It’s 4 p.m. on a Saturday and Frank Walker is all smiles. He should be tired. He’s been in Miami for four days, and he’s hardly had a moment to take in the sun. He’s been running around the city doing radio interviews and hopping in cabs, rushing here and there, trying to make new friends with some of the hundreds of big-name producers in town for Miami Music Week, but he’s also had to prepare for his big set.
Miami Music Week is supposed to be the party of your life, but if you ask him what his favorite part has been so far, it was eating some cookies at his hotel room mini bar – until of course, he took the Main Stage at Ultra Music Festival.
“It was amazing, obviously,” he says, “seeing the reaction from people, most of (whom) haven’t heard the songs before, because they came out 24 hours ago. They weren’t like ‘uh, what is this?’ They were actually interested. I’m happy. It was just incredible.”
Walker needed to get past that last push before he could finally exhale. This past Miami Music Week was a huge step for the young artist. He recently signed over to new management, the same Golden Hare Group team that helped build Kygo into an international success, and he’s spent the last six months reinventing his brand and experimenting with new sounds. The hard work culminated in a four-track EP called 24, which dropped days before his big UMF debut.
“Before, I was too concerned with sticking in a mold and having a certain sound,” Walker says. “Obviously there is a sound (on the EP), and there are sounds I like, but I didn’t wanna be like ‘oh, everything needs to have the exact same drop.’ The focus was just making the best song possible.”
As a producer, Walker works vocal first. His background in the rock scene set that tone in his creative mind. It’s a muscle he flexes on EP opener “Angel Falls,” where singer Sterling Fox’s raspy voice drew the blueprints for a choppier, more percussive-driven sound. “Less Lonely” dives into a future bass hook, and “Love Me Close” tempers back around Sad Science’s light and airy delivery.
“Obviously I would have destroyed that vocal if I put it with something heavy,” Walker says. “I really love working with vocalists. I love getting in there with writers, working with amazing vocalists, and really making stuff that’s a song. It’s not going to be dated in two months. I want to make something you can listen to in a year, ten years, 20 years, and people still love.”
Walker says the real test of his music is whether or not his grandma can dig.
“If my grandmother heard most electronic music, she’d be like, ‘what is this?’” he laughs, “but mine are actually songs, so she’s like ‘oh, this is new, but, (I can enjoy it). The grandma test is what it has to pass.”
Ultra fans are not grandmas, and even if they are, they’re well-versed in the world of electronic sound. Playing to a cold crowd days after releasing your new sound is a head rush, but it’s one Walker took like a champ and left a winner. Even before his Main Stage appearance, the city of Miami was covered in “Hello, My Name Is Frank Walker” stickers.
With his set behind him, it’s easy to joke around with his friends and relax. He’s been afforded a rare moment to himself, but in a few short days, he’ll be back on a plane to his native Toronto where it will be back to the studio grind, back to hustling the next new sound, finding the next up-and-coming vocalist to collaborate with, back to cooking up melodies for grandma to critique. It’s hard work starting from the beginning, but when your base level is playing one of the biggest dance festivals in the world, it’s hard not to be giddy about the future.
“It’s a mixture of excitement and sleepiness,” he says. “I’m trying to balance getting new stuff done and let myself have a bit of free time to actually enjoy it. I feel it’s important not to get too caught up in it. before the set today, I took a step back for a second like, I need to make sure I actually enjoy this.”