Blu DeTiger: Virtual Session

In our latest virtual session, Blu DeTiger talks to The Current's Jim McGuinn and performs a few of her latest tracks. (MPR)

Blu DeTiger joins The Current's Jim McGuinn for a virtual session to perform a few tracks she's released this summer, and talks to us about sharpening her skills while playing bass over DJ sets in New York clubs pre-quarantine, finding success on Tik Tok, and what she'll be releasing later this fall.

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTION

Edited for clarity and length.

JIM MCGUINN: It's time for another session here with The Current and today we're gonna meet a relatively new artist, Blu DeTiger. You have had quite a summer. Your song "Figure It Out" is kinda blowin' up, as one might say. So welcome to The Current and thanks for taking some time for us to get to know you today.

BLU DETIGER: Thanks so much for having me on. Yeah, it's been pretty crazy I guess. Yeah. Lots to talk about.

Going back to you as a kid I was reading that you were really into School Of Rock and that's how you first started both learning to play, and also learning to play with others, is that true? Is that how you kinda got into music?

Yeah pretty much, my older brother was playing drums and I was like, OK I want to pick up an instrument too. We both did the School Of Rock program, which, looking back was so amazing 'cause I was basically performing at these iconic New York clubs when I was really young. Just that performance experience is really good. I got to play with other musicians all the time, which is another way of getting way better. Yeah, that's kind of - that was my beginning in New York.

I always love when I meet people and they went through something like a School Of Rock because it gives you such an interesting experience, whereas I think other people just stumble their way through that. Maybe ripping off phone numbers off of old postings on bulletin boards, that's how bands were started back in the day, you know? But now it's like this whole new thing, right?

Yeah I remember like even when I was in middle school and high school, when we would go rehearse at rehearsal places in the city there would be like, the bulletin board and you'd have to take the thing and it was like "Bass Player Needed" or "Guitar Player Needed". Yeah, way different now.

Yeah. So what drew you to the bass? Why bass instead of keyboards or guitar or drums or some other instrument?

Yeah, so as I was saying, my older brother was playing drums and, so naturally, I'm two years younger, so naturally I was like, "I wanna do something too." I was seven, so in my head, this is just how I remember the story, but in my head I was thinking that guitar was too mainstream and I wanted to be more unique and different and I chose bass. Then I went to Guitar Center and got my first bass, and it was taller than me at the time. I have really funny cute photos of it. But yeah, I'm super happy that I did. I think it was just like one of those, I was just like, you know, young kid like, "Ugh I want to be different, I want to be unique." I'm really happy that I chose bass first, and now I play guitar and other instruments.

Yeah you really need to be able to stretch to get- the frets are longer, you know? And the distance between frets, and if you're a kid, oh my god! At age seven that's a challenging instrument to pick up.

I know! I don't even know how I was doing it. Well, my first bass was a Gretsch and I think it was a little bit smaller, and might have been short scale. Then I got a Fender Mustang which is short scale and that was really helpful. Finally I graduated beyond that to just a regular size.

Now playing bass, have you researched into or heard about some of the great female bassists in rock history like the Carol Kaye's or the Tina Weymouth's and stuff like that?

Totally.

Who are some of people that you've either learned about or studied or even gotten to know at this point?

Well I mean Carole Kaye, like The Wrecking Crew is obviously like super iconic. She actually gives lessons now so I was thinking of hitting her up just to talk or play. I don't know. But yeah, her and then Tina Weymouth obviously and Tom Tom Club is also big inspiration of mine. For my own music, for my artist project. Just the production and her style in general is so cool. Also Meshell Ndegeocello is one of my favorite bass players. I saw her play at, yeah, she's like-- she's incredible. I saw her play at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, you know in the West Village? Which was insane. I think that was the first live performance I've seen of a female bass player and singer, because she's singing and playing these crazy bass lines which is really hard to do. I know that's hard to do because I'm trying to learn to do it right now. But yeah, she's crazy. Crazy good.

