Coming out of lockdown has been quite the experience for the Leeds-based producer and DJ Reeshy. Although she has been DJing for the best part of a decade, a series of mixes and podcasts that came out during the pandemic started to turn heads on a wider scale and has led to a frequent gig schedule across Europe.
Her debut and now sold-out release also saw the light of day on Burnski’s PILOT label together with Leeds legend Bobby O’Donnell. We got together to discuss her journey through music, managing parenthood with DJing, as well as an inspiring and personal story on awareness and mental health.
After growing up in Middlesbrough, she eventually adopted Leeds as her permanent home and began developing a sound of her own. I caught up with the intriguing half British, a quarter polish and quarter Italian selector on her story so far.
My actual name is Marysha which is Polish for Mary. My grandad was Polish and my Mum’s pen friend was called Marysha when she was a little girl and growing up my Dad always used to call me Reeshy, so that’s how I ended up there!
My grandma was Italian and that was my Mum’s first language, I can speak a little Italian and it sometimes comes back when I speak with family but not as much as I should – it comes back to me when I’m surrounded by my family.
As a female artist in a male-dominated industry, it hasn’t always been the smoothest of rides in Reeshy’s career so far as she recalls some of the highs and lows.
When I first started DJing, it took a long time for me to not just be seen as ‘she’s the woman, we’ll put her on at the start when it’s empty’. I’ve been playing out for eight years and when I used to play, promoters would even say on flyers ‘we’re an equal opportunities event’ but not even in a positive way.
They’d write social media posts with things like ‘we are an equal opportunities event so we’ve got a female on the line up’ which meant I’d then have to explain I didn’t want to be represented in that way and get them to remove the post. There is a big difference between tokenism and inclusion.
Things have definitely improved. Although, even now it can still sometimes be difficult. You look at line-ups and there’s a lot of parties still only booking the one woman and then that’s it. They’ve ticked the female DJ box and don’t want anymore.
When I first started, I’d get drunk men making snarky comments or trying to touch me while I was mixing to ask for requests or even if they could ‘have a go’. There is still misogyny. It’s improving but I think it’s important for men to also speak out about these issues and educate people, especially in the music industry, because misogynists listen to men – not women!
There are also lots of parties who just totally get it. One of my first bookings in London was for Ritmo, they are amazing. They are against sexism and simply book DJs who they rate and who fit their sound. They’ve given me great peak time sets to play and pushed me in a positive way. There are people out there like that who are really amazing.
The sense of community and supportive circles has been central to Reeshy’s growth over the years, pushing local talent and staying true to her craft has paid off with frequent gigs at Leeds’ Mint venues and further afield.
Even in the early days, there’s been a lot of people that have supported me. Foz, the booker at Mint Club had faith in me for a long time and gave me lots of gigs at Mint Warehouse which has been great.
I think I’ve started to be taken more seriously since we’ve come out of lockdown, I did a mix for Arcadia Sounds, a Manchester party with an amazing podcast series. That was the mix that started turning heads and getting more attention around the country.
As a parent, Reeshy balances the delicate act of parenthood and touring, detailing her experience with some of life’s biggest challenges.
I’m a single parent and it’s a challenge anyway when you just have one income and you have to be resourceful. When I first started DJing, I knew I wanted to play vinyl but I couldn’t afford to buy records because of being a single parent.
I’m in a better position now and I’m grateful. I take my hat off to anyone that manages on a low income and has children. I count myself as privileged but it is still a challenge to make sure that the bills are paid, that my daughter has everything she deserves and that I’m able to buy everything on my Discogs wantlist.
I used to use Tractor, covering the BPM with a tea towel to learn how to beat match. Then once I developed and saved more money, I started to buy records.
My daughter is a huge inspiration for me. I know she’s really proud of me and I want to be a good role model. It’s great for her to see her Mam doing well in music and I also have a solid circle of family and friends which is great for childcare.
Producing followed DJing at a later stage for Reeshy after a natural connection with the Leeds producer and long-time Mint Club resident Bobby O’Donnell.
I’ve been DJing for ten years and producing came later for me. I started learning a couple of years ago with my best friend Bobby. He’s really talented and helped me a lot. I’ve always been musical with playing the piano and singing.
Me and Bobby will actually be releasing something with me singing over it soon. We love the Chicago and classic house sound and we’ve been working on some stuff that’s an ode to the Chicago scene with some dreamy vocals.
