Tokio Myers has had a wild 10 months of success after being catapulted to fame by winning the “Britain’s Got Talent” contest.
The 34-year-old pianist, drummer, composer and producer defies categorization with his music, which blends everything from Debussy to Ed Sheeran. He is about to cap his year by picking up the Breakthrough Artist prize at the Classic Brit Awards at London’s Royal Albert Hall on June 13, where he is nominated for other awards such as Best Male Artist and Classic FM Album of the Year. He will also perform at the event.
Myers, who is known for his trademark shock of dreadlocked hair and enthusiasm for music of all kinds, speaks in an interview.
Mark Beech: Congratulations on the nominations. What was your reaction to the acclaim?
Myers: Pleased, because I definitely wasn’t sitting at home thinking I should get a nomination, or any awards really. It definitely came as a surprise because my first album is a fusion of so many different styles of music. Here we are being nominated at the classic awards, which is really cool.
It’s already been confirmed you’ve won one at least.
Yep, best Breakthrough Artist, which is great. That’s one to get, and shows people are watching and paying attention! So very grateful.
You really defy category though. You went to the Royal College of Music, but how did you start?
I did music because it is a cliche, but it was freedom of expression. I never went into it thinking I wanted to be a concert pianist or a particular sort of artist, just to be free to expressing how you feel. The album, “Our Generation,” is a true testament, and there are times where there are beats and heavy production, there is hip-hop or 1990s rave stuff. It is what it is. I think my main thing is not to be seen as just a pop artist or jazz or classical. I sit at a piano, but I also play drums. I don’t want to be put in a box. I am not trying to make classical music better. I don’t want to make pop music better. I just do what I do to fuse it all together.
This overnight success after some time as a session musician must be a dream come true.
Yes, massively. Being a self-employed musician at any time is not easy. You say what you do, and people assume you are a struggling artist and most of the time that is true. I didn’t give up the fight, I didn’t throw in the towel. I just kept the vision I love and what I do. I could not see myself doing any other job. The aim wasn’t to be an artist even. I just wanted to make enough to feed myself and my family, just not have to worry about the simple things in life. To be where I am now is really incredible. It’s only been 10 months. I know how these things work. We have seen how many of the BGTs (Britain’s Got Talent winners) have a long career, and it isn’t really that many. So me and the label, management and team are all just working hard. I am not in this industry to be famous or be a celebrity, I am here to make music and be able to do that for as long as possible. I would not really care if it collapsed tomorrow as long as do what I do. That is great.
So you have some festivals coming up and then the new album?
Right now I am in the studio working on my second album. I started working on that new project, and it is really fine coming off the tour and stepping into the studio just the energy to come up with some new music.
So it is not the fabled “difficult second album”? How’s it going? Well?
I’ve written so much music in my life, and there were a lot of tracks that didn’t make the first album, because I did not want to give too much away, and I felt like 13 tracks was enough. These were songs that I really wanted to put out anyway so I’ve probably got half an album there already in demo form. The rest is the exciting part of coming up with stuff that has not been made yet, so in a few months’ time I am going to have music which has been birthed from nothing. I am not putting pressure on myself.
No pressure then! But might we have it by Christmas?
The plan is to get it out end of the year or something like that, but things can change though.
You will be performing with the Royal Philharmonic at the Classic Brits. You’ve played the Albert Hall before though, right?
Yep. At the Classic FM live I performed one of my own tracks that I had arranged for the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, a track called “Angel.” I opened it standing up to conduct them for the first 20 seconds, and then I went over to the piano. It was one of the most magical experiences, and there is something about that venue: looking out to my right and seeing its beauty. It has got to be one of the best venues in the world for sure.
As a session musician you worked with the late Amy Winehouse, who I know was like your big sister and used to give you hugs when she saw you. But what was Amy like?
Amy? Legend, legend, legend. A beautiful woman and very inspiring and strong, an amazing artist and honest songs. That energy definitely inspired me and what she said: “Stay true to what you do and you will be all right.”
I write books about star names. You were Torville Jones, so how did yours come about?
Myers is my middle name, and Tokio I got from my love of Japan. It was just one of those things. I tried the ‘Y’ as in “Tokyo” and thought it looked a bit silly and just changed it to an ‘I.’ I love Japanese culture. I have never been out to Japan, but I have seen the movies and the fashion and the manga and all this sort of stuff. I find it really interesting. It’s on the list of places to visit. I know that I am going to love it.
Was your first inspiration the movie “Shine” about David Helfgott?
Yes, the playing is extraordinary. I saw it as a kid, and I remember going to HMV the next day and buying lots of Rachmaninov tunes and CDs and listening to as much of his catalog as possible. To this day Rachmaninov is my favorite composer of all time. I have played a lot of the Preludes. I learned Rach 2 and 3 at uni. It’s still a massive part instilled into what I do. It’s all about the melody with Rachmaninov and the inner parts and how he builds to the climax on all of his pieces. I took that from my first record on all of the piano tracks.
Thanks Tokio. Good luck with the shows, the album and Classic Brits. I am sure we’ll be returning to the subject soon.
Have a good day man!
Founder Louise Blouin