Well when we come back I want to talk about your time as a club DJ and adding bass to the DJ mix which I think is a really cool concept. But right now I think we're gonna go in and have a couple performances from you that you've tracked for us at home so let's do, I think we're gonna do "Cotton Candy Lemonade" here. It's Blu DeTiger, and it's a session here with The Current.

[Music: "Cotton Candy Lemonade" by Blu DeTiger]

So there's a couple of songs from our guest today, Blu DeTiger, including a new single that's just come out now, "Cotton Candy Lemonade," can you tell us a little bit about that song?

Yeah I'm really excited. It just dropped and been getting a lot of love and I really appreciate all the support so far. I wrote it over Zoom with a few friends which was really interesting because that was the first song I did during quarantine that was online. I was writing a bunch just on my own on my computer but yeah, so that one came out over Zoom. I think it just deals with a lot of the classic quarantine issues that I think everyone was feeling to some degree, like loneliness and longing for the pre-Covid time or post-Covid time. So that's kind of what this song is about. I feel like it's still relevant because we're still in it right now. But yeah I'm really excited about it.

Yeah it's awesome and, yeah, for the foreseeable future I guess, that's where we're at, right? So we were talking about you being a bass player and kinda developing as a musician from a really young age, but you also then started DJing in clubs and I don't know if you ever heard about, there was a collective called Giant Steps, it was in London and New York where they used to kind of do like a neo-soul jazz thing and they would bring out trumpet players and maybe add percussion to the DJ sets, but you started playing your bass along with the records you were DJing?

Yeah it's weird because I feel like, bass over DJ sets is super rare and I was seeing a lot of the trumpet, saxophone, even guitar over DJ sets but yeah, the bass thing was kind of new. For me it was kind of just like, this makes sense. I'm really into DJing, I'm really into playing bass. I have been forever. It's all music so I was like, let me just try this. I brought my bass my first "real" DJ set at this club in New York called Elvis Guesthouse and people really liked it. I think because, you know, everyone-- the human experience-- like the sound of a real instrument over electronic music I think is really special. People want to see something new always, you know? It was rare. So yeah, I kind of just did that and then I did that at every set and it just became my thing. I think I definitely got way better at my instrument from that as well just 'cause I was improvising. I had to come up with it on the spot a lot of the time.

Yeah I was gonna ask if you had rehearsed the songs that you were going to play bass on in your DJ sets of if you were figuring out the key and figuring out the chord progression on the fly and trying to fill and also trying to fit in with the drum patterns as it happened because that's pretty audacious!

Yeah it was kind of-- it really depended on the set. Sometimes there were like those, you know, I had a few songs that were just kind of like in my book of, bag of tricks I guess. Where I knew that those songs worked well but I would have to test those out first. I think as I got better I had the few that I knew, the songs that I knew that I knew how to play. But then I remember there was this gig I was doing in New York for like months where I would play every week at this club and I wasn't even the DJ there. There was another DJ and I was hired to sit in the club and just play bass over the DJ but I was like across the room so I didn't even know what they were playing. I would just have to hear it and then figure out the chord and then do it at the same time. So that one was all improvisation, so it kind of depended on the gig.

That's amazing. Like you said, that's an amazing way to really like master the instrument because suddenly you're pushed into all these new directions and having to sort of thing on the fly and get your brain to hear, maybe listen even better than you might think you could with something like that. You also then started going out on the road as bass player for hire, what did that experience bring you that now you're able to kind of maybe utilize as you're stepping into the limelight as a frontperson yourself?

Yeah, totally. I mean I'm so grateful for all those experiences and I think I'm more just appreciative. I've paid my dues, you know? Like I've been in the van, I've done the twelve hour van ride. I feel like I've experienced that and now I'm just going to be so much more appreciative and experienced when I go in to start doing my own stuff. I think just knowing the ins and outs of the touring world and the crew and you know just what everyone's role is, I think was just really important for me to learn. And then just the performance experience, straight up. Performing every night and getting used to being on stage and comfortable on stage. Even rehearsing, I've done some big rehearsals with really good musical directors and really grateful for that experience as well. Just to see how it all works and how live shows put together was really important for me.

