DallasK is the definition of a hitmaker. For over a decade now, the Los Angeles-based producer, writer, DJ, and vocalist has been putting in work behind the scenes, co-writing and producing. Some notable records he’s had a hand in are Fifth Harmony’s 5x-Platinum-selling single “Work From Home” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, alongside fan-favorites “Down” and “He Like That.”
Hailing from Orlando, Florida, the multi-hyphenate describes himself as “a little bit of everything.” He states, “I work with artists as a producer and I'm able to make records with them that are maybe out of their comfort zone as far as getting them to do a dance record—bridging the gap between me as a writer/producer and me as an electronic artist.”
Having made dance music since he was a little kid, unloading songs on blogs, and releasing music on independent labels, DallasK was fortunate to start getting booked to play shows. From there, his DJ career blossomed, eventually meeting people in LA who were focused more on songwriting and production. Strengthening his ability to write and produce for other artists, DallasK eventually met Lauv through their mutual publisher in 2016.
Fast forward to today, DallasK unleashes his newest single “Try Again” featuring Lauv, a record they did back in 2016 when Dallas was producing and writing on Lauv’s debut album.
Flaunt caught up with DallasK via Zoom, who was posted in Chicago ahead of heading to Lollapalooza. Read below as we discuss his roots in Orlando, a turning point in his music career, writing and producing for Fifth Harmony, close friendship with Lauv, how “Try Again” resurfaced years later, studio essentials, goals, and more!
You’re in Chicago for Lollapalooza, how is it so far?
It’s awesome to be back at a music festival, but it's also a little nerve-wracking. There’s a lot of people. [laughs].
You’re originally from Orlando, when did you move to Los Angeles?
10 years ago, I feel like a real Californian now. I grew up in Orlando which was cool because it had a really interesting musical footprint at the time with all the pop music, boy bands, Brittney Spears, everyone being developed coming out of there. That’s our hometown music to be proud of, which is funny in retrospect looking back on it. That's where I gained my affinity for pop music and the process of writing and producing as well.
Who were your biggest influences?
My big 3 are Daft Punk, Kayne West, and a French band called M83. On a more pop songwriter level, I love Max Martin.
When did you realize you could do music for a living?
The minute somebody emailed me and said, "Hey, we're going to pay you to come DJ here. We’ll fly you to Boston and San Francisco." I said “this is awesome” because, before that, I had gone to college and dropped out. I was promoting parties, DJing, and making very little money. I was always making music and people were connecting with it. Through that, I was able to be a touring artist and kick-start that part of my career. That's when I realized “I could do this for real,” which opened the doors to me producing and writing for other artists as well.
How’d it feel to work on Fifth Harmony's "Work From Home"? That’s incredible!
It's crazy. It was a day like every other day when you're writing. We did it as a pitch record. It was me, my friend Ammo who's an amazingly talented producer, and 3 other writers. We wrote that song in under 2 hours, maybe even faster. The craziest part looking back on it: at the end of day, Ammo who's been a part of a lot of big records ("Sugar" for Maroon 5, "E.T." for Katy Perry) he turned around to the room and said, "That's what it feels like to write a hit song." He was right about that, which is insane to me. But it was a really quick and easy day. We wrote a song and had no idea where it was going to go and where it was going to take all of us.
What did you take away from those bigger sessions, as you moved into your own solo artistry?
I came to understand and love the craft of songwriting, the craft of lyrics. Really being in equal parts purposeful and also freeform and creating, so you can have structure and understand rules but also not live by that. If you're too rigid in how you write songs, it'll always sound the same. I was able to learn that from some people who I really look up to the most, I feel really fortunate for that experience.
How would you describe your sound?
Somebody who wants to do everything and tries their best. I'm an open creator, I’ll play any role in the creative process and I love making stuff. I love exploring creatively and the world in general, so being a DJ and traveling helps with that a lot.
How'd you come up with the name DallasK?
My first name is Dallas and my last name is Koehlke, which is super hard to spell. I went for "K" when I was 17 or 18, and stuck with it.
"Try Again" with Lauv is out now. How are you feeling?
It's great, it's awesome to be here. He's playing Lollapalooza tonight at 7:30pm. He's premiering his new production for his upcoming tour he'll be doing, then having an afterparty where we'll play the new song at. It's awesome to be here with him, being able to celebrate the “Try Again” release together. We work together very closely. It's his first show back since the pandemic hit and it’s also my first release since 2020. It feels really great to have a song out and get back into the swing of it after COVID.
