Michael “Panski” Kopanski aims to never take himself too seriously. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, he gained years of piano, cello, guitar, and, his favorite, ukulele experience. Instead of getting bogged down by the pressure of excelling at one particular instrument, as many do, he continuously sought out one adventure after the next. These early years acted as a catalyst for the creativity essential to producing music that resonates with listeners.
Music took a backseat once Kopanski claimed a pole vaulting scholarship to Clemson University for a year and then the University of Georgia soon after. This adventure came to a halt when his career was unexpectedly cut short. With all the time that was taken up in athletics, it was the town of Athens, Georgia, with its rich musical history that re-ignited the passion Kopanski had temporarily put on hold. The fire returned in full-force and has yet to cease.
After some attempts at launching a band, he realized his talents would be better suited in the producer’s chair. A trip to Guitar Center led him to discover the production software, Ableton, and from there, he dove headfirst into the world of electronic music, where he acquired his education by way of online tutorials.
The fear of whether or not following your passion will pay off is common in anyone willing to take that risk. Fortunately for Kopanski, he didn’t have to ponder that question too long. Confirmation that he was on the right path presented itself in the form of a tweet from none other than acclaimed DJ Kaskade, one of Kopanski’s musical influences. After uploading his take on the artist’s track “Ain’t Gotta Lie” to SoundCloud, Kaskade responded, emphasizing how Kopanski had “made it his own” and solidified his praise with “#respect.”
Through working with a local startup called Beluga Records, Kopanski began playing in bars throughout Athens and landed a spot on AthFest Music and Arts Festival in 2013. which offered the spotlight to electronic artists for the first time in the festival’s history.
Around 2013, an underground collective of DJ’s known as Tropikult, was on the rise and they had sights set on Panski. Rather than allowing competition to create a divide among them, Tropical House worked to build up camaraderie during the early days of SoundCloud. Artists took advantage of the “repost” feature and were able to share the talents of others in the group with their own fans. This loyalty garnered a unique network and played a major role in legitimizing SoundCloud as an outlet for producers to have their music heard by a larger audience.
As a Tropikult artist, Kopanski witnessed firsthand the rapidly growing popularity of Tropical House music. At some point, it seemed everyone was creating “tropical house,” so it was imperative he seek out a way to set himself apart. All it took was Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” for the lightbulb to go off. He recognized the track had the uncanny ability of incorporating a folk sound, while staying true to the electronic genre. His next thought, what would happen if a producer took that a step further, upping the ante with even more bluegrass, folk, and country sounds? He had been listening to country music for as long as he could remember. Drawing inspiration from some of his favorite artists like Sam Hunt and Billy Currington, Kopanski developed an entirely new sound.
The advent of the Southern House sound made him a shoo in for a range of live performances. His live shows have graced stages from Miami and Atlanta to Breckenridge, Colorado. He has served as opening act for Galantis, Duke Dumont, Sam Feldt, and Sean Frank.
“I’m a believer in creating tension in music. That’s what can make a song.”
Tension is definitely one of the focal points in Kopanski’s version of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” his latest release. Tension is what defines Kopanski. It’s no simple task to cover a country classic and it’s even more daunting a task to turn iconic songs into something of your own.
For “Take My Home, Country Roads,” Kopanski keeps it in the (Tropical House) family by recruiting Ellena Soule to contribute her vocals. His version creates an entirely new experience. Soule’s vocals and the harmonica allow for more passion and a deeper emotional connection to the lyrics.
As a long-time fan of Pat Green, covering “Wave on Wave” was a no-brainer. Will “Wylen” Smith, another Tropical House member, lends his vocals to the track for a more pop-y rendition. Any questions of Kopanski’s love for tension are put to rest with this track.
“Soak Up the Sun” is, unsurprisingly, the epitome of that “beachy” theme Kopanski strives for on this EP. Like a true innovator, he took it upon himself to restructure the song and cut certain portions out as he saw fit. Tropical mallet plucks filter through the chorus to solidify beachy vibe Kopanski strives for. It doesn’t seem like a song called “Soak Up the Sun” could possibly be any more suited for the beach, but Kopanski manages to infuse the song with even more tropical vibes than the original.
Kopanski’s A Road Less Traveled EP is appropriately titled. On September 15th, he’ll be bringing the sound of the South to the house. His live shows have graced stages from Miami and Atlanta to Breckenridge, Colorado. He has served as opening act for Galantis, Duke Dumont, Sam Feldt, and Sean Frank.