Sigala On Working With John Newman & Nile Rodgers, And His Upcoming Collaborations: Interview
Bruce Fielder‘s current command of the British house music scene surprised no one more than the producer-songwriter himself. Just one year ago, the Norfolk native was paying the rent by penning tracks for other artists (see: Sigma and Ella Eyre‘s “Good Times”). In the comfort of his own home, when he had some spare time, Fielder built a breezy, euphoric house groove around a sample of the Jackson 5 classic “ABC,” and the result, “Easy Love,” wound up becoming a 2015 end-of-summer UK chart-topper. By that point he opted to go under the name of Sigala for his own music.
“After a couple years, I was a bit bored of writing for other people so I decided to do my own thing,” Fielder says when we meet up at the offices of his US label, Columbia, on his very first visit to New York City. “I wanted to do something with no limitations and nobody saying, ‘No, it has to be like this.’ That was when I did ‘Easy Love’. There were no rules, I just did it for myself. So it was pretty mad when it went to #1.”
The rest of Europe followed suit; “Easy Love” wound up landing in the Top 10 in several other countries. It didn’t hurt that the video, shot in Los Angeles and featuring young dancing duo Lucky Aces, proved to be a thrilling, can’t-miss watch.
All of this led to us here at Idolator including Sigala in our roundup of 20 Artists To Watch In 2016 last December.
Two more Top 5 singles followed in the UK — the house jam “Sweet Lovin,” featuring Bryn Christopher, and the drum and bass number “Say You Do,” a collaboration with DJ Fresh and vocalist Imani that interpolates Mariah Carey‘s 1996 smash “Always Be My Baby.” For his current single, “Give Me Your Love,” the suddenly-established Sigala was able to enlist a pair of big guns: Soulful British crooner John Newman and guitar legend Nile Rodgers.
Head below to read our one-on-one with Britain’s newest pop force.
How are you enjoying New York so far? SIGALA: I’m only here for two days. I really like what I’ve seen so far.
You’ve released four singles so far, and the videos are really knockout — but you’re not in any of them! Do you tag along to the shoots? SIGALA: I haven’t been to any of them. I’m really involved in everything up to the video shoot. I work really closely with the director, Craig Moore, who’s done all four videos. But I kind of just like having something to view and not being there on the day, because it’s gonna change how I watch it, if you know what I mean — I can be a bit more unbiased, I guess. When you’re there on the day of filming, you just get a bit more detached from it.
So you’re involved up to the actual date of production, then you leave it in the hands of your collaborator, Craig. SIGALA: I’m quite controlling in general, because I think if something’s going to have my name on it, it has to be right. So I’m really involved in all the videos. I came up with the roller skating idea [for “Sweet Lovin”] with Craig. Actually, I think he came up with the roller skates and I came up with the smoke. So it’s a really a team effort. I really enjoy it, as well, all the visuals. I pretty much do all the graphics myself.
Your current single, “Give Me Your Love” is the first to get a stateside push. How did you come to work with John Newman and Nile Rodgers on the track? SIGALA: This is quite funny. I’ve been wanting to work with John for awhile. He’d heard some of my songs on the radio — this was after “Sweet Lovin” and before “Say You Do.” He’d heard “Easy Love,” and I’d asked his manager if he’d want to work with me. [John] was like, “No, I don’t think I could work with somebody who’d rip off the Jackson 5.” [Laughs] I didn’t know any of this was going on. But apparently he was in his car and “Sweet Lovin” came on, and he was straight on the phone to his manager like, “Alright, I take it back — I want to work with him!” So I met up with him and we got on really well. We have a similar sense of humor, and we had a great first writing session. “Give Me Your Love” is what came out of that session.
The Nile thing came a bit later. John was already working with him on a few things, for John’s album and maybe something for Nile as well. I had a connection through my label, as well — they’d done some work with Nile. So we sent him the song and within five minutes he came back to us and he was like, “I love it. I want to be involved.” We had some guitars on there already, because it was something new — I hadn’t used guitars and I wanted to make a thing of it, basically. And who better to play than guitar genius, Nile Rodgers? I still haven’t met him yet, though. I’m hoping to meet him soon!
See, this is why you should go on these video shoots! He’s all through the video for “Give Me Your Love.” SIGALA: I know, I know. I was gutted. I already had a gig on that day so I couldn’t get there.
I read somewhere that when you were working in the studio, Tito Jackson, who of course was a Jackson 5 member, was coincidentally down the hallway? SIGALA: I’ve got a studio in a place called Tileyard, and I’d just written “Easy Love.” Somebody mentioned that he was recording some music there, so my manager, Charlie, suggested that I go play him the song. I was terrified to. I thought he was going to turn around and be like, “How dare you use my song?” [Charlie] convinced me to do it, and I’m really glad I did. Tito was such a nice guy, and he really loved the song. It was absolutely surreal.
How did you first get into performing? SIGALA: I’ve been playing music since I was quite young. I started playing piano when I was about 8, and later went into jazz bands and rock bands — nothing really electronic at that point in my life, in my teenage years; it was all bands, basically. I just used to love banging keyboards. Then I started to get into more of the production when I was about 16 or 17. I went to college in Norwich, where I was born, then moved to London about five years ago and studied commercial music there at Westminster. When I left university, I started songwriting. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at that time, I just knew I loved music. So whatever opportunities came up, I’d go for it.
What music did you grow up loving? SIGALA: I was a massive Pearl Jam fan. Their album Ten is just one of my favorite albums of all time. And then slightly later on I got massive into Pendulum and their Hold Your Colour album, when I was going to college. I used to have an old banger of a car — I think I spent more on the sound system than I did on the car. I used to ride around in the city bangin’ out Pendulum.
You got started in the business right at the start of the resurgence of house music in the UK, which eventually crossed over here in the States. Clean Bandit even won a Grammy last year for “Rather Be.” SIGALA: It was kind of that song that made me realize, “Oh my god — we’re allowed to use piano in house music again? Let’s do this!” Obviously, [piano] is my strength, so to hear that do well, I needed to get involved.
Can you clue us in on some artists you’re working with now? SIGALA: Fuse ODG, I’m doing something with him. Felix Jaehn, Craig David. Galantis, I’m in touch with them — we haven’t actually worked on something yet, but we have an idea. It’s really exciting, because I love their stuff.
It feels like 2016 is the year of the Craig David renaissance. SIGALA: Yeah, I know. It’s amazing. He’s a really talented man. There’s no surprise that he’s doing well again. He’s got the best work ethic of people that I’ve worked with so far. He’s a machine; you put him in the booth and he’ll just come up with 50 ideas. It’s like, wow — I don’t know which one to choose, because they’re all great.
It’s crazy to think that’s he’s a pop veteran now. SIGALA: And still looks exactly the same as when he was 20 years old!
You’ve had four very successful singles. One would assume there’s an album coming along at some point. SIGALA: One would assume that. [Laughs] One would be right. I mean, it’s not my priority. At the minute I’m just focusing on writing some really strong singles, and when I have enough for an album I’ll maybe put a few on there that people haven’t heard. That’s my plan, anyway. But so far everything’s been so flexible and fluid, you know, it could change.