Paris Hilton on Her Music Career: 'I'm More Talent Than Name'

Paris Hilton, 2016

Hilton DJ’d on France’s Réunion Island in 2016. 

As her run in Ibiza hits the five-year mark, the original socialite-turned-DJ Paris Hilton shares the secrets that have helped her thrive on the ones and twos around the world. 

Paris Hilton says she "loves changing people’s minds" when it comes to her music. The 36-year-old business mogul and former Simple Life star celebrated the five-year anniversary of her Foam & Diamonds party at Ibiza’s Amnesia in July, extending her run as the island’s sole American female DJ with a residency.

Meanwhile, Hilton is staying active in the pop world: This month, she announced a new single titled "Summer Reign," announced work on a long-overdue remix of her 2006 hit "Stars Are Blind" and showed up in pal Demi Lovato’s music video for "Sorry Not Sorry." Eight years after first dabbling in the DJ booth, Hilton reflects on her continual DJ career, her standing with Cash Money Records and what to expect from "Summer Reign."

Courtesy of Universal Music Group
Hilton, Lovato and Wiz Khalifa in the “Sorry Not Sorry” video.

You made your DJ debut in June 2012. When you first started out, did you envision that you’d still be DJing at this point in your career?

I started DJing like seven years ago. My first show was in Brazil. Like 30,000 people, closing for Jennifer Lopez, it was so much fun. I loved it so much that after that I really just got more into it and really just learned the technique and now I’m on the new Denon [turntables], which just came out and are amazing to play on. I’ve just been having the time of my life. I didn’t realize what a huge success I would be. 

Since that first show, how do you think you’ve grown as a DJ? 

So much. The first time I ever played, I was so nervous, shy, but now I’ve been doing it for so long that I feel so comfortable on stage. I just love feeling the vibe and the energy and the people and I’ve been studying with some of the best people in the world. I really just learn the craft so much more. I just feel like every day I grow more and more. 

How have the shows been so far out there? 

Amazing. Totally sold out, like the room is so packed with people, all fully booked, dancing round and round the clock. Every year it’s just been such a step forward.

What does it mean to you that you’re basically the only American female DJ who’s had a residency in Ibiza for this long?

It’s a huge honor, it means so much to me [to be] the only female DJ from America who has a residency at the best club here, one of the best spots in the world. I’m proud to say I’ve gotten so many compliments and so much credibility from it and I feel like I’ve worked so hard. I’m proud I do so many things with my work and my job, but this is the one I’m most proud about.

When it comes to a setup, what do you think is important for people to have in their arsenal to ensure they are going to have a successful set?

I always like whatever is the most up-to-date technology and most innovative. Before things come out, I get them. When I first started DJing, I did it on a Pioneer and then I moved over to the Traktor S4 and Traktor Kontrol S8. Denon just came out I’ve been playing on those and I love it, they are just like putting Pioneer CDJs mixed with Traktors in one. It’s an incredible setup. I think it’s really important to know what you’re doing, it’s very technical, because a lot of people don’t know that a lot actually goes into DJing. And, making a set, you just have to know the crowd and kind of do your research and figure out what are the top songs in the country and what kind of age group you are playing in front of. I put together at least six hours of my favorite songs. I’ve never played the same set twice. I just watch and feel the crowd and just pick out songs just by looking at people and feeling them.

Do you premeditate everything? Because it sounds like you do things on the fly.

Yeah, I do everything on the fly. Amnesia, I know the crowd, I know the people, I know how they’re gonna be, so it’s basically me picking out all of my favorite songs, whatever the hottest, most popular track that’s happening right now and then I will either make my own remix, find a bootleg or just different remixes that no one’s ever heard before, or get them from my friends who are DJs. I actually really like to play a variety of music, I’m not gonna stick to only one genre.

Do you slip your own songs into your sets ever? 

Yeah, of course. I will usually start with whatever single I have out at that point. I perform that first on the set and then maybe “Turn It Up” and then at the end I always end with a “Stars Are Blind.”

A lot of people have that one go-to song where if the crowd really isn’t feeling it, you know that you can depend on that one song to really lift it. Do you have one of those songs?

