Picture a young Filipino boy sitting in front of his television watching Michael Jackson on Motown 85 – learning and emulating what it takes to be a successful artist.
That image is Sony ATV signee, singer, and songwriter August Rigo.
I pulled up on Rigo at a recent show at SOB’s off of his SWEET290 Tour which featured a gang of artists from his own sub-label.
We spoke over the phone two weeks prior at the very start of his tour.
During the phone interview, we talked about his relentless grind for his craft, being Filipino in the music industry and his record label Summer Child Records which was enough to develop a dope profile, but I needed more.
At the show, I didn’t know what to expect. A few of his label members performed as the crowd got a little taste of Rigo. He killed it on the keys adding his masterful touch to each of his label members’ songs.
When I arrived Brian Puspos was performing. Following Puspos’ act was Rigo’s now girlfriend Ginette Claudette who had an amazing set and Andrew Garcia killed his performance with his belting vocals. It was definitely a good night for Summer Child Records.
Between Claudette and Garcia’s set, there was a little break before Rigo took the stage. I took advantage of the little interlude and decided to fill my lungs with the sour. High AF the moment finally came where I would get to see Rigo perform.
I was too hype. The suspense was killing me, so to calm me down I went up to the bar to cop a heavenly sip from the sauce fountain of life.
Gazing onto the stage with Red Stripe in hand, I looked towards the SOB’s platform searching for Rigo. He was nowhere to be found and all the crowd could see was his piano and a projected light purple backdrop that read SWEET290.
Whipping my head back and forth in a state of confusion my attention was caught by an stylishly dressed dude wearing a black leather jacket which read “EGOS” on the back, a red t-shirt, black jeans, three big ass rings, and a hat with a feather in it. SO FLY!
Can you guess who it was? It was Rigo and right before his set, he decided to order a shot of Patron with lime.
Shortly after pounding the shot we engaged in a quick conversation. We talked about his girlfriend Claudette who has helped catalyze Rigo’s creativity with his own music.
Right before he jumped on stage he said to me comically, “If you don’t fuck with me, don’t waste my time.”
This was it, the moment I was waiting for. Rigo pulled up to the stage and relayed a calming vibe to the crowd. He made everyone feel relaxed.
The performance was magical and Rigo played some tracks off of his latest project The Fall Out.
But there was a song that stood out to me and the crowd the most. His latest single “Don’t Do Drugs”. In the hour-long phone interview we had prior to his performance at SOB’s, Rigo touched on what this song meant to him.
One line makes a difference and with that inspiration, you can build a whole entire song around it. Rigo said,
“My mom called one day and she was like ‘Are you doing drugs?’ And I was like ‘No, what are you talking about?’ Then she was like, ‘don’t do drugs ok,’ and I was like ‘aight.’ My mom doesn’t really rag on me that much. But for some reason that day she might have watched something on TV or on the news and she was like, ‘Hey, don’t do drugs.’ I was like, ‘ok I won’t do drugs’ and then I lit a joint and I wrote the song.”
Rigo and I laughed and he continued,
“The first line of the song is ‘mama called and said don’t do drugs’ and as soon as I hit that line I was like here we go, we got it and the rest of the song was like verbal diarrhea, just like blah. That’s the most exciting part. A lot of times when I have a song that I love I’m just excited to finish it so I can play it over and over again. So I can listen to it, and so I can be engulfed in the sonics. When you hit that point in the song and you know where it’s going it’s like now the idea starts flowing. It’s like when you’re playing sports and you catch a groove…”
“Don’t Do Drugs” is just the latest moment of a promising young music career. Rigo went through a lot of shit just to make it to this point.
Prior to releasing this smash single and signing to Sony ATV he had to force his foot into the door, which wasn’t easy for the Filipino pop artist.
He comes from an immigrant family where his parents wanted him to obtain a job that provided a regular paycheck.
Yet, Rigo geared himself up to be a part of the music industry. He ended up going to an art high school an hour away from his home in westside Toronto. This is where he found his voice focusing on opera and other classical forms of music.
He then went to college for jazz, which he realized wasn’t for him. His teacher encouraged him to follow his dreams. She said, “I can teach you how to be a jazz singer here, but you really want to be a pop singer.”
Rigo realized that she was correct and decided to go to school for sound engineering. He felt like this was one of the best decisions he’s ever made although he got kicked out.
He ended up interning with another teacher and skipped class to harness his hands-on on skills. After being dismissed from the jazz college he obtained a sedentary 9-5 job. Once he gained a grip of weight, he quit and moved to New York, fully devoting his life to his music career.
This is how he got on. He posted outside of the Universal Music Group building at 1755 Broadway and pushed his demo on those who he felt were apart of the music industry.
“I used to burn like 10 to 20 CDS and I used to go to the Universal office and stand outside the record label and hand out CDs to anybody who looked like they were in the music industry. That’s how I got on. I harassed everybody. I harassed assistants, interns, VPs, and presidents. One of those hundreds of days that I was waiting outside there, one of the guys I harassed ended up being my manager four years later.”
What made him stand out? He was super relentless in building relationships, constantly calling, sending emails, and sending songs. He was very pushy, to say the least.
Regarding the manager signing him, “He saw the growth and eventually gave in,” said Rigo. This made him realize talent can only take you so far, hard work is what separates you from the rest.
But, little did Rigo know that his Filipino features would affect his music career. Rigo touched on how his race played a role in him becoming a songwriter for some of the world’s biggest artists,
“I never knew that my race was going to be an issue in my music career until I got into the music industry. Originally people loved my songs. I’ve had meetings with presidents, VPs, and heads of labels. I got the meetings because they loved the music and I’ve walked into the room with people and they would ask, ‘Who the artist was?’ As soon as they point to me the tone of the music would change. All of a sudden it was like ‘What else do you have?’ As soon as they found out I was the artist they ignored me.”
This was a little crazy to Rigo and music execs didn’t know what to do with him even though they loved his songs. They suggested that he should take the songs that he wrote for himself and give them to other artists. His manager revealed that this is a way for Rigo to pave his own path.
Not a bad decision at all. Rigo has written songs for artists like Justin Bieber, One Direction, Kehlani, and Chris Brown.
Today, Rigo’s career looks very promising as he builds his own fan base on the SWEET290 tour, finesses his music career, and works with artists on his Summer Child Records label.
Follow him as he makes his way to the top and for other artists that are looking to follow in Rigo’s footsteps listen to his advice,
“For the youngins, everything is at your fingertips. If you want to be a songwriter go out and be a songwriter, don’t try. That’s my new thing like I’m not going to try to do anything anymore, just do it. The internet has shown me I can do anything. There is a step by step and play by play for anything you want to learn out there. Do not depend on anyone to give you a shot, give yourself a shot. The good stuff really does shine through, it’s just that there’s so much of it. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard. Be great man!”
Get out there and make it happen!