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Big sound from a ‘little miss’

Jenny Goldsmith
Special to the Sierra Sun
North Tahoe-based DJ Little Miss Mixer is pushing the boundaries in electronic music with her unique blend of feminine and masculine sounds.
Courtesy Jenny Goldsmith |

Charged with syncopated bass riffs and a wobbling melody, Little Miss Mixer’s live set from San Francisco’s Temple Nightclub seeps through the speakers in a rowdy, yet characteristically smooth intro.

Her sound is aggressive, bubbling with anticipation as the one-hour recording — available online through SoundCloud — builds and intensifies as though the song may explode off the turntables to ride the mainstream wave at any moment.

Always perched on top a purple milk crate in the DJ booth is Samantha Rawlings, a 4-foot-11-inch, 100-pound harmonic heavyweight known in the electronic music world by her alias, Little Miss Mixer.

“There is this beautiful cross between art and science that happens when you produce music electronically, and that’s what gives me a release of expression unlike anything else – it’s a powerful feeling,” said the self-taught 29-year-old DJ. “The first beat is the most important piece because it sets the tone and timing, but what comes next is this intense expression of yourself weaved in — it’s methodical yet deeply personal at the same time.”

DROPPING BOMBS BY DAY, BEATS BY NIGHT

Fiercely ambitious and independent, Rawlings gives off an edgy look with her blonde hair streaked in just the right amount of pink, punctuated by her signature eye makeup — a row of perfectly placed black dots strung together under the curve of her right eyebrow, like a tattooed ellipses that suggests there is more to her story.

“I moved to Tahoe in 2008 because I wanted to pursue my education as an emergency medical technician on the mountain,” Rawlings said.

The fearless go-getter scored a job right away with Squaw Valley Ski Patrol, and this winter marked her sixth season as a patroller, as well as her first time dropping a different kind of beat – an explosive soundtrack that echoes through the valley, letting everyone know it’s dawn, and there is fresh snow.

“It’s a powerful and privileged experience to be a part of the bomb squad — it will always take my breath away in a way only throwing dynamite can,” said Rawlings, a Crystal Bay resident.

The juxtaposition of a peaceful, uninhabited mountain at sunrise contrasted with the adrenaline of avalanche safety is a piece of Rawlings’ day job that coincides with the high she gets when she transforms into Little Miss Mixer.

“It’s like there’s a soundtrack of my life that runs through my mind when I’m out on the mountain at dawn, whether I’m skiing in absolute silence or throwing bombs,” she said. “I think that combination of soft and loud is where I find myself most at peace.”

TURNING HEADS ON THE TURNTABLE

The ambitious and experimental DJ may measure a foot shorter than her male cohorts, but her all-around appealing sound is gaining visibility in an industry chock full of men.

“Women hear things differently than men do. We’re not engineered the same in the way. We think, talk, listen and respond in completely different ways,” Rawlings said. “I think my style speaks to both sides through sexy, melodic female vocals that I love to mix in with some booty-shaking hip-hop.”

Her androgynous musical taste draws from a combination of Rawlings’ Portland past fused into her Tahoe present.

“Growing up outside of Portland, I listened to a little bit of everything — classical, country, rock, alternative metal, punk, ska — but what I really fell in love with when I started DJing was dubstep because, in my opinion, it takes the things I love about rock music and transforms it into this layered, electronic sound that I find so interesting and complex,” she said.

“There are so many subclassifications of dubstep these days, and not all of it is that aggressive-chainsaw, in-your-face, heavy, grimy, dirty dubstep, which I love as well,” she added. “There’s also a soft, sexy, melodic sound, mixed in with some lyrical hip-hop and finished off with a sexy female vocal track, and that’s the style that draws me in the most.”

Add another layer of her nostalgic love for ‘90s grunge and mix it in to her present-day musical mentors — a network of regional DJs and entertainment gurus like Fresh Bakin’ and Bass Heavy — and perhaps you’ll puzzle the intricate web of pieces that make up her unique sound.

A LOVE FOR PRODUCING MUSIC

Nowadays, Little Miss Mixer rocks her signature trap, dubstep and bass-heavy beats at events across Northern California and Nevada, including The Bounce music festival and her most beloved dusty DJ booth of all — Burning Man.

Experiencing the musical remix of Little Miss Mixer is like taking a trip down the soundtrack to Rawlings’ memory lane, each chapter of her life narrated by ever-changing bold bass lines alongside soft, tender tempos.

“To me, when you’re mixing these layers of music, it creates such a sweet-sounding lyrical conversation, whether it’s romantic, sexy, defensive, personal or just straight up gangster,” she said. “It’s a way to narrate a story through different styles and genres of music, and that’s what I absolutely love about producing music.”

Jenny Goldsmith is a North Tahoe-based freelance writer and a former reporter for the Sierra Sun newspaper. Email her at jennyanngoldsmith@gmail.com.


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