I saw a quote from you about "Figure It Out" where you said the song kind of wrote itself. Is that something that is common or was that just a lightning strike kind of moment for you?

Yeah it's kind of true, that one really did write itself. I think it was done in like 30 minutes. Really fast.

Wow.

Which is kind of weird. I think it was something about just like the hypnotizing groove and the flow. It just, I don't know, it just kind of happened. I feel like that almost happened with "Cotton Candy Lemonade," the newest single as well. I think it was something simmering and then you hear the right chords and the right beat and it just, whatever you're thinking in your head just comes out I guess.

And I know that, a lot of the reaction for you started through Tik Tok and through, well I guess particularly through Tik Tok, but social media in general and when you started posting videos did you have any idea that this was going to somehow lead to a song of yours now having millions of Spotify spins and stuff like that?

Yeah I didn't really know. I think when the bass videos and covers started to pop off it was kind of just what we were talking about with the DJing thing how I would take these popular songs, like most often like Top 40 songs and write a new bassline and improvise over it - that's kind of, that's what I'm doing in all of the Tik Tok videos that I do as well. And I've seen that work in the live situation so I think when it started working in the video scenario I was like, "Okay this makes sense." I've seen it work in the DJ sets, like this is so fun. I'm going to keep doing this. And then I think I wasn't-- I was kind of surprised that "Figure It Out" popped off on Tik Tok but now that I'm looking back at it I'm like ok, it was just like a perfect storm and I think the timing was really right and everything kind of just like intersected really nicely. Yeah it's weird it's still almost like doesn't feel real because it's all -- it's still only happening online and I'm only seeing numbers and things. I think it's gonna be really fun when the touring starts and I can actually meet people and talk to fans and all of that.

Yeah it's gotta be a strange experience to see this sort of happen. You're one of the first artists I've talked to that has primarily had the career growth in this time of Covid. Not somebody who already had a, maybe an existing touring fanbase or record selling fanbase so you know, are you nervous about getting into the real world? Are you ready? Do you have a band that's ready to go when you get a green light?

Yeah I'm really ready and like as we were saying too, all the previous touring experience I've had - I feel way more y'know, confident and ready and just excited because I just know, I miss that feeling. I miss those endorphins of playing so bad. I feel really good about it and I'm just excited to meet people face to face honestly. I talk to a lot of people online through messages and I try to get back to everyone. It's special but it's not the same as meeting people obviously, in real life. But yeah my brother will play drums for me and he was playing drums in the little videos that we made at home and then I'll have a bigger band when we do actual shows. I'm super excited to have a band of my own, I've always just been in bands for others. It'll be fun.

Well we hope to meet you and your band when the time is right and touring becomes a reality again. Right now let's check out a performance that you did, it's Blu DeTiger and the song that's really kind of exploded across social media and now on the radio. It is "Figure It Out" here on The Current.

[Music: "Figure It Out" by Blu DeTiger]

That is Blu DeTiger and "Figure It Out" and we're here together. It is a Current virtual session and I love the style that you rock in your performances with the monochromatic singular bright colors and stuff that you've done across a lot of your videos. Is there an album on the way or what's sort of the next step for you? I know you just put out a new single with "Cotton Candy Lemonade" right?

Yeah so that's a new single. Everyone go check it out if you're watching. There's gonna be another single pretty soon and then a full EP that is finished so I'm really excited. Yeah, so full EP coming in the next few months. Look out for it.

SONGS PLAYED

05:11 Cotton Candy Lemonade
17:30 Figure It Out

CREDITS

Host: Jim McGuinn
Producer: Jesse Wiza
Technical Director: Peter Ecklund


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