Raised in Sheffield, Toddla T started DJing at the age of 14; “Actually I think I started even younger than that. Around 12 years old!”, he quickly added, “I got turntables as a very young man. Couldn’t really mix on them with no pitch. But it meant I was buying records from a young age. And by the time I was old enough to afford proper equipment, I had the right music collection”.
With this in mind, it didn’t seem to take Toddla T, real name Thomas Mackenzie Bell, long to know that he wanted to pursue a career in music. “It’s all I could think of and all I’d ever do”, he said. Thinking about why he was certain this was the right path, it’s all he could focus on. “I was always listening to my walkman. Even to this day, all I really care about is my family and music. It’s weird. I don’t really have any other hobbies or interests. It was totally different growing up though. 15 years ago the record shops were social hubs, and now it’s all social media. We had both good raves and record shops, so it was a great breeding ground for me to get into the business and discover music in a really organic way”.
Surrounded by reggae, speed garage, dance and hip hop, Toddla T said, “the music around me was from all over the place. I think anyone making music should be drawn into what they’re doing otherwise it’s a bit pointless. If you’re not going to express yourself honestly, or with passion, then you might as well get a different job. That’s why I’m drawn into the style of music I make”.
Foreign Light, the new album by Toddla T, is a project that he’s been working on for over two years. “It’s vocalled by Andrea Martin”, he said. “I met her in the studio in New York after having a day off after a gig over there. It was super natural vibes, and we kept our conversations going over the internet. She’s one of my favourite vocalists. She is the glue of this album. Her voice is so good. It was hard to match it with production at times”.
New single ‘Magnet’ has been flying high since it’s release. “‘Magnet’ is a bit of a mad one”, Toddla T added, thinking about his expectations for the track. “And it’s crazy because the tune there was the last one to go on the album. I ended up collaborating with Chilly Gonzales one the music side of things because the vocal was just so ‘up’. It took a while to get the beat to a place to match the lyrics. It’s amazing because it was the last track, like I said, with no expectation and yet it’s the one that’s flying the most. So, I’m blessed”.
Given that music is an ever changing entity, it’s often hard to know what to hope to give back to a particular scene. But for this Sheffield raised artist it’s about hoping people hear his songs at parties when they’re having a good time; “I want it to soundtrack whenever they’re feeling good. But also to be an escape for someone else. Espaping into another world through music. I’d be making music regardless of this, but this is what I’d like to do for other people”.
“I’ve made some decisions in the past based on trying to get a bigger audience”, he continues, answering the question of what advice he’d give to his younger self knowing everything that he does now, “but that wasn’t necessarily the right choice. You need to be true to yourself because then you won’t think anything you did was shit. We’re all on our own mission. We will all get our moment. Don’t panic, your time will come”.
Foreugn Light is available on iTunes now