJ, I want to play something that makes people walk away saying, “I’ve never heard that before, but that’s awesome.” Then I did my job right. If you want to go to a bar or a club and hear the same stuff you hear on the radio, then put a playlist on. What makes somebody be a good DJ is when you discover something new from them.
How much of your job as a DJ would you say is research? That’s such a huge part of it. Technology now has enabled people to DJ without any skill. That’s the sad reality. People can use a controller, they can use a computer and get the job done without having any skill. I don’t look down on that in any way. If you do something well, you do it well, and I don’t care how you get there, but that’s why I think selection is so important. It really is about what you play. If there are ten DJs and they all play the hits, then what separates you from the others? I think being a good DJ is about doing your research and having a sound, so people are like, “I love her. I’ll always go to a gig and find something new that I like.”
How do you usually find new music?
Soundcloud, YouTube…I listen to a lot of Internet music radio and podcasts. I’m listening to music most of my day. At the office, we have music playing, or I’ll use headphones.
Do you have a favorite Internet radio station?
There’s one out here called The Lot. I have a show on it sometimes, maybe once a month I’m there. I really love it because it has a video livestream and people can chat to you while you’re playing tracks.
If you made a playlist for your dog, what would you put on it?
I’m so glad you asked because my dog and I love to dance in the morning. I’ll pick her up and we’ll dance around to some disco. It’ll be Diana Ross or Earth, Wind & Fire or Michael Jackson, like, good times music. We dance around to tunes like that. My neighbors probably think I’m crazy.
What’s your next big goal?
I definitely want to put out more music. I have a couple of things that are under wraps right now, but that I’m really excited about.