Photo: "Cotton Candy Lemonade" Music Video Still
Blu DeTiger's "Cotton Candy Lemonade" Turned COVID-19 Emotions Into A Dreamy Song Full Of Endless Hope
Blu DeTiger, like many of us, has felt the weight of the pandemic. The singer/songwriter and bassist turned her feelings into her latest single, "Cotton Candy Lemonade," a dreamy song about wanting to be anywhere else with that special someone.
"I've been on my own/ Come find me now/ I'm lonely to the bone/ But I don't feel so low/ When you're around," she sings before opening up a sea of endless possibilities. "I wanna get lost with you/ Picture waking up somewhere new/ I wanna get lost with you."
The song is "classic quarantine, COVID emotions and just longing for a different time," she tells GRAMMY.com in a recent interview.
The song's video only magnifies the dreamy vibe with hazy scenes and candy-colored New York landscapes as she rides off on the back of a motorcycle.
Despite the heavy feelings, Blu wanted the song to be hopeful, a feeling that comes through the song's beat and her smooth groovy-inspired bass line.
"It is coming from a hopeful place. It's not a sad bop," she adds.
Blu, who went viral onTik Tok unexpectedly in the spring and has found herself giving people a soundtrack to create on the platform during these times, caught up with GRAMMY.com to talk more about her latest single, what her life looks like now, what we can expect on her next project, how she uses DJing to solidify her sound, how she feels connected to Shawn Mendes and more.
How are you spending your time these days? What does your day to day look like now?
Oh, man. I mean, I feel like it's changed over time during this whole thing now that things are a little bit more open in New York, but yeah, my day-to-day, I wake up, have my coffee, whatever. Go through my—I'm doing very basic day to day right now—I'm going very detailed ... check my stuff, emails and texts and things and then I usually, nowadays, I do a walk around my neighborhood just to get back in the zone of going outside and then I'll work on music basically the rest of the day until the late hours of the night.
Have you noticed something that you didn't notice before about the city while on your walks?
Yeah, now it's weird because the energy here is really good right now. I know that sounds crazy. Everything is so horrible in the world, obviously but the energy here, I feel like it's like more of a community now and real, OG New Yorkers are here and it's been feeling good and I'll Citi Bike. I like to bike around now these days near the water while it's still nice out. But yeah, people are out and about, just relaxing, enjoying themselves.
Your latest single is called "Cotton Candy Lemonade." I know you wrote it under quarantine. What's the story behind the song?
I've been working with some friends, these two producers, Eugene and Stelios and this other writer, Jessie. Eugene and Stelios had these starting chords and sent them to me and then we got on Zoom and I added the bass and we wrote the song over it pretty much and it came together really quickly. It was interesting that it was over Zoom, I think it was one of my first Zoom sessions. So, I think that was weird, but now I'm more used to that. So, it was over Zoom and it came together really quickly. I think it was just a lot of what I was feeling at that time. The classic quarantine, COVID emotions and just longing for a different time, like pre-COVID or post-COVID.
Did those first chords set the mood at all for the song?
Yeah, definitely. Those chords just inspired the feeling ... I added the bass and the drums and stuff and I think that the movement of the groove... It's still a driving song, it still drives from the base groove and stuff and I think that's also what's cool about this song because it is coming from a hopeful place. It's not a sad bop, I still think there are some positives in there about it.
You recently released the video directed by Sacred Pact. Were you and Sacred Pact still able to get your vision across through the video?
Yeah, totally. It was different because obviously, it was a very tight set. It was only like four people or five people on set and we all tested and all of the COVID precautions we did before but yeah, it was weird that it was small, but I liked it and it was an all-female set as well, which was special and just good energy. But I think we were able to do well with the limitations. The Sacred Pact girls are so cool, they shot and edited and directed. They took on a bunch of different hats, we all had to. So, that was fun, it was real teamwork and it felt really good. I had so much fun shooting that day. Just riding on a motorcycle in the city is the best feeling ever.
When it comes to your music-making process, is there a time you feel most creative?
