Derek Smith started making music like a lot of musicians: Sitting down with his guitar to write songs.

The Colorado native played in bands, then got interested in recording music. He became very interested in computer software that allows music to be created and manipulated in myriad ways.

Soon, he decided that being one part of the band wasn’t for him. He like the idea of being the whole band.

“At first, I was just trying to find beats for our band to rock to,” said Smith. “But I realized I could write entire songs, all the instrumentation, and I could create whatever I could imagine.”

Smith, who performs under the name Pretty Lights, has turned his electronic music fascination into a career. During the past few years, he’s established himself as one of the major performers in the genre. He’s known for his sampling of old vinyl as well as his funky takes on songs that wouldn’t seem to lend themselves to electronic manipulation.

It also helps that he puts a lot of his new music online for free to attract new listeners.

When Smith learned he was playing a festival in West Virginia, for instance, he decided to produce a remix of the classic John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which mentions the state prominently. He’s got one song that samples seven different Led Zeppelin songs.

Smith will play a show at the Colisee in Lewiston on Sunday with two other electronica performers — Big Gigantic and Nit Grit — opening. Even though it’s his first show in Maine, we probably shouldn’t expect him to have a Maine song among his samples. There aren’t that many of them, anyway.

Then again, you never know. Another hallmark of a Pretty Lights show is that Smith loves to improvise with his keyboards and computer controls.

“I spend weeks in the studio refining my songs so that the combination of the sound, structure, style and vibe can be manipulated live, so I can improvise,” he said. “On stage, I want to be able to use my keyboards and software applications and controls to improvise on the fly or play solos. It’s really important to me that I’m not up there just playing tracks.”

Smith says the total performance is important to him, so the lights and videos for his shows are tied in very specifically to the music. On this tour, there is a 3-D cityscape full of lights spanning the stage behind Smith as he performs.

“We used to just have a flat screen behind me,” he said, “but that got boring.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]