• Music Curation for Businesses: How I Build New Playlists

    Playlist curation has been a growing focus for me. It seems more and more businesses are realizing the importance of carefully planned-out music when it comes to building the vibe of a space. When was the last time you walked into a business and it was dead silent? How weird was that? Even the dentist’s office has music (at least mine does).

    As a result, I’ve been really active on my DJ J-Wall Spotify account, making playlists for restaurant and corporate clients (and some for my own personal use too). Be sure to give my account a follow. I always leave some good stuff up there for public consumption.

    There are various ways I find inspiration for playlists. Some I group them by genre or era. Others are a collection of songs that I think would go together nicely in an open-format DJ set for the particular venue I’m working with. For those, I aim to have a solid balance between BPM ranges, genres/eras, and overall a sound that would be somewhat consistent whether the playlist is played in order or on shuffle.

    Most of my playlists are between eight and 15+ hours unless it’s for a very specific night or purpose. Even if the playlist is used for a five-hour dinner service, I like to have a buffer of a few hours at least. It helps to keep the playlist feeling fresher in shuffle mode for a longer amount of time. I’ve also found the algorithms on most playback services (i.e. Rockbot) will start repeating songs before playing through an entire list, so it’s a good practice to give the system more options to pull from.

    Lately I’ve been starting with a mood and then will go about building a playlist around that feeling. For example “Cozy Sounds” or “Smooth Evening Come Up” are two of my recent playlist projects. My favorite thing about DJing (and music in general) is that songs can make you feel a certain way. And “feelings” can transcend genres or eras. Downtempo/Lounge, Smooth Indie Rock and Folk, French Touch, and RnB all found a place on the “Cozy Sounds” playlist.

    There’s been an incredible unintended effect from from being so immersed in playlist curation lately – my DJ sets have gotten way more interesting. I’ve found hundreds of new records that I never would’ve discovered on traditional DJ Pool sites or other outlets I’ve used in the past. I even have a Spotify folder called “New DJ Ideas” where these tracks live before I figure out where to download them for DJ use (I still need the actual files for DJing). And even better, a lot of the tracks come from small independent producers and remixers, so I’ll go to Bandcamp to buy the tracks directly. That way the artist takes a higher cut than the usual download and streaming sites.

    Check out two of my latest playlist creations below. Both are in heavy rotation at High Street Place and at home too.

    And if you’re looking to commission unique playlists for business or personal use, please get in touch!

  • New Role: High Street Place Music Director

    This one has been a long-time coming. I’m beyond excited to serve as the music director for the new High Street Place Food Hall in downtown Boston. I first started to work with the team in mid-2019 to prep for the original opening date planned for March 2020. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

    Almost two years later to the date, we finally opened on March 2, 2022 … and it was glorious. The architecture of the space alone is stunning, and the collection of restaurant and beverage partners is a true representation of local talent in the hospitality industry. It’s a family vibe amongst the staff and management, and I have no doubt that translates to the guest experience.

    High Street Place is in incredible canvas to work with as I build out its musical identity. There’s A LOT of energy and constant movement in the space, and that’s always changing throughout the arc of the day. Whether I’m programming a playlist, DJing, or bringing in other DJs or live acts, I’m always thinking of how well it pairs with the overall atmosphere of the space.

    Generally we have DJs 6 to 10 PM Thursday through Saturday and live music on Saturday afternoons.

    Also be sure to follow my DJ J-WALL Spotify account to have access to dozens of the playlists I’ve made for various parts of the day/week at High Street. They range from Lo-Fi and Chill to nuDisco and House. Here’s one of my favorite playlists so far: it’s a new soulful vibe that works nicely in the late morning and mid afternoon just before the lunch and dinner rushes.

  • New DJ Video: An ’80s quick mix

    I made this DJ video for Instagram for gig promo, but I also wanted to post it here! This run of songs always goes over well, especially at weddings. Also those are prints by Mike Spencer in the background.

    You’ll notice I’m not using turntables either. Although I still prefer to play on turntables with Serato control vinyl, I’ve been using a controller more and more for mobile gigs because I’ve finally found one I like. This model, the Pioneer DDJ1000SRT has been amazing. It took the lockdown months during the worst of COVID to finally get comfortable with the workflow on this thing. It also has made me significantly better on CDJs too, as the feel is similar. My back also appreciates that it’s only 13 lbs. and can be transported in a backpack!

    Stay tuned for more videos and mixes.

