Tokio Myers Talks Defying 'Britain's Got Talent' Sceptics And How London's Tough Year Affected His New Album
It’s fair to say that Tokio Myers is not the type of act you’d usually expect to see auditioning for a Simon Cowell talent show, let alone winning the whole thing.
But this summer, the multi-talented musician wound up winning over the viewing public in this year’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, thanks to his emotive and imaginative final performance, and was later crowned champion.
Since winning the show, Tokio has signed to Simon’s famous (or infamous, depending on which former ‘X Factor’ graduate you ask) Syco record label, and his debut album, ‘Our Generation’ is out now.
Tokio served as a producer on the collection - a rarity for a Syco act - proving he’s got far more to bring to the table than your typical reality star. So when we caught up with him prior to the release of ‘Our Generation’, our first burning question was simply: what made him want to appear on a show like ‘BGT’ in the first place?
“I just wanted to do something that was different,” he admitted, “Things for me were pretty stationery, and I knew going on a show like ‘BGT’ would be the complete end of the spectrum of what was going on at the time.
“I knew it would be a challenge, and I knew it would be something exciting. So I just woke up one day and made the decision to go on the show. That was it.”
Before finding success on ‘BGT’, Tokio had been working for years to make a name for himself in music, touring the world as a member of Mr Hudson and the Library, so we were intrigued as to whether some of his more serious industry friends were discouraging when they found out he’d be appearing on a show that can boast not one but two canine winners among its past victors.
“Loads of people, naturally, were [like that],” he revealed, adding that his family were more supportive as they “see the programme in a different light”. “Industry-wise, you know, everyone’s going to have an opinion, and my thing is, there is no right or wrong way in life.
“You know the old chestnut, man, if people say don’t do something, you do it! And it turned out well, and all of a sudden all those same people were there going, ‘obviously it was a great idea for you to do it’.”
But when we ask if many of his friends were left eating their words when he suddenly found himself signed to a major label with millions watching him on live TV, Tokio insisted that proving his detractors wrong has never been a priority.
“I don’t do it for those reasons, man,” he insisted. “I’m not that guy, I’m literally just a man on a mission, trying to get my music out there.”
Still, to go from supporting huge credible performers like Amy Winehouse and Kanye West to sharing the stage with a child dance troupe and a comedy magician, there must have been moments when he questioned himself whether ‘BGT’ was the right route for him to establish himself as an artist?
Well, seemingly not.
“I was just in my zone, honestly,” he told us, “I enjoyed it, that was the reason I went on there.
“I didn’t put my ego first, I never thought ‘I’m better than this’, I genuinely met some really interesting people that I know I would never have talked to on a day to day basis, and it was a good laugh.
“Honestly, I met some real characters on there, and I just found it really fun.”
However, with overnight fame on a show like ‘BGT’ comes a whole lot of sudden media interest, with Tokio’s private life, including personal moments from his past, already having been splashed over the headlines.
When we asked how he’s dealing with that side of things, he explained: “It is what it is, the world we live in. It’s the internet, the media.
“It’s just a few words on a paper… if I’m honest with you, we live in a time now, where the news of today will be forgotten by tomorrow the majority of the time. By tomorrow there’s another headline that everyone’s latching onto, things move so quickly.
“Unfortunately, some people choose that job, and some people do it for the right reasons, but the majority of the time it is just bullshit and if people want to wake up in the morning and choose that for their living and be proud of doing that, then great. You do that.
“I don’t let that stuff get to me. I just want to focus on my journey and this short life that we live, do you know what I mean?”
On fame in general, Tokio confessed he’s “not really interested in that at all”, claiming: “The people that I look up to are artists like M.I.A., Slaves, Twenty-One Pilots... I like their approach to the music industry, which is to always know the reason why you’re doing this.
“Fame is great, it’s all great, but I’m not doing it for those reasons. I’m doing it because I want to [make music] for a living for the rest of my life, and to inspire and to reach out and really connect with people, you know?
“But I’m coming out of ‘BGT’ so I’m going to have that whole persona and image attached to it for a while, but there’s a bigger plan and a much bigger thing than all this glitz and glamour stuff, man.”
Five months have passed since Tokio was named ‘BGT’ winner in one of the show’s most emotional finals ever, which saw the pianist literally drop to the floor when his name was announced.
“I feel like the UK, as I’m sure you agree, we’re a tough group of people to please,” he said when asked about that moment, “So for me, knowing that the UK fully supported what I was doing... was definitely an amazing feeling, and obviously you could see that.”
Since winning the show, Tokio says it’s been pretty much “work, work, work”, and reality TV sceptics might be surprised to hear just how hands-on label boss Simon Cowell has allowed him to be when it comes to his upcoming album.
“I may be one of the few,” he said, “but I’ve had literally 100% [freedom]... I’m the guy, you can probably tell, I want to know what’s going on. I’m not just the pianist and that’s it, leave everything to everyone else. I want to know what’s going on.
“And Simon said to me actually, ‘well done for doing this your way’, and that meant a lot, because I have literally been steering the ship.”
On the subject of the album, we asked how, as a London boy, the city’s tough 12 months affected the way he approached the album, which he told us was “completely, absolutely” the case.
Tokio said: “My main inspiration is what’s going on in the bloody world right now. And we’re good, you know? Not to make it sound all negative... but we’re living in a bit of a crazy time right now.
“I love my city. I love the grit, I love the multiculture, I love the vibe and energy and the levels that we have - we’ve got the underground levels and the Shoreditch crowd, we’ve got the corporate crowd, we’ve got the high society lot... it’s a real mixture of all these types of people, and I think that definitely played a massive part in [the album].
“For me, [I was inspired by] the grit and the beautiful struggle that I’ve had growing up in my city, and the way communities come together.
“Even through all of the shit that we have to deal with, communities come together and ride through the hard times, man, so I felt like I need to make almost a soundtrack to what’s going on.”
He continued: “For me [as an artist], it’s about understanding what’s going on around the time, and then my job is to bring that, feel the emotions, whether it’s happy, sad, politics, whatever and bring that [to the music].
“My album is a mixture of emotions so you’ve got tracks on there that are going to make you feel good, tracks that are going to make you feel angry, tracks that are going to make you want to cry, tracks that are going to make you wanna dance at a festival… for me it’s about taking all of these situations that are going on in the world and then mixing it up and putting it out in a kind of musical language that people can relate to, and that can help them let off some steam or have a cry or have a dance or be angry.
“So that’s my job, to provide those different emotions through the different tracks, take people on a journey to kind of get them out of the matrix a little bit. But also we are still a part of it, so we can’t escape it as such. Some of it is escape, but some of it is like ‘right, we’ve got to get back on it and fight’.”
Tokio Myers’ debut album, ‘Our Generation’, is out now. Listen to his track ‘Angel’ below: