“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a popular pick-up line among singles in bars. For Tampa DJ Bobby Sotomayor, his career path came a bit more naturally than awkward pick-up lines”
“I started from rock bottom (in the bar business); I’ve always liked the atmosphere,” he said.
Because he has been known simply as “Bobby” while working in bars for more than a decade, he prefers not to be called “DJ Bobby.”
The nature of Sotomayor’s entry into the spinning DJ universe matches the nature of why his fans love his style, a style that wears its heart on its sleeve. The Fixx, a popular ’80s band for whom Sotamayor opened, is just one of the groups of people who’ve personally thanked him for the range of music he plays.
It started at a now-defunct bar called The Fly Trap. Sotomayor, whose background includes playing a variety of instruments for several bands, was asked to select music for the bar’s patio.
Armed with a boom box, PA system and an eclectic taste in music, the newborn DJ found five years ago what he still loves today, which is “expressing yourself through other people’s music,” he said.
Sotomayor’s primary source of income is still bar-work. However, since landing steady work at Ybor city’s primary alternative club, The Castle, the DJ has networked his skills to other bars, clubs and private and corporate parties, for companies such as Capital One. For him, it’s all about having fun.
“Some guys get paid fabulous (amounts of money) … (But) if they said, ‘I can’t pay you anymore,’ I’d say, ‘I really don’t give a s**t; I’ll do it for free,'” Sotomayer said.
In spite of his unconditional love for his DJ work, Sotomayor admitted the road is tough going in landing a club position.
“Where I am now, I had to fight for it,” he said.
For those in pursuit of DJ work, Sotomayor advises a willing spirit, a mix CD showcasing one’s musical palatte and mixing skills and, last but not least, “Know your enemy,” he said.
“A lot of DJs I’ve known, their ego was just so big that they got knocked down,” he said. Sotamayor explained that a DJ’s predictability is a primary weakness for getting “knocked down.” Sotomayor is often dismayed by DJs who don’t take any chances, the type of DJ who spins tracks they think people always want to hear.
Instead of playing a set list of songs that could just as easily have been programmed music rather than a live rotation, Sotomayor makes a point of keeping his work eclectic.
“I just like (going from) Bob Marley to The Killers,” he said.
In the sense that clubgoers keen on rotation like variety, Sotomayor is a DJ’s DJ, catering to mix junkies who appreciate a DJ who can make discernable connections to seemingly dissimilar songs.
“It’s judgmental,” Sotomayor explained. “You know how to let the song fade out, or some guys just take it and beat-match it together.”
Sotomayor admitted a fair amount of stage fright, however, he can see the value of mistakes.
“I think screweing up makes the crowd know there’s actually someone mixing, and (that) it’s not a CD,” he said. Sotomayor also noted the random occurence of happy accidents, in which mistakes in his rotation turned out to fit in nicely.
Part of Sotomayor’s enjoyment of DJ work is including music often overlooked in most bars. Some of this music includes bands from what Sotomayor considers a strong local music scene, which include Empty Spaces, The Vera Violets, Coma Girl and The Dukes of Hillsborough.
For Sotaomayor, whose background in bars entailed helping the nine-to-five segment of the population relax, the best enjoyment is the confirmation of his listeners escape.
“I just like the fact that people appreciate it,” he said.