As quiet starts to a year go – a time when he was meant to be bunkered in his Jungle studio in King’s Cross, London, hothousing new tunes – it’s been a busy one for Sigala.
The DJ/producer is not long back from a festival in Guatemala. It was a bit different from his last appearance on UK stages, flexing his live muscles on his “band tour” in support of 2018’s silver-selling debut Brighter Days– an album that was, in effect, an all-star greatest hits, already. Brighter Days featured ten singles and some two-dozen featured vocalists, including indelible modern bangers ‘Came Here For Love’ and ‘Just Got Paid’ (both featuring Ella Eyre), ‘Lullaby’ (with Paloma Faith), ‘Give Me Your Love’ (John Newman and Nile Rogers) and ‘What You Waiting For’ (with Kylie Minogue), as well as Sigala’s chart-topping, Jacksons-sampling debut ‘Easy Love.’
Anyway, Central America… “Amazing, man!” enthuses the 29-year-old born Bruce Fielder in Norfolk. “The place it was held, the people obviously didn’t have much in terms of music performances, so everyone who turned up just wanted to party. Which is great for me – if they’re up for it, it’s makes my job easier and much more fun.”
Underlining an up-for-it appetite for taking his music anywhere interesting, there was also the little detour he took on a recent US mini-tour.
“I played in the living room of a frat house on a campus in Philadelphia. And it was the best gig I’ve done all year,” he insists. “It was in the middle of the tour and this student emailed – he wanted to book us and was going to pay himself. The fee was nothing, but it was a day off, it’s something new, let’s do it…”
Yes, Sigala agrees, it could have gone badly wrong.
“I didn’t know what to expect – they could have bottled me off! It was a little DJ set up, crappy old PA system, 300 people crammed in, 200 more spilling out the door… It was insane, man. And as soon as I got back to London. I said to my manager: ‘We need to do a frat tour. And film it.’” Netflix are you listening?
Then, underscoring the fact that Sigala has a truly global footprint – not just another DJ ricocheting from Vegas to Ibiza (although he does that too) – he’s also just squeezed in some club shows in Seoul and Tokyo. Even after four years pinballing round the world, he still can’t get over the response.
“I go out there and there’s literally fandom like I’ve never seen before. Pop fandom, for me, a kid from the countryside in Norfolk!” he laughs. “I get there for soundcheck four hours before the set, and there’s a bunch of kids waiting for me: things to sign, posters of me, some guy made a collage of all the pictures he’d got from Instagram, with battery-powered fairy lights round them, gifts, four-page letters about how my music has touched them and helped them through a hard time…
“Which is amazing to see, especially in a country I’ve barely been to. To see the impact the music has had is mad.”
The work rate, the travels, the emotional responses, the worldwide fan engagement: they all speak to one thing.
Well, a few things. This is them:
Six UK top 10 singles. A Brit Award nomination for best Single for ‘Lullaby.’ The sixth most played track on UK radio in 2018 with ‘Lullaby.’ Seven global platinum Singles. Eight global gold singles. Six million UK sales. Ten million worldwide sales. Two billion audio streams. One billion video views. Two sold out UK headline tours in 2017 & 2018. The #1 most played British male artist on commercial radio 2016. With Brighter Days, the highest charting dance debut of 2018. Also with Brighter Days, the unofficial prize for the best launch of 2018: a specially emblazoned charter flight, Sigala Air, jetting a planeload of collaborators, colleagues, friends and fans to Ibiza for a Brighter Days club that became an even better night…
And that, it transpires, is just for starters. Sigala sees Brighter Days as the end of the first chapter of his career. “That was a milestone for me. It was so incredible bringing all those people together, and felt like a big deal getting features from everyone from Kylie Minogue to Flo Rida. I was so proud.”
Now, though, he’s about to unveil a chapter two that promises even more.
For one thing, there are the results of two writing camps hosted (and funded) by Sigala, the first in Thailand, the second in King’s Cross. Over a combined three weeks, 80-odd writers, singers and producers joined the party in a series of song-creation sessions. Were they fruitful?
“Well, we got about 140 songs out of them,” he replies.
True to rigorous form, after many hours in his studio and on his piano (on which this band-loving musician, veteran of a teenage jazz combo, always begins his productions), Sigala has boiled a wealth of tunes down to 15 or so keepers. He’s quietly confident that he and his collaborators have smashed it on that pool of dancefloor/radio anthems. Belters with soul, we might say. But there’s one that stands head, shoulders and hands-in-the-air above the rest.