  • New Mix: Uptempo Indie Gems

    Some mixes come together very easily. Others take a lot of effort. This one was a labor of love. It all came together organically, which usually for me means it takes time … a lot of time.  

    The songs and vibe on this mix are really close to my heart, and when that’s the case I try to make it perfect, often to a fault. For evidence, I have hours of mixes dying in my work-in-progress folder that’ll never see the light of day. In literal terms, the actual mix took more than ten takes and five months to complete, but it’s been on my mind a lot longer than that. 

    So where did this one start? I have no idea to be honest, but it all fits together in some way. That’s literally the story of my DJ career, too.

    Maybe it was a few months back on a painfully mundane Covid-era Saturday-night when I watched the Netflix Song Exploder episode about “When You Were Young,” the in-your-face anthem from The Killers’ sophomore album Sam’s Town? I loved how the band acknowledged the Springsteen-esque breakdown in the middle of the song. I never considered a bridge between the Boss and Brandon Flowers before. What a beautiful connection to make, and discovering those levels of synchronicity are why I love to DJ. I want to open those pathways and share them. 

    Maybe it was 15 years ago when I first heard Arcade Fire? I was crashing on my buddy’s couch in college. He had the original Coachella DVD where the Canadian indie-rock icons played an impassioned take of “Rebellion (Lies).” I loved how exposed and polished the band seemed at the same time. There’s a fine line between the two, and somehow they navigate it with equal parts brute force and finesse. 

    Maybe it was the first time I tuned the radio dial to 88.9 WERS? I was heavy on this station from 2009-2012 (and still am to some extent today). It was the first place I heard a lot of fun bands I still love: Foster the People, The Temper Trap, M83, Tegan and Sara, Miike Snow, Phoenix and the ilk. Guess what? They all find a home on this mix. 

    Maybe it was the time I heard my good friend and DJ colleague Ryan Brown play “Hello” by Martin Sloveig and Dragonette at Loco on a Southie Sunday? I’d like to act like I didn’t Shazam that song at the moment (I should’ve already known it). That song hits on another level when the vibe is right. I immediately added that one to the crates. Thanks RB for that gem. 

    Maybe it was the time I learned about DJ AM and the Banana Split party? I’m bummed I missed out on the era when DJs could play Justice and Duck Sauce at peak hour. These days, if I can get away with playing three records in this vein in a four-hour night of sleepy hip hop I’m a happy DJ. 

    This mix is called “Moving Out.” I recently moved out of my home of nearly a decade, which in my adult life was the longest I’ve lived in one spot. When I first moved in, I wasn’t a DJ. I didn’t own a set of turntables. It’s amazing how things just seem to happen when you’re driven by the music.

    I always tell people I became a DJ by accident. The more I think about it, that’s not right. I’ve always been listening and sharing my love for music with the people who mean a lot to me … and now that it’s become my career, I share it with complete strangers, too. It’s a beautiful thing. 

    When I look at it that way, it’s no accident that I became a DJ. 

    Full Tracklist:

    “Rebellion (Lies)” – The Arcade Fire
    “When You Were Young” – The Killers
    “Shooting Stars” – Bag Raiders
    “Praise You” – Purple Disco Machine (J-Wall Rework)
    “Crave You” – Flight Facilities
    “Animal” (Treasure Fingers RMX) – Miike Snow
    “Sweet Disposition” (Morgan Page RMX) – The Temper Trap
    “Don’t Stop” (Oliver Remix) – Foster The People
    “Midnight City” (Alcala RMX) – M83
    “Half Mast” (Slight Return) – Empire Of The Sun
    “Tony The Beat” (Tommie Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire Remix) – The Sounds
    “Body Funk” – (Dom Dolla RMX / YXES Hype Bootleg) – Purple Disco Machine
    “The Party” (LA Riots Remix) Justice feat. Uffie
    “We Are Your Friends” (Scottie B, King Tutt, and Samir Remix) – Justice vs. Simian
    “Closer” (The Knocks RMX) – Tegan & Sara
    “1901” (Mike Balance Re-Rub) – Phoenix
    “Hello” – Martin Solveig ft Dragonette
    “Smiley Face” – Duck Sauce”Ain’t Nuthin But a Party” (Nick Bike Quick Hitter) – Swivel Hips
    “You Don’t Know Me” (J. Casablanca Remix) – Armand Van Helden ft Duane Harden
    “Help I’m Alive” (The Twelves RMX) – Metric
    “Expressing What Matters” – Disclosure
    “When Doves Cry x Body Funk” (Dom de Sousa Bootleg) – Prince vs Purple Disco Machine
    “Tonite” – LCD Soundsystem
    “The Hand That Feeds” (DFA Remix) – Nine Inch Nails
    “Digital Love” (Boris Dlugosh Remix) – Daft Punk
    “Work It Out” – A-Trak
    “Home” – LCD Soundsystem
    “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” (Break) – Crosby Stills Nash & Young vs. Four Color Zack
    Uptight Maggie (Bootleg) Stevie Wonder vs Rod Stewart
    “Easy (Like Sunday Mornings)” – The Commodores

  • Working DJ Blog: Where do I get my music?

