MY NEW YORK: BLU DETIGER
The emerging singer and bassist guides us through the Lower East Side while sharing how the neighborhood has influenced her artistry
The emerging singer and bassist guides us through the Lower East Side while sharing how the neighborhood has influenced her artistry
Photography: Indie Jansons
Styling: Brandon Tan
Text: Kala Herh
Text: Sam Tracy
As the self-proclaimed “undisputed birthplace of punk,” the iconic music venue, CBGB has hosted everyone from the Talking Heads and Blondie to Patti Smith–and more recently, rising singer-songwriter Blu DeTiger. “I'm really grateful that I got to feel the energy of that room because it's so legendary,” she shared with V. “I got such good performance practice when I was really young, and after I did that first show, I was like, 'Okay, I'm doing this forever.'” DeTiger says as she reminisces about the now-closed venue. Through an NYC musical program, "The School of Rock," seven-year-old DeTiger got the chance to show off her new bass skills at the legendary rock club on the Bowery and Bleecker. At the end of the term, she got to showcase her new skills. And as she grew up in NoHo, CBGB was just one of the many New York spaces that DeTiger found a home in.
The bass musician also performed at Elvis Guesthouse back when she was 17, at Tyler Mitchell’s I Can Make You Feel Good book launch party, where she won over the crowd with her Erykah Badu remix of Hotline Bling. “After that first DJ set, I felt such a different sort of high that I've never felt before and I think I realized that was something I really wanted to get into.” If you don’t already know DeTiger, you’ve probably heard her song “Figure It Out,” which has been used over 344,000 times on TikTok. Not to mention, she’s also been on tour with Caroline Polachek and Fletcher. And if this is any indication of DeTiger’s undeniable magnetism, we assure you there’s considerably more to the musician than meets the eye.
Check out episode five of V Magazine’s “My New York” created in collaboration with MOUSSY VINTAGE to get a glimpse into the world of Blu DeTiger.
Stay tuned for new episodes launching every Friday here on Vmagazine.com, the series will spotlight NYC's movers-and-shakers as they guide us through the formative spots in the city that have inspired and cultivated their craft.
Read the full-length interview below!
V: Is Blu DeTiger your real name?
BLU DETIGER: Blu DeTiger is my real name. People think it's fake, but it's my real name.
V: How did you get that name? Do you have a story behind it?
BD: Kind of so my older brother, he named me. He's a few years older. And when I was -- when my mom was pregnant with me, he was like, 'Blu would be such a cool name. We should name her Blu.' And they really liked it. So they named me Blu, and then my last name is Dutch. Yeah, so Blu DeTiger. There you have it.
V: What neighborhood did you grow up in?
BD: So I grew up in the NoHo area. It's kind of near NYU. Yeah, that's where I grew up, born and raised. Manhattan baby.
V: Which is a full circle, because you eventually went to NYU?
BD: Yeah, full circle. I eventually went to NYU for a few years. I actually went to NYU for a few years. So definitely, full circle. I just couldn't leave New York, I just wanted to stay. Because I was like already doing music and had a bunch of musical connections and collaborators and I didn't want to leave.
V: How do you feel that your New York upbringing influences your sound?
BD: My New York upbringing definitely influences my sound. I mean, there's so many legends that have come up through this city. And I think just the energy of the city and the hustle is really what gets me going. And it's why I love New York so much. Just everything's constantly moving. You can do a million things in a day. And that's kind of like what my mentality was, when I was growing up, I was just always doing a bunch of things at the same time, and always just following my passion and using what I could from the city, and then I think musically too, like I kind of have that in your grit or like edge that kind of makes its way into my sound. But also that sort of like, disco and funk, Studio 54. So I kind of try to embody all of it.
V: Who would be like your main musical inspirations?
