It’s that time of year again for TDOTFest. This is an amazing festival that goes on in the Toronto area each year, and they offer performances from some of the areas hottest acts. Each year, it gets bigger and better, and this year is surely no different. August Rigo will be bringing his show-stopping stage show to the festival this year, and fans couldn’t be more excited. We were able to sit down and chat with August about the upcoming show, along with his songwriting career, his albums, being independent, and a whole lot more.
UG Digital Magazine: It’s pretty incredible to be able to sit down and talk with you man. You’ve done so much, and worked so hard that things are really booming right now. Obviously you’re part of TDOTFest, which is huge in itself, but I’d love for you to go back to the beginning. I feel like it’s superstardom man (laughing)…
August Rigo: You opened a can of worms, but I can give you the abbreviated story. I went to school for music, at a performing arts high school. I started off singing pop music and R&B. At school, I actually studied opera and classical music. So, I was in choir, and did that full gamete. I met a few guys that I started a group with, so that’s how I started performing LIVE. I went to school for Jazz as well after that. I didn’t really enjoy the Jazz program, and it had nothing to do with them. It was totally my fault. I ended up going to school for production and engineering to learn my way around the studio. That’s how I got my feet wet, and I ended up interning at various studios. Through that, I met a producer who showed me the ropes on shopping records. He introduced me to a few of his contacts. After that, I literally stood outside the labels in New York City and handed out my CDs to anyone who looked like they were in the industry. I literally harassed them (laughing), and that’s actually how I got on. It felt futile, an I did it about a hundred times (not exagerting). One of those times, I ran into someone who was a VP over at Motown, and that’s how I got a little bit of recognition in terms of the industry. I didn’t want to write songs; I wanted to be an artist. Me writing a song for a Chris Brown or Justin Bieber wasn’t really in the cards in my mind.
UG Digital Magazine: That’s huge when you think of it all.
August Rigo: Absolutely. I owe everything I have to my songwriting career. It allowed me the freedom to continue to do my artist career full time because I have that career and it generates a decent amount of income for me. I love to sing, perform, and write songs for myself. Songwriting has allowed me to do that.
UG Digital Magazine: How do you feel about it now, given you’ve done so well with it. Chris Brown’s “Back to Sleep” was so big.
August Rigo: I mean, it’s different now. I enjoy the process. I actually schedule my time out, and try to write songs that specifically are not for me. A lot of times, you write songs and you grow attached to them. It’s hard to give them up. They’re like your babies. You birthed and created them out of nothing. My mindset on it now is that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the name of the game is to expose the music at a grand scale, and there is a Chris Brown or Justin Bieber willing to perform the song, it’s a good look for music, and a good look for me. To some extent, I’m still making an impact on popular culture, even if it’s not my voice; it’s still my words and vision. It’s actually an honor to have an artist like Chris Brown represent a song. It’s like having the cream of the crop of the industry. I have a different view now than when I first came out.
UG Digital Magazine: Obviously, you’ve done vocal coaching, which is also huge, and with the executive production work you’ve done, you’ve been able to go so many amazing directions.
August Rigo: You just have to get in where you fit in. This industry is real fickle. You have to create those income streams and diversify to stay in the industry. Music is cyclic. When I start following the trends, I become less of myself. I like to stick to my guns and do the things I enjoy. Sometimes what you’re into is not the vibe or what’s happening at the time. You have to figure things out. Having a bunch of different skill sets has helped me to stay relevant. If I’m not writing, I’m producing, and if not singing, I’m mixing as an engineer, running a label, or doing vocal coaching on America’s Got Talent. I do music for a living, and at the end of the day, that’s all I wanted to do.
UG Digital Magazine: You’re that perfect example of someone who has worked hard, and is now experiencing the fruits of their labor. Your career is going in the best direction ever. Two albums out, and they’ve been hugely successful. How do you feel like your work has helped you in creating these albums?
August Rigo: The first album was at a time in life where I was signed to Def Jam. I was being shelved at the time because L.A. Reid signed me directly, and he had left to do X-Factor. I was dropped, but luckily a label in Japan wanted to license my album. That’s how the first album came about and I was able to release that through Manhattan Records and maintain a relationship. When it came around to this album, I was able to do the same thing with them, as well as release it worldwide on my own label. The ability to go through all those motions, and then come back and create this last album has been peaceful. I’ve been able to find myself and figure out the things I want to do and don’t want to do. It’s felt like forever, but all the things I’ve done, including the vocal coaching and writing, have helped to craft the musician I am now. When I did the Musiq Soulchild and Justin Bieber stuff, I was in a different place. I had never written a song for anyone in my life up until that point. It was a different time for me, but now that I’m comfortable writing songs for other people, I can separate my identity. The funny thing is, sometimes I write songs that I think are good for someone else, and end up keeping it for me. It also happens the other way around. I write for me, and it ends up being better for someone else. Those experiences helped me to recognize that. I’m a little less pressured about the songs. At the end of the day, my goal is to let them be heard.
UG Digital Magazine: How do you choose?
