After releasing one of the catchiest singles we heard throughout the whole of January, ‘Run’, which was undeniably stylistically Ray Charles, Tiggs Da Author‘s latest single ‘Swear Down‘ is just as recognisable and charismatic. Making all the right noise in the industry and building on a growing fanbase of his own, Tiggs played a festival circuit this summer that included Glastonbury, British Summer Time, Lovebox and Pukkelpop to name a few, as well as appearing on Later… With Jools Holland and his music featuring on a number of commercials and Fifa 16. After setting Tiggs up with US star Jidenna earlier this month, we headed down to his headline show at London’s Camden Assembly to find more out about his musical inspirations, his songwriting process and the story behind his lyrics.
Who or what first made you want to get into music?
I love music right from school, so my friends probably got me into it. Just like, listening to So Solid Crew back in the day. I kind of just got into it, and another thing in school, if you did music you’d probably get really good looking girls. So that was a major factor as well.
What came first for you? Rapping, singing or songwriting?
It was rapping first, because I was just pretty much imitating anything any garage act was doing. I didn’t even really love music then, it was just for other reasons. Someone would putting on a little beat on their phone and we would start.
And how did the singing and songwriting come into it?
So that came a little bit later. When I left school and started college, I started hanging out with one of my friends who was a DJ and he had a little home studio set-up, and he started teaching me how to make beats and that’s when I took it into my own hands and I thought it was pretty interesting. Before that, I never really thought about how music was made and I didn’t really know any musicians at the time, I just thought ‘Hmm I’m just gonna write something and sing it myself.’ At that stage I was 17.
You’re also a producer – how did you begin to develop this skill?
I think I’ve got insomnia, I used to stay up at my friends house literally all weekend and I never slept. So I’d watch all the films I could watch, by the time it gets to like 2 in the morning, I just felt like ok, let me see this whole producing thing and mess about. And then, when you spent so much time on something, you eventually start getting better, just naturally. If you don’t, then it’s really just not for you [laughs].
As for the songwriting, what’s your process of writing a song, from the concept to the final product?
Most of the time I just write based on inspirations. I need to be inspired by something, whether it’s someone’s story, a documentary, a film, something that someone’s gone through; and then I know exactly what I need to talk about. The next part of that is, coming from my perspective. How can I make it sound like the way I think? I like to think pretty weird, so that’s the next process. It usually just comes, once I’ve got the inspiration, it doesn’t take a lot.
Tell us about your background in Tanzania? Has your roots influenced your style at all?
Yeah, of course. I mean, when I started making music, it was just about of love. I didn’t go back to Tanzania in a very long time, so I didn’t even know the Tanzanian music properly because I was young. Then when I was 18, I went back to Tanzania, and at this point I’m really getting into the producing thing. So I’m interested, everything in music just interests me. So I wanted to know, what’s my background? What sort of music do people love here? What music did my mum love? So I started listening to some records, my uncle knew I loved music so he started taking me to a lot of music places.
Nice, what kind of records were you buying back then?
I came across the Kilwa Jazz Band and they are like an old band in Tanzania, but they have this jazzy sound and everything is really melody-driven. So the second I got back to London, I was like, you know what, I’ve been doing this whole melody thing but I’ve never really had the right music to suit me because I never knew my background properly. Now I know, I know exactly what music I want to make.
You then became a South Londoner and grew up in New Cross… How has spending a lot of your youth in South London had an impact on your music?
Majorly, because I feel like it’s given me this sort of confidence, and for some reason, of course you see a lot of negative things going on around you but that sort of made me even more of a positive person. I was always that kid that used to break up all the fights and just make sure everyone was just cool, and that gave me a lot of the inspiration to right music because I had a lot that I wanted to talk about. So it’s had a major, major, major influence.
What have been your biggest musical influences? While you were growing up and now at the present day?
Ok growing up, I’d probably say, people like So Solid Crew, because at the time that’s all I listened to. I’d just be listening to Pirate Radio, but it gave me the push to start making music. As I grew older and started getting into music, I started getting into jazz music, I got into the whole motown thing. I started listening to Ray Charles, James Brown. My head was literally just going mad. I was like oh my god, there’s so much I’ve been missing out on! I need it all in my head!
And who would you cite as a big influence on the music you’ve made in the last few years?
Probably Pharrell. I love everything he does.
We loved ‘Swear Down’, by the way. What was the story behind the lyrics in the song?
Yeah, so, like I said, growing up in South London has influenced me a lot and these are the things I’m talking about in the verse. “Don’t know when I’ll be home / Young boy but I feel old / I don’t wanna see Kilos / Pop the Gs then reload”, it’s just talking about growing up in an area where some people have hope and other people don’t have hope. You see drug dealers and you see the people who are taking drugs and you see the effects of it and you don’t really know how or when it’s all going to change.
You’ve gathered a lot of attention in quite a short space of time – what has that felt like?
I don’t usually pay attention to that side of things. Of course, you realise when more people recognise you that you’re getting out there, but I’m just getting my head down and I just want to keep realising music and hope people enjoy it. I just want to see everyone smiling, if everyone can do that then my goal is complete!
Do you have any music you’d like to recommend to us at the moment? Apart from Pharrell…
Apart from Pharrell? I’m sure people know Chance the Rapper but he is amazing. Anderson Pak. Izzy Bizu. Those are the 3 right now.
I read you’re after a Grammy. What are the next immediate steps for you to make the dream come true?
Of course, everything needs to happen at the right time, but just having a positive attitude helps everything. Staying humble and focused and just keep making music. There’s only so much you can do to stop good music because good music is so powerful, and you’d be surprised how much good music can do man.