BD: Yeah, I have a bunch of different inspirations. I think it kind of changes but I'm definitely – I have a bunch of different inspirations, and they're kind of changing constantly. But for me, I think when I found funk music, and disco music, and like the early 80s, late 70s funk, that's what really got me in terms of bass playing. And when I started to learn funk lines that really like, I don't know, just sparked something in me, and I kind of kept with that. And I just, I love that sound. I love stuff that makes you move, stuff that makes you groove. I love making people dance. So I think that definitely makes its way into my stuff, always. And it's like, it's funny because I'll do a song and it's kind of hard for me not to play something like funky almost because it's so I feel like ingrained in my own my brain in my blood at this point. But yeah, when I was around 13 or 14, I started learning like slap bass and that sort of style. And that just kind of stuck with me forever.
V: Tell us the story of how you picked up guitar playing. How old were you? What was that like?
BD: Yeah, so when I was seven, I started playing bass. And it was because my older brother was playing drums. And I was like, 'I want to play an instrument, I want to do something too.' And I think I was so young. So this is kind of only what I remember. But I remember thinking that there's so many girls already that played guitar and sang songs and all that stuff. And I wanted to be different, I want to be more unique. And I was like, 'let me try a base. This looks cool and I don't see many girls, especially playing the bass.' So I picked it up, took lessons and I just fell in love with it. And I really never stopped.
V: Can you reflect on CBGB being the first venue that you played at. How old were you? What was that like?
BD: Totally. So yeah, when I picked up bass when I was seven, I was part of this program called School of Rock in New York and they have them all over. It's just the beginning of this program. And the whole point was you would sign up and you would get assigned like an artist that would be for that season and then at the end of the season, you do a show and you'd like pay tribute to that artist with the songs by them. So my first show when I was seven, when I was learning bass and I was like taking lessons and I was doing this School of Rock thing. The first show was the Rolling Stones and the show the showcase at the end of the season was at CBGB, when it was still open, which was like, really cool, super iconic. And, yeah, so I played there when I was seven. And then I played there a few more times, because every show would be, would be there at CBGB. So I did that for like a few years. So probably played like 10 times there, which is really iconic and really cool for people who know the place because it's such a legendary venue. And yeah, and then it closed down. And I'm really grateful that I got to feel the energy of that room because it's so legendary. Like, there are so many people that have come up through that spot. But yeah, so I did my first show there when I was like seven and for a few years until I was like 10 or 11. And I got such good performance practice when I was really young, and after I did that first show, I was like, 'Okay, I'm doing this forever.' Like I never questioned doing music as a career. So I think that's why it was such an important thing for me to do, to get on stage that early. And just like I'm really lucky that I realized what I wanted to do for my life. Like I'm really lucky that I realized that I guess early on or found that passion really, really early on.
V: When you perform in New York is the energy different than other cities. And what's it like?
BD: Performing in New York is definitely different. I think the crowds are always the biggest, best energy. And maybe that's just because I'm from here. And when I played in New York a lot of my friends and my family are there so I can kind of feel that love and feel that energy and support. But it's just the best, just the best place on earth. And like the coolest people live here and the most authentic and down to earth, people I think, are here. And yeah, my first show for like, my first show that I did for my artist project where I was playing music was in September. And the first show of the tour was in New York, Music Hall of Williamsburg. And it was like a crazy moment for me because I used to go to Music Hall of Williamsburg all the time to see bands and always be like, I want to be up there. I want to be on that stage. And yeah, I did it and it was really crazy. It's my first show. So I wasn't even expecting like – I didn't even know if people were going to come even though it was sold out. But in my head I was like, I don't know if people are gonna be there. And then I walked on for the first song and everyone's screaming. It was like, probably the best moment in life. It was like an insane feeling.
V: That's amazing. And I wanted to touch on your song, "Figure It Out," which obviously went majorly viral on TikTok. Can you tell me the story of making that track and then also experiencing it go viral. What was that all like?
BD: Totally, yeah, so I've been working on my own music for a while since I was – I mean, my whole life has kind of been leading up to it. But I first started putting out music in 2019. And I was just writing and writing and making songs. And, um, one day I wrote this song called, "Figure It Out." And I always had it saved, like in my folder of demos, and I always just kind of came back to it. I always really liked it. And that was a song that kind of happened in like, 20 minutes, I was like, really fast. I don't even know what I was singing about until, like, months later, when I was like, Oh, this is probably what I was talking about. It's just one of those, like, really easy tracks that I always thought was cool. Um, and then the pandemic happened, and I got home and I was like, let me just put out these songs like I really liked the song, let's just like, put it out. So I put it out. And at the same time, I was at home every day making videos of me playing bass, and putting them on the internet just as like something for me to do during the pandemic. And those started getting a lot of attention. So I started getting all these new fans from that, and then I put out Figure It Out. And it was such a perfect storm of things that were kind of happening that people I guess really connected with the song as well. And I kind of like sparked the whole thing.
