Like the amur leopard or white antelope, the gorgeous professional female DJ is a rare creature, one who, at top level, embodies an elevated degree of coolness to which many aspire and few achieve. Enter DJ Eva Shaw, a Dutch-Canadian-born former model who’s invigorating the electronic dance music scene and beyond. Her latest single, “High" (featuring Shaggy and Demarco), continues the buzz she generated with 2016's "Rise N Shine" with Poo Bear. Look out for her latest collection with G-Star RAW, part of their ongoing collaboration: a line of sporty-sexy sunglasses that beg to be showcased on the daytime dancefloors of Ibiza… or your friend’s next pool party. Here, the multitasker talks about how she established herself as a club scene mainstay and what we can expect next.
How did you initially get into modeling and make the transition into DJing?
I was scouted to model when I was 13 in Toronto by the director of Elite Model Management. I did it a little bit on and off while I was in school. I traveled quite a bit a few years later, working between Europe and Toronto. I was always a musical kid. I probably got it from my dad who was a jazz musician. I grew up watching my mom work out to Aretha Franklin, The Neville Brothers and Stevie Wonder. I used to write my own songs and play around on my keyboard, even at six years old. When I was around 17, I heard about Deadmau5, David Guetta and a few DJs who really caught my attention. I’d listened to some dance music as a kid—my brother had some CDs by Black Box and C+C Music Factory—and I always really liked the stuff from the ʼ90s. I listened to a wide range of music from hip-hop to classical to rock. I had a friend who DJed part time, and he had these CDJs [digital players], so I practiced mixing on them. I used to play for my friends, and we would jump around like maniacs while I performed.
Around the same time, I started to use the program Ableton, cutting up audio samples and making really simple songs of my own. I wasn't as great at live-playing, so I’d use the program to fix the notes and draw them in. I did all of this just for fun, and my goal was actually to move to New York to go to NYU for theater. I was planning on modeling there to pay for school. I ended up modeling in New York to pay for my DJ/production equipment! I also went to NYU, but I was fortunate to work so much modeling I could also buy what I needed for music production. I just continued to make music on my days off and at night. I also started to DJ, as a friend of mine knew a few club owners in the city. I started to book more and more shows and even ended up with a residency in Vegas. I found I didn't need to model anymore. I also didn't have time for it. It wasn't really inspiring to me, and I was losing interest.
And then you linked up with Calvin Harris?
We had a residency in Vegas together, and all of the DJs there knew each other. I was the newest of the bunch, and I think he was wondering who I was and what my deal was. He sent me a message on Twitter asking about my music. I ended up sending him a song, “Charizma,” and he signed it to his label, Fly Eye. That sort of started off my career, and I decided to DJ full-time. I changed my DJ name from Bambi to Eva Shaw and started to release music under it. Pretty long story but that's what happened!
When did you make the leap from Bambi to your own name and what prompted it?
Bambi was just a silly name my friends called me because I reminded them of Bambi from the Disney movie. I just didn't want to release music under that name because I can never own it, as Disney does, and I didn't want to deal with that. I wanted to own my brand.
Do you think there’s ever a stigma being a model-turned-DJ?
I definitely do. You have some people who just want to hire a pretty girl to DJ and not necessarily the best artist. I hope that's not the case with me.
Tell us about your single “Rise N Shine” featuring Poo Bear.
Poo is an incredible writer and singer, and I was really excited to work with him. I had been making big room, instrumental-type club songs for a couple of years and was looking to branch out, work with more artists and try out the pop world. I've always loved writing music, and not just club music, so wanting to produce something more mainstream has always been inside of me. The first singer I worked with in the studio was Martha Wash, former singer of Black Box, whom I was a huge fan of as a kid. This was for my track “N2U” I did with Showtek. It helped me get used to working with a singer, but it still didn't have a full topline. I definitely had to get used to working with multiple people in the studio.
A couple of months later, my manager told me Poo was interested in working with me. The idea of working with someone like him really fit along the lines of what I wanted to do, something sort of pop and urban mixed with dance that’s also easy listening, and I am a huge fan of his writing. I wanted something you can put on in your car on the way to work. We spent an evening writing in the studio and ended up with “Rise N Shine.” I went to my hotel room after, arranged it immediately and had the demo ready to go.
Who are some other producers and DJs you think are doing interesting things right now?
I'm a big fan of Diplo, Skrillex and DJ Mustard. Pharrell [Williams] is incredible. I was a huge fan when he was doing N.E.R.D. I find new producers every week. There are so many talented ones.
Who are some musicians, past or present, you admire or find inspiring?
I find musicians who can change with the times and keep reinventing themselves inspiring—people like Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Shaggy, Sean Paul, Beyoncé. I look up to artists who are strong in various aspects of entertainment.
What’s your take on “It girl” and celebrity DJs like Alexa Chung, Sasha Grey, Taryn Manning and Daisy Lowe, to name a few? What about Paris Hilton?
I think everyone should do what they love to do. If Paris Hilton wants to DJ, let her DJ. She’s just a different type of DJ, and I wouldn't personally see myself as comparable since I make music and have grown up writing and making music. It's sort of like if Kim Kardashian wants to sing. She can do it, and she’ll get noticed because she's already famous, but people will end up seeing if she's really talented at it or not at the end of the day. I have no problem with celebrities trying out different art forms, but actually producing music isn't something you can learn overnight.
Where’s your favorite venue to perform?
I love festivals. The energy at festivals is incredible, and everyone is there for the music.
What would be a dream gig?
I would love to play Coachella!
Besides great music, what do you think makes for an amazing night?
Good company and a nice venue. It's mostly the people you're surrounded by that make it or break it.
What’s your favorite thing to wear when playing a set?
I like being comfortable. Normally, sneakers and a T-shirt or tank. I like leather a lot as well, so I wear leather pants sometimes. I also always wear biker gloves. I just started doing it one day, and now it's like my thing, I guess. I should probably wear headphones.
What inspired your new sunglasses line with G-Star Raw?
I wanted to design something unique. When people look at them, I want them to say, “Wow, those are different.” I've already had a lot people asking me on the street, “Which designer are those?” It was pretty cool seeing Anthony Kiedis and Shaggy wearing them even before I got a pair myself! I wear them everywhere.
What’s something you’ve done that’s considered prohibited?
No, sorry. I'm Canadian. (Laughs)
Photo credits: Studio shots by FotoFloor, G-Star image by Petrovsky & Ramone, live image courtesy of Create.