Yeah, definitely at night between the hours of like midnight and four. It sounds crazy but it's really hard for me to get out of this schedule. I feel like a lot of people actually got into that sleep schedule where people are staying up later and then waking up later ... When quarantine first started and I've gotten into that cycle and I still hadn't broken it but I've just found that I'm way more creative at night when the sun goes down and it's those 12 to 4 a.m. hours, so that's been fun. I'm still doing that. That's when I really sit down to write music and record stuff at home. I found out that's been my process but then when I think about it, I'm also like, "That makes sense," because I'm used to djing. Before COVID, I was djing a lot and those hours would always be 12 to four, those are the nightclub hours or like 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. That's when I would be working anyways in normal times. So, I think I'm just used to that schedule anyways.
Does being a DJ influence your music-making at all?
Totally. I'm so grateful that I have a background in DJing because, first of all, it makes you have a wide, vast knowledge of music throughout the decades. You need to know the hits through every decade, especially if you're djing. I've DJed weddings and bar mitzvahs and all that stuff and you need to know your stuff. You need to know the hits and I've also done other things where... I've just done every genre, so I think it made me just have to know a lot of music and listen to a lot of music and, of course, that's always going to be an influence. To make music, you got to hear other music but also, just the experience of playing to a crowd and being able to control the crowd and seeing what makes people dance and what makes people move and what makes people leave the dance floor and what gets a reaction out of people, different moments in songs and picking up on that and being aware of that has also been really helpful.
I want to pick your DJ brain for a little bit because I know that we've had to adjust a lot to the fact that live music is still not something we're able to experience. Do you feel like these live streams... Is that good for now or do you feel like you just can't wait until you can be in a room with people?
I don't know, I have mixed feelings because I know this is the only other thing that's possible right now, so I don't want to bash it but it's definitely not the same at all, for me at least. It's been tough just to capture that live experience, there's just nothing like it. I definitely think it's the best next thing that's possible but yeah, I don't know. I'm hoping that shows come back soon so you can get that feeling again. Even just like perform... I mean, I did these performance videos from home that I've been uploading on YouTube with each song. Obviously, it wasn't the same but I definitely think it was so therapeutic for me to put those together and just rehearse, like put myself back in a rehearsal mode and back into thinking about the songs in a live performance setting, which is so good for me and I feel like I had those endorphins go off again and I was missing that, craving that feeling. So, I was able to tap into it a little bit, making these videos from home but yeah, I mean, I don't know. I miss sweaty bodies in a room so bad.
Can you be a DJ and also make your own music at the same time? Or is it something that you're like, "I'm going to make music for this amount of time and I'm not going to DJ, I'm just going to focus on making music"?
I definitely think they go hand-in-hand and you can do both for sure. I also think the best feeling is like when I first started to complete my songs for my project, I would test them out in DJ settings and I would mix them into my DJ sets and that's the best feeling ever. Just hearing your song in comparison to other songs and seeing people dance to it but even if they don't even know what they're listening to, but they just know that they like it. Just seeing a genuine live reaction from a crowd in a DJ setting is really special and cool. When I first started finishing my songs and testing them out in the clubs, that was really fun. You could definitely do both and they go hand-in-hand. I mean, it's all music so I think anything music-related. I used to be like, "Oh my God, I do all these different things and how do they come together?" And I feel like they just always come together ... music is fluid and flows and it's all in the same category, in the same mother, you know?
You've been releasing singles since late 2019, can we expect an album soon?
Yeah, not an album but an EP, for sure, is on the way and then album soon after that but yeah, I'm really excited for this. I haven't released a full body of work yet, so I'm super excited to do that and just have that snapshot of a bunch of songs. So, that's coming next year, so I'm really excited about that.
I noticed that the singles you released in late 2019 were very dance-pop and we started to hear a little bit of a change in "Tangerine" and then "Figure It Out" and "Cotton Candy Lemonade" lose the dance feel a little bit, can we expect these sounds to make up your EP?