V: I like that. You said when you wrote it, you didn't know what you're talking about. But a couple of months later, you kind of figured it out. What were you talking about?
BD: I like still don't know, honestly, um, I think I was just talking about like, I mean, I think Figure It Out is such a good mantra. And I think that's also part of the reasons why I think people connected to it during the pandemic time because it was such a moment where everyone was just like, I don't know what's happening, I guess we'll figure it out together. Um, so I guess that's kind of what I'm talking about is like, 'Everything's going be okay, no matter what's happening.' It's just kind of like pushing through and doing your thing and not letting other people maybe get in the way of that. It's kind of what I'm talking about with some specific lyrics. But I don't know still, I don't even really know.
V: Another song I wanted to touch on was "Vintage," which kind of references you quote, "Being a vintage girl hanging out with flashback kids." Do you feel that you were born in the wrong era?
BD: I honestly, I don't know if I was born in the wrong era because I love like, I love I don't know, I like love my life now. And I'm like, really grateful for it. So I feel like, I'm right where I'm supposed to be. But I think I would crush it in the seventies. Like, I think it would be so sick. Or the 80s I think it would be really fun to experience it or the 90s – I don't know. I think I could if I was time traveling and put in any of those eras. I feel like I would fit in really well.
V: Is it the music? Is it fashion? What do you like?
BD: Yeah, like both like music, fashion and culture. I think yeah, I think it'd be cool to experience life without social media, too. I'm always craving that. It'd be nice to kind of experience the opposite.
V: Yeah, I was just going to say, social media. What do you think about social media?
BD: Totally. Yeah, I mean, social media definitely helped my career a lot. And really, I think, accelerated it. I think, like, as I see it, as, I mean, I hope I'd always get to this point at some point – just because I'm so passionate about music, and I love it so much. So I think I was always like, 'Oh, eventually I'll play a Music Hall of Williamsburg eventually." Like, I never thought that would be this fast. And I think that's what's on social media really helped me with was just getting me in front of a lot of people and also giving me the confidence to keep doing what I was doing, knowing that it was connecting with people. But yeah, I mean, it's tough social media, you don't, you can never like show somebody the full picture through just that. And I think it's, a cool way to connect with the fans, but it can put a big toll on someone's mental health and all that if it's, your whole world, and you're not like experiencing growth, like I try to be present in what I'm doing while also, using social media to, to connect with fans, but also just stay present that, in the reality of things.
V: Bass guitar is totally a male-dominated instrument, like Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Paul McCartney. So what's it like being a girl playing an instrument?
BD: Yeah, I mean, I definitely get people commenting. I think being a female in a male-dominated industry, and is it male-dominated? Yeah, I think being a female in a male-dominated field. Obviously, I don't know where I'm going with this, but I'm trying to, like phrase this correctly. But I think being a female in a male-dominated industry has like, obviously affected the way I do a lot of things. And I think, for one, I think it also pushed me to do what I'm doing now because I want to, inspire other girls to play an instrument, and that it's possible and that it's cool. And I think, like, that fueled me to practice really hard. Just like going into a room and being really confident in my skill, and not being compared to like the boys I don't know just like being compared to everyone as opposed to just being compared to like other female bass players, I think is something that I'm also striving towards right now. But I think one of the biggest goals for me as an artist is to inspire others to pick up an instrument so anyway, that I can do that and showcase that like, a girl can sing and play bass and be the front person and can produce and write, and DJ and do whatever and be a businesswoman whatever is like really important just for representation.
V: I also want to touch on the DJ days because you mentioned that. How did you pick that up?