There are so many. One of my favorites that makes people go crazy is “Bounce Generation” by TJR. And “Rattle” by Bingo Players. “Opus” by Eric Prydz. Anything by Calvin Harris, like “Feel So Close” and “Summer.” But yeah I love music, so I always try to play new songs.

You must be aware that there’s always detractors, people who doubt you or don’t take you as seriously as a musician. Do you find that people are still doing that with you? 

Yeah, of course. In the beginning, I think when everyone heard that Paris Hilton was gonna be a DJ, people were like, what? And I understand—unless you knew me, because I’ve always loved music. Of course I don’t blame them. I would have thought the same thing, but over the years I’ve really driven myself, having my years as a DJ at Amnesia, touring on the world, and that’s a huge, huge success that, you know, numbers don’t lie. I think I’ve really driven myself in that area. I’ve had some of the biggest DJs in the world come to the booth and they watch me just being like, “Holy shit, you’re actually playing live.” I’m like, yeah... “So you actually know what you’re doing, you’re actually better than most guys I’ve seen play.” I love blowing people away, just changing people’s minds and showing them that I’m more talent than name.

What are your DJ goals in the future?

I love doing it and I’d love to keep playing and I would love to put together my own music festival one day, something that’s really special and fun and something that involves charity.

“Summer Reign” is the new single. What can you tell me about that? 

“Summer Reign” I did with Chris Daniel and DJ Suri. They are amazing, they remixed half of my last single [“High Off My Love”] and that’s how I met them and they sent me this track and I loved it so I started writing up my own with my writing partner. I really wanted to write a song about summer and how I feel like it’s just my summer, and having fun and being in love and the song when you put it on.

There was talk of you doing a sophomore album with Afrojack, who was going to handle the majority of the production. What resulted from that?

I’ve worked with so many people. The sound is so different now. Back then, when we were doing the album together, that sound was amazing but now the sound has changed so much that I wasn’t really feeling the songs anymore. Music moves so fast nowadays that if you do a song a year ago, it’s going to be not the same as something that you do right now. Those songs are just unusable because we recorded them so many years ago. I want a newer, more fresh, like futuristic sound.

Are you recording another album?

I’m mostly focused on just singles, I think that’s just how it is nowadays with the music industry. It’s not really about albums. So yeah I’ve been working on my second album forever, but I’m also running a huge business and doing a million other things.

Whatever happened to the original version of “Screwed”?

When I was with Warner Bros., they had me working with Rob Cavallo and we had like this entire rock album. So the first version I did with him, and it was more pop-rock. There was a cover of “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. I wrote a bunch of other rock-pop songs. Maybe I’ll put them up, but again that sound, it’s not the future.

What was the reason that you pivoted from that first version to what eventually became your debut?

We were doing so many songs and then we went over to Dr. Dre’s studio and they started playing me just all these amazing tracks and beats and I just felt like I need to switch my entire direction from pop-rock to kind of pop/hip-hop, less of pop, and just change the whole vibe of the whole album. I recorded a few different songs pop-rock-based and then after meeting with Scott [Storch] and going to Miami, we started doing the whole album together and just basically redid the whole album. 

Are you still currently signed to Cash Money? 

Um... yeah.

They’ve had some issues recently with their artists. What’s your relationship like with them? 

Birdman has always been great with me and I’ve got no problems. Um, yeah, I’ll leave it at that.

Is “Summer Reign” coming out through Cash Money? 

I don’t know. I’m gonna have to figure that out. But right now for “Summer Reign,” it’s not even an official release yet but I am kind of by myself.

You know Lindsay Lohan tweeted asking you to come to Mykonos for her birthday. Did you see that? 

I didn’t see it, but I was at the airport like so many paparazzi and they are talking about it and asking me if I was going. I just have the residency in Ibiza, so it’s okay. I like, doubt that Britney or Beyonce are either. I think that was a little bit random but you know, trying to promote the club over there or whatever.

It must feel full circle for you to have the respect that you do now when you know you’re so removed from when you put out your first album.

It’s like I’ve always believed in myself and I’ve always been ahead of my time in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of people who weren’t doing anything I’m doing now. A lot of people are doing the same thing, but I just... Back then people didn’t get it and now it’s like, I don’t know. It feels good being an inspiration to people and you know just in the beginning when people still had not understood it and now they are getting it, I feel just very proud.

A version of this article originally appeared in the August 5 issue of Billboard.