DJ Mia Moretti Knows Exactly What to Listen to—and When

Hunkering down with a good book and want some music to set the tone? Try world-renowned DJ Mia Moretti’s playlist “What To Listen To When It’s Too Cold To Go Outside.” What if you’re feeling spontaneous and up for an adventure? Moretti has an answer in “What To Listen To When Driving Up Highway 1 On A Whim.” Her incredibly specific playlists are curated around a particular experience, setting a mood that can translate to just the one you’re in.

Moretti travels around the globe, turning tracks everywhere from A-list fashion shows to birthday parties in the jungle in Tangier. And like most Spotify subscribers, she uses the platform to create playlists. But Moretti’s playlists are like a modern mixtape, carefully collected and named after an event that occurred in her own life, compiled in a way that relates to feelings we all have.

We spoke with Moretti about what influences her, the life motto passed on to her by her grandfather and, of course, the inspiration behind those special playlists. If you’re looking for the right music to fit a particular mood, check out Moretti’s Spotify page, and you’ll be sure to find the perfect tracks.

How can DJs who usually play electronic or house music incorporate classic rock and folk music?

I love this question because it presents two ideas we think of as different and then proposes a challenge to unite them. The thing I love most about DJing is that there is no fixed equation. Being a DJ means constantly moving and adapting, just like a song moves and changes.

As a DJ, you have limitless access to tools to manipulate and change a song. You have a loop roll so you could repeat a word or a verse, you have filters to isolate highs or lows, you have effects to add echo or reverb. In doing this you create opportunities to merge two worlds that might have either different tempos, different rhythms, or completely different feelings into one seamless movement. If the transition makes sense, your audience will follow you on the journey, even if it’s to a new place.

What is your responsibility as a DJ to seamlessly tie songs together?

The most important part of a DJ set is the bridge between the two songs. If you don’t do this, and you leave your audience confused as you jump from one world to another, it’s like removing a bridge from under someone’s feet, and then they might not cross over to the next journey with you. The transitions are also what add the humanity to your DJ set. It’s the difference between someone playing a playlist versus listening to a real DJ. It’s the feeling you add, the intention behind the change, the way you tell the story.

Your Playlist Series is called “What To Listen To When…” Why did you name it that?

Songs probably hold the strongest element in my memory. After hearing just a few seconds of a song, I can be transported back to a specific time and place, and even the temperature and mood of that moment comes rushing back. I wanted to make playlists that transport you to, or help create, these places and memories. So whether it’s the first time you fell in love and drove up Highway 1 in California [What To Listen To When Driving Up Highway 1 On A Whim] or when you were standing in front of Beyoncé’s iconic performance at Coachella [What To Listen To When #Beychella Is Over], I wanted to make these memories re-livable and real, so I made them each their own playlist that’s based on my experience.

What responsibility do musicians have to utilize other forms of art in their work? How has visual art influenced your work?

I don’t think an artist should feel any responsibility to utilize or not utilize any form, but I do think it’s necessary for an artist to have a complete expression of their work when it’s transferred from their heart into the world. The forms might be different for each artist. Today, most of us see music before we hear it; what we see will stay with us throughout the musical experience. I use visual art to build characters and worlds that people can step into so they can step out of wherever they were before this moment started: what they woke up to, what is on their to-do list, who they do or don’t love, and also the trauma that we are constantly being exposed to on a daily basis. That’s the power of music. It’s escapism, it’s freedom, it’s an uncompromising joy you feel when you are completely in the moment of a song.

My new song, “Club Soda,” is an instrumental dance track that aims at doing just that. Giving the listener a moment to escape, then let themselves get transported to a place of universal joy, no matter where you come from, where you live now, or what language you speak. Music isn’t about boundaries, it’s about bringing people together, and I hope I can do that, even if it’s just in brief moments.

What is a good life motto to go by?

I asked my 101-year-old grandfather a similar question the other day and he said to me, “Do something good for others, every day.” If it’s gotten him through this world for over a hundred years, there must be something to it.