Interview: Blu DeTiger on Her First Bass, Go-To Pedals & Custom Fender

From an early age, Blu DeTiger was drawn to the bass. She first picked one up when she was seven years old, and she's been virtually inseparable since (despite losing her first after an early gig).

Through writing, touring, and near-constant playing—she even made live basslines a part of college DJ sets—she has backed up stars and launched her own solo career.

Throughout the early pandemic, Blu grew a following on social media by sharing lessons and bass covers, from Janet Jackson to Megan Thee Stallion. Now, with a solo EP, singles, and packed shows, she's set to be a star all her own.

We caught up with her before her set at Chicago's Metro in November to talk about her first and favorite basses, her go-to pedals, and how the transition from support act to headliner has been.

Check out Blu DeTiger's website now to learn more and catch the final dates of her current tour.

Blu DeTiger - "Elevator"

Let's start with the genesis of your love of playing. What was your first instrument?

Bass was my first—started on bass when I was seven. And my brother plays drums. He's playing drums tonight. He plays drums in my band, and he was playing drums at the time. I was like, "I want to play an instrument." And I felt like guitar was, I don't know, I'd just seen way too much of it. That's what I was thinking when I was seven, so I just chose bass. I love bass. It's way cooler.

Do you remember what type of bass?

Yeah, my first bass was a Gretsch, one of those black and gray ones. And then actually—really sad story—I left it in a taxi cab back when Uber didn't exist. And I put it in the trunk of the taxi. It's happened to me a few times. It's really tragic. It's really sad.

So I was performing really young with this program called School of Rock. And I got out of the car and forgot it was in there. Usually, with Uber, you can get your stuff back—you have the license. But I didn't have anything. I just lost it, and it was gone. That was my first bass, so I don't have it. That sucks. But I have a really cute photo of it I'll show you guys.

It's really cute. And then the second bass I got was a Mustang. Actually, my second one after that one got lost.

Look how excited you are.

Aren't I cute, though? I was so pumped. Yeah, it was probably after the show. I was so excited. I put it in the back of the cab. And it actually happened again to me with another bass a few years later, but then I got it back because I had my address on it. I had my email on the case.

That's stressful.

It was really stressful. Anyways, so, my second bass—I went to Guitar Center after that and I got a Hofner. And I had the Hofner for a few days, and I was like, "I don't like this." And then I returned it and got a Mustang.

Did you get the violin bass, the Hofner?

Yeah, it was kind of like a Paul McCartney-style Hofner. And I was like, "This doesn't feel like a bass. It doesn't look like a bass." I don't know what I was thinking. But now they're so... Hofners are in every studio. They all have Hofners. All the studios in LA have Hofners.

It's good to have options.

Yeah, so I had a Mustang, and then I got a vintage P-Bass, and then I got a Rickenbacker, and then I started to get into Jazz Basses.

You mentioned School of Rock. You also studied music at NYU, right?

Yeah. School of Rock was an afterschool program when I was really young. And then NYU, I went to Clive Davis Institute for just a year, and then I dropped out.

Blu DeTiger's pedalboard at the Metro, November 8, 2022.
"Blu DeTiger's pedalboard at the Metro, November 8, 2022.

You also worked as a DJ, is that right?

Yes. I started DJing when I was 17. I was DJing all throughout my time at NYU, which was just two and a half years. As I was DJing, I would bring my bass to my DJ sets and play along.

What were some of the songs that you found that were most exciting or most fun to play along to?

I would do this mashup of "Pony" by Ginuwine and "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child. It worked really well. And I had this whole... As a DJ you have these little tricks or groupings of three songs, so I would do those in a row. I'd do a lot of stuff. And then I'd do a lot of just disco.

I would do that four nights a week when I was at NYU on my hustle while I was also playing in other bands. And then when I was 19, I started getting into touring for other bands.

What was your first tour?

My first real tour was with this band The Knocks, where I was opening for them. They also produced my first two songs. I had two songs out, and I was playing in their band. They were like, "Oh, you can also do first of three." So I was first of three for the tour and in their band for the tour.

