Photo by Matt Franklin

When most people think of Nashville, they probably envision twangy singers strumming acoustic guitars—not DJs cutting decks. Along with being the country music capital of the world, however, Nashville also has a solid EDM (electronic dance music) scene. Meet one of its rising stars: Sickish.

Sickish (real name Jacob Forrest) doesn’t limit himself to any one particular style. His music ranges from “headbanging dubstep,” to “swampy trap sounds,” to “uplifting, euphoric synth.” The DJ/producer has something for every mood and preference. If you’re into wubs, you’ll dig his remix of Chibs’ “Crust And Jelly.” If you’re feeling something more melodic, give “I Can Show You” a listen. If you’re craving pure trap magic, check out his latest single, “Block.”

A native of Nashville, Sickish grew up around the music industry. As a kid, his father—who has been involved in the country music scene for decades—occasionally let his son tag along with him to gigs. Once Ish got to high school, he became exposed to EDM. Interestingly, he hasn’t always loved the genre. In fact, he said that for a while, he wasn’t a fan at all.

“I had a few friends who would listen to dubstep…but I was never a fan,” he admitted. “It wasn’t until I was in college, and that’s when Flosstradamus and Flume (two wildly different styles) started their own kind of sound with electronic influence.”

Sickish found himself drawn to Flosstradamus’ trap stylings. “I loved the energy that they put into their tracks,” he said. He also admired Flume’s distinctive sound. “Flume was so young when he made it to world-wide recognition, because his sound…so delicate but powerful at the same time…is still something many have tried but could never really hone the way that man has,” he said.

“Build it and they will come”

When Sickish began his own musical career, like anyone first starting out at something, he ran into challenges: “I struggled getting booked for the first few years I was DJing. Honestly, it took me and a few friends putting together our own shows so that we could play for ANYONE. We called ourselves ‘Electric Slang,’ and we honestly just played house parties.”

From there, he steadily built up a following. “It’s crazy how word of mouth spreads through a scene,” the producer reflected. “It was a ‘build it and they will come’ situation [that] went from house parties, to shows in small venues. [Those small shows led] to other shows with other promoters, which led to more shows, which led to shows out of state.”

In the five years since he got his start, Sickish has gone from playing house parties to sharing the stage with the biggest names in bass music, including Shlump, ill.Gates, and Eazybaked. His tracks have collectively racked up more than 30,000 listens on Soundcloud. In 2019, he played festival sets at Breakaway Nashville and Sound Haven.

A wild pandemic appears

Ish looked forward to an even more epic year in 2020. But then, a global pandemic upended the entire live music industry. With his upcoming gigs postponed or cancelled, Sickish utilized his time sheltered in place to hone his craft.

“I’ve really, really taken advantage of all this extra time to zero in on what I want to sound like,” he said. “The first couple of months I really didn’t do anything but work on music.”

But as “quarantine” dragged on into summer, it began to affect him in other ways. “In the last month,” he admitted, “I will say my creative juice has [slowed] a bit. Staying positive and motivated has been a challenge. But the important thing is to keep the light at the end of the tunnel in sight. It’s not going to be like this forever.”

Taking quarantine to “Interspace”

So how does Sickish keep that light in sight? Answer: by curating a (virtual) music festival. Ish organized the Interspace Music Festival to “showcase EDM in Tennessee in the safest way possible.” 

“Like concert attendees, artists have been missing the energy and love of live shows,” he explained. “We’re hoping to at least quench some of that thirst.”

Interspace Music Festival takes place August 28-30 and will feature performances by 45 artists from across the Volunteer State. A pre-party hosted by Knoxville Bass Collective will take place August 27. Throughout the weekend, Interspace will collect donations for Souls United—a Nashville-based charity that provides food and services like free haircuts to the homeless. “[It’s] a great organization I’m excited to work with!” Sickish said.

“Block,” the new single by Sickish, is available on all streaming platforms. For more information on Interspace Music Festival, click here.

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