Michael Aldag is one of the pop industries most tantalising up-and-comers. At just 20-years-old, the Merseyside-based future star has gone from strength to strength in the maiden stage of his career in the music trade and has a quirky and endearing personality to partner his undeniable ability.
He spoke to Angus Sinclair of Our Sound Music ahead of his appearance at the Meadowlands Festival in Nottingham and conversed over his music, his exciting upcoming appearances, and how he accidentally stumbled upon acclaim as a TikTok star.
Hi, Michael, how are you? What’s the thought process behind your latest release Teenage Drama?
Hi, I’m very well, thank you. I wrote that song last summer and it literally does what it says on the tin in terms of the drama that you may experience when you’re a teenager. I was hanging out with people who thrived off gossip and animosity and whatnot. And it’s interesting, you can let yourself be dragged into it and I think I did for a period. And that’s what I was writing about, I was right at the epicentre of that phase of my life, so I documented it.
Are you targeting that teenage demographic with your releases?
I wouldn't say I'm targeting them specifically; I don't sit down and go right what’s a 17-year-old going to love. But I think I just write about my life, and possibly because I'm 20 some of the stuff can relate to younger people, but equally, I think any kind of experience isn't as original as anyone thinks. I just kind of sit down and write what happens to me in my life. And then fingers crossed, that people can kind of relate to it, etc.
Your songs seem to be quite relatable and honest. Is that where your creativity best flourishes?
I’d say so yeah. That’s when I’m most happy, when I start a song and I really like the opening line because it’s clever or funny or interesting, and that’s what I love. I really love lyrics. I’d say that that is my strong point. Some people might disagree, but that’s what I really like to do.
You’re performing soon at Meadowlands Festival. I know you’ve had some live performances before but is this the cream of the crop so far?
I’d say so, I am really excited. I think it’s very high up for sure, I haven’t done many live festivals. Certainly nothing like headlining a BBC Introducing stage. So, I am super, super excited for that. It’ll be really cool. I’m definitely nervous. But nerves turn into excitement, and I just know it will be fantastic!
You have some exciting new stuff coming up, but what do the next few years look like for Michael Aldag?
Well, my dream is to do an arena tour, So I’m just hoping that within the next couple of years, I’ll be able to do something like that. But yeah, just touring and doing live gigs and improving as an artist. I’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of writing more songs, getting the better set, learning my craft, and performing live because with the pandemic this was stunted. But I do have ambition, and that’s what I would like to do. I’ve just got to work hard to make it happen.
If you could collaborate with any artist in the future, who would that be?
That’s really tough. You know, I’ve been writing a couple of songs recently that could be good for a male/female duet, but I guess we’ll see. My heroes are The 1975, Bastille, and The Killers, but I think I’d be too nervous to collaborate with them! Never say never, though.
Would you mind talking me through your love for Marina and The Diamonds?
Yeah, of course, I love Marina and The Diamonds, and I always forget to mention them! I want to do the kind of pop music that she does, because she does pop and it's catchy and the production is brilliant. But the lyrics are also so good, and I just hope to extract little elements of her music, because she’s brilliant. I also just think it’s amazing that she doesn't get the credit she deserves. And I'm guilty of not shouting her out. Not that she needs it!
But she's had a really big impact on me. I love all her songs. When I was young, I’d listen to ‘I'm Not A Robot’, my dad used to play that on CD for me and my sisters when we were little, which was brilliant. I also love how she’s transitioned into more catchy pop and kept the essence of her music, if you get what I mean? I just think she’s fantastic.
You have a large following on TikTok, amassing over 42 million likes. Despite this following, would you describe yourself as a TikToker, or is this merely something that complements your music career?
Well, I use TikTok, and I guess I've got a bigger platform on there than anywhere else. So, in some regards, I can see how people view me as a TikToker, but I've been doing music since I was seven, and it's my passion, it's what I've dedicated my life to thus far. So that is primarily my aim. You’ll always have people that troll you and say you can't do both, but I think that's outdated. I’m a musician, plain and simple, but that's not to discredit TikTok because it's helped me get to where I am with my music, so I’d say they work in tandem.
Do you view TikTok as a marketing tool?
Yes, for sure. I think it's been like I said, it's been brilliant for me in terms of building an audience and showing people my music and I am grateful for that, that people want to hear it and whatnot. I can’t wait to promote new stuff, be it on TikTok or anywhere else.
Music’s been a perpetual part of your life, but when did you know that this was what you wanted to do for a career?
I think as soon as I gave up football to pursue music. I thought bloody hell, I must be taking it seriously since I don't want to play football anymore! I guess when I was 14, when I started writing songs and gigging. I just knew then that that was what I wanted to do. I’d been singing for ages but when you go out and start showing people stuff that you've made, that's quite a nerve-wracking thing, but if it goes well, like it did, it gave me a lot of confidence. And now I’m over the moon, I love that feeling of performing it really is like nothing else.
What’s your song writing process, does it come naturally to you, or is writers block ever a thing for you?
Yeah, I think writer’s block is something that’s always looming. But you must push through. I've been writing since I was 14 and some of the stuff that I wrote initially was horrible. And, you know, I would probably shrivel up into a ball a lot. And, you know, that's not the stuff that I'm writing now, some of it but then it never makes it out. But it's just like a matter of, you know, throwing stuff at the wall and see what sticks. It's fun to write. It can also be frustrating. And I like to spend a lot of time doing it. So yeah, it’s just practice, I guess.
I understand you supported Bastille on their latest tour. What was it like to be immersed in that experience, playing before a band you’ve idolised for many years?
It was so cool, and it was an absolute dream come true. The band themselves were so lovely. I really couldn't have asked for anything more, they had so much time for me and were so polite and down to earth. And I remember thinking, wow, they're literally international superstars and they're just genuinely nice guys. So, I learned a lot from them, and have definitely taken some mental notes about how they do things, and what’s got them to where they are today.
There are certainly hints of Dan Smith’s voice and style in your own music, is he someone you hope to emulate?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, he's amazing and his voice is excellent. I asked him, how do you have such a good voice? I said, do you warm up? And he just replies no, not really! I warm up every day and I'm still nowhere near as good as him. I guess I’ve got a long way still to go, but I truly believe I’ll get there.
You want to get to the pinnacle of the industry, but will you ever lose that awestruck feeling when meeting your idols and industry legends and such?
I guess I hope not. Looking back at when I met Dan, my jaw was like wobbling about the floor for about five minutes, and it took about five minutes for me to say something coherent. I need to get better at meeting people that I’ve looked up to, so I need to better compose myself. But if I get opportunities in the future to meet more people in the industry, I’ll never think I’m too cool for it or whatever. I believe in myself, but you can’t truly believe something until it’s happened. Take my experience with Bastille, I was like, this is crazy. I was driving down the motorway the other day and I just thought, out of nowhere, I have literally met Dan Smith from Bastille and supported his act and that is something that I have done with my life. And I still can't believe it. So, to answer the question, I hope that I do get to the stage where I have become successful, but I will never lose myself and I would never think I’m too cool for school!
MIchael Aldag headlines the BBC Introducing Stage at Nottingham's Meadowlands Festival on Friday the 3rd of June. Tickets are on sale now here.