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Dom Dolla On His Mind-Melting Six ARIA Nominations: ‘I’m Bugging Out’

21 September 2023 | 10:30 am | Ellie Robinson

The EDM megastar chats with Purple Sneakers about his latest career milestone, his impending third single for 2023, and what to expect from him in 2024 (spoiler: it might be an album).

Dom Dolla

Dom Dolla (Supplied)

It goes without saying that 2023 has been downright enormous for Dom Dolla. The house music heavyweight hit an expected peak in February with his MK joint Rhyme Dust, not only marking his seventh #1 hit on the ARIA Club Chart, but his Top 40 debut (topping out at #32 on the main Top 100 Singles Chart). He chased that high in June with Eat Your Man, arguably hitting another peak with his biggest collaboration yet: 2000s pop icon Nelly Furtado. It didn’t have quite the same impact on Top 40 radio (tapping out at #84) but of course it came as another smash hit on the club charts.

Neither of those milestones, however, could prepare the artist – formally known as Dominic Matheson – for what was announced this morning (September 21): he’s been nominated for a head-spinning six trophies at the 2023 ARIA Awards. Rhyme Dust earned him a nod for Best Dance / Electronic Release – an award he’d previously won in 2020 for San Frandisco, and had been nominated for 2017, 2019 and 2021 – as well as the YouTube-presented Song Of The Year award. It was Eat Your Man, though, that scored him the bulk of his bows: Best Solo Artist, Best Engineered Release and Best Produced Release. Rounding it all out is his nomination for Best Australian Live Act, which he earned for his summer festival run at the top of the year.

Add to it all landmark shows at festivals like Tomorrowland, Day Trip and Lollapalooza, sold-out headliners at world-renowned venues like the Red Rocks Amphitheatre (with a few big’ns back home still on the cards, like Spilt Milk, Lost Paradise and Rhythm & Vines) – not to mention his current gig as the official face of Vans Australia – and it’s fair to assume Matheson is riding one hell of a high. To celebrate this morning’s epic news, we gave him a quick buzz to check in – and yep, the dude is absolutely gurning on good vibes. Have a read of our chat below, then head here to see the full list of 2023 ARIA nominees.

Huge congratulations on racking up these ARIA nominations – six of them! That’s insane! How does it feel?

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It feels crazy. It honestly hasn't sunk in – I don't know if it's gonna sink in 'til I get there. I'm bugging out. I'm speechless, to be honest.

The moment you get that call, “Yo, Dom, just heard from the ARIA board, you’re in these six categories” – what’s going through your head?

My manager called me, and I just started swearing. I was like, “Fuck off! No way! Oh my God!” I just turned into a sailor for like, five minutes. And I think he was in a similar boat as well – he got a bit emotional because he said to me a few years ago, “Let's work really hard...” We were at the ARIAs – we'd be nominated for San Frandisco or something a few years ago [2020, when he won the award for Best Dance Release] – and he was like, “I'm excited for when you really knuckle down and there’s a year where we get a few [nominations] collectively.” But I don't think either of us thought we’d get six. You know, six is just silly.

I think it really speaks to your strength as an artist that you’ve hit this milestone in 2023, exactly ten years after you dropped your first single. Back in 2013, is this kind of where you you envisioned yourself being after a decade?

No way. I think every goal I set for myself, I saw as unachievable, and somehow we got there. But this goal wasn't even there because I thought it was just too unachievable – I think that kind of gives you an insight into where my headspace is, in terms of ARIA noms.

I think with every overnight success, it takes a bloody long time to get there. But at the same time, weirdly, I feel like I'm only just getting started in that respect. I feel like I'm now in that headspace, [with] my songwriting and as a producer, where I feel so competent and I know what I like and what I can achieve. And you know, what is it they say? Your talent never catches up to your tastes? I'm feel like I'm getting closer [to that being the case] – so it's exciting. It's incredibly exciting.

As a whole, how would you describe the year that has been 2023?

“Hanging on for dear life.” It's the first year since COVID that touring has been fully back in swing, especially in the United States. And that's where I'm based, I live here in Los Angeles. I didn't live anywhere for years because my touring schedule was so nuts, but then COVID hit – and then coming back out of COVID, I kind of hit the ground running... Yeah, it's been mental, to be honest. Absolutely mental.

At least from the outside looking in, it really feels like we’re in this “golden age” of house music – especially Australian house. Does it feel like that for yourself?

