Interview: Urban Pop Singer/Songwriter August Rigo Talks Zayn Malik, New Album & Love Songs
Toronto crooner and songwriting aficionado August Rigo has been crafting hit records and amazing tunes behind the scenes for the last five years. His exceptional musicality caught the attention music executives which lead to him working with the likes of Justin Bieber (U Smile) and One Direction (Gotta Be You). Soon, August became a vocal coach for America’s Got Talent and executive produced R&B Superstar Musiq Soulchild’s MusiqInTheMagiq album in 2011. After releasing two successful albums in Japan and Canada, August is ready to embark on his US debut. We got a chance to speak with August as he gears up for his hotly anticipated US album release:
What age were you when you first started writing songs?
I probably started writing songs around grade 7. I was taking piano lessons still at the time. I don’t have any songs from then anymore and they probably weren’t that good. Probably extremely sappy (laughs). I really started getting into songwriting in high school. I had a singing group with my friends called 360 and we used to write the songs together. That experience really taught me to write and really formed my influences.
How did you feel when you first heard a song you wrote on the radio?
I felt just really excited. At the time I was working non-stop, I had spent about a year and a half in this house in Jersey and I never left my bedroom. I moved there from Toronto, bought some speakers and a keyboard and just wrote songs for a year and a half before anybody ever heard anything. When I finally first heard that song (it was IYAZ Solo). I was by myself so i didn’t scream or anything,just maybe a silent squeal (chuckles). I felt uber official!
What is your all time favorite 90s R&B song?
Very difficult question. I would have to go with Pony by Ginuwine. But there are so many: Cry For You, Feenin by Jodeci, I could go on but I won’t because it would take forever.
Are there any artists that you’d love to write for or collaborate with that you haven’t already?
To collaborate as an artist I would love to work with Bruno [Mars]. He gets music in such a natural way and I would love to see him work creatively. I’m sure it would be inspiring. From a writing perspective I would really like to work with Ariana [Grande]. Admittedly I’ve worked with her before but I didn’t quite get what she was after but she was great to work with and I’d like another shot at that. Also, the music she’s creating now is more up my alley than the previous stuff we did. I would love the opportunity to do a Taylor Swift song. I love what she does and lyrically I feel like I can connect with her.
Zayn Malik, former member of One Direction said in an interview with The Fader “There was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band. If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop, generic as fuck, so they could use that version.” Do you have any thoughts or feelings on this admission from Zayn?
Here’s the caveat. Music is an extremely personal thing yet we create it for public consumption. It’s a hard balance but at the end of the day being true to yourself really dictates your happiness. Success aside. I’m fortunate that I’m able to create and do the music I please and also be relatively successful. I support his decision to leave if he wasn’t feeling the music because to be so close to something you love, and then to be told to perform it in a way you hate kind of cancels each other out.
A lot of songwriters eventually feel like they are writing songs they should be singing. This happened to Ne-yo, Solange and many others. Did you experience this as well?
I always want to be the singer behind the mic. I fell into this situation writing songs for others as a by product of writing songs for myself. Nobody wanted to take me serious as an artist at first but everyone wanted my songs. I used that as an in and then inevitably fell in love with the process. I love all the songs I write and I’ve always been grateful that another artist would want to be a representation of them.
This will be your third overall record but your first US album. Are you nervous at all?
I’m nervous because I’m doing this one all on my own. With the help of my team of course, but it’s my label, my shots to be called. But I’m also excited. This is my third record but it feels like my first because it’s my first North American release. But the album (The Fallout) is everything I wanted my first album to be. I just hope everyone enjoys listening as much as did creating it.
How has your music changed since your first record?
I think thematically they are similar. Romantic storytelling type songs. The biggest difference is I think the quality of the songs are better. I’ve grown as a songwriter and a singer and this album I believe shows that growth if you are familiar with my older records. If you are not familiar this album is a perfect representation of who I am and the direction I’ll be going.
With your US debut coming soon, how are you preparing for it?
Well, I practice everyday first off. Like I said I’m doing everything myself so on top of the regular artist duties like rehearsals, I’m also in charge of all the technical stuff. Making sure tracks are ready for performance, choosing the band, lights, stage setup etc. There’s a lot I’m doing but I enjoy it so it doesn’t feel like work. I’ve also been doing a few covers of songs here and there to introduce myself to a broader fan base. Hopefully that will attract them to my own stuff!
Do you have a crazy fan story you’d want to share?
I don’t really. I have a couple of fans who show up at every show whether small or big and they are all so amazing. But If I did have a crazy fan story, it might not be printable (laughs).
How do you think the Japanese music press differs from Western music press?
I don’t know if there’s a difference in Japanese press in general as there is with the different press outlets. However, my success in North America does have a great impact on my success in Japan. The bigger I get here the bigger I get there. For me it doesn’t work vice versa.
Your lead single “Versions” is a really lovey-dovey record. Would you consider yourself to be a natural romantic or was it something you had to learn?
I am a natural romantic. I was fooled many times by a couple of girls (laughs) which allows me to have a lot of inspiration. I also identify with that type of music more because I grew up on love songs. The 90’s era is a how-to on writing sappy love songs (laughs).
Who did you work with to put together this new album?
Well I produced and wrote the album myself. I worked really heavily with my best friend Ricky Tillo (lead guitarist for Lady Gaga) on the sonics and getting the music just right. Top to bottom though I wrote, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered the album on my own.
Are there any songs on the new album that was difficult to record because it brought back old feelings?
I think the ones that really hit home the most were the easiest to record. When I’m emotionally attached I’m inspired to sing the lyrics and that emotion really evokes the best performance.
What is the most personal song you’ve recorded thus far in your career?
There’s a song I wrote with Naughty Boy called See No Evil. I was going through a lot of changes at the time and I was super candid about what was going on in my life. I won’t go into it now but it’s a great song and hopefully one day you’ll hear it. There’s probably leaked demo floating around the internet.
What can we expect from this new album and will there be any unexpected moments on it?
I think you can expect classic songs. I wanted to express my experiences with love and my view on the relationship between men and women. Again it’s very personal album based on my journey through life musically and romantically. No real unexpected moments but as a body of work it’s a great listen top to bottom.
What lesson have you learned that has helped you in your career as an artist and as a songwriter?
Be yourself, don’t give up. I’ve learned so much in the last few years but this will always hold true. There are so many ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments that it can really throw you into a frenzy. It’s cliche but staying true to yourself and having integrity in the music you create will always lead you on the right path. Anytime I feel like giving up (which happens more than you would think) I remember why I got into music and it’s because I love it. You never give up on love.