Tim Wu has no regrets. In another time line, an alternate version of the 29-year-old is sitting in a corner office, reading a spreadsheet, giving a presentation or doing whatever highly paid consultants do. This Tim Wu, the artist popularly known as Elephante, is in a studio right now, trying to find the best version of himself.
“Growing up, especially being an Asian American, becoming a musician is not really a thing that you do,” he explains. “There’s a big focus on education and getting a job and having a stable family. And that’s all great, but I had this bug inside me, and everything I was taught—that’s not who I am.”
Wu’s biography is among the more interesting you’ll find in the electronic music field: Young singer-songwriter enters Harvard, graduates, views the corporate landscape and its career opportunities, bails to follow his dream, and finds himself playing Electric Daisy Carnival, Lollapalooza, and, on August 23, Encore Beach Club as part of his 2019 Wynn Nightlife residency. It’s a tale as old as time.
“Elephante is about embracing who I am and being who I was meant to be. It’s been about casting off expectations and social pressures,” he says. “Even after I was touring, I still felt like I was kind of searching for who I was and what kind of music I wanted to make.”
That Wu didn’t take the pre-planned route is no disappointment to his legion of fans, the ones who have been by his side from his early remixing days through the release of 2016’s I Am the Elephante and 2018’s Glass Mansion. This fall, they’ll get to experience Wu’s next evolution as an artist, when he drops Diamond Days and kicks off a 10-city tour to support the new studio album and its eponymous single.
While Diamond Days will be a departure from his previous work, Wu says he’s fortunate that his fanbase has supported his desire to grow as an artist. “In dance music, it’s really hard to break the image of what you’ve come out with and had your first success with,” he says. “Once you have a sound and an identity people can latch onto, changing that can be really hard.
“I think the biggest thing for me is having that trust in myself and getting to the point where I’m comfortable enough to make the music that I want to make.”
Part of that progression, he adds, is believing in his own vocal talents. After giving fans a “beta test” of what he can do on the “Glass Mansion” single, Wu is incorporating more of his singing voice into Diamond Days. “I wanted to do the album justice,” he says. “In this latest phase, I finally feel comfortable and confident in the songs that I’m writing, to the point where no one else could sing them. They’re very personal.”
NIGHTSWIM WITH ELEPHANTE August 23, 10 p.m., $25-$45. Encore Beach Club, 702-770-7300.