August Rigo: That’s the biggest question everyone asks, but I really don’t know. You just never know what kinds of opportunities come. I always go back to a story about Neyo. He wrote Let Me Love You, and it became Mario’s biggest song, and look at how far it’s taken Neyo? He could have said no, I’m keeping this song, and maybe no one would have heard it. For that reason, I don’t close the door on those things until I decide I’m releasing a song. I definitely won’t shop it after that.
UG Digital Magazine: With your second album, I feel like it was a better time for you. This issue is centered around being independent as an artist. The major labels will be there, but many artists would much rather be independent. It’s huge that you began with Def Jam, and ultimately became independent. How big was that for you?
August Rigo: It’s kind of a catch 22. I’m a control freak and enjoy having that kind of control, but the other side of the coin is it’s extremely difficult to be on your own. You are competing with the major labels. For me specifically because the music I do is contemporary Pop & R&B. The platforms for that are very standard. It’s radio, television, movies, and getting notoriety through those channels, rather than getting hot on Soundcloud or having a hot YouTube video. I’m not really that artist so it’s been a difficult transition for me. It’s been an awesome experience though. I really do enjoy figuring out the game. That’s the next challenge in my musical endeavors. I’m in an awesome place writing some of the best songs I’ve written in my life, and I’m enjoying the process a lot more. The job of getting out there and figuring out the channels and the best ways, and who really loves my music, that’s the new game for me.
UG Digital Magazine: I look at it all and think you’re doing amazing. You’re right that it’s more difficult doing it all yourself, but the work you did previous to this is what is carrying you through. People know your work ethic, which makes it a little easier, even though you still work your ass off to get a lot accomplished. I envision more artists getting to that point of doing it for themselves. I think it’s outstanding that you’re there, and you’ve had that opportunity to do it independently.
August Rigo: The secret is not to give up. If you stick around, self-awareness aside, if you stick around long enough, and you put the concentrated effort in, the good music will stand the test of time. If you work hard and do the write thing in terms of getting your music out and not letting it sit in the laptop … there’s a lot of artists who are scared to put music out because of insecurities or whatever … you just have to put it out, be willing to be judged, and keep it moving.
UG Digital Magazine: The album has been nominated for a JUNO award. What does that mean for you?
August Rigo: You know, I’ll be honest. It was a personal validation. I’m from here of course, but all of my success has been in the states. It was always a struggle for me to get things going in Canada. I went to labels with this album and the exact same goal. I didn’t need much, but I did need help in terms of releasing the record. I felt like the album had the leg, and was good enough for that recognition. I got the run-around from the labels, and no call backs. It delayed my release because I was excited about people possibly jumping on. So for me, it was personal satisfaction because I ended up putting it out myself and doing the whole thing with my small team of people. It worked out, people love the album, I’m still promoting pretty heavy, and it was extremely satisfying.
UG Digital Magazine: TDOTFest seems to get bigger and bigger every year. We provide coverage every year. Why was it so important for you?
August Rigo: This is important for me because first of all, I’ve never done a festival. It’s a major one in the city, and in one of the coolest venues we have. It’s at Dundas square, which is equivalent to Time’s Square. It’s on Labor Day. I grew up hanging out in that area. To do this for one of the biggest shows in the area for the city is big for me.
UG Digital Magazine: That has to be huge, not just for you, but for the city that you are coming. They have to be excited to see you…
August Rigo: I hope they are (laughing). If not, I’ll make them excited. I pride myself on the stage show. I really do shine when I perform LIVE.
UG Digital Magazine: Now, without giving too much away with the show, what do you have in store for showtime?
August Rigo: You’ll definitely hear top notch vocals. I’m bringing my band out, and they are some of the best musicians in the city that I know. I’ll be doing a majority of my album. It will be an amazing show for sure.
UG Digital Magazine: What else is happening that everyone show be looking out for?
August Rigo: Right now, I’m in the studio working on a few projects. I’m doing a couple of side projects that are “not so” August Rigo with my band. It’s a little bit of rock and psychedelic, but it still has a piece of me. I’d love to see the response. I have a label, and my first artist Jeanette Claudette just got a deal at Sony, so I’m constantly working on that. That album is shaking up pretty well. I’ve done a couple of new things that I hope goes through with a few others.
UG Digital Magazine: How is it to be guiding someone else’s career?
August Rigo: I like when people trust me with their music. I know they believe in me, and that in itself makes me want to work harder. They trust me with their life, and it gives me the confidence to do it, as opposed to having someone who is doubting your ability. That’s the most empowering feeling in the world.
UG Digital Magazine: For your fans checking this out, what type of words of encouragement can you offer?
August Rigo: I think self-awareness is the key. We’re smart enough to know if we’re lying to ourselves. I never lie to myself. I was never the best singer. I always thought I wasthe best until I was exposed to even better singers. Instead of lying by saying I’m just as good, I just worked hard enough until I became as good as them. When you can recognize that something is superior, then you can recognize and figure yourself out with where you can do better. It’s about the quality of what you’re doing. Be aware of what you’re good at and how good you are so you can get better.