Gigi Erwin can claim she’s a real rock and roller. By day, she rolls – 90 to 100 miles around Arlington, driving one of the city’s Handitran buses that provide transportation for senior citizens and persons with disabilities. By night, she rocks – all over North Texas as a professional deejay, one of only a handful of women in a business dominated by men.
She calls herself an “environmental deejay” because she says creating a different musical milieu for every event is her goal and what she believes she does best.
“I like to play an ‘open format,’ piecing together all styles, genres, and eras of music, and then blending them together in a cohesive way that sounds great, is seamless, and allows me to entertain all of the guests at an event,” she says.
Erwin had been deejaying since 1982, and started in Arlington in 1986 when she moved from Austin to open the Safari Bar, destined to become of one of Arlington’s more popular night spots.
She began driving for Handitran in 2009, but says it was a surprise gift from her husband Victor in 2014 that convinced her to start deejaying again.
“I came home one evening and walked in to music playing, boxes everywhere, and the sweetest smile on my husband’s face,” she recalls. “He said, ‘You are so good at this and deejaying brings you such joy, I wanted to buy this equipment for you. Do what you want with it.’”
And she did. But her first gig, in December, was different from any event she had played for before – or since.
It was a New Year’s Eve party for the Deaf Society of Dallas; yet she recalls it was the loudest party she had ever deejayed.
“I had a sub-woofer the size of a small table so the dancers were able to feel the vibration,” she says.
Like any party crowd on the dance floor and sidelines, they sang the music together, but the room was quiet because they were all signing the words with their hands. “All you heard was clinking of glasses between songs,” she recalls. “My favorite part was when a guy got up on stage and started signing the song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas as I played it,” she says. “I am so truly grateful for that experience. It was totally exhilarating!”
Her company name, DJ GURRL, was inspired by her motorcycle. “I was revving it up one day and ‘gurrrrlllll’ was the sound it made,” she says. “And since I’m a girl …”
Erwin notes that technology has made its mark on the DJ business. “I used to carry boxes of records to all of my gigs, clubs, and parties, and they were so heavy. Nowadays you buy the song, download it for maybe 99 cents or $1.29, and it’s right at your ﬁngertips,” she said. “Digital is so great for us.”
As expected, her musical library is expansive and eclectic – from classical music to classic rock. “Because of my experience I’ve been exposed to some of the greatest music ever,” she says. Erwin prides herself on not only being able to help clients find their favorite songs in her library but also to be able to suggest songs they might not know but that would be just what would achieve the mood they want.
A recent example was a couple planning a wedding who were unsure of what song to play as they left the reception, but Erwin knew they liked music from the 1970s and suggested “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees. “They loved it,” she says.
Erwin says she realized long ago that knowing what should be played – and when – makes her an instrument of the music, as well. She has deejayed in Top 40 clubs, Country and Western, and Alternative Dance, and once earned an honorable mention from Fort Worth Weekly as the ”Best Disc Jockey/Non-Radio Personality.” She has even played records at a DJ setup teetering atop a float in the Arlington 4th of July parade.
Erwin says the hardest part of the business is justifying her fees and educating prospective clients on the difference between a professional DJ and someone with an iTunes playlist.
“It is often difﬁcult for them to understand my fee structure if they haven’t seen me work,” she says.
Reminding prospective clients of the differences between hiring a DJ and a band is also a constant challenge. “With all due respect to bands,” she says, “a DJ can play any song and [charges] a fraction of the cost of a band.”
God gave her a talent, Erwin believes: “I believe I can read a crowd and touch hearts. It’s all about joy – having it and spreading it.”
Her website is about to launch at DJGURRL.com and her Facebook page is DJ gurrl.
Erwin would love to see a dance club in Arlington, a place where people who love to dance and like different genres of music could socialize and enjoy their favorite music. It’s an idea the environmental deejay thinks would create an atmosphere that would be “just gurrreat.”