‘Wish You Well’ was written with Becky Hill (Oliver Heldens’ ‘Gecko’) in London earlier this year. His ears permanently attuned to big vocals and big emotion, Sigala could tell it was a mic-drop moment.
“As soon as I heard it I thought: this is the one. It was instantly something really special. The topline really showcases her amazing voice. I’ve always been into finding new voices,” says the eager A&R who had huge hits with Bryn Christopher (‘Sweet Lovin’’) and Imani (‘Say You Do’). “Becky’s obviously been around for a while and done some massive tracks. But having her on a record is new to me. And she definitely ticks the box of ‘big house vocal’. So I’ve had her in my sights for a while, just trying to find the right song.”
With ‘Wish You Well,’ it’s job well and truly done. It’s a euphoric old school house track, with flicks and nods to floorfillers Sigala remembers from his early rave years. As he notes, a powerhouse vocal requires a powerhouse production.
“My stuff is quite big sounding, and energetic, and a bit over the top at times! So I think Becky really fits. Her vocal inspired me to make the track really big. And I also pulled inspiration from early teenage raving days, loving house and trance. Some of these sounds might feel familiar to some people from 20 years ago, which is exciting to me – it’s the music from my childhood.”
For Sigala, a key aspect of his songs is the thrilling uplift before the drop. “That’s always the money shot for me. I like exploring different ways of doing that, whether it’s the Italo piano-house thing or something else.”
It reflects the positive, inclusive message of his lyrics, which is one reason for that emotional connection everywhere from Solihull to Seoul, Tokyo to Tottenham.
“My songs are always upbeat,” he nods. “And, yeah, this is a breakup song, but it’s a positive one: we’re going to be moving on, but I wish the best for you. That’s a really important message. And of course, it’s someone everyone can relate to.”
Also baked into the DNA of songs like ‘Wish You Well’ is sunshine, escapism and adventure. It reflects a childhood “growing up here, in the countryside, in often miserable weather. So I have this need for this summery sound."
When he’s not in the studio Sigala is an avid motorsport enthusiast and a keen gamer. On the few weekends he has to himself, he likes to spend time rally driving in the Welsh hills with John Newman.
His constant touring means he’s always exploring, “looking for inspiration from scenery and culture wherever I go. I bring that home with me to the studio. And I watch a lot of videos while I’m making music – other people’s music videos, with the sound muted, or a David Attenborough documentary. And if the music looks good with that in the background, I know I’m onto a winner.”
The finessing on those other dozen-and-half songs will continue throughout the summer. But first up, Sigala is heading out on another important mission: to road test his songs.
First there’s another band tour, supporting Craig David on a UK arena tour. There’s also his Las Vegas DJ residency, his third year in a row, at The Cosmopolitan at The Marquee. Then, in the background, is the fine-tuning of his Sigalaland night, a curated evening of DJs as premiered earlier this year at Ministry of Sound, and destined to be taken round the world to “holiday destinations”.
Meanwhile, when he’s not on a flight, on a tour bus, in a booth, on a stage or at his mixing desk, Sigala will (somehow) be developing his new publishing and record companies, Lighthouse, which will be creative spaces for a new generation of writers, singers and producers.
“As well as my own music, it’s about finding the next generation of artists. And offering the help I really needed when I was their age,” points out a creative who spent a long time, pre-‘Easy Love,’ struggling to make it as a songwriter.
“I was a songwriter for years and years and was treated like crap. I’d submit something and hear nothing back. Or, it would get used but no one would acknowledge or credit you. So because I’ve been there, it’s really important to me to nurture new talent, look after them. Same with the writing camps: flying people out to Thailand is really cool and makes everyone feel loved. We all have a great time, and a productive time. I want everyone to feel involved.”
It’s about giving back, and it’s about giving out. And it’s about going out, and about going at it.
“I just want this year to put out as much music as possible,” he says simply, before casually mentioning another project, a track with Steve Aoki and Icona Pop. “So, my own music through Ministry, but also collaborations with other artists and producers and DJs – without putting out an album.
“I also want to start making music that doesn’t even have my name on it,” he concludes, “with and for other artists.”
So, don’t watch this space. But do keep your ears on the radio and your feet on the dancefloor: Sigala #2 is coming…