Don't call Ansolo a side project
He’s a well-known face among Young Adult (YA) fanatics thanks to starring roles in The Fault In Our Stars and the Divergent movie franchise.
But cinematic fame did not mean US actor Ansel Elgort, 21, has had everyone falling at his feet when it came to pursuing a music career.
His sonic alter ego is Ansolo, and under that guise he is an up-and-coming progressive house music DJ.
He was in town during the F1 weekend to spin at the dance music festival Road To Ultra, which attracted an 11,000-strong crowd and featured his influences, DJs Alesso and Skrillex, in the lineup. Both his heroes watched Ansolo’s Sept 19 set at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.
But other musicians were harder to convince.
Elgort, who is as disarmingly charming and friendly as he appears in his YA movies, spoke to The New Paper before his gig and recalled having to “chase” after New York busking group Too Many Zooz to get them to play the live instruments for his current single To Life.
The brass-driven band play at New York City’s subway stations, the very city Elgort grew up in.
He said: “I had already written a track but I wanted to do something different and add some old-school elements.
“Then I met these kids on the subway playing saxophone, trumpet and horns and they were getting a lot of attention. In New York, if you can get people to stop at rush hour, it means you’re really good. And they did just that.”
So Elgort approached Too Many Zooz, whose performance videos in subway stations have gone viral. He was flatly told to e-mail the trio, but that was met with zero response.
His quest continued in silence until he tweeted Too Many Zooz as a final resort.
Only then did a meeting go ahead, which turned into recording sessions.
The result? An exuberant track with an organic feel that is different from many other Electronic Dance Music (EDM) offerings and stands out in a saturated market.
MTV.com described it as being “perfect for bar mitzvahs and EDM festivals”.
When it comes to his own eclectic music tastes, Elgort cites — and sings snippets of — Broadway musicals like 42nd Street, George Gershwin, John Legend and Eminem.
He even tried to mimic Skrillex’s trademark dubstep sounds during his interview with TNP.
Relatively new to the EDM scene as he debuted just last year with the singles Unite and Totem, Elgort is already making waves. The in-built, ready-made Hollywood popularity and no small amount of ability helps.
The music lover was first introduced to house music and dubstep through listening to Skrillex about five years ago.
At that time, the genre wasn’t as pervasive as it is now and Elgort says he was known in high school as “the weird kid who listened to techno”.
He would DJ at house parties before landing his own gigs at lounges in New York City.
If that sounds like a smooth transition up the house music ladder, Elgort is quick to stress it was not.
“It was a disaster,” he said, cringing.
Attendance was so sparse, to make sure he was playing to a crowd, he sourced those closest to him.
“I had to invite all of my friends to the venue and some couldn’t get in because of their fake identifications. Basically, everyone at the venue was a friend,” he admitted.
The days of relying on pals to pack a place have gone. Ansolo’s Soundcloud account boasts a healthy 66,500 followers, amassed primarily thanks to his music.
After a blast through South-East Asian cities , he performed at the prestigious Tomorrowland Festival in Georgia, US over the weekend.
He’s enjoying a flourishing acting career - he is now filming the latest Divergent instalment Allegiant - but is quick to disagree with anyone who says that music is simply a side project.
“I take everything I do really seriously. So making music is just as important to me as anything else.”
He added: “Calling music supplementary would make it seem less important or imply that I put less love into it. But that’s not the case.
“I make music every day — and I juggle that with the rest of my loves.”