    People often ask me how many songs I have in my library. Honestly I couldn’t tell you an exact number, but I’m guessing it’s somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 individual tracks. I know it adds up to roughly 150 GB of hard drive space on my Mac. Compared to other working DJs this number is probably low. When I first started out, I gigged with roughly 77,000 songs on an external hard drive, which actually proved to be more troublesome than I originally thought it’d be. Too many options sometimes can be a limiting factor to creativity.  It’s not about having a ton of records, it’s about having the right ones and knowing the right time to play them. You also need to know where to find them in the dredges of Serato (more on that another time).

    My music library is a living, breathing thing. I’m constantly grabbing new tracks, edits, and remixes, but I’m also purging things that don’t hold up anymore, or never really saw that light of day to begin with. There’s no need to be a music hoarder, especially in the digital age when pretty much anything can be found somewhere online. I like to keep my performance laptop as lean as possible.

    80% of the music I currently spin comes from DJ pools. For the unwashed, those are online subscription services geared toward working DJs.  These sites charge a monthly fee and you get access to unlimited downloads from their collection. My current workhorse is Direct Music Service. I couldn’t imagine being an open-format DJ in 2018 without it. It has everything you’d need for a wide variety of gigs: clubs, weddings, corporate parties, etc and is always evolving with the times. The DJs curating the selection of 50,000+ records are all highly-respected and know what works.  You can find an 8 bar intro edit of pretty much any song that’s charted for the past few decades. When I need a particular track, I go to Direct Music Service First, and more often than not they will have it.

    The Beat Junkies Music Pool has been incredibly useful too, especially for the more lounge-y gigs in my rotation. Their selection of funk, soul, boogie, and golden-era hip hop is incredible. I feel like this is the go-to pool to grab tracks that’ll impress other DJs (and educate the crowd … only when the time is right).  I also like that not every record has an intro edit. Sometimes tracks are made to “slam in” on the one as is, especially those harder hip-hop joints.

    I’ve dabbled with other pools over the years. I was big on DJ City for a while, which is one of the most popular options amongst club DJs. I got great use out of it for a few months, but eventually found the edits/selection to be a little too aggressive for the types of gigs I usually do. If I had a need for more 128 BPM Big Room tracks, I’d get back on there for sure.

    When I want to get a  little more out there I check Soundcloud, usually with the help of a chart site like Hype Edit. This takes a lot more time and sorting, but it’s always worth it. Some of my best gems come from here (like this one below), and I’ve learned about some incredible remix artists this way too.

    Next place I’ll check is Beatport. I feel like they are way better for house DJs, but I’ve scored some dope stuff on there, especially in the nu-disco/indie dance genres.

    The absolute last place I’ll check is iTunes. I’ve never been too pleased with the file quality/bit rate. Most sites I use are at least 320 kbps. iTunes is 256. Granted you won’t hear it on the average sound system (you may feel it and not even realize it), but on bigger systems it makes a HUGE difference. I’ve even had to throw out MP3s after playing on good systems.

    And no I don’t use any streaming services to DJ. I think there’s a common misconception that because we DJ on a laptop, we have access to any song ever recorded. Not true … everything you’re hearing is on my hard drive. The only exception would be if the person paying me demands a song not in my library and there’s no WIFI to download it. The only way to solved that problem would be the Aux Cord/iPhone combo. Thankfully I can count on one hand that amount of times I’ve needed to resort that that in the past five years (and one of those times someone called me in the middle of a track).

    Working DJs (and non DJs too), let me know what you think! Feel free to send me a message via my contact page, or DM me on my Instagram page


  • The #theworkingDJ blog: Volume 1.0

    It’s been almost a year and a half since I left my bar-managing job and went after the DJ thing full time.  I am happy to report that I am still here, working at something I love everyday, and business is growing. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with awesome bar owners, corporate clients, brides and grooms, and general music lovers in Boston who keep me consistently busy. It helps to have a website, but word of mouth is still king. Chances are you or someone you know needs a DJ for an event … so don’t forget about your boy DJ J-Wall! 

