On his 2021 single “Vintage,” pop star Blu DeTiger sings that he needs a guy to match his outfit: someone who will wear a motorcycle jacket but still hold the door open for him…and also knows all the words to “Mr. The Good Side.”
Technically, it might be a bit of a precaution that Killers’ 2005 track would be considered “vintage”, but 24-year-old DeTiger – who has gained huge social media following thanks to his bass prowess and modeled look – is attracting a lot of his inspiration from the past, whether it’s 2000s indie rock, classic rock or Top 40 pop. During last summer’s festival circuit, his sets featured a medley of covers, including “Feel Good Inc.” de Gorillaz, “Ms. Jackson” and MIA’s “Paper Planes” — all songs that came out when she was a kid.
“I definitely wasn’t listening to what the other kids in my school were listening to,” she says. “All my friends in college or whatever, they didn’t know what I was talking about. I was just on a different wave.
DeTiger started playing bass at age 7, enrolling in Manhattan’s School of Rock program (his older brother Rex played drums) and studying classic rock bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. In her teens, she says she was more into 1970s and 80s funk and R&B like Chic, Cameo and Patrice Rushen. But she wasn’t a rocker either. “Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ is like one of the greatest songs of all time,” she says. “If you don’t like it, you’re lying.”
At 17, she was working as a DJ and had the idea of bringing her bass guitar to play live on the tracks. She says it helped to further broaden her musical tastes.
“You have to know every song,” she says. “You have to know all the classics, you have to know all the new ones, you have to know all the old ones. … I just kind of have an appreciation for everything.
As an adult, she began working as a bassist, touring with artists like Caroline Polachek and alternative rock band Kitten. She also started building a social network by posting clips of herself playing bass on TikTok, which she had just started using.
She says she posted a clip before she flew to London for a gig. “I didn’t think about it much,” she says. “I just posted it and then I got on the plane. And when I landed there were about 300,000 likes, just something ridiculous. It went viral overnight. I was, ‘Oh, wow, like, people are really into it,’ and I literally took 30 seconds to make the video.
When live music was halted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, DeTiger embarked on a routine of posting clips to TikTok every day, covering tracks from Prince to Megan Thee Stallion, and eventually collected nearly 1.2 million subscribers. She says it helped her scratch the itch to play.
“Having another outlet where I could almost, instead of playing for an audience, just playing for my phone and finding a new audience online, that really helped me,” she says.
Being a social media star may very well help inspire a whole new generation of girls to take the bass. “It’s the best part of what I do,” she says. “I get so many messages like, ‘You inspired me to get a bass, and now I’m playing and learning your song.’ Like, it makes me feel so good.
DeTiger is on the road for his first headlining tour, which will stop at the El Club in Detroit on Monday. His live sets have something of the eclecticism of a streaming playlist, offering both a slick pop feel as well as impromptu jam sessions with his backing band, which includes his brother.
“I still want to have an element of everything in there,” she says. “I want to have the pop star moment, I want to have the rock moment and I want to have the funky moment. I just want everyone to feel like they’ve been through something real that took them to all these different hills and valleys.
DeTiger is also working on a new album and has just released a new single called “Elevator”. The video features DeTiger and his friends having fun in an elevator, with cameos including early viral social media star Rebecca Black, as well as musicians like Uffie, Chromeo’s Dave 1 and Alexander 23.
“I just texted my friends, I was just like, ‘Hey, are you free Tuesday night?'” DeTiger says. “Everyone also brought great energy, which was so exciting.”
Back when DeTiger first picked up a bass, indie rock bands like the Killers were credited with helping to “save” rock ‘n’ roll, which still stubbornly refuses to die. DeTiger isn’t even convinced he needs saving.
“I feel like it’s always going to be there,” she said. “I think no matter how [big] electronic music gets, or people make music on a laptop, you still can’t beat the sound of the real instrument. And everything comes back. That real connection of playing an instrument with your hands and producing that sound will never go out of style.
Blu DeTiger performs Monday, Nov. 7 at El Club; 4144 Vernor Hwy., Detroit; elclubdetroit.com. The event starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $26.