“The record label politics is mad”: Sigala talks Avicii and working with Kylie Minogue on his debut album Brighter Days
Sigala may just be the UK’s shiest popstar. The DJ/producer/songwriter – whose real name is the very un-popstar-like Bruce Fielder – has racked up six Top 10 hits, one of which hit Number 1, in the space of three years. It’s an impressive feat in today’s hyper-competitive singles chart, but not one he’s particularly keen to shout about himself.
“I’ve made it my mission to stay behind the scenes and let the music do its thing while I live a normal life,” he tells me over the phone. At a time when popstars’ communication with fans via rigorously screened tweets and Insta stories is considered a key ingredient to success, is Sigala really able to fly under the radar? “I’ve never once been noticed on the street,” he insists. “Only at a Sigala concert, obviously. I’m a normal guy with a pretty normal upbringing and I like my privacy.” Does he consider himself a popstar? “You can call me whatever you like!”
He partly attributes his camera-shyness to seeing how fame affected Avicii, who took his own life in April this year after struggling to cope with life in the spotlight. Sigala notes he was aware of Avicii’s struggles back in 2015, when he himself was initiated into the dance-pop world.
“Avicii was a huge inspiration to me as an artist,” he says, “and I could see the problems he was having and how fame was affecting him in such a negative way. He’d just been thrown into stardom and wasn’t dealing with it well. All the interviews I saw with him, he seems like a similar person to me – very introvert and almost shy but really into his music. I don’t want to go down that path and find out I don’t like it because once you’re famous, you can’t take it back.”
Sigala charged on to the charts in 2015, when his debut single Easy Love went to Number 1 – its sunny and wildly infectious chorus that interpolates the Jackson 5’s ABC inspired a wave of tropical house imitators. He made the song in his bedroom, the result a burst of creativity after becoming frustrated while painstakingly mixing a song for another artist. Before that, he worked in a Cash Converters in his hometown of Norwich. “I remember asking myself, 'Am I really going to sell old Hi-fis for the rest of my life?' I moved to London shortly after and started to really take music seriously from that point.”
Sigala with his Official Number 1 Award for Easy Love in 2015
This week Sigala releases his debut album, fittingly titled Brighter Days. A mammoth ten singles have proceeded it, with guest features ranging from the impressive (Sean Paul, Meghan Trainor), brand new (HRVY, Imani Williams) and iconic (Nile Rodgers, Kylie Minogue). It feels more like a greatest hits, but Sigala remains adamant that getting an album out was important for him.
“That was always the plan," he says of the prolonged pre-album singles run, "because, to be honest, two years ago I didn’t think I would do an album – the singles were just working so well and it was nice to focus on making one great song at a time. It’s got to a point now where I have so many songs I’m happy with that they’ll get lost if I don’t release them now. Each single has taken twice as long as the last one to finish because I’m becoming more of a perfectionist. I only finished [current single] Just Got Paid a couple of weeks ago because everyone on the track was in different time zones – it was very up to the line.”
Does this mean the album’s release is effectively mark the end of the campaign?
“Yep, that’s it – I’m retiring! No, it’s nice to draw a line under a body of work that’s been three years in the making. Maybe it could give me the opportunity to do something different now and experiment more. I’m not sure at the moment – I never am until I make something and I feel like it should be released. I’m going with the flow.”
The list of collaborators and co-writers on the album is endless. That must complicate things quite a bit?
“Massively. The more people who are involved in a song, the more difficult it becomes to get it out. It’s not necessarily the artist themselves, it’s more that every artist has their own team of managers, their label, publisher… I’ve worked with artists who are on a label that’s a rival to mine, we were really excited about [the song] but the labels say no. There’s a lot of politics behind the scenes, it's mad. It’s the same with any artist, I’m not complaining – I know how it goes. I try and not get too involved in that side of things, if a track doesn’t work out I just move on. It’s not always stressful though, most of the time it’s actually pretty easy and very fun.”
Be honest, which song on the album do you think you absolutely nailed?
“Probably the Kylie collaboration [What You Waiting For]. I had a version of the song for ages that was a really obvious Sigala-sounding thing. It was too obvious – a real balls-out pop song - so I completely changed it up and reproduced the whole thing. I went back to the chilled summer songs I was listening to a few years ago - Duke Dumont’s I Got U, Alex Adir’s You Make Me Feel Better – so the song has a real nostalgic feel for me. It has a special place in my heart.”
Is Kylie happy with the results?
“She loves it. I didn’t work with her in the studio, but I met her on Sounds Like Friday Night in her dressing room. She hadn’t heard the new version, so I played it to her over my phone. She was dancing around the green room and I was like, ‘what is happening in my life right now?!’”
You now have a string of hits under your belt; does the weight of expectation grow with every release?
“There’s been expectation from my first single, so it’s not so much that, it’s more my own perfectionism. I won’t let anyone hear anything until it’s done, and my idea of done is very different to my team’s idea of done. I’m that person who will spend days working on two seconds of music and making sure it sounds right. I think I have a problem in my brain. For [Ella Eyre collaboration] Came Here For Love, there were 207 versions. No-one else but me could hear the differences after the hundredth mix. Still, ultimately I’m the one who’s going out there and playing it!”
Sigala's debut album Brighter Days is out on September 28.