    I am also thankful that the DJ community in Boston is rich with generous and talented professionals willing to discuss trade secrets, share music/equipment, and even trade gigs.  In this field, your coworkers are technically your competitors. I gravitate to the ones who see it as a collective effort. Together we can all raise the bar.

    This has been a landmark year for me as a DJ. I’ve spun parties in new venues I could never imagine playing (Royale, Paradise Rock Club, City Hall Plaza) and have shared nights with DJs I idolize. I also feel like my musical IQ is rising and I’m more confident about bringing new genres into the mix. I’ll admit that I used to hate on some of the stuff I spin now, but once I got to see  how these tracks work for a dance floor I was hooked. I’d like to think I can find redeeming qualities in even some of the most basic of genres. At the core, to me,  it always needs to be funky and interesting to make the cut, and if the original sucks, you never know: there might just be a dope remix out there.

    All of this makes me want to double down in 2018. I am always striving to get better, both as a DJ and as a business owner. And one of my biggest goals is to start a more in-depth dialogue with you. There are so many things that go into being a working DJ. Surprisingly, a lot of those are tedious tasks that aren’t glamorous at all, but the payoff is what makes it worth it. My job is to interact with a crowd, but rarely do I get to talk about what goes into it. A lot of DJs will say the DJ booth is one of the loneliest places in the room (please don’t take that as an invite to come up and request “Despacito” or whatever pop song it is you’ve heard 15 times already that day). The silence after gigs is when a lot of thinking happens, good and bad. I am looking forward to using this blog to cultivate some of those thoughts.

    In a given week, I may DJ in front of a crowd for only 15 to 20 hours total, but so much more happens outside that window to make those hours as effective I can. Time spent practicing goes just as far as following the charts, digging for cool edits, marking cue points and loops, checking out new venues and nights, and building new business. The thought that people are giving me the power to curate the vibe of their businesses or special events is something I take seriously. 

    Music is always around me, so there’s really no turning off my working brain. My favorite DJs all tell a story when they perform. And my favorite records to play are the ones with which I associate a vivid memory. There are so many to pull from, too. Hearing that Fleetwood Mac live record on the way home from the Cape in the back of my parents’ car, for instance, all salty from hours in ocean, or that Janet cassette I “borrowed” from my sister when she was at dance class (the same one I’d never admit to liking when my hockey friends were around), or Get Rich or Die Trying on repeat through the rattle of Pontiac factory speakers on the my first day driving solo with my license. When I play records for people, my only hope is it sparks similar memories for them. – JW

    Stay tuned for more from The Working DJ! 

  • J-Wall Drops a Latin Mix to Honor sweetgreen’s Toro Bowl

    The folks at sweetgreen are partnering with Boston-based restaurateur Ken Oringer on the “Toro Bowl.” Knowing Oringer’s impressively delicious track record (heavy-hitters like Toro, Coppa, & Little Donkey), it’s safe to say this will be a winner.

    I was beyond excited to spin the launch event in early April at sweetgreen’s Ink Block location, so I put together a mix for all y’all to enjoy. It seems like a Spanish/Latin vibe would be appropriate for the occasion. Here are some of the tracks I’ve been messing around with in that world (check out the full track-list below). The Whiskey Barons really come in handy in times like these!


    Mi Swing Es Tropical (feat. Tempo & The Candela Allstars) – Nickodemus & Quantic

    Mambo el B-Boy – Red Astaire

    I Want You Back (Daytoner Edit) – Harold Mabern

    Aqui No Sera – Ozomatli

    Baila a Tu Manera (Whiskey Barons Remix) – Nickodemus, Whiskey Barons, Sammy Ayala

    Riding High (Original Mix) – Bosq

    Soul Makossa – Manu Dibango

    Tinto Tintero – Up, Bustle & Out

    Calypso Blues (The Gaff Remix EDIT) – Nat King Cole

    Get a Move On – Mr. Scruff

    Spanish Grease (Dorfmeister Con Madrid De Los Austrias Muga Reserve Mix) – Willie Bobo

    The Music (Youri Donatz and Bright Coffee Non Vocal Mix) – Baggi Begovic & Groovenatics

    Latin Note – St Germain

    Fuego (Whiskey Barons Baile Mix) – Joe Bataan

    Oye Como Va – Tito Puente