Interview: Toddla T on his new album, The Tuesday Club and advice for Sheffield students

We love a bit of Toddla here at Exposed – like, proper love the bloke. For almost a decade now he’s been making waves (and raves) on the UK dance scene as a legendary DJ/producer and dancehall selector. And if that’s not enough for you, he’s also a hugely proud Sheffielder who’s properly clued up on the city’s musical heritage, making him a perfect fit for this month’s informative student issue.

Ahead of the Radio 1 DJ’s return home for this month’s monumental Tuesday Club bash, we got Darragh Murphy to give him a bell for a chat about the latest album, family life and – of course – the Steel City.

Toddla, we’re looking forward to welcoming you back to Sheff later this month. What are you up at the mo’?
Thanks, man! Right now I’m sitting outside my music studio in West London, just coming out the back of a pretty heavy weekend. I did Ibiza on Friday, flying in there from London about 6:15pm and played a set at 7:15pm. Then I had a meal and flew back home, slept from 5am until about 7am when my kids started jumping on me. Then at about 2pm I went to a festival up north and came back home again. So, it’s been quite the hectic weekend, and I’m just revving back up in my studio now.

A tad jet-lagged then?
Jet-lagged probably isn’t the right word; I’d say more confused. But it’s all good anyway!

Congrats on the release of Foreign Lights, by the way. How does it feel to get album no.3 out there to the world?
It’s been an absolute joy. It’s a 100% independent recording; I did it on my own imprint called Steeze, used my own team and the whole musical direction was completely uncompromised. I kept very pure in terms of what I wanted to do at this point of my life. Andrea Martin, a singer and songwriter from New York, did vocals on it and she’s incredible. I met her in a studio session a couple of years ago and her voice blew my head off. The whole thing has been such a joy because I’ve done it just the way I want. The fact that other people have latched on to it and embraced it is just incredible for me.

For all those newcomers to Sheffield who are clueless to your native upbringing, could you give us a brief history lesson on your name?
Of course! I was growing up in Sheffield, very much into hip-hop music from like the age of 10. There was a local community radio station called SCR I used to lock into which introduced me to the rap and R&B scene in America, as well as watching all those music videos on MTV. I was always the young guy around the olders, so they used to call me Little Tom or Baby Tom; then Toddler Tom came about. It just stuck from that point. Even when I was about 16, I started working in a shop called Sumo and a few other places, but I was still the young guy and people carried on with calling me Toddla. Now, even though I’m 6ft 2 with a bit of grey hair and two kids, people still call me that! Some things never change, eh?

With it being a September freshers special, we’ll have plenty of new students reading the mag this month. What are the essential Toddla T tips to making the most out of your time in Sheffield?
There’s a reason students stay in Sheffield long after finishing their degree, more so than any other city. It has such a warm, embracing and amazing attitude towards the community, and it’s so individual in so many ways. People instantly feel that vibe and don’t want to leave. It’s the simple things for me, like the great real ale pubs that students should definitely flock towards, or the miles of countryside that surround the city – which, actually, some might not notice unless they jump on a bus or drive out of the city centre for 20 minutes. But pretty much everything is on your doorstep if you’re living in the city centre, so I’m sure people will discover the gems pretty quickly.

What local music would you recommend newcomers to brush up on?
Sheffield’s music history is incredible, man – all the way from your electronic 80s acts such as Human League and Heaven 17 to the guitar bands of the last twenty years or so. I’d also tell people to research the Warp Records side of things, because that’s a huge thing for the city. On the band side you obviously have the likes of Pulp, Milburn and the Arctic Monkeys. There’s a lot of love for local music here: bands like Milburn or Reverend and the Makers will sell more tickets in Sheffield than pretty much any other big international band you could name. Locals will back their native musicians more so than who is trending. You’ll find a unique music scene in Sheffield on nights out that feels proper genuine.

Speaking of nights out, you’ll be playing The Tuesday Club later this month. Tell us a bit about your relationship with that event?
Yeah, I absolutely can’t wait! The Tuesday Club has been booking me for a long time, even when I was only starting out. I have a lot of fond memories from that place. Coco will be playing with me as well, another Steel City native, so there’ll be a lot of those Steel City vibes flowing. The crowds there are always super energetic, and DJs from across the country love playing there because it’s like pure Friday vibes on a Tuesday! That night has been a part of the Sheffield student community for over a decade now, and it’s one of those nights that you know will always be a lot of fun.

On a personal note, congrats to you both on the arrival of your second child earlier this year. Is it difficult matching the dad and DJ lifestyles?
Having the kids has definitely changed my life for the better. Putting some discipline and routine into my life was such a positive thing. With music and the DJ lifestyle, you can basically just do what you want in terms of sleep and work. Now though, I drop my first kid off at school by half 8 and I’m in the studio by 9, then I’m eager to get home later so I can put him and my new one to bed. At times, like being woken up after only sleeping for 2 hours, it can be … pretty mental – but the majority of the time it’s such a joy. I think my new record sums up my last few years of growing up as a human, and hopefully my new-found confidence will springboard me to making many more records in the future.

Toddla T plays The Tuesday Club on September 19th; head here for tickets and more info.

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