And then I was on tour with Caroline Polachek for a second. And now I do guest things with some artists…

Yeah, I saw you on SNL.

Oh, you did?

With Bleachers, yeah. I was like, "There she is."

Love it. Love it. Yeah. That was fun.

Blu performs on stage. Photo by Abby Orons, used with permission.
Blu performs on stage. Photo by Abby Orons, used with permission.

So you were a very active touring musician prior to the lockdowns in the pandemic, and then you kind of found a new version of notoriety on social media. What was that unexpected transition like?

Well, I think since all the tours and everything were getting canceled, and all the live performances... That whole year for me was supposed to be just tours and live shows, and I was finally hitting my stride as a session player. And then when all that was canceled, I was like, "Oh damn, I can't perform anymore. I'm just going to perform to the camera instead."

It's a similar sort of creative outlet, so I kind of just did that instead. I was also working on my own music too, but I only had a few songs out. I just posted one video for fun, and people really reacted to it, which I wasn't expecting. And then I was like, Oh, I kind of owe it to everyone to keep doing this, to keep posting videos, yeah, because everyone liked it.

That seems like a rising pressure for performers in approaching social media: "I make music because I want to, but I also feel I owe something to this online audience who has been supporting me."

Yeah, totally. It's like a two-way street for sure. And then I would see all these positive messages come through about how it inspired people to pick up the bass. Then I started doing some more educational videos, which were fun. It was such a good outlet for me to just wake up and do that every day when I couldn't perform elsewhere.

If you could kind of crystallize advice that has been helpful for you that you would want to pass on to people who are thinking of picking up an instrument or pursuing music, what would that be?

Just do it. People are like, "Oh, I don't know where to start." I'm like, "Just start anywhere."

I think also for me, I used to be almost worried that I was doing too much. I was a DJ, and I was playing in bands, and then I was doing sessions in studios, and then I was singing and making my own music. I was just doing so many different things, and I used to think that was super confusing.

And now I'm like, that was awesome that I was doing all of those things. You don't have to just do one thing, just because it's more clear for other people to understand. You can just do whatever makes you feel good.

The path isn't linear.

Yeah, I did all those things, and now I'm here, which is where I wanted to be. Everyone is on their own path, which that's another piece of advice. Everyone's on their own path. You don't have to follow the one thing that you think was right.

Since you have experienced success both by what people might consider a "traditional" trajectory— playing out and finding a fan base through tours and collaborations, and by becoming a sort of social media influencer—have you noticed a difference in the way that the industry reacts to you based on their first experience of your work?

Yeah, definitely. I think when you're touring for another person, you're there to support that person, which is a very important role in itself. Then if you're obviously the artist, it's also different. You're definitely treated in a different way because the other people who are supporting you wouldn't be there unless you're there. So of course it's different. But I think every role is important.

Blu DeTiger - "Hot Crush Lover"

Do you think that the way that things like TikTok and Instagram that have influenced the music world are also kind of seeping into the music industry at a larger level?

Yeah. I talk about it a lot with my friends right now—how when you're an artist you're also a content creator at the same time, which is totally a real thing. And I don't know if there's any way of getting out of it as of now. I hope that later on it isn't necessarily that way, but I think right now that's, I don't know, that's the thing. And I'm grateful and lucky that I was kind of on TikTok and stuff early on and was finding my way then. Because I feel like if I was trying to do what I was doing then now, I don't know if it would've cut through the same, because there's just so much.

Which is inspiring but also overwhelming.

Yeah. It's hard, but also, I'm like, "Oh my god, I can't believe I did it at the right time." I mean, everyone is on their right destiny, timing, whatever. But yeah, I can't imagine being new. I'm still a new artist too, and I'm still struggling with it and relate to everyone that's doing it out. But yeah, if I was brand new starting out, I would be like, "Oh my god, this is crazy." Yeah, I would just say it takes time, I guess, and endurance. Yeah. I don't know. It's weird. It's a weird time.

Blu DeTiger's Aguilar rig at the Metro, November 8, 2022.
"Blu DeTiger's Aguilar rig at the Metro, November 8, 2022.

