Artist of the Month: Pretty Pink
Artist of the Month: Pretty PinkMarch 13, 2023
Pretty Pink used to be a long-distance runner before her knees gave out. This will make sense to anyone familiar with her work. She sees her career as a marathon, not a sprint, and that ethos shines through everything she does. Her upcoming debut album, Born Digital, out in April on her own imprint DEEP WOODS, embodies the full trajectory of her artistry in one shiny package. It’s a long-awaited debut, and one that will switch her status as a melodic house artist from pioneer to legendary.
Born Digital was written almost entirely during lockdowns, and switches between moods like changes in weather. It’s packed full of collaborations, with some tracks swerving towards pop while others lean hard into the artist’s techno roots. As with all of Pretty Pink’s projects, home plays a huge part in the new album. She has deep ties to her hometown, Harz, and is constantly revisiting it in her work. The nature she grew up surrounded by is the inspiration for her label and event series DEEP WOODS and Born Digital is the flip side to her connection to nature and an exploration of the cyber side of the Pretty Pink project. Gliding from progressive to techno to melodic to minimal, it’s an ode to the sights, sounds and scenes that have influenced the artist since she began her journey in music, almost entirely by accident, 15 years ago.
Google image search “fairytale village” and a picture of Harz comes up. Her hometown boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and it’s surrounded by dense forest, crystal clear lakes and a UNESCO-protected mountain range. A cute-ass river runs through the centre of town, between houses made of timber with thatched roofs, and a steam train rumbles past a medieval fortress twice daily. It’s so picturesque it’s thought to have inspired the setting of some of The Brothers Grimm fairy tales, so this might explain why her life always felt slightly enchanted. She grew up listening to her dad’s record collection, which ranged from indie to rock to pop. She was always creative, and spent her evenings logged onto the family’s desktop computer messing around on the Adobe suite.
Harz may look quaint, but the population takes techno seriously. In the late ‘90s and early 2000s there were two serious, bunker-like clubs, and as a teen she had easy access to some of the best house and techno artists in the world. Armand Van Helden, Oliver Koletzki and Oliver Huntemann all stopped by Harz to tear her sleepy old town a new one.
Naturally, she wanted to be involved, so she used her Adobe suite experience to design flyers for local parties. One day the organizer asked if she could play a few records on vinyl, just to keep the crowd happy. She enjoyed it, and started playing more often to save the promoters money. It was 2009, a time when it was still unusual to see a woman behind the decks, and so it wasn’t long before she was being asked to play in her own right. She didn’t have a name back then, but she was wearing a lot of pink, so she decided on Pretty Pink with her friends.
Pretty Pink started out as a vinyl-only DJ, and spent the early years of her career playing intermittently around Germany. She knew she loved music but wasn’t convinced she could make it into a career, so she studied Multimedia Design and Communication at Bodensee near Munich. After she graduated, she decided to dedicate herself to music for a couple of years to see what might come of it. Soon she felt the urge to play her own music during her sets, so she teamed up with her brother to make a bunch of remixes and edits. In 2013 she released an edit of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and it still gets played out today. It laid the foundations for the artist’s current style – slow-building, subtle and teeming with energy. It was an overnight hit and put her on the radar of just about every house DJ and label on the planet, boosting her profile far beyond Germany’s borders. “I think it had like 2 or 3 million plays after six months,” says Pretty Pink, speaking from a hotel room in Mexico City. “It went viral, and that’s where it all started.”
The Pretty Pink project’s always been a collaborative one, and after the success of her first release, she knew she’d made the right choice pursuing music. Looking back, she says, it makes sense that it all fell into place. She has a massive amount of energy and focus, and she needed to find somewhere to channel it.
“When I was a kid I was a long-distance runner on the German national team,” she says. “So I was always really focussed and determined, and I applied that to music. When I play in front of people, I get the same boost of adrenaline I used to get running.”
Just like any athlete, Pretty Pink’s ambitions have developed over time. She started out playing indie disco, then glided from melodic house to techno to progressive house. You can hear her development over the years, with her 2016 release “GUNFIRE“ on Suara reaching number two on Beatport’s House chart, and her follow-up singles “Run”, “My Kick”, “Trick” and “Change” catching the attention of Armada Deep, Sony, Warner, and Universal. But it was launching her own imprint that cemented Pretty Pink’s name in dance music culture permanently, and helped expand the sound she’d spent so many years exploring.
“I started Wanderlust in 2017 to release a variation of music including house, tech-house and techno,” she says. Wanderlust released music from dozens of artists, including Instant Groove, Nico Pusch and Bastixs, and soon became a well-respected imprint. “But after a couple of years,” she continues, “I decided to start a label that reflected my actual music taste of progressive house and melodic house and techno – and that’s when I started DEEP WOODS.”
