How Mikey Lion Proved to His Parents that Turntables were an Instrument

Nov 29, 2022

Gabrielle Reeder

3 min read

“I started DJing when I was about 13 years old,” DJ, producer, and Desert Hearts cofounder Mikey Lion told Gray Area during our Spotlight interviewHe explained that his passion for playing music emerged when he identified as a “massive hip-hop head who loved scratching.”

Mikey’s devotion to hip-hop set the tone for his early career. It introduced him to the expansive world of mixing and producing, although it took him a few months to prove to his biggest fans—his parents—that turntables belonged in the same category as guitars or pianos.

His parents noticed his devotion to music in his early teens, and when Mikey started high school, his parents urged him to further develop his musical prowess.

“My family’s amazing. They’ve always been my biggest supporters. My mom originally told me when I was in ninth grade that they would support me with whatever instrument I chose,” Mikey said. He jumped on the offer and suggested Technics 1200s because of his undying love for hip-hop.

His parents shut down the idea, but a musician of Mikey’s caliber didn’t let a slight case of incredulity sway him. He had one goal: to prove his talent with turntables.

“Six months later, I ended up buying my own pair, and they saw how much I obsessed over them, how they could be a musical instrument. They ended up paying me back, and they’ve just been my number one supporters ever since,” Mikey said.

Mikey’s musical tastes switched from hip-hop to dance music after witnessing Daft Punk’s iconic pyramid set at Coachella 2006 when he was 17. That particular set happened to be Mikey’s first exposure to dance music, and it was his first time at a festival.

He consistently practiced, and shortly after the life-altering Coachella set, Mikey scheduled his first official DJ gig at a bar neighboring his college in San Louis Obispo. Even though he hadn’t played an official live set before his debut, Mikey had already locked in a couple of lifelong fans: his parents. To prove their unconditional support and VIP status in the Mikey Lion fan club, Mikey’s dad surprised Mikey by driving up to the first show.

“They were there the first time that I played Lightning in a Bottle,” Mikey said. “It’s been really cool having their support. Now my mom does our accounting for Desert Hearts. It’s an all-in family affair.”

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