She may be tall, willowy and pretty, but Eva Shaw will have you know that she’s no Paris Hilton when it comes to manning the turntables. While the Dutch Canadian former model has a DJ residency in Las Vegas and plays festivals around the world, she’s more akin to her male producer-composer counterparts Calvin Harris and Avicii.
“I don’t have a problem with girls like Alexa Chung. But they’re DJs in the traditional sense of the word; they play other people’s music at events. I’m playing my own stuff and writing my own music and lyrics,” said Shaw, 26. While she began DJing in the New York club scene six years ago, then riding the wave of “big room” DJs playing electronic dance music at megaclubs in Las Vegas, Shaw is poised for a crossover into more radio-friendly fare with her new single “Rise N Shine,” which will be available exclusively on her Spotify play list Friday for one week before dropping on all streaming platforms.
The catchy dance song, featuring four-time Grammy winner Poo Bear, is the first release via her just-signed deal with the Brooklyn Knights/Sony record label. But Shaw was off to an auspicious start years ago; her very first single, “Charisma” was released by Calvin Harris’ label Fly Eye.
Growing up in Toronto with a jazz musician father, Shaw studied piano as a child and also sang and danced. “As a kid it was my dream to be in a girl band,” she admits. “I also wanted to act and to go to NYU for theater but I got scouted by Elite to model when I was 13.” She was already 5’8” and “really skinny” then, and she added two more inches before she started booking editorial jobs in New York and Europe during high school. As she began compiling tear sheets to apply for a work visa to move to New York, she started playing around with a DJ friend’s turntables in Toronto. Sometimes, he’d let her take a spin during his sets in local clubs.
She eventually got her visa, signed with Ford and moved to New York six years ago, where she was also accepted into the Stella Adler theater program. “I kept getting booked for DJ stuff but it started getting hard with modeling and school. I was making music all night and not sleeping, so I started skipping modeling stuff and my agency started getting annoyed.”
At the VIP club Provocateur she met Tiesto and Avicii, then was quickly taken up by the Las Vegas club circuit. “Calvin Harris sent me a message on Twitter saying, ‘I keep hearing about you but I’ve never heard of you before. Do you make music?’ I sent him this song I had and he put it on his label.”
Shaw soon decided to make a management change to shift the balance from DJ gigs to writing music. “The whole big room thing got big in the last couple of years and we were playing so much and making money. You don’t think about your future as much because you are caught up in the moment. I don’t want to be going crazy touring because writing music is really interesting to me, so that’s what I’ve been doing in the last half-year.”
She recently wrote songs with Shaggy and Sean Paul that she calls “definitely urban but still dance-y.” Now with IMG, Shaw also signed on for a collaborative collection with G-Star Raw in May (her new collection of sunglasses and hats comes out this summer) and she’s mulling new ways to combine DJing and live performance.
“At music festivals, I’m thinking about playing the instrumental version of my music with live singers, so there’s more going on than just standing there. I’m trying to build a song catalog to be able do that.” Of course, there are still the occasional jobs where the expectation turns out to be more traditional. “I played at the Super Bowl after party for the Panthers. I think they didn’t really get it. They kind of hire you thinking you can put together a playlist for them and not thinking you are an artist. It’s kind of like hiring Elton John and asking him to play Snoop Dog.”