Finding your bliss isn't a straight line, especially when the road map for life doesn't include the side streets that will lead us to our passions. Abby Tilton—aka ABCO—spent years of her life standing on the shoulder. As the music industry navigated a community kneecapped by the pandemic, Tilton transformed a small dedicated Twitch audience into a nationwide community of dancers enamored with her UK-influenced blend of feel-good house and chunky beats. Her energy and charisma are mirrored in her music, supported by Sam Divine, Paul Wolford, and many more.
Tilton grew up with a backdrop of music. And yet, while she picked up the guitar at seven, the trumpet in high school, and had a father who was a singer-songwriter, she never considered music a career path.
"I was a big athlete growing up, played a division one sport in college, and I definitely got burnout," she remembers. "Post-college, my dad was the one that was like, 'you know, you can only play sports for so long in life anyway, but music you can have forever.' And that really stuck with me. So, I think that's why I'm so passionate about it. And I know that maybe at 31 years old, it's late in the game for me to just really be getting into it. But it doesn't mean anything, honestly."
Tilton pursued a master's degree in engineering and worked at Bose designing headphones and speakers. Working in music, but not on music, she was veering closer to the path. While she stayed in the corporate lane, she found herself drifting further into life as a creative.
She says her admiration for dance music developed into love slowly, similar to how a romantic relationship blossoms. As her love affair grew into a lifetime commitment, she realized she wanted to do more than be in the crowd. So she started taking DJing and production classes. Yet, she still struggled with letting go of her corporate job.
She had a transformative experience at Austin City Limits in 2018 that further aligned her to her goals.
"I remember seeing the band Arizona. And this is when I was really struggling with not being happy with my corporate job and really wanting to do music. In the middle of thier set he [Zachary Hannah] was kind of explaining where the band came from and how they came to be. And I just remember he screamed into the microphone. 'If you're not doing what you love with your life, then you're wasting your fucking time.' and I just lost it. It really hit me. That is a moment that I definitely have ingrained in my mind forever."
The experience revealed what had been brimming beneath the surface for some time. Her corporate gig wasn't fulfilling. And as she started to DJ, she realized her place was on stage.
"Corporate life is 60 hours a week. I was traveling to China, three, four, or five times a year. It was a lot. I think that the biggest push for me was [when] I met my now wife. We met in Boston, and she moved down to the DC area. So, we did a year long distance. And it kind of got to that point where I was ready to make a change and go be with her. And I think that was kind of like the extra push, I needed to be like, 'This is the moment where I should really be leaving that part of me behind.'"
The pandemic provided an opportunity to see herself in another life. She was laid off from her job at Bose at the pandemic's start. And with nothing left to do, she decided to start streaming. She was already familiar with it, as she had spent time on other platforms streaming for friends and co-workers. But Twitch opened up a whole new world of community to her.
She streamed nearly every day, and while she built her fan base, she connected with other creatives like LP Giobbi. After seeing her DJ, Tilton shamelessly sent her a DM via Instagram, and the pair sparked up a friendship that's led to Tilton becoming a part of the Femme House collective. As a result, she's formed friendships that continue to inspire her.
"I've gotten to meet now a lot of these femme house people and meeting other female producers and DJs it's just been so inspiring. And it's like really opening my eyes to how much female talent is out there that I don't think I recognized before."
Recognizing that she is part of a collective of strong, talented female artists has been a huge source of inspiration. And as she looks forward, she's excited about taking a leading role in helping that community grow.
"I am starting to see a bigger push on diversity in lineups. So that's something I'm really excited about. More people of color, more gay people, and more women that's what I love to see. That's why I love being associated with house. Because even in DC, I'm starting to see a bigger effort on promoters booking more diversity in their lineups."
House music has changed her life for the better in every way. She's found the path that's leading her ever closer to her intentions of spreading positivity and positively dope beats to as many people as possible. House is more than music to her. She says, "I always say house music is an emotion, you know, it's a feeling there's, there's no way really to describe it."
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