Meet Blu DeTiger, the TikTok-Famous Bass Queen
Blu DeTiger was meant to be a star, if her name doesn’t make that obvious enough. The 21-year-old New York City native started playing the bass at age seven, quickly landed a gig at CBGB, and has spent the last year touring with Caroline Polachek and Fletcher. She gained club kid notoriety by pulling out her bass in the middle of her DJ sets–a welcome addition that could make any jaded New Yorker migrate to the middle of the dance floor. DeTiger’s sets were a much-needed funk infusion, and it seemed that there wasn’t a weekend (or Tuesday, or Wednesday) that she wasn’t performing. After meeting Blu in college at New York University, where she was a student before touring, I was privy to the energy of a DeTiger party, and I can attest that they were every bit as fun as they sound. Between her sets and singles, it feels like Blu has been put on this earth to remind people how much fucking fun the bass can be. Most people, though, know her for her newfound TikTok fame, a kind of expected flower that blooms when you’ve been hustling hard on other things.
And DeTiger really is prolific, even in tough moments. Throughout the quarantine, she’s been DJing live sets on her Instagram, racking up TikTok views, releasing a new single called “Figure it Out,” and making a homemade music video to match it. Keeping up her artistic practice, even in these stressful times, just makes her feel good. Blu and I catch up over the phone to talk about her new music and her envy-worthy ascension in the New York music scene (and the TikTok community).
SHANTI ESCALANTE: Where are you now?
BLU DETIGER: I’m staying at my parents place, we’re in Manhattan.
ESCALANTE: Was it hard to get the music video done on your own?
DETIGER: Obviously it’s hard—you know, no hair and makeup and the camera stuff—I’m not used to that. But my brother, Rex, helped me out.
I definitely wanted to make something to go along with the song, and I was like, “Okay, this will be a fun project,” being creative with your limitations and all that. I have these pod sort of things in my house you can sit in, which were supposed to represent being confined in space.
ESCALANTE: Did you record the single before the ‘Rona stuff started, or did you also do that at home?
DETIGER: I wrote the song a long time ago and then I kind of put it aside for a while. Then I finished it off with another person months and months later. I always really, really liked it but it just never really came together. I was supposed to be on tour all of March, then it got rescheduled and I came home and I said ‘We’re going to put this out.’
ESCALANTE: What inspired the new single?
DETIGER: It was one of those songs where it just came out. I honestly didn’t even know what I was talking about. I had no idea. I finished it up later with the drop part and that made the whole song click. I was feeling super uninspired at the time and that song kind of started the shift. It came so naturally, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m back in it.’
ESCALANTE: Other than the video, have you been working on any other projects?
DETIGER: I’m making a lot more music in quarantine right now. I’m trying to stay creative. That makes me feel good. I know not everyone is the same, but for me, the only way I like to feel good and happy is by being productive and making stuff.
ESCALANTE: You’ve also been blowing up on TikTok since this whole thing started.
DETIGER: Yeah. It’s really funny. The TikTok thing is like, it’s so addicting. There are so many super creative and talented people on there. So it’s honestly the most insane app ever. I’ll just be scrolling through for hours and I don’t even realize.
ESCALANTE: How’d you get started?
DETIGER: Right before I left to go on tour, I was in the airport and I had a ton of time and I was like, ‘Oh. Let me just post a little video, maybe this will be cool.’ And I posted and woke up with a bunch of likes and comments and stuff, and I was like, ‘Okay, I have to keep going with this, it seems like it’s like connecting with people.’
Then when all my tours got canceled and I had to come home from Europe, I thought, this is something that I can do during quarantine, just to give me something to do and give me a routine and make me feel better about being home and not performing. Cause in a sense you’re performing to the camera. It makes me feel good. Now, all of these young girls are playing bass and they all DM me like, ‘What bass should I get, what songs should I learn?’ It’s really, really cool.
ESCALANTE: Oh, that’s super sweet.
DETIGER: So sweet. And they send me all these videos of them playing my song. It makes me so happy.
ESCALANTE: Do you think part of the reason that TikTok is such an interesting platform is because it’s so new that it hasn’t gotten over-saturated yet?
DETIGER: Yeah, I think that’s part of it. What’s crazy about TikTok is that you can go viral without trying. Maybe it’s the algorithm? My videos, for example—people will see them without me even trying to show people. I’ll literally go to sleep and wake up and somehow it has been shown to a really large audience, which is so incredible and cool. I think that’s why a lot of people are so addicted to it–it gives the hope of virality, which is something that I think our society is obviously really intrigued by.
ESCALANTE: I feel like older people are just so confused by it as a phenomenon.
DETIGER: It is so weird. It caters to such a young audience and the kids are really running it, which is kind of scary sometimes. But that’s also why I think it’s cool. There are these 14-year-old kids making these crazy videos that are so well-done conceptually and executed really well and the ideas are really good.
ESCALANTE: You started playing the bass pretty young.
DETIGER: I started playing when I was seven. I was born and raised in New York City. My older brother was playing drums at the time and he was like 10 or 11 and that made me want to play an instrument, too. I didn’t want to choose guitar because I thought it was too mainstream. I don’t even know how I was thinking like this at seven—I wanted to be unique. I just really fell in love with the instrument. I did this program called “School of Rock” where I got to play at CBGB and all these cool clubs when I was really young.
Then I was playing in a bunch of bands when I was growing up because I was in the city, in the middle of it. When I was in middle school, I was in the high school bands; when I was in high school, I was in the college bands. Then I started DJing when I was 17, and that kind of started a whole new sort of path. I was DJing multiple nights a week, I was so into it. It was finally something that felt more like my own creative expression. When I was playing with bands I was playing for other artists; it was just work for hire, and it wasn’t necessarily my creative expression. So DJing is a way that I could feel more independent in that. I really liked the idea of controlling the room and having the ability to figure out what makes people dance, or stop dancing. I DJed a wedding. I think if I didn’t start doing that, it wouldn’t have paved the way for me to start doing my own projects.
ESCALANTE: I haven’t seen you since freshman year. Did you take a hiatus from college or did you drop out?
DETIGER: I did a year of Gallatin and then I transferred to Clive [Davis Institute of Recorded Music]. Did you know that?
ESCALANTE: No, I didn’t. That makes sense, though.
DETIGER: I changed to Clive which I thought was going to be really good for me, and it was, for a second, but then I got a really good touring opportunity where I was opening for The Knocks, taking a tour bus all around America. I couldn’t pass it up. So I took a semester off and I haven’t gone back yet. I could see myself getting my degree, eventually. It just wasn’t the right time.
ESCALANTE: Are your parents musical at all?
DETIGER: Not really. My dad’s a visual artist, a painter.
ESCALANTE: I was going to say—Blu DeTiger is a pretty insane name. I figured your parents were creatives.
DETIGER: I’m definitely going to name my kids insane stuff. I’m going to name my kids Rocket or something. I’m very grateful that they named me Blu. I would be a different person if I wasn’t.
ESCALANTE: I’ve heard bassists have to have really big hands. Do you have really big hands?
DETIGER: Honestly, I don’t. People hit me up about this too, like, ‘I want to play bass but my hands are too small!’ But honestly, it doesn’t really matter because my hands are small, and I started playing when I was, like, seven. So my hands were super small.