BD: Yeah, so I picked it up because I was always intrigued by DJing. And I just didn't really know how to get into it. But I was always inspired by it. And my parents lived in Ibiza for a few years and I used to go to Ibiza a lot when I was a kid. So I was kind of surrounded by house music and that's sort of DJ culture and I was just like, always really interested in it. And when I was about 17, I got introduced to someone who ended up becoming like my mentor who kind of taught me the skill of DJing which is to be a good DJ is really hard actually, it's like you have to really have a vast knowledge of music history and have really good taste and just have like skill on the equipment itself. So I learned that through this guy, and then I was just like, this is so cool. I love learning about new music and I love showing my taste in music. And it was just a really cool way for me to kind of transition out of like almost playing with other bands and kind of like having something to myself as well because right before I was DJing I was playing a lot as just a bass player and other bands. And I was writing to but I didn't have my own project and I think DJing kind of gave me like something on my own that I could do by myself. Gave me some more independence. I think it was really fun.
V: Fill in the blank New York is ...
BD: Home. New York is home. That was so cheesy.
V: But it's true.
BD: Yeah, I can get more into like the Elvis Guesthouse thing too. Do I have to do that?
V: Yeah, actually touch on Elvis Guesthouse.
BD: Yeah. So I'll touch on that. My first DJ gig after I was practicing for a while, like learning the art of it was that Elvis guesthouse which is a club that's now closed. But at the time, it was really cool. Like, I feel like all the hip kids kind of went there. And yeah, I got this gig because my brother recommended me. And it was for Tyler Mitchell, his photographer his like, book release party at the time. And I was really nervous. Like my first DJ gig. I practiced really hard. And I showed up and I like gave my fake ID, they turned me – they almost didn't let me in and I was like, "No, I promise like I'm DJing like, I'm DJing I swear." And I was like 17. I was pretty young. So I had like, they gave me X's on the hands. I was like, I'll do anything to like go in like I have to DJ like, this is my thing. And I got in and I did it. And this was also the first DJ gig where I brought my bass and I have never done that before. And I don't think anyone else had ever seen that before. So when I was like, I was playing and I brought up my bass, and I remember the first song I did was this Erykah Badu remix of Hotline Bling. And I played the bass part over and I was like treading over kind of and like doing the melody and playing like slap bass and all this stuff and I saw people were like really into it and they're kind of like, like giving me really good feedback. And then after that first DJ set, I just felt such a different sort of like high feeling that I've never felt before and I think I realized that that was something that I really wanted to get into and I felt like I could that was something that I could have for myself and I could learn more about the music that I like that eventually can help with when I start to write my own music, just knowing knowing songs that you like and having good references and deep references of music from every decade is really really important when you go to write your own music so I think after that night I was like this is I really want to do this and I think people like it and I think people like the bass and I like it just gave me such a confidence boost and yeah, so that gig was really important for me and then from that gig someone saw me at that gig and I got booked for another and I remember I posted a video of me playing the Erykah Badu song with the bass and someone on Instagram saw it looking for something else and I kind of like sparked my DJ career which ended up turning into me learning how to produce and then me writing my own songs and me being an artist so it was kind of a really good stepping stone for me.
V: What does being from New York mean to you? Is there like an attitude here?
BD: Being from New York there's definitely an attitude I think it's kind of like, ‘I don't give’ – wait can I curse?
BD: Like kind of like, ‘I don't give a shit vibe but also like I do really care about my art.’ It’s just kind of like a badass, a badassness that and cool creative energy that like people from other places may not carry. I don't know maybe don't put that in.
V: And then the last thing, where in the city do you like to explore on off days?
BD: Yeah, on days off in New York. I like to Citi bike. On days off in New York, I like to Citi bike to like the West, the west side on the Hudson River and kind of like go down you can kind of like bike all the way down there down to like Battery Park. It's really nice bike ride. I was doing that a lot during the pandemic. And that was really fun. But I mean, I kind of I go all over for whatever I need to do, but I also like to just kind of stay in my neighborhood and go to my spots that I love.
V: Do you like to go to record stores?
BD: Yeah, I love to go to record stores. I love to go try out new bases and guitars around the neighborhood and I love to just yeah, just to walk around. If it's nice weather and just chill.