Blu DeTiger on Going Massively TikTok Viral and How Quarantine Inspired Her Sweet New Single (INTERVIEW)
Ten years ago, the holy grail for any emerging musician was to have a song covered on one of the many influential indie music blogs of the early 2010s. But this is 2020 — a whole new decade with a whole new set of rules — and it seems that to really make it these days, you've got to have a song go wildly viral. Lucky for Blu DeTiger, that's just what happened earlier this year, right as the U.S. went into quarantine.
Back in April, the 21-year-old New York City native—known for her stellar bass skills, killer DJ sets, and DIY brand of funky, club-primed pop—released an unassuming, yet effortlessly catchy single called "Figure It Out." Before long, the groovy track had gone viral on video-sharing app TikTok, where hundreds of thousands of creators were suddenly using the song to soundtrack everything from mundane outfit of the day clips to fantastical stunts.
The artist—who, don't get it twisted, had released a handful of excellent singles over the past two years, and cut her teeth DJing in the NYC club and fashion scene as a teen—was suddenly thrust into a new kind of spotlight. As the song gained steam on Spotify around the globe and even landed on the radio, DeTiger was faced with the unique challenge of having her career take off just as the music industry shut down.
Her sweet new single, "Cotton Candy Lemonade," captures the musician's surreal experience, as well as a nostalgia for both pre- and post-pandemic times. The dreamy slow-burner is a "hopeful" track, she says, and speaks to themes of loneliness—something we can all relate to.
Below, Blue DeTiger opens up about TikTok, making music during quarantine and what she misses most about performing live.
What inspired “Cotton Candy Lemonade”?
This song was written in quarantine when I was feeling lonely, uncertain about the future, and staying up until sunrise every night. It was so strange to have sudden nostalgia for a time that wasn't even that long ago. I was fantasizing about a pre- and post-COVID time, or about a parallel universe where none of this was happening.
It probably has the most chillest vibe so far from the songs you’ve released. How does the track reflect your current mood?
The song has a yearning, hopeful, positive lean, but it’s written from a place where we’re not totally out of the woods yet. Sometimes fantasizing or daydreaming is the best way to get through a time like this.
What is it about “Figure It Out” that, if you had to guess, made it pop off and go viral when and how it did? Or is it just one of those random things you can’t quite put your finger on?
It’s hard to put my finger on it exactly, but I think it was a bit of a perfect storm in my case. My personal TikTok account was growing exponentially at the time, which definitely helped. People were really connecting to the videos I was making—which were a combination of bass covers, nerdy style shredding, some production videos and some other random things.
So, some people definitely found the song through my own account, but why it resonated so much is hard to say. The song has a fun energy, a swing groove and the lyrics are cool! Also, the “1234” count off makes it applicable to different style videos. I also think the lyric “figure it out” is everything right now. Then again, this is just me speculating. I’m really so grateful it all happened the way it did. I wouldn’t change anything.
What was the moment like when you first realized how viral it had gone?
It was happening sort of gradually and even today it hasn’t quite hit me. I’ll see the numbers and it’s really hard to understand what it means or grasp the magnitude of certain metrics. I definitely freaked out when Dixie D’Amelio posted a lip-syncing video to it. That TikTok now has 34 million views...
What was it like hearing the song on the radio for the first time?
It was amazing! It’s always been a dream. My parents heard it the other day on Hits1 which was really special. My mom called me from the car freaking out like, “They said your name and talked about you and everything!” It was like, wow okay this is real.
What are some things in your life that you’re still trying to “figure out”?
Everything… ha ha. But currently, I feel like I’m trying to figure out how to have a good work/life balance. How to enjoy and stay present in the moment while all of this is happening. How to enjoy where I’m at when I’m there. I feel like I have a responsibility to myself to keep moving forward, to keep flowing, creating, growing and learning. I’m figuring out right now how to do that and enjoy that process.
How has it been working on new music during quarantine? What sort of adjustments have you had to make to keep things rolling?
I’m super lucky that I have the resources to work on music at home—I have a home studio—and even luckier that my brother, Rex, was quarantining with me and we could work on a lot of music together during this time. It definitely forced me to get better at producing my own records and gave me the time and freedom to explore different creative urges or methods. Having that “unlimited” time was very freeing. On the flip side, I’ve had some great sessions over Zoom. “Cotton Candy Lemonade” was written over Zoom!
What’s your favorite TikTok trend or video, or which is the one that makes you smile every time you see it?
Wow, there are so many that make me laugh hysterically. I just saw this video of someone imitating what a sound engineer is like at a venue and it made me really laugh and miss playing shows. For those who know, the “sound guy” and musician relationship is a classic dynamic. The TikToks of students doing funny pranks in Zoom classes are cracking me up these days as well. My FYP [for you page] really gets me.
If you were a TikTok trend, which one would you be and why?
I like when musicians duet each other's videos and add something. It’s a really cool feature in TikTok. It takes creativity and patience and is the next best thing to jamming with people during quarantine.
What are your thoughts on a possible (though currently unlikely) TikTok ban in the U.S.?
There is so much creativity on TikTok. It’s also been so great for me to connect with fans and to try to inspire others to pick up an instrument, especially during the pandemic when there's no touring and no way to physically interact. I would be bummed to have that lane of communication closed and have that creative space removed, but ultimately, I just want to make music. Whatever happens, I'll always continue to make music, put it out and find ways to engage with my fans.
What’s your absolute favorite bassline of all time and why?
“Forget Me Nots” by Patrice Rushen. The bassline in this song is EVERYTHING. It’s melodic, funky and it’s what drives the song. It requires real technique, skill and feel on the instrument to be able to play it right and to do it justice! It took me forever to learn that line. I practiced it every day for hours until I got it right. I still practice that song!
Tell us about your Live From NYC series — how has it been navigating the inability to perform for a live crowd during the pandemic? What do you miss most about the live performance experience?
I absolutely love performing live, with an in-person, physical audience. I miss the endorphins that playing live gives off. I miss the energy and performer-audience connection. It’s definitely been difficult for me to adjust since I was so used to having that performance outlet prior to quarantine. It’s also been difficult to grasp how things are going when it’s strictly numbers online. I love connecting with fans individually online and being able to respond to individual messages, but there’s nothing like feeling someone’s energy face to face.
I feel like everything won’t really hit me until I’m able to perform in a room full of sweaty bodies jumping up and down. The Live From NYC series is supposed to give a little taste of the concert feeling. Obviously, it’s not the same, but I wanted to “perform” the songs in any way I could. I had a lot of fun putting these versions together. It felt great to get creative and find the best way to bring these songs to life during this time.
What can you tease about your upcoming EP?
A lot of it was done during quarantine so I couldn’t help but have that influence. It's a very nostalgic feeling, almost like memories of the dance floor. I look at it like it’s a little time capsule of how I was feeling at that point of writing it. I’m really proud of it and I’m so excited for everyone to hear it.