After notching up a string of hits with a little help from Paloma Faith, Craig David and Ella Eyre, Sigala is the new crown prince of summer dance-pop anthems.
Born in the relative hinterland of Norwich, Sigala—aka Bruce Fielder— started learning to play piano at aged eight. A reluctant student, he hated the lessons his parents would make him take, until one day something clicked and the passion that runs through every note of his chart-topping tracks was ignited. Sigala’s production origin story dates back to his very first high school band: Circus. When it came to recording the teenage jazz band (inspired by Prince, Queen and Aerosmith), Sigala stepped up and downloaded some software to do it himself. Lo, a producer was born, with Sigala trading his piano keys for the ones on his laptop. Flash forward and after graduating from studying Commercial Music at Westminster University, Sigala immersed himself in the murky swamps of professional songwriting, only to find himself lost in the mire. “Until you have a successful song no one really wants to listen to your music, no one was listening to it except me” he says, laughing off those first few years out of uni. Fearing his time was running out, Sigala doubled down on his own material and the result was his chart-topping, Jackson 5 sampling first single, “Easy Love”. Soon came a record deal with Ministry of Sound and now his Nile Rogers and Kylie Minogue featuring debut album, Brighter Days. Let the good times roll!
Hello Sigala, what can the people expect from your debut album?
I can only put out a certain number of singles at a time, so it’s a great opportunity to put out other material and show people the slightly different flavours of what I can do. It all fits under the same Sigala bracket but I’ve definitely experimented with a few different styles and worked with people from all over the place. That’s really fun, taking inspiration from the music that they make or the music from their cultures and making something that sounds a little bit like them inside something that I would make.
Is it frustrating that people expect you to deliver banger after banger?
I’m just a sucker for pop music. I love big hooks and uplifting songs, which is exactly what all of my tracks have been. I love making music like that so I don’t have any issues with that, but there is definitely a tickbox of things you have to have for a single.
Was there anyone you asked to be on your album that said no?
Yeah—Will Smith [laughs]. I never intended to even ask him, but I made this song and there was a verse for a rap section and I just wanted to hear it with a vocal on it, so I knew how it should sound while I was producing it. The first one I found was a Will Smith acapella and I slapped it in. It was probably a bad idea but I lived with it for a long time and got so used to hearing Will Smith on my song that I was like, ‘guys we have to get Will Smith, it just sounds right’. It’s a song I worked on with Nile Rogers who knows him, so it wasn’t impossible. It’s still my mission to do a song with him, so the battle is not over yet.
Don’t give up on the dream.
So what about the people who are on the album?
There’s a track I’ve done with Kylie Minogue. I wrote this song and I couldn’t really finish it, I don’t know why, it just didn’t really feel right at the time and my manager sent it to her team and they loved it. We finished a version for her album and it sounded great. Then she decided to do a slightly different country thing for her album, so it didn’t really fit in anymore because it’s a kind of nineties throwback kind of record, a dance track that’s classic Kylie.
People really want that!
I know! I kind of fell in love with the track once I heard her on it and it seemed such a shame to not do anything with it. It’s a bit like Kylie, a bit like me, a bit like something new. It’s one of the tracks I’m most excited for people to hear. It’s called “What Are You Waiting For?” I get daily messages from Kylie’s fanbase asking when the Kylie track is going to come out.
Is Kylie as amazing as she seems?
She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. Exactly as you’d image her to be. I didn’t get to meet her for the whole process of making the song but I had spoken to her. I was away the day that she came and recorded the vocals so somebody else had to do it. I ended up doing a Sounds Like Friday Night performance and she was there doing the same show and we made sure we met up and chatted. She hadn’t heard the new version so I played it to her and she was dancing around the green room.
How would you describe Brighter Days?
I wanted it to be an album that you could stick on when you’re on holiday or chilling by a pool or even if you’re not, you can close your eyes and imagine that place. It’s an album about escapism, you stick it on and it sounds like summer, so hopefully it can transport you away from rainy London in the winter or wherever you are. It’s all very positive and feel good music, that’s what I’ve always been about.
What’s your music making process?
