The Electronic Dance Music scene is familiar territory to Shepherd who started out as a fan, ventured into festival promotion and now takes centre stage with his own mixes. It was in 2016 that Shepherd first made waves with "Fill Me In" – a Craig David remix collaboration with fellow Torontonians Loud Luxury. The debut hit was picked up by global legend Tiësto and topped the Spotify charts by racking up millions of plays worldwide.

Following his initial success, the Toronto-based DJ and producer continued to explode – collaborating with Fito Blanko and signing a deal with Armin van Buuren’s powerhouse label Armada Music. His latest record – a more laid back track than his previously-released club anthem "Make It Bounce", proves his musical depth and variety.

"Who's Gonna Love U" –  Shepherd's latest single, features vocals by Heather Janssen – a singer-songwriter from Dundas, Ontario.

"She’s from a small town just outside of Hamilton and I’m from Georgetown – so another small town kid," Shepherd shared. "She sent me the acapella for Who’s Gonna Love U” and I immediately had to get in the studio."

Shepherd goes on to describe the pair's track to be versatile in a sense that it can be enjoyed anywhere and by anyone. The pulsing bass contrasts beautifully with Janssen's tranquilizing vocals – creating an uplifting genre-melding sound that is ready for radio airwaves.

"This record is something that I’ve been sitting on and patiently waiting to come out," said Shepherd. "I think it has the wheels to do something really special and I really hope that everyone who listens to it gets that vibe."

We caught up with Ryan about his journey into –  and through, Electronic Dance Music:

Q: Your cousin Chris got you into EDM back in '08, what is it about the genre that got you hooked?

I think it's the energy of the music itself. After going to a bunch of shows with (Chris) and just immersing myself in the culture of it all, it was super cool to see everybody coming together as one. There’s never any fights, there are never idiots who are there to just cause havoc – everyone’s united to listen to good music and hang out. I’ve met so many of my friends just by going to shows, so it’s really cool to see a music genre bring people together like that – and I think that’s why I stuck with it. The energy –  for sure, was a big one for me. Doing upbeat, fast-paced music was something I was really attracted to.

Q: What was your first introduction to music?

I started playing drums when I was in grade eight. My dad got me into classic rock – Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and then I started playing in bands. I was in a screamo band for a while and I opened for Alexisonfire in a basement in St. Catharines – like those kind of small shows. I grew up on so many different genres of music. I fell in love with hip-hop when it was the early Kanye days and then my cousin Chris showed me Skrillex, Aoki, Deadmau5, Avicii and it was a whole other world of music that was opened up for me. It’s definitely been an interesting evolution of what I’ve been into. As soon as I heard dance music, I was forced to stop on it because it was so great.

Q: Between working behind-the-scenes to centre stage, did you always aspire a career in music?

Growing up I was always an athlete – playing high-level soccer and hockey. I always thought it was sports that I was going to get into, so I actually went to George Brown for Sport and Event Marketing – where I got my internship with LiveNation, which is when I got my first taste of it. I got my internship because of a mutual friend, I thought with my love of music, it would be a great fit for me. I never thought I would completely go into music. I have a full teaching degree, so that’s where I thought things were going to go in the beginning – but it’s cool to see when life takes you on different paths. I got to see what’s behind the scenes by putting on shows, working for LiveNation and different promotion companies. It’s really cool to be in the spot that I am in now, with the music that I am putting out and touring.

Q: Your first major release caught the attention of Tiësto, how surreal is it to be backed by one the world's greatest DJs?

It was something I was never expecting. It was a record that I had started in Toronto and went to LA and messed around with at the Lowes hotel, which we snuck into – Joe, Andrew (Loud Luxury) and I. We were throwing ideas back and forth because we were both at the same level, just kind of starting off in the industry – and they were like “I love this, we need to mess around with this.” We sat around for two to three days working on it and what we came out with got sent to Tiësto when they opened for him. They were in a green room or something and showed him this idea we were working on and he loved it. That was one of the most interesting e-mails I have ever received –  it was 10 or 11 at night and I was watching a movie, he was like “love the track, can’t wait to get this going” and wanted to sign it. It was surreal and something I’ll never forget.

Q: Have you noticed a resurgence in the popularity of EDM?

It’s always consistently changing. There’s always new players in the game but obviously the legends stay constant like Tiësto, Armin, Calvin Harris. I play more on the deep house side of things and to see the fans of the crazy main room stuff – some of them are starting to come over and listen to this style as well. Everybody’s dipping their toes into every different sub-genre of EDM. It’s cool to see it grow – even at Dreams, if you look at the lineup this year, it was very tailored for being a little bit different. Of course they had the major artists like Zedd, Oliver Heldens but also having J.Flip, Gorgon City and Duke Dumont and to see crowds coming over to the side stage as well as the main stage. It was really cool to see everybody starting to listen to all genres of EDM.

Q: How did your collaboration with Heather Janssen for your new single "Who's Gonna Love U" come about?

The joys of social media. She was a fan of “Fill Me In” and some of my other stuff that I was working on and I get DMs pretty often for collaborations with different artists, I listen to every single one of them. She’s from a small town just outside of Hamilton and I’m from Georgetown – so another small town kid. She messaged me and the second I started listening to her stuff and she to mine, we started sending ideas back and forth. She sent me the acapella for “Who’s Gonna Love U” and I immediately had to get in the studio. That night, I worked literally for hours and was back in the next day. It didn’t take very long, but I have been patiently waiting for it to come out and now that it’s finally surfacing, the reaction already from other DJs and producers have been so positive. I’m really excited to be working with Heather and I think we’ll definitely work on something in the future too because she’s great and is such an amazing writer. We just shot the music video for “Who’s Gonna Love U” on Sunday and she killed it – she did such a great job. We did the editing last night and I’m so excited for that to come out. With social media now, it’s how you find so much great talent.

Q: What's the overall vibe of "Who's Gonna Love U"?

It goes back to the roots of “Fill Me In.” You could play it on the main stage, you can also play it while you go for a walk in the park, you can listen to it while you’re at a cottage. That’s the idea that I wanted to go for, where you could listen to it in many settings, not like my last single “Make It Bounce” which was more of a club record that goes hard in clubs and main stages. This one kind of transcends both sides – it’s the beautiful vocals that she has but also with a punchy bassline – a really high energy record. I’m looking forward to what the overall reaction is.

Q: What's next in the works for you?

My deal with Armada is four tracks, so this will be my second of the four. We have two of them already done that they are very interested in, so you’ll probably see that come out late Fall or early 2020. I’m going on tour with Loud Luxury in November – they’re doing a 76 date tour, so I’m going to be doing North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida with them and New City Gas with them in Montreal as well. Hoping to plan some other Florida dates in Miami and Orlando and then I’m going to Amsterdam.