- 29 Aug 19
Having just signed to a major label and released a stunning single, Biig Piig is most definitely a name to watch.
'When pigs fly’ is a phrase commonly used when alluding to an impossible event. Yet, 21-year-old Irish-born rapper and singer Jess Smyth, aka Biig Piig, may prove an exception to the saying. In just the past few months, she has signed to a major record label, announced a European tour and dropped a much buzzed-about single, ‘Sunny’.
Her latest track is an intoxicating ode to hazy and lazy summer evenings, blending elements of dance, pop and soul. Speaking about the overwhelmingly positive response Smyth says, “The reaction’s been great. I found it quite different to the other stuff I’ve released. I was kind of nervous about it.”
Indeed, the song is a departure for the singer, renowned for her blend of soft, hypnotic vocals and mid-tempo sharp beats. Her EPs Big Fan Of The Sesh, Vol. 1 and A World Without Snooze, Vol. 2, were melancholic in tone. Many of their standout tracks – including the dreamy pop of ‘Casio’, the old school R&B-inspired ‘Nothing Changes’, and the seductive hip-hop of ‘Flirt’ – centred around romantic relationships and heartbreak.
While there’s elements of that in ‘Sunny’ – Smyth delicately sings “Love is testing / When it’s true”, before the song is bathed in summery synths – the vibe of it more uplifting.
“I was in the studio one day with my friend and producer Zach Nahome,” she recalls. “It was sunny outside and I thought, ‘We’re just cooped up in this studio’. There was no natural light. He put on this drum beat, just joking to start. But then it developed. I had this idea for a slow melody over it, something Sade-ish – that kind of vibe. I wrote some stuff and got in the booth. It just formed from there.”
The single is Biig Piig’s first since signing to RCA Records in June. Speaking about her experience so far with the label, Smyth says, “It’s been really great. They’ve given the reins to me. They’ve been like, ‘Whatever you need, let us know and we’ll do it for you. We’re not going to touch whatever you’ve made, because you’re growing as you do it on your own anyways.’ I was like ‘cool’. That’s all I needed to know. As long as I have free rein with my own stuff and whatever else I want to do, I’m happy out.”
One imagines the summery vibe of ‘Sunny’ was inspired by the Cork-born Smyth’s time as a child living in the Costa del Sol in Spain, before relocating to London aged 14. This time abroad clearly had an impact on the singer, as the likes of ‘Perdida’ and ‘Vete’ find her singing and rapping in Spanish. In fact, Smyth cites this travelling as a major influence on her reasons for becoming a musician.
“Moving around, you end up chatting to yourself a bit because it’s difficult to meet people,” she notes. “The whole reason I started making music was because I didn’t have anyone to talk with. So, I was like: ‘Fuck, I’ll just make tunes, keep myself company.’”
The singer says she wrote her first song aged 12.
“That was ridiculous,” she chuckles. “Me and two friends had this little rollerskating group. I’d write songs for us and we’d do dances to them just to keep ourselves entertained.”
It was only when she arrived in the English capital two years later that she began to fully dedicate herself to the craft.
“I started making tunes properly with a guitar when I came to London. I hated doing covers, so I started writing loads and going to open mics.”
Biig Piig mixes elements of dance, hip-hop, pop, R&B and soul. The eclectic blend of influences (Smyth cites Die Antwoord, Erykah Badu, Leonard Cohen, Laura Marling and Van Morrison as some of her teenage favourites) makes it hard to define her sound.
“I used to describe it as ‘melancholy pop’,” says the singer. “But I’m still figuring it out. I like my tracks to be very conversational. When you listen to them, it’s as if there’s someone chatting to you.”
Smyth has a busy few months ahead of her. She plans to drop her third EP titled No Place For Patience by the end of the year, which will continue to chronicle the young artist’s love-life and growth.
“This time I’m getting a little experimental,” she says excitedly. “The production is evolving. I’m playing around a bit more with my vocals. Meanwhile, this October Biig Piig will embark on her first European tour. It finds her stopping off in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and the UK, before wrapping up in Whelan’s on the 25th. If you can’t wait that long, however, Irish fans will have a chance to see tJessat this year’s Electric Picnic in the Cosby Tent. Speaking about what festival-goers can expect, she says, “It’s myself with two friends on stage. They’re amazing. There’s a lot of sax and guitar, it’s quite stripped back.”
Speaking to Smyth, one senses she has taken great care to create an event, as opposed to a routine live show.
“I have one tune that I only play live,” she says. “I’ll never record it. We call it ‘The Jam’, because we’ve no proper name for it. I don’t see where it would slot in on a record. It is super stripped back. It’s basically live drums, live pads and just my voice. That’s a good track to play live – it’s a nice surprise.”
Discussing her set further, she states, “It starts off happy and dancey. Then it switches to the smoky, more melancholic tracks, before ending with a lot more power in the vocals.”
We can’t wait to see it!