I usually start stuff on the piano and try and write a song first before I get stuck into how the production is going to sound. Sometimes it will be with the artist that ends up on the song, sometimes it will be with other songwriters. It’s really important for me to get a great song that you can play on the piano and can stand out on its own without all the production around it. I make a lot of music and I need to be able to tell what’s good and what’s not
Are the songs that end up being hits the ones that are easiest to write?
Yeh they’re the ones that are most fun when I’m writing them. The process that follows is usually quite stressful, getting it from the moment where you’ve written a song and created some sort of vibe and you’re really excited about it. I’m really OCD with music making and I have to have tried every single avenue of what the production could possibly be and the structure of the song. I make over a hundred versions of every song before I choose which one is the one
Do you have go to sounds you work with or will you sit through and try every kick drum sound you have for example?
I used to do that a lot, I’d sit there for hours. I’m a bit more organised now. I have my go to things which I know will work, but I get inspired by new sounds and new plugins and things like that all the time. I’m always looking for things that sound fresh. My set up now is really basic, I don’t have any outboard equipment, it’s just a microphone and an interface straight in and everything else is done in the box. I’m definitely all for simplifying or else I won’t get anything done, I’ll just be playing with a knob for ten hours.
Just Got Paid ft. French Montana - Sigala, Ella Eyre, Meghan Trainer
Where were you when you found out you were number one?
I was in studio with Craig David working on my next song [laughs]. Which was mad! We were listening to the chart run down on Radio 1 and me and Craig were sat there. I don’t know if someone had told me previously but I wouldn’t have believed it until I heard it on the radio. To be able to spend that moment with Craig David was such a cool thing. We were jumping around the studio celebrating.
What was it like meeting Sean Paul?
He’s such a nice guy. I only met him briefly at a show I did. This was another one of those where I didn’t get his vocals until like 4 days before we released the track. We nearly went with a version without him because we were running out of time and his dad had sadly just passed away, so we just gave him a bit of space and then suddenly he sent this vocal and it was amazing. As soon as you hear his voice it brings a track up to another level.
How do you cope with all the travelling and tour schedules?
It was a big lifestyle change, going from working 9-5 and then being a songwriter and not really working at all [laughs] to touring. It’s not normal. I’ve never been good at falling asleep, it takes me ages. I’ve had to learn how to nap. Recently I’ve started being able to do it and it’s a game changer.
Do you have a formula for DJing?
You never really know how it’s going to go down. I try and do my research, my sets are all about playing songs that people can sing along to and that people know. I DJ all over the world so I have to adjust my set accordingly depending on where I’m going to make sure I’m giving the crowd what they want. At the end of the day it’s about them having a good time, it’s not about me. I’m there to please them.
What’s nostalgic for you?
Aside from Will Smith and Keenan and Kel? That was basically what I was brought up on. I just used to want to be Will Smith when I was a kid. I’m still trying man.
Norfolk’s answer to Will Smith?
[Laughs] What was I thinking?
Were people like Calvin Harris role models for you?
Calvin definitely was a role model. Somebody that came from a small rural town or village even and made his way to the top. He was definitely a big influence in terms of his success. When I was a kid I used to dream about being a DJ, but when I started to grow up I completely wrote that off as a viable job. Since being a teenager I’ve been so in love with making music and producing and writing and working with creative people. That’s still the bit that’s the most fun for me, that process of being in the studio and making something from nothing and leaving the studio with a a song that we can put on in the car on the way home. The DJing is an added bonus.
What’s the messiest night you’ve ever had?
John Newman’s stag do [laughs].
How did that end?
In tears. It just didn’t end I think that was the point! That was… interesting. I’m not going into any more detail.
You’re a motorbike freak right?
Not at the moment. I love motorbikes, since I was a kid, I’ve got two brothers and my dad brought us this crappy old motorbike for like fifty quid and we used to whip around the country lanes and the fields pissing off the neighbours. Since then I’ve been really into motorbikes. If I were to get a superbike I think I’d probably kill myself. I’m slightly addicted to the acceleration and if you come off it’s not ending well. I’ll stick to cars with airbags and things.