For a lot of pop artists releasing material today, making algorithm-driven music is at the core of their art. Does this song sound like it could go viral on TikTok? Are the radio going to play it? Will the top streaming platforms put me at the top of their playlists? Those are some questions often raised by artists when about to put something out. But not London-based singer Tiggi Hawke. She isn’t about playing it safe by fitting into the mold and serving as another cookie-cutter act. Instead, what’s at the forefront of her work is creating a compelling pop song and a sick visual worth telling your friends about. All the other factors have always come second.
Those who have been following the British talent’s journey as a music maker will be well aware that she has a lot of experience under her belt and has been delivering excellent electronic music that dates back to 2016. With lots of acclaim and dance hits to her name, Hawke describes her past year as a re-launch, or as she likes to call it, a “Tiggi 2.0” situation. It was specifically her single “Giants,” released in July 2022, that she chose to help unveil a new era, one which she had been longing to start.
“I’ve been really dreaming of this for the last couple of years. I love everything I’ve done to date, I’m absolutely very proud of everything but I’ve just felt it was time to move into this zone and this kind of creative area that I’ve been trying to be in,” Hawke explains. “What I’ve realised is, what I see in my head is very different to what people see in their own heads. We all have our incredible uniqueness and I felt like it was a bit weird to do a mini film but I really felt like it was the perfect welcome to this world and weird space in my head where we are gonna be living in for the album.”
More recently, Hawke unleashed her own audio-visual teaser for her upcoming debut album, Ascension, due out in Spring. Titled “V838,” the 2-minute and 21-second-long clip is just a taste of the exciting and experiential sounds and visuals she will deliver on her studio record. Named after the binary star system with the same name, the video has already won Best Visual Effects and Best Sci-Fi at the Shanghai Indie International Film Festival and was selected to be shown at the Los Angeles Experimental Music & Dance Film Festival.
Coming up with her other-worldly visuals might come naturally to her but they don’t all come to life, in the same way, every time. “When I’m writing something, I can see almost how I would want to put it out,” Hawke shares. That said, because releasing music can be a long process, the vision can often change and become more refined as time goes on. “A lot of this album kind of started off in one space and then just very slightly shifted as everything came together. I definitely have that feeling that when you are writing or creating something, you can almost see how you would do it. I think that is really like a sign for me as well, it’s almost like, oh, a little stamp of approval,” Hawke continues.
Writing the songs themselves is definitely a process she admits is even more complex and all over the place. While some have to be in the studio to feel inspired, Hawke confesses that her ideas for penning a track can occur at any given point. For this reason, singing into her phone has become her go-to when she’s not in a creative space. “I will never play them out loud because they sound awful,” Hawke says. In fact, “Giants” follow-up release, “Pity Party,” started off as just a voice note idea. “I was not sober when I made this voice note. I was with one of the writers at the time and we were having drinks and we were like, ‘This is it. Oh my god, oh my god, this song, record it!’ When we came back to it when we were sober, it was the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I’ve never heard anything worse,” Hawke says while laughing. “The thing is, we were hyped in the session as well. We were like, ‘Oh guys, listen to this, we had this great idea.’ We played it out loud and were like, ‘I can only apologise for what you’ve just heard.’” On the plus side, a lot of good did come out of the disastrous voice note as it helped produce the final recording that can be heard today.
Overall, the creative process for Ascension hasn’t necessarily been a fast turnaround as she started working on the lead single, “Giants,” at a writing camp in September 2021. “I think the reason they’ve all taken quite a while is because I wanted to have a coherent body of work. Whereas before, I’ve just done it single by single. In my mind, if you do it single by single, it’s quite easy to focus on one track and get it done,” Hawke says. Over the past couple of years, she made sure to hone in on her craft and spent longer trying to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle perfectly fit into place. The finished product right now is said to consist of 10 tracks but still has the potential to contain more if she were to pen more songs she believes are worthy to be included. Keen to make sure everything is nothing short of killer, Hawke found herself cutting several songs from the mix, even ones she enjoyed. “It was hard because I feel connected to all of them,” she says. “There were a lot of songs and I still love them but we whittled it down. It was a fairly heartbreaking process, to be honest.”
“Giants” and “Pity Party” are just two tracks already released that help showcase the vibrantly exciting sounds Hawke hopes to offer with Ascension. But, how will the other songs we’ve yet to hear compare? “I’ve done my best but they are all quite different songs,” she says. “They all have this kind of thread running through them that connects them all together. They’re all quite electronic, they’ve all got kind of little weird bits in them, but they do definitely kind of float in the genre also.”
For an artist who aims to break the mold and is well aware of the strong vision they want to convey, many would naturally assume that Hawke doesn’t care to seek any validation from music critics or isn’t the slightest bit interested in how well she is performing commercially. But actually, that isn’t completely the case. “I’m sure I’d be a lot more enlightened to say no but it does mean something to me,” Hawke says. “To be honest, it’s 50/50. I’d be absolutely lying to you if I said that any kind of external validation meant nothing to me because it absolutely does. You see people connecting with the track and it’s like, ‘Ah yes!’ It sparks something in you and that spark kind of connects us in a way. There’s nothing I love more than my like fans or people who aren’t fans who then hear my music and they feel that kind of connection, that’s the most important bit for me.”
She continues: “I mean, of course, everyone loves good numbers. Like, that’s normal because it also helps your project reach more people. But, I wouldn’t say it’s the foremost thing I look at. The best thing for me like I said is when people do videos with my song, and I’m like, ‘How did you find this?!’”
Aside from putting out a studio album, Hawke is manifesting that 2023 will see her performing all her new material on the road. “Touring is very much one of the priorities,” she says. “It’s been a really weird couple few years for life, as we all know. Before we entered lockdown, we kind of had this weird equilibrium of people. Half of us wanted to perform while half of us were writing and preparing, and it kind of switched over annually.” And while Ascension has yet to hit shelves or streaming platforms, she is already planning on mapping out what album No. 2 will be about. “It feels odd that I’m starting it before the first one has come out but like I’ve said, it clearly it takes a lot longer than people think,” she continues. “With my first album, I thought we would just knock it out in six months, but we did not. So knowing that I’m gonna probably start writing hopefully for album two, fingers crossed.”