If Wanderlust champions the full scope of Pretty Pink’s influences, then DEEP WOODS reflects her refined music taste. Within just two years of launching DEEP WOODS, she appeared on 30 leading radio stations around the world and her social media following went through the roof. It was as though she’d lifted the lid on her potential and found a long-lasting way to connect through music. This was further cemented when she hosted her first-ever DEEP WOODS event in her current home town Leipzig. She held it in her own venue, which has a large outdoor area. “I always try to have my live sets in a forested area or in a green valley,” she says. “The music and the events are very visual.”
Perhaps the reason why Pretty Pink’s trajectory has been so consistent is because she stays true to her vision, connected to her roots and identity with her DEEP WOODS brand. During COVID she filmed live streams from some of the most beautiful locations in Germany. It means her fans know exactly what to expect from her – aesthetic, uplifting house music which transports and heals.
“I’m always working hard for the project every day,” she says. “I have a goal to be known for my sound, and that’s what I want to reach. And I think the outcome of that is everything is growing. The label is growing, and the label showcases, and I’m working on it all the time.” Few artists are able to connect their music, visuals, events and imprints as coherently as Pretty Pink. But perhaps one of the biggest milestones for Pretty Pink was her debut release on Anjunabeats – a remix of Gabriel & Dresden’s track “Remember.” Being part of the Anjuna family was a life goal for the artist, and the Anjuna release was soon followed by “Come Back” in late 2020. By the end of the year, Pretty Pink had released on almost all of her bucket list labels, including Found Frequencies and Armada Music.
Although COVID devastated Pretty Pink just as much as any artist, she didn’t let it get in the way of her vision. She spent lockdowns locked in the studio, and wrote much of her upcoming Born Digital album there. By the time the world emerged, she had a complete album under her belt and was booked for the main stage at Tomorrowland – another one to check off the list.
Pretty Pink says Born Digital is the next step in her progression as an artist. She wanted to combine nature with technology, so sampled sounds from her hometown Harz. “In the songs you can hear wind recorded from the trees and bird sounds,” she says. “So the whole thing is based on nature and forest and I gave it a digital touch with digital programming, and that’s the premise behind the album.”
Pretty Pink will release a single from the album every few weeks until it is available in full in April 2023. “It doesn’t make sense to release albums all in one go anymore,” she says. “I want to give people steady content, and give every track the time to shine, that is why I release the album not at once.”
The first single, “Euphoria” came out in early February. “Full of fervour, the ecstasy of ‘Euphoria’ unfolds in the body,” reads the accompanying text. “Every cell, no matter how small, starts to vibrate and moves incessantly to the rhythm.” It’s a peak-time track that uses drops and builds and the spaces in between them to create a thick sense of emotion. “Miss You” is the second single — a progressive house anthem with vocals from Dan Soleil. She explains that the track is about the search for a lost love and aims to provide hope, positivity and a sense of transformation.
Producing such emotive tracks hasn’t gone unnoticed. Often, after a gig in Antwerp or a performance in Croatia, people will come up post-show to say her music has changed their lives. It helped them get through heartbreak or depression or just gave them hope when they had none. For Pretty Pink, that makes all of the hard work worth it. “I love how my music connects with so many different people,” she says. “And I love getting feedback and seeing how people interact with my songs. It’s amazing.”
The track on the album that means the most to her is “Lost and Found.” “I’ve been playing it out for a while, and I played it on the Tomorrowland main stage, and at Ultra festival and also a lot of club shows,” she says. “I play it in big festivals and small clubs and the reaction is always really good, so I’m excited for this one.” It’s a slow-building trance-like track, with vocals from Christian Burns, a long-time collaborator with Tiësto and BT. Burns had been on her radar for a while, and when they finally met at an Anjuna label showcase they instantly decided to collaborate. “The track is a combination of the harder stuff I play with vocals and melodies, so it really embodies the entire album in one,” she says.
Amongst it all, Pretty Pink remains dedicated to platforming emerging producers. “I think the most important thing for new producers to just get their music out there and promote it,” she says. “Send it to the labels and artists you like and don’t be afraid to shout about what you’re doing. A lot of artists wait for the labels to do the promotion, but that’s the wrong way. As an artist, you have to push your own promotion really hard.”
Now, with so much already achieved, Pretty Pink is setting her sights even further. She plans to tour Born Digital in Europe and the US, and is designing new visuals for her event series. She has her own club in Leipzig called Wolkezwei, which she describes as a Berlin-style outdoor venue with a familial atmosphere, and she’s the main attraction at many festivals this summer, including EDC in Las Vegas and Lollapalooza in Stockholm. She’s planning to release another edit of “Get Lucky” to mark ten years since her remix catapulted her into the stratosphere and when she’s not neck-deep in all that, she’ll be spending time in nature, reconnecting with herself and picking up that long-distance running habit again. And she knows that if she’s ever feeling low on inspiration, all she has to do is travel back to the place where it all began.
Pretty Pink’s debut album Born Digital is out now via DEEP WOODS. Buy it on Beatport.
Alice Austin is a freelance journalist who regularly contributes to Beatportal. Find her on Instagram.