Tim Wu, who goes by the stage name Elephante, is an exciting producer, artist and songwriter on the music scene and has been winning over fans since his debut in 2016. His music fuses melodic electronic dance music with influences from pop, blues, rock, and other genres.
The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Tim’s Asian-American upbringing in Michigan was unique and sometimes isolating. He graduated from Harvard University and entered corporate America at a top global consultant firm. Not cut out for corporate life, living with unhappiness, “the elephant in the room,” he left the office behind and pursued his true passion, music.
The gamble paid off, and Tim garnered hundreds of millions of streams across his two indie EPs: I Am The Elephante in 2016, a nine-track exploration of progressive house, synthpop and trap; and Glass Mansion in 2018, which shot to #1 on iTunes’ U.S. Dance chart. He has headlined two sold-out national tours, played nightlife residencies including those at Hard Rock and Wynn Las Vegas, and appeared at major music festivals such as Lollapalooza, EDC Las Vegas, and Electric Zoo.
This talented musician recently released his Sophomore album, Heavy Glow. Last month, Elephante tapped into his classical training roots and released the Heavy Glow (Deluxe Edition) which features acoustic, stripped-back fan-favorite tracks and a brand new remix of “Down This Road” by Hoang.
Elephante, currently wowing crowds on his 19-market headlining US Tour (find tour dates HERE), took time out of his day to talk to us about his music, his inspirations and more – and also answers the Socialite Seven.
How did you end up going from corporate to the music industry?
I think music was always in my blood. I was classically trained in piano and was writing songs and in bands and I always loved it. It was the thing that I did when I had nothing else to do. Through college, I was dragging my friends out to open mics and skipping parties to work on songs. It was just the thing that I loved.
And in retrospect, it was pretty obvious that it was the thing that really drove me and it was my passion. But I think growing up, particularly growing up as an Asian kid in Michigan, being a musician is not a real thing. There’s no role models and they’re my parents and it’s just sort of the culture – you go to college, you get a job and then that’s your life. Music’s not a real job. And so, when I graduated, I was very fortunate to get a pretty good job and I was like, “Okay, well, this is what you do.” And while I was there, I was just so unhappy and miserable that it kind of broke through that social conditioning of that’s just what life is – and I could see myself 10 years down the line and I didn’t like who that person was. And so, I decided I have to give this music thing a shot or else I’m never going to forgive myself. So it was more of like a, well, I’ve got to try this. It was like returning to what I should have been doing all along.
What do you draw from when you’re writing music?
It really varies. On my album, Heavy Glow, a lot of it is just from my experience through the pandemic and the sort of mental health challenges and depression and anxiety I was going through and the despair I felt and saw in the world.
It’s just kind of channeling and, a lot of times, my writing is just kind of like therapy – working through what I’m going through. I always kind of think I don’t really write songs, I kind of just channel whatever’s going on.
If you were to describe your music to someone, what would you say?
I would say that it’s melodic electronic music with soul. So, you know, John Mayer means EDM.
Is there one song that’s best representative of you?
Something on the new album, either “High Water” or “Dopamine”, I would say are pretty good. They’re sort of yin and yang. One is kind of the really introspective, kind of dark emotional side. And then “Dopamine” has a more fun, upbeat kind of party, party energy.
You’re currently on tour. What can your fans expect at your live shows?
They’re really high energy electronic shows where it’s kind of a hybrid DJ live set. I play guitar and I sing on top of doing the DJ thing. I think it’s like a cool synthesis of the two big musical inspirations in my life.
What are you hoping to achieve with your music?
Honestly, that’s always a tricky one for me, because I believe that once I make a song, it’s not really mine anymore. If someone hears a song and feels a certain way about it, that’s just as valid as whatever I intended when I wrote it. So to me it’s just about creating music that moves me and means something to myself, and then, once it’s out in the world, I hope it connects with people and brings them joy and whatever way that they find cool.
What’s been the coolest experience that you’ve had since you started performing?
It happens all the time. I’m constantly bewildered by seeing the impact that the music has on people. I spend all this time by myself, writing music and putting my heart and soul in it in a very isolated way. And I’m going out and hearing people sing at concerts, [it] never gets old. That’s such a special feeling to me.
You know, just even this last weekend, after we had packed up all the gear out for the show, there was a kid who had waited two hours outside of the venue in this freezing cold, just to say hi and tell me how much he enjoyed the show. It’s just so special and I’m so grateful to be able to do what I’m doing. And it just reminds me of how sacred that kind of experience with bands is.
What does the future hold for you moving forward?
I’m just excited about exploring this live show creatively and finishing out this tour. I’m always working on new music and one thing on this tour that I started to try out and I’m really excited about is experimenting with NFTs, not as a currency or selling art, but as a way of rewarding fans for going to the show. So, at the end of the show, I put up a QR code and if you scan it, I’ll send you a free NFT. It’s a ticket stub that looks really cool and it’s specific to the show, but the only way you can get it is by being at the show at the app, scanning this QR code. I think it’s a cool way to commemorate being at the event and down the line, there’s a lot of cool stuff we can do with it, like giveaways and private links to new music and do merch giveaways, but only for people who have these things. So that’s kind of exciting, experimenting with new tech just to improve the fan experience and give back to the people who have a supported me. I’m always thinking about how to create a special experience for fans, because to me the live performance is such a special thing and it just never gets old to me.
Elephante Answers the Socialite Seven
Who has had the biggest influence on your music and why?
Oh, that’s easy. That is John Mayer. He is the artist that made me want to write music. His music kind of just opened the door to so many other artists and his writing just moved me in a way that nothing had ever done before. And my entire career pretty much stems from me trying to write music the way that makes other people feel the way he has been made me feel.
I might know the answer to this one: who, if anyone, would you like to collaborate with?
Well, yeah, I mean, there’s an obvious answer there, but, aside from him, maybe Florence from Florence + the Machine?
What type of music or an artist that you listen to would fans be surprised that you’re a fan of?
It feels like there’s a common theme in these questions. There’s a common answer. I mean, John Mayer, obviously, but I listen to a lot of alt rock like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Killers. I don’t actually listen to a ton of people that sound like me. I’m much more interested in kind of the different worlds. I listen to a lot of classical music and jazz, and I’m a big Miles Davis fan.
If they made a movie of your life, who would you want to play you on the big screen?
What superpower or talent would you like to wake up with tomorrow?
Being able to fly for sure, because waiting at the airport is like a huge chunk of my life. It’s the worst. So, if I could just jet directly there, that would greatly improve everything.
What are three things that you can’t live with?
LaCroix, my new puppy, and my guitar.