It is a weird time, but it's always a weird time.

Yeah. But then again, because I get very overwhelmed by all that stuff a lot too. And during the pandemic, obviously, I had time to post every single day, and I was doing all these videos and stuff. And then now with touring and making music, I don't have that same time. And I get really overwhelmed by it. I'm like, "Oh my god, how am I also supposed to post all these things?"

Are you still feeling that pressure to keep up with that audience?

Yeah, totally, and I'm trying to just merge it.

But I think it has merged because people come to the shows and are like, "Oh, I followed you on TikTok from this one video, and I love the music, and blah blah blah."

It always helps, and I'm the same person, so if you like me for one thing, you'll probably like my music, I hope. I don't know. If you don't, it's fine. Whatever. But yeah, it's really hard to keep up with all of it. I think all of that culminates in the live show too, so I'll see the people—

In real life.

Yeah, in real life. And I'm like, "Oh, OK, this is how those videos have affected these people." And it inspires me to do it more.

I love that.

But yeah, it's tough to keep up with it.

Speaking of the larger industry as a whole, tell me about being approached by Fender to create this little beauty over here.

Oh yeah. I mean, they first hit me up when I was 17, I think. And I was so excited. I was so hyped. I was like, "I made it." I was like, "This is it, endorsed." It wasn't even an endorsement. They were just like, "Hey, do you want a bass?" But in my head, I was like, "I'm endorsed by Fender. Only the best musicians out there..." I was so... You know what I mean, when you're younger? So that was sick.

They gave me an American Elite Jazz Bass that is on stage as well. I brought it with me on this tour, and that's my go-to bass still to this day. It's my favorite.

Blu DeTiger | Player Plus Sessions | Fender

So since then I've been working with them for a while, and they've always been really supportive, anything I needed. Then we did a campaign together for the Precision Basses, the Player Plus Precision Bass, which was really fun. And they gave me a lot of creative freedom. I kind of creative directed the whole thing. It was really cool.

And then I was like, "OK, it's time. I need to make a Custom Shop." And with touring and stuff, it's so hard on the body physically, especially with bass, because it's so heavy. So I was like, "OK, I want my custom chop to be lightweight." So that's kind of what we did with this one. That's the main thing, and then obviously the aesthetics of it.

Blu DuTiger's Custom Shop Jazz Bass
Blu DuTiger's Custom Shop Jazz Bass.

I love a matching headstock.

Right? I wasn't sure about it. Then I was like, "It's fire." On stage it shines. It's really cool.

I'm sure. Seems like it has disco ball energy?

Yeah, seriously.

Tell us a little bit about the gear that you use in the studio and on tour.

So yeah, Fender bass, obviously. For amps, I use Aguilar, my fave. So with me on this tour, I have two 4x10s and a DB 751 Aguilar head, which is my favorite. So that's my thing right now. I would do an 8x10, but it's easier to transport the two 4x10s.

That's always my rig, and it's really nice with this space through that preamp sounds really good. And then I have a wireless, always wireless, never cable. It's more free moving around.

I've seen videos of you playing in the crowd.

Oh yeah, I love it. Oh my god, I play so differently if I have the cable attached. I can't play.

Do people ever watch the video, and they go, "This is not really her playing."

"She never plays." Yeah, 100%. "It's not even plugged in." I'm like, "Dude, remember wireless?"

It's 2022.

Yeah. I'm like, "iPhones can exist, and they don't have wireless band?" Yeah, so I'll do wireless. And then I have a few pedals, like the EarthQuaker Devices I really liked. I don't really use too many. I have a distortion and a phaser and an octave pedal. That's pretty much all I use.

What was the first, do you remember, the first time you played through a pedal?

I think I used to have those... You know those big pedal board things like Line 6 or whatever, they have all the different sounds? I got one of those when I was younger, and we were just having a field day playing with it and just the millions and millions of sounds. I was having a lot of fun with that. Yeah, probably when I was 14 or something.

Then I was just getting sick of it because I was like, "I want to make sure I can make it sound really good on its own."

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