Nowadays, we constantly hear people telling us to chase our dreams, pursue our passions, and sacrifice everything to do what we truly love. This advice is easier said than done. Chasing one’s dream is filled with risk, uncertainty, and insecurity. The reward, however, is often worth the risk. Just ask the Chicago-born British DJ and producer, Rowan Harrington, or as he is better known, Secondcity.
Secondcity epitomises someone who abandoned his conventional lifestyle in an effort to explore his true aspiration of making music and DJing. Living in London with a secure, well-paying job, Secondcity one day decided that enough was enough.
“I was working in London in advertising,” said Harrington, “and I was getting so fed up and was feeling like ‘Shit I’m getting older’ and I was just like I’m just going to do it. I literally quit my job that week. It was actually a cool job and I really liked it, but it just wasn’t what I really wanted to do.”
“Literally into a week of it being a free download, it was being played on Radio 1”
Although Secondcity’s career is young, over the course of a mere 24 months, he has firmly left his mark on the dance music scene. While Secondcity is primarily known for his massive tune, ‘I Wanna Feel’ — now with over 18 million views on YouTube after hitting number one in the UK chart — there’s much more to the young producer and DJ. Chase The Compass had the privilege of sitting down with the pan-Atlantic man to discuss his busy career, underground house and his biggest influence.
After making the leap from advertising to DJing, Secondcity and his good friend, Rowan Jones, known by his stage name Route 94, stowed away for months making music. Their collaboration would soon come to fruition, as they released their groovy edit of ‘Freak Like Me’ and their disco inspired tune, ‘Think About That’. One year later, in May of 2014, Secondcity reached a milestone that most can only dream of. In addition to topping the UK singles chart, ‘I Wanna Feel’ ascended to the peak of the UK Dance and UK Indie charts.
“I made ‘I Wanna Feel’ as a giveaway free track,” said Harrington. “That was all it was… I had no intention to write more records like it… Every one of my friends hated it. They were like ‘it’s just boring.’ I didn’t think anything of it.”
“Literally into a week of it being a free download, it was being played on Radio 1 and it was just nuts! And at the same time, [Route 94] had done ‘My Love’ and we were both joking a bit like ‘Imagine if these were number one’ and we were like ‘Oh shit!’”
“The sets aren’t the top 10 Beatport Techno charts. It’s music [the DJs are] making just for their parties and it’s so unique. It’s got a real groove to it.”
Secondcity admits, however, that ‘I Wanna Feel’ is nothing like the deeper, more underground, “tribally,” tunes that he blesses crowds with in his sets.
“I’ve always loved the fact that people connect with it,” said Secondcity, “but if you listen to mine or Route 94’s sets it’s nothing near ‘My Love’. We just wrote those records because at that time UK radio wasn’t playing that type of music. Now it’s everywhere.”
In his first year, Secondcity released a four-track EP, ‘The Story’, on Huxley’s Saints And Sonnets label, which climbed to the Beatport Top 10 Deep House Chart. In addition, Rowan launched ‘I Enter’, a wonderfully deep track with a heavy bass, on Claude von Strokes DirtyBird BBQ Compilation. He’s also released songs on Defected’s DFTD imprint and Nic Fancuilli has backed his four-track EP, ‘Technique’, and his newer ‘Feel It’ EP on Saved Records.
This versatility, however, is truly what makes Secondcity so unique. His sets take you on a journey and he dabbles with and intertwines between genres flawlessly. Even Rowan himself has trouble classifying his complex sound.
“I don’t know. It’s not deep house and it’s not techno. It’s more tribal. It’s just like house with a groove. It’s really hard to describe it.”
Secondcity, too, raised a very interesting topic. He advocated for the importance of underground house music in light of how commercialised dance music has become. He explained how refreshing it is to hear good underground music that DJs are genuinely passionate about.
“The thing that I like about [these underground sets] is, it’s music that you wouldn’t know – it’s not like the top 10 Beatport Techno charts. It’s music [the DJs are] making just for their parties and it’s so unique and it’s got a real groove to it.”
“Only the DJs know [the songs] and that’s special. If you can build a set of music that is basically your own music or your crew’s music that’s really cool. The thing is that they play a lot of really amazing old records 90% of the people in the club have no idea what they are.”
House music across the world has become increasingly commercialised, for at least the second time in its history. DJs are making generic sounds in an effort to monetise their songs and reach the Top 40 charts. According to Secondcity, the music with a real groove in its most original form can be found in the venues that pride themselves on providing their patrons with a variety of good music, at a reasonable price, time and time again.
“Only the DJs know [the songs] and that’s special. If you can build a set of music that is basically your own music or your crew’s music that’s really cool.”
When asked to give advice to young, up-and-coming DJs and producers in a competitive environment, Rowan took a moment to find the right words.
“Don’t write music for the sake of writing it to be rich. Yes there’s a side of it that’s commercial and you can go and make millions but if you want to go and make music that you really love, it’s a lot harder and it’s a much slower process.”
“But,” he continued, “in the long run, it pays off massively.”