Jess Hyman is a DJ and grad student, currently based in Baltimore. Known behind the decks as TrillNatured, she has made a name for herself playing for crowds at popular venues such as The Crown and Ottobar, as well being included in line-ups for this past summer's Ratscape and first-annual Pangea Fest.
A relative newcomer to the art form, Trillnatured works tirelessly to balance academic and nightlife. On any given night, her setlist could include selections from Sam Smith to Rod Lee, and everything in between. No matter the genre, or the venue, Trillnatured aims to bring you out of your comfort zone and on to the dance floor.
Where were you born and raised?
Trillnatured: I was born in Baltimore and raised in Harford County. My parents were raised in Baltimore, and much of my family is here, so I ended up spending a lot of time in the City as well as Harford County.
Favorite place to DJ?
My favorite place to DJ is most definitely The Crown. I love the crowd, the positive energy, and folks’ openness to all kinds of music. Because it’s such an open-minded & free-spirited crowd, I’ve been able to try out new things while beginning to find my niche as a DJ.
What are your musical inspirations? Do you come from a musical family?
I don’t come from a musical family in the sense of making music, but I can definitely say that I got my musical influence and taste from my Dad. I grew up hearing him listen to everyone from Gil Scott-Heron, to Phyllis Hyman, to Garth Brooks. I really developed an appreciation for various kinds of music through his eclectic collection.
When did you decide to start learning how to DJ?
I’m not exactly sure how and when I decided I’d learn to DJ. There’s a chunk of time in between the time I started to ponder it, and actually starting to mix—maybe a year. Initially, I started introducing myself to local DJs and asking if I could watch what they do in the booth. DJ Exel from PA was one of them, and I’d watch her play at Hippo on Thursdays. Shortly after that, she taught me how to count (beats), and I became more excited about doing the real thing. In April of 2014, I bought a mixer and started teaching myself from there. The timeline is all kind of fuzzy, but I’m enjoying the journey.
Describe the experience of your first gig.
My first gig came without warning. Blaqstarr asked me about a half-hour before start time if I wanted to DJ an open-mic at Play hookah lounge. I freaked out (and almost punked out) but I knew I had to just throw myself out there and play in front of people. I was definitely nervous (I took a shot of Henny before I left the house), but the night turned out to be a relative success. I remember his wife, Mia, telling me that she was “pleasantly surprised” by my skills. That was awesome.
What have you learned along the way?
The number one lesson that I’ve learned is to move at my own pace. I block out any pressure to compete with anyone but myself, or to take on things that I’m not ready for. I started DJing when I was ready, and I will progress to different levels when I’m ready.
What have been your favorite experiences, venues and parties so far?
My favorite party is definitely "Queerology" at The Crown. It’s a queer dance party hosted by TT the Artist on every first Thursday. I’ve always dreamed of an event/venue where queer folks gather to just BE. No “S&M” (standing and modeling), positive evergy, and dance music in its true form.
What is your take on the 'scene' in Baltimore?
I’m relatively new to it, but I’ve quickly come to know where I feel like I’m at “home” and who I feel at “home” with. If I had to define my scene, it would be the likes of The Crown, Windup, Metro, Copycat, Annex, Ottobar, and the music-lovers/makers who frequent those spaces. This part of Baltimore is so rich with talent & I’ve found community here in the purest sense.
What are you studying, and how does that affect your music and vice versa?
I’m attending University of Maryland, Baltimore for my Master’s in Social Work. It’s been a long time coming; this is actually my second attempt at a graduate degree. My first attempt was at Rutgers University right out of undergrad. Long story short, I was depressed & isolated, and dropped out a few months in. Having said that, I still struggle immensely with motivation in my current academic pursuits, but DJing (and the community that has grown out of it) keeps me going. It happened right on time for me. Although I’m still cultivating my academic interests and career goals (aka “have no idea what I want to do when I graduate”), I’ve found a passion for DJing, which is all can ask for.