100 percent. It's interesting... I think musically, there was a refresh and a reset, because there was no music being created during COVID – everyone sort of turned to nostalgia. And there were no dancefloors to test new music out on, so everyone was remixing and referencing older stuff and [making] throwback records. And when the pandemic ended and everyone came back to the dancefloor, that was the influence – it was like, '90s nostalgia.

And you know, it's bled into fashion, it's bled into so many different creative industries, and it's exciting. It's awesome. And I think the best is yet to come. We're sort of evolving from that nostalgia back into... I'm not sure what's next. I think the general rule of thumb for me, in the studio, is that if I'm excited by it, it’s [good enough to release].

What are you excited by in the studio?

My next single actually has a big old-school disco influence, with a sort of offbeat Eurodance bassline – it's quite fast and quite heavy, but it's also disco with a high-pitched vocal that I wrote with some friends. I often get really caught up on doing everything myself in the studio, but I thought, “I've proven that to myself – I know I can do that – so now I want to go and enjoy some days in the studio with a bunch of mates and see what we can come up with.” And yeah, we started writing this big soul record, and then I just pitched the vocal up by six semitones and we wrote some amazing chords, and I jacked up the energy so it would work in front of a big crowd.

I'm finding in America that because the population here is so big, the stages and shows are huge – so the production really has to fit the energy. So I ended up with this interesting juxtaposition of like, disco, Eurodance, and this mainstage American festival sound. I'm really excited about it. It's called Saving Up, and it's coming out in a few weeks. Hopefully people like it. I like it. I think that's where my headspace is at – that if I like it, someone else probably will as well. Fingers crossed!

Are we building towards a record, or are we just going with the flow?

I'm sitting on so much music, I think it's probably about time I do an album of some sort. There are no plans yet, but I feel like I'll probably wake up one day, grab a bunch of them and be like, “Alright, let’s do this.” I've got to wrap the production up on these [next few singles], and then we'll see what happens. But yeah, for me, [the past few years] have just been about developing as a songwriter and a producer, and getting better and better as time goes on.

For me to do an album, after a ten-year career as a producer and DJ, I feel like it's got to be a bit of a statement. I've been DJing since I was 14, but I didn't start producing or writing music until I was, like, 21. I think I put music out too early, though – I should have sat in the studio and let my skills develop more before I started being like, “Ah yeah, I'll whack this on the internet!” But you live and you learn – it's all a part of the story that got me here.

Do you feel like there’s... Not so much like a “pressure”, but like, does it weigh on your mind at all that you’re one of the most influential people in Australian EDM?

I mean, I love the idea of flying the flag. That's what I get excited about. Honestly, over the past 12 months, seeing all the Aussies in the crowd – both in Europe in the United States – it’s been so exciting. I just love repping [the Australian EDM scene], basically. I'm always chatting to my producer mates from back home, and I’ve always got my ear to the ground [to see] what's working.

It's interesting, a lot of my Aussie producer friends have now moved overseas – DJ Boring lives in London, Cassian lives here in LA, Hayden James lives between here and Sydney, and the Flight Facilities guys are always working their butts off with touring and then flying back home to Australia. So I don't know, we're all just kind of doing our best, flying these invisible flags and making sure that Aussies are proud – and I feel like we're doing a pretty good job.

So when you look at everything that’s happened this year, between the chart success, shows like Tomorrowland, these six nominations at the ARIAs... Do you kind of feel motivated to go even harder in 2024?

Yeah! They say to never waste momentum, and I feel like I've got a good rhythm happening. It’s inspiring, because I'm always trying to beat myself, instead of competing against others. And I think moving forward, that competition against myself is going to be [figuring out] how to get a bit more creative, and how to make people go, “Can you get away with that? Can you put out a song like that?”

It's interesting, I feel like dance music can very easily fall into the trap of being cookie-cutter, you know, and just serving a function; “If it works on the dancefloor and everyone's dancing to it, it’s a good song.” I don’t think like that. I'm like, “What’s the hook? What are people going to remember in 20 years time? How do I make this an iconic record? How do I make it really translate, so I have people humming it when they get home from a big night out?” I’m just always beat the version of Dom from six months ago.

Especially as your career keeps soaring and things get more and more intense, how do you stop yourself from burning out?

The word “balance” doesn't really exist in my dictionary [laughs]. I think for me, it’s one of those things where I've been doing this for so long, and doing it at such a high gear for so long, that I think if I was going to burn out, it probably would have happened a long time ago. I'm just used to it. Like, I've been touring in the United States – sans COVID – since like 2016, and I only just got my own place here in LA three months ago. I'm definitely a little bit nuts, but I'm not afraid of burnout.