Introducing: TIEKS

Even if you don’t recognise his name, you’ve definitely heard his music. British producer and songwriter TIEKS is a serial hitmaker, having collaborated with the likes of Florence and the Machine, FKA Twigs, and Sky Ferreira. His 2016 summer jam ‘Sunshine’ featuring Dan Harkna soundtracked that summer, peaking at number 15 on the UK charts. His most recent single, ‘Say A Prayer’ featuring the Queen of Funk herself, Chaka Khan, and Popcaan, looks set to go the same way, with a soaring pop-gospel vibe that will have you smiling like it’s summer even in this wet London winter.

When we get to talking, TIEKS is warm, engaging, and enthusiastic about his music, clear-eyed about his craft and his vision for the future. Read the exclusive interview below.

First of all, tell me a little bit about you. How did you start making music?

How did I start making music? Well, I don’t know if there’s ever really a point where you start making music – I guess since I was a little kid. I watched programmes like Night Rider and The A Team, in the 80s, and I was about three years old or so. And, as a three-year-old, my frontal lobes were not developed, so I would cry when the programme ended because I wanted it to carry on forever.

And my mum would always get really wound up by this, and she just told me to get over it, it’s gonna be on tomorrow. I never would, so she’d always give me a piece of paper and she’d tell me to draw it like a comic strip. […] And I always knew something was missing. And it wasn’t until I got to about five years old that I realised that the music was missing. When I was drawing the scenes, I’d end up drawing the scenes of whatever programme I [was] imagining, but then I’d have to score the music and I think it was around that point, around four or five, that I realised I actually loved scoring the music more than I loved drawing the scenes.

So ever since then I knew I wanted to be a composer – I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do, I guess. So that’s when I got into music, I would say.

That’s really cool, that’s such an interesting answer! Most people will know your song ‘Sunshine’ [from 2016] – what was it like to have that blow up in the way that it did?

It was great, man! I mean, you know, when you’re in the music industry and the music business, you’re making records, putting them out there – everything you want is for people to hear it and for people to enjoy it, I think. I make music to please myself, but more than anything I make it so that other people can enjoy it, dance to it, sing it, whatever they wanna do with it. And [for] ‘Sunshine’ to blow up was great – it’s a great song. It took its time to build, and I’m glad that people feel the same way that I feel about it, you know?

Yeah – that’s really, really good. Is it a strange experience, going from something that you’re working on in the more closed environment of the studio to hearing it everywhere and knowing that loads of people are responding to it?

I wouldn’t say it’s strange, because I think you try and prepare yourself for that as well as for it not to be that, you know? It’s not strange – I embrace it, and I try and write the best songs I can in order for that to happen. Sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it does, but it’s just all part of the peaks and troughs of the record-making business.

I see! So tell me about your new single ‘Say A Prayer’ – how did that all come together?

That song – I wrote that song quite a long time ago. And I wrote it with a friend of mine, Jess Mills – big up Jess! Originally it was in a different incarnation. We wrote this song quite a bit of time ago – this is [around] 2013 – so I was developing it over time, and then I realised in around 2014 that this could be this kind of big, sort of beautiful, soulful, gospel thing. So I rewrote the verses and I re-did the music, and it was one of those things where it took its time but it blossomed into something. […] And then obviously getting Chaka Khan and Popcaan on it made it a whole other thing as well, so it was a really great experience.

Yeah – what was it like working with Chaka Khan, considering she’s such a legend?

Ah yeah. I mean, it was seriously incredible. It’s really weird because Chaka’s one of my first memories as a kid. I remember, I was in my sister’s bedroom ‘cause some of her friends had come over – I would’ve been about two or three years old, it’s one of my first memories, honest it is – and she played ‘Filthy’ and it sounded like something from another galaxy when I heard it. And that memory, one of the first records I ever heard, stuck with me. So meeting Chaka – I told her this as well, when I met her – was incredible. And having her on a record, I mean, come on! I can’t begin to describe how incredible [it is] to have someone like her on a record. I’ve done it now – ticked [that] off the bucket list!

Definitely – it’s amazing for things to come full-circle like that! But you’ve worked with so many amazing people; what is the best part for you about collaborating with other people?

Well, you know, I’m an artist, and I’m a writer, but first and foremost I’m a record producer, so my whole career is based on collaboration and I’m only as good as the people I work with. So it’s the most important thing for me – collaborating, and feeding off the ideas of others, and hopefully them feeding off my ideas. Every day I go in the studio and I work with someone, I’m learning, you know – I’ve been doing this for around ten years now, and every day I’m learning. No matter how new to the game the people are or how experienced they are, I’m always learning things from them. So yeah – it’s the most important thing to me, to collaborate.

I’ve been doing this for around ten years now, and every day I’m learning… it’s the most important thing to me, to collaborate.

Yeah, I guess you must get to [experience] so much growth and change that maybe you wouldn’t if you were just working by yourself, or trying to stay within a narrow artistic vision of what your work is.

Definitely! Definitely, there’s no place for ego in this sort of creation. You’ve always got to be open for ideas and open to learn. I’ve learnt that [as] I’ve gone along and now, it’s a brilliant experience to have new people come in every day and learn from them. So, yeah, it’s great.

Yeah – what advice would you give to young artists about collaborating, about working with other people?

The main thing I would say is… Be confident in the fact you can’t do everything. That’s what I would say. I think for a lot of young artists, they get really worried, especially when you’re coming into the studio and there are other musicians there and you get really unconfident about what your role is. [You think] ‘He can play guitar better than me,’ or ‘She can sing better than me,’ – don’t worry about what anyone can do better than you. If they can do it better than you, let them do it better than you. Worry about what you can offer.

And I think, once you know what you can offer and you’re comfortable within that, you’ll do that to the best of your ability, and you’ll allow room for other people who can offer something in another way to blossom. What you’ll find is, collectively, you’ll make amazing music, or you’ll make amazing art, whatever you’re doing.

In all walks of life, I think, the best way is to sort of temper your ego. You know, being a young man myself, I’m speaking as a young man – we’ve all got egos. Temper your ego, and be aware you have one, so that you can get it out the way when you need to make something work, basically.

That’s really, really good advice. So – what’s next for you? What are your big goals for the next year?

Next year… Making a lot of great records! I have got some incredible records coming up, I’m in a really, really good place as far as record-making. So making great records, doing a lot more gigs, and just trying to create some sort of musical history. So that my kids can look back and go ‘Oh yeah, Dad did that.’ I think that’s the goal for the next year or two.

I think that’s a great goal, it’s a great focus to have, and I look forward to hearing everything that you bring out! Thanks so much TIEKS!

Watch the lyric video for TIEKS’s brand new song ‘Say A Prayer’ below. 

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