Bobby has been producing for ages and we started to have some ideas on some breaky stuff that we wanted to make. Before we knew it, we had an EP done and Burnski took all four tracks for his label and they sold out almost straight away. It’s getting a repress soon!
I’ve got my confidence with Ableton and in the studio and we have our second release ready now. We’re expecting the masters back soon and it should be out around August.
After learning the ropes with Bobby, it was only a natural progression for solo productions to follow.
I am working on a solo EP which will be out sometime next year!
The synchronistic connections within the music industry are often key to igniting the path for artists.
Bobby is my best friend. We met in Leeds on a night out and clicked straight away. He’s so supportive and my daughter has a great relationship with him. We have such a laugh in the studio and it just works really well. Every arrangement we’ve done has been jammed live!
The rising gig schedule also comes with a myriad of tales from the DJ booth.
I have had some very fun and interesting back-to-backs with some of my heroes including Truly Madly and Silverlining. I get carried away having fun during back-to-backs and forget to put my records back in sleeves so my bag usually ends up in such a pickle that I need help to fasten it back up.
I’ve also managed to crowd surf my way into the DJ booth with Hunee before which was enjoyable and luckily he didn’t seem to mind!
From Middlesborough to Leeds and jaunts to the capital.
Middlesbrough is my home town but Leeds feels like home. I get booked to play in London a lot which I’m really grateful for. I can’t believe how big it is! It’s always a good crowd down there with a tight community within the house music scene.
Boro’ is a really friendly place. It’s got a legendary house night called RifRaff which I used to go to. There’s some ace venues and a great community of people that love house music. I had my daughter pretty young so I didn’t used to go out there loads, it was more Leeds for me. I made a lot of friends at the legendary Back To Basics parties who I’m still really good friends with now.
The depth and variety of selections in Reeshy’s sets has caught the ears of many around the European scene.
I love playing a variety of music. Of course, I love to play bangers and a mixture of genres always playing what feels true to me. I used to run a disco night too. I’ve got loads of disco records and occasionally get booked to play a disco set.
Delivering every answer with a delicate and wholesome tone, it was natural for conversation to progress towards a personal tone as we discuss a difficult patch in her life. Adopting a different approach towards mental health changed her life which she is confident can help others in similar positions.
Like everyone, I have gone through the ringer in my life. I do suffer with OCD. I think when you tell people they sometimes assume ‘ahh your record bag must be really tidy’, or ‘maybe they’re obsessed with cleaning’. Although, it’s not always that and can be difficult to keep things in order. It’s about having more intrusive thoughts that intrude into your day-to-day life.
I used to be quite ashamed of it but since speaking out, I’ve realised that most people have some kind of mental traits and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. It actually gives me a lot more empathy towards other people.
There are numerous ways OCD can present itself in the mind and there is often a misunderstanding of the condition.
A lot of the time it can just be having really dark thoughts. Sometimes about my health or my daughter, or a loved one. It makes you think because you’re having these thoughts you want these things to happen or want to be someone that does these bad things which makes you worry.
It gives you compulsions, like touching things three times or doing certain things. The OCD tells you that you need to do these things, or you want these things to happen.
When I was scared to talk about it, I honestly really hit a rock bottom and felt so bad about myself. I eventually spoke to an OCD helpline and realised I probably have OCD and got diagnosed. I got therapy at the hospital. I used to go every week for psychotherapy.
Opening up about personal experiences is an inspiring feature for anyone experiencing similar things in their life who may not have an outlet to speak about these intimate thoughts.
When I was a lot younger, if I’d have seen someone talking about their symptoms openly, I’d have realised I had it too and the label really helps you recognise it’s not you or a problem with who you are. It’s something that exists and there are solutions and help out there.
If I have an OCD thought now, I can almost laugh at them and label it as an OCD thought. It doesn’t mean that they’re part of you or you what those things to happen.
In the modern day, it’s common to feel like your music scene is very congested which can lead to loss of motivation to continue your path.
Just know that there’s a space for you. Be true to yourself as an individual as there’s only one you and there is a space for you.
Stay true to yourself and listen to a lot of music. There’s only so long you can pretend and you need to know what you truly like. Whenever you walk past record shops, pop in and listen to something and start finding your way!
Thanks so much Reeshy and best of luck for the future!
Image and interview by Nick Beard