Monique Proctor was best known as DJ Smiles Davis 11 years ago.
“My career as a DJ has been very organic,” said Ms. Davis, 35, who grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the 1980s and was introduced to music in her grandparents’ record store there.
In her early twenties she started working at Amoeba Music, where she was responsible for organizing tapes and inventory in a store. “I took home 10 CDs a day and burned them,” she said. “During that time, my neighbor had a turntable and I’m obsessed with mixing vinyl. It was stimulating and exciting. I started to have parties and it started. “
At 24, Ms. Davis left Amoeba to become a full-time DJ. By then she had amassed a collection of more than 100,000 songs. And in the past seven years, she has worked on more than 200 weddings. She has also been a DJ for various celebrities, including Martha Stewart, Gwen Stefani and Bruno Mars, and has performed at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Last year, Ms. Davis founded her own creative agency, All the Favors, representing DJs, bands and designers who perform installations for weddings. She lives in Silver Lakes, California.
How did you choose your DJ name?
I read Miles Davis’ autobiography when it was popular to change your name to something iconic while giving it a new twist. I smile a lot. In the second it came out of my mouth, that was it.
What songs usually work well at weddings?
Aretha Franklin, “Respect”. Diana Ross, “I’m coming out.” Skee-lo, “I wish.” Stevie Wonder, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Redbone, “Come and get your love.” Young MC, “Bust a Move”. Talking Heads: “This has to be the right place.” And A-ha, “Accept me.” They are strong, iconic and legendary with sing-alongs. Even if you didn’t know the lyrics, when you hear the repetition, it will be easy for people to understand.
Does any pet annoy?
When clients send long lists of what should and shouldn’t be played; when their parents make too many suggestions; and when they give me a google doc in real time and start ticking things off and adding more songs.
What are some of your rules?
I don’t play cheesy disco, the “YMCA”, “Macarena” or “Stayin ‘Alive”. I don’t play hip-hop during dinner. I try to create an atmosphere early on. I play a little of everything for the first lesson so I can see what people are drawn to and then work hard on it later.
What distinguishes wedding music?
These are songs that resonate with people who feel love in the air. It doesn’t have to be love songs, but they do have to evoke nostalgia and memories. You want music that associates songs with specific moments. When people sing loudly together, there is a common connectivity. When you scream out of your lungs, endorphins are created. I want to get people out of their comfort zone and dance like nobody is watching.
What is the main role of the DJ?
To read the room, record energy cues and when a genre is working on it, keep playing it. Knowing when to go up and down and when to increase the pace and energy. When people make inquiries, I know the mood has to change or something hasn’t been played enough. All of this must be done taking into account different age groups and cultural and ethnic demographics on the floor without losing members of the crowd.
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What is your fee?
$ 1,000 an hour with a minimum of three hours of playtime. I do not charge any costs for assembly or dismantling, which can take an additional three hours. The equipment can cost an additional $ 1,000 or more and includes a basic sound system, two speakers, two turntables, a wireless microphone, a mixer, and an assistant.
How many songs will you play through the night?
About 200. I mix one song every minute during dance lessons.
What should couples ask a DJ?
Are you MC Some DJs don’t feel comfortable with the microphone. Can you play genres that appeal to me? If a DJ can only play top 40, he might not be for you. Do you have video content on your website that I can watch? Do you have playlists from past weddings and examples of the transition from dinner to dancing that you can send me? You can also ask them to create a custom playlist for you. They should be ready to meet you in person before hiring them. If the gig is local they should be willing to bring their own sound system and travel for work.
What makes you different from others?
My song selection and personality. I’m a former dancer so I can come out from behind the booth and dance with you. I bring more feminine energy into the room. I want people to feel sensual. I use my musical knowledge and my music history to connect points tonally. That keeps people connected to the music even if they don’t know the song. That’s always a goal: to get people on the dance floor. I’m really good at generating the right energy for the moment.
What’s your favorite part of the night?
The last hour when the ties were undone and the bride slipped into a more comfortable outfit. The energy is relaxed. Drinks were poured and drunk. I can go on a musical journey and play whatever I want and the guests will join me. There is a feeling of emotional high. I see my clients this part of the night. We survived the toughest things and reached this point together and everyone is happy.
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