Kristen Sinclair, Editor.
Bruce Fielder, better known as Sigala, answers the phone from his studio in London. Having racked up two billion audio streams, six Top 10 singles and the highest-charting dance debut of 2018, the superstar DJ and producer is preparing for a mammoth tour that will take him across the globe: “I’m really looking forward to travelling to different places where I haven’t played as much. Some places on the tour I haven’t played before but there’s a fan base there, so it’s going to be amazing to perform for and meet these people.” Sigala’s mind-boggling success is almost at odds with the down-to-earth, exuberant Englishman on the other end of the line. He talks touring, the power of music and his exceptional knack for writing a hook.
As a lifelong pianist with a penchant for soulful voices, EDM mightn’t have seemed like an obvious avenue for Sigala: “For me, everything starts with the song. When I write a piece of music, it will generally be with a singer at the piano. What happens with it afterwards is up to me in terms of production and making it sound exciting and fresh, something that be played on the radio and performed live in an energetic setting. At the heart of every tune is hopefully a good song.”
His chart domination in recent years has garnered collaborations with some of the biggest names in music, including Nile Rodgers, Paloma Faith, Craig David and Meghan Trainor. His most recent, ‘We Got Love’ with Ella Henderson, is an uplifting, boogie-inducing rejection of the daily grind. “I’d been working on that track for a long time and I’d tried different singers on it. We [Ella and I] got on really well and enjoyed being in the studio together and she sounded amazing on the song,” he explains, “She’s local to my studio as well, so we work together quite a lot and see each other all the time.”
His appetite for collaboration doesn’t stop there: “I would love to work with Chris Martin from Coldplay; I think he’s an incredible writer. He’s got such a unique voice as well and we have similar writing styles. I feel like we would both want to write something really positive and upbeat. That’s the dream writing session. I was a big Darkness fan growing up as well and I met a couple of the guys from the band. I’ve been chatting to one of them about maybe doing a collab, which could be really cool.”
Sigala’s inspiration is at once genre-melding, nostalgic and all about feeling. A perhaps unsuspecting Foo Fighters fan, venturing outside his kingdom of clubs and dancefloors is never off the cards. “I love collaborating with people and I feel like the more separated our music is in terms of genre, the more exciting that is for me to create something totally different. I don’t look at music in genres so much, I like what makes me feel good. I listen to loads of bands and different electronic genres and to whatever gives me the feeling I want at the time.”
Whilst the Norwich native is always chasing that feeling music first gave him in his teenage years, he hasn’t fallen into the trap of overly wistful, unimaginative uses of iconic tracks like many DJs of the past decade. Sigala’s extensive use of sampling – from ‘ABC’ by The Jackson 5 on ‘Easy Love’ to Mariah Carey’s ‘Always Be My Baby’ on ‘Say You Do’ – gives a nod to the classics whilst allowing a signature Sigala chorus to take the lead.
“With ‘Easy Love’, the sample was absolutely the first thing that started the song. I had the acapella and I was playing around with it – I had some chords and it turned out to be this tune,” he says of his creative process. “With a lot of the samples I use now, I write the songs first and I always have a gap where there’s the ‘Sigala musical moment’ in the song, like an instrumental hook or melody or something catchy. That’s usually where the sample ends up because when I’m making it, I have a really good time putting bits of songs that I love into in my own words. There’s nostalgia, but I have such fun hearing them in a fresh way that I get so attached and I know it has to be the version.”
It’s clear that the ability to motivate and inspire through music is a driving factor for Sigala; the adjectives ‘positive’, ‘upbeat’ and ‘feel-good’ resurge throughout the conversation, often unprompted. “I’ve had many messages from people saying that my music has helped them through a tough time with illness or family problems, and that made me realise how powerful music can be,” he reveals. “To be able to use it in a positive way is amazing.” Despite his now sure-fire recipe for feel-good hits, the first Sigala track was born out of discontent. He didn’t expect it to be uplifting as he didn’t think anyone else would be listening to it.
“I did [it] entirely to make myself feel good about music. At the time, I wasn’t enjoying making music very much because I was doing production jobs for other artists and it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I thought, right, I’m going to do something that makes you feel good. I had so much fun making that song and I realised that that translated to people listening to it. When I make music now, I’m making it for myself but also thinking, if this makes me feel good, then hopefully it’s going to do the same for other people.”
Whilst not packing out iconic clubs like Ministry of Sound in London or selling out venues across the globe, how does one of the most in-demand DJs in the world spend his free time? Not that much differently than the rest of us: “At home playing video games and watching Netflix!” he laughs. But these moments of downtime are rare between the blur of rehearsals, touring and working in the studio.
As a graduate in Commercial Music, Sigala recognises how tough the music industry can be: “You can’t rely on just going to university to be successful and walk into a music job. University is a great opportunity to buy yourself some time and really learn your craft, meet people and to progress in or find out what you want to do. You don’t get that opportunity much in other places, so it was really important for me to work out what I wanted to do.” It’s hard to imagine that the now master producer didn’t always have his sights set on being behind the mixing desk.
“I went to university thinking I wanted to play keyboards in a band and it turned out I wanted to be a producer by the end of it. It was down to me to put in the work and the time to hone my craft and it’s the same for anyone else,” he shares with genuine eagerness to impart his wisdom. “You can’t expect to just walk out and get a job, you have to really work for it.” Well, he isn’t one of the most played British male artists on UK radio for nothing.