“I have no idea what I’m going to play before I get out there. I want to feel the crowd out and feed off their energy.”

It’s the middle of an impossibly hot June afternoon at the base of Spanish Peaks, Colorado, when Flats Stanlie—known to his mother and the West Michigan music community as Kollin Houghtaling—begins wiping sweat from his brow. The temperature has just crossed the 93 degree mark, and there is not a cloud in the sky, but in just a few short minutes, Houghtaling will be taking the stage to show an excited crowd of Sonic Bloom Festival attendees what he brings to the crowded EDM market. This is the third festival in a string of appearances the young DJ/producer will be making this summer as the champion of a music discovery contest held by Untz at the top of 2017, and even though there is no compensation tied to the gig, Houghtaling is wearing a smile as wide as his face will allow.

“Honestly, every moment before a show is a great one,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how many people are in the crowd or what time of day I get to go on, it’s always an honor just to get the time. I think working at The Intersection has spoiled me a bit, so getting out of there and in front of new faces presents a challenge I need.”

Houghtaling is referring to the venue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he can most often be found whenever a road gig is not demanding his presence. The multi-room club is one of the most popular venues in the United States, and over the past year, he has developed a relationship with talent buyers Chad Verwey and Scott Hammontree that has provided opportunities to work with some of the top artists in his genre. It has also allowed him a glimpse at the good times success can bring, but Houghtaling will be the first to tell you he prefers to focus on his craft.

“I might have a couple beers before a set, but that’s about it,” he explains. “My team always asks me why I don’t try to relax more, but I kind of like the anxiety.”

As the EDM market has boomed in recent years, many artists at all levels have begun planning their sets in advance of their shows to help guarantee a good performance. “That’s not for me,” Houghtaling replies before a question is even asked. “Aside from my introduction, which plays before I am on stage, I have no idea what I’m going to play before I get out there. I want to feel the crowd out and feed off their energy. That way, every show is unique and I learn to conquer any crowd.”

Now that Untz has helped him get in front of festival crowds in cities and states he could otherwise never book, Houghtaling is already beginning to think of where he might go next. The demand for EDM is at an all-time high, but so is the competition.

“Right now, I’m focusing on Detroit so that I can stay busy without having to depend on constant touring, but, of course, I’d love to be on the road as much as possible.” He continues, “I’ve already learned so much this year, and with my new Digital AstronautsEP arriving over the summer, people will finally get a chance to learn about me. I just hope they like what they hear.”

As that sentence ends, the stage manager signals a two-minute warning. The temperature has already risen another degree, but Flats Stanlie doesn’t seem to mind. “This is what I live for,” he says as he begins ascending the stairs, “and as long as I give it all I got, I can’t be upset with what happens next.”

*A version of this interview first ran in the current print issue of Substream Magazine, on stands now and available through our online store!