Yeah. I mean, I think the EP definitely has some more dance elements in there. I feel like I started with that because that was the world that I was coming from with the DJ background. I had that influence and I feel like just the music I've been making now, I feel like it's probably the same for a lot of artists these days, during quarantine, but no one's going out and really dancing, I guess, so it's been harder to sit down and make dance music because no one's out there dancing. My thought process I think is just like, "I'll just sit down and make more mellower, groovier tracks," but I'm always going to have that influence in my music because that's just what I like and what I grew up on and also like the funk stuff and disco, that genre is what I really fell in love with when I started playing bass and stuff like that. So, that's definitely in the vibe of the EP, for sure.
What are some of the other sounds that inspired you to make music when you were younger?
Definitely the late '70s, early '80s funk is my sweet spot of music I love, so that's definitely in there and the production style is just... all of the sounds are just so amazing. So, definitely, a sense of that is in there. I mean, I don't know. I listened to everything, I know that sounds like cliché everyone's like I listen to everything, but I do really try to take in everything and I feel like stuff just comes out here and there in my music, whether it's a subconscious decision or I'm actually sitting down and being like, "I'm going to try to replicate this cool thing that I heard in this song."
What is one genre or artist that you think people would be surprised you like?
Good question. I honestly, I feel like I've talked about this before in an interview but I honestly love Shawn Mendes. He's a major artist, so maybe it's not surprising but I think the new song is so good and I'm pumped for his documentary he just was talking about because I remember I first followed him on Vine when he had not that many followers, so I feel a certain connection but I mean, I don't know. I guess that's a good answer for that question.
Going back to your project, how do you feel like you're growing working on it?
Oh, damn. I think in the biggest way is, in the past songs I've released, I haven't done as much production work on it, except for "Cotton Candy Lemonade." I co-produced that one, but for the songs before, I wasn't as, I guess, hands-on, on the computer with the production and with these new songs that are coming out, I'm the main producer on the song and really getting into that producer hat zone. So, I think that's probably the biggest way that I'm growing, is I'm really getting into doing more of the production on my own and really just flushing out my ideas from start to finish. Just me or just me and my brother, I've been working with my brother a lot in quarantine. That's the biggest way I'm growing is in my production skills, for sure.
Is that something that you've always wanted to do, produce?
Yeah, for sure. I learned Ableton at an early age and I would always experiment, but I never sat down to write songs within and I slowly started to. I went to NYU for music and going there I learned some more skills because they have a bunch of production classes and things like that. So, I was slowly getting better but I wasn't as confident in myself and I never called myself a producer. I feel like now I can call myself a producer but before, I would always be scared to be like, "I produce too," because I just wasn't as confident, so I definitely had to put in the hours and practice before I could really take that on.
People ask themselves, "Is it worth going to school?" In your opinion, what do you think? Is learning in the classroom worth it? Or have you learned the most being an artist and producer?
It's so hard because I feel like everyone's different and everyone has a different style. I mean, I'm definitely so grateful that I got to go to NYU. I left a few years in because I had touring opportunities, but I definitely learned a lot while I was there and it was really good for me just to meet other people and be in the room with the other kids was really important. Classmates inspire you and you inspire classmates and that all rubs off on each other and being in the room with the professors, just having that network is really important but, I can only speak from personal experience. From my experience, it was important for me to leave when I did. And I definitely learned... there are some things you can't learn in the classroom and you got to really just go out and experience because someone telling you how to tour is different than you actually touring, you know? I think just getting life experience is really important. So, I would say a mix, but it really depends on what you want to do and if you want to be an artist or producer, engineer or music business, I think it all really depends on the person in the situation but for me, I'm really grateful I had the mix of both, like the best of both worlds.
When it comes to your forthcoming project, is there something you want to accomplish for yourself?
I think just to feel good about... I don't know. I mean, I do feel really good about it already but I think just to get it out there and for people to hear it. Just to release it. I think every time I release music, I'm just so happy after I put something out. It just feels like another part of you is being shown or expressed.
This album will have a little bit more of you in the production sense
Yeah, totally. I think you'll definitely get a better taste of me and some different sides of me and qualities and it's a good sum up of just where I'm at right now or where I was when I wrote it and yeah, I'm pumped to just keep growing, keep experimenting and going on and writing more stuff forever. It's been a good journey and process for sure.