What does it mean to put out “Try Again” after you guys worked on it so long ago?
We wrote it when I was doing a writing camp back in Florida, I invited him and his roommate at the time. I said "Oh, you should bring Mike too. He’s really good." Michael Pollack, who's now gone on to write Bieber records and Maroon 5, has really grown into being a very amazing successful songwriter on his own. The thing I take away from that is you never know what'll happen with a song, you never know the trajectory. We wrote “Try Again” in 2016, it was a song we always loved. Ari’s (Lauv’s) career took off in an artist sense after that and we didn't think it was a record that really fit for him as an artist at the time.
We didn't rediscover it until 2020 when he and I were sitting in Joshua Tree going through some old music of that time period when we met. We found some old folders, he played "Try Again" and said "Would you ever want to put this out?" I said "Yeah that’d be awesome, I'd love to do that." But the production didn't fit my style or what I wanted to do, what I wanted to achieve on a creative level. That’s how we got into reworking it. Also it’s 4 or 5 years old. Music changes, time changes, and we’ve improved vastly in our skill level since then. [laughs] Through quarantine, I tried a couple other versions. I was playing him one on FaceTime and he said, "That's it! I love that one. This is so chill and awesome. It's house-y, but keeps the vibe of the original song." He came over and started working on it right away. We finished it up when we went to Mexico for New Years, which was an awesome trip.
How was that whole experience?
Ari [Lauv] had rented a house in Mexico and invited us down. We went with a group of 7 people for New Years. I’d brought all of my recording equipment, all my speakers, microphone, everything. We set up a little studio in this house next to the beach. Finishing the vocals for "Try Again" was one of the things we did there which was super special.
Can we expect a visual?
You co-wrote and produced songs for Lauv's debut album, what’s the synergy in the room?
It's cool, we've been working for a really long time. In 2020, we really fell into a great working flow where Ari was pushing himself and his own style to what’s next for him. People know him and love him for his first and second album but okay cool, as an artist where does he go from here? It was really fluid because with everything being shut down, there was really no pressure to say “oh, we have to get something out in the next 2 or 3 months.” There’s really no rush to do it. It was cool to say "hey let's try a song like this today. Let's try a song like that today.” Or “Let's try 5 or 6 different ideas and see which one we like tomorrow, then finish that one."
I love working with Ari because it's always very free. It's not “okay we have to make this song that’s going to be the single,” or “it has to sound like the other songs I have.” That's what I really respect about him as an artist, he's always trying to push himself. It's easy when people love you for a certain sound, to get stuck in that and only do that because it reacts. But as an artist, you can't really do that. For me, that stagnant place is not growing as an artist. It's awesome I’m able to help him in that way, then it pushes me out of my comfort zone as an artist as well.
How did you find your way to Astralwerks?
I've known Jeremy Vuernick, one of the A&Rs there, for a long time. When we’d finished the record, I texted it to him in a group chat and said, “Hey, what do you think of this?” He said, "I love it," and now here we are.
What is it that you want fans to get from your story?
You never know where music can take you. You never know where you can end up. I started because I love music: DJing in high school at basketball games, making beats on my parent’s old terrible computer. I was lucky enough to build a career out of that. Also understand that doesn’t mean it’s a straight line to the top, it's always ups and downs. Periods when you have no idea what you're doing, and times when you know exactly what you're doing. Anything’s possible if you really put your mind to it and you're passionate.
3 things you need in the studio at all times?
Some sort of plant, a Diptyque candle (that's my candle of choice), and my espresso maker, that’s really it.
What's your favorite thing to do while you're not working?
Travel, if I have the opportunity to. Obviously this last year, we couldn’t get a lot of that. Being able to travel for work is awesome, but taking that one step further and not only traveling when playing shows is really important. Being exposed to different places, cultures, ways of life, it really helps shift your perspective and gain inspiration.
Goals for yourself at this point in your career?
I'd like to do an album next year. I said that in 2019 and that goal got shattered by COVID. [laughs] But I'd like to do an album in 2021 or release a bigger body of work. Also to be able to help young artists, writers, and producers have a career. That's one of my goals because I got lucky enough to meet people who helped and lifted me up. Helped me not only understand that I can do this, but also put me in the right opportunities to do so. I have a duty for myself and those that helped me to pass that torch along, lift up other creators and make it possible for people to do this for a living. It's the best job in the world.