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Introducing… TSB

Meet TSB, who sits at the top table of UK producers, having established himself as the first port of call for artists with a story to tell: collaborations under his belt include Stormzy, Knucks, Headie One, J Hus, Dave, Buju, Craig David, Bree Runway and AJ Tracey. UD writer Kat Friar caught up with TSB ahead of his sold-out Industry Takeover Masterclass

UD: Take us through your journey from when you started producing to now

TSB: I started making beats when I was 16 – I’m 29 now, so a little while. [I] never studied music or anything like that, but [I] was always just keen on music, I guess. My older brother’s a producer as well, so that made things a lot easier ’cause I had him to learn from. I could watch him and he was always really good from a young age, so it kind of made it look a lot more fun as well. That’s how I really got into it to start with. Went uni, didn’t study music in uni, but I was just always making beats, so I had like a little mini studio set up in my uni room, which was fun as well… One of my close friends from uni is a producer called Fwdslxsh, we were in uni together, that was sick ’cause it was nice to kind of have someone else that was doing what I was doing, especially as we were up in the Midlands.

Fast forward, finished uni, graduated, [I] was just working a retail job to be fair ’cause I always knew that I didn’t really wanna go into a career in business or anything like that, which is what I studied. And then I kind of got a little bit of a break. My brother used to work at a studio called Ealing Studios, so on my days off and I’ll just go see him, chill with him. During that period of time I met a lot of other producers as well, some of who have gone on to become family. I was just learning from everyone really, then I think a year later, J Hus and JAE5 moved into our block and the rest is kind of history from there to be fair. 

UD: Who are you outside of your craft?

TSB: Boy, I’m just a normal guy. I’m a Christian. I’m involved in my church quite heavily, to be fair. I love my football – just a normal guy, man. I can’t really describe myself too tough. I just do what I do. I just keep it moving, do what I gotta do. I love life, have to love life. Gotta live it as well man. Music takes up the majority of my time to be honest, so there isn’t that much of ‘outside of TSB’ if that makes sense. There isn’t that much time – I’m working almost all the time. If I’m not working then I guess I want to spend my time with my family and my loved ones.

UD: Where does the name TSB come from? 

TSB: Silly name really – so when I was in school, one of my boys, his name is Shyron, he’s a producer as well (or was at least) anyway, he used to produce as well. So we kind of just used to make beats together. He would predominantly do the drums and stuff. I would do the melodies, the music side of things. And then one day he was like “Let’s call ourselves The Shy Boys,” which I would assume came from the fact that his name was actually Shyron, so I was just like, yeah, cool. Run with that. So my first name’s Tobi, so essentially I just put Shy Boy at the end of Toby. So it was Toby Shy Boy for years, then when I was in uni, one of my brothers, he was just like, “Ah,  TSB like the bank…” I think this is when Lloyd’s TSB split. There was TSB Bank by itself, and then there was obviously Lloyd’s Bank by itself. So yeah, man TSB just felt a lot cleaner, more professional. It just looks nicer as well easier. So yeah, that’s kind of how TSB came about really, and I’ve just been running with it since. 

UD: What was the pivotal moment in your career and how did it happen?

TSB: I don’t think there’s one, but if I was gonna name one I’d probably say the release of J Hus ‘Spirit’ on Common Sense, that was my first big single, so I’d say that opened doors. I was somewhat in conversation about publishing before that, but off the back of that song I signed my first publishing deal with BMG. I’d say that was the moment that things changed ‘cause it was the first time that I could say I had a record which was really “mainstream”, really being played everywhere. I’d hear it on the radio all the time. That was crazy, every single time my brothers would hear it, they’d be snapping me or doing this or doing that. That was the first time, that was the career defining moment where I was like, “Okay, cool. This is definitely doable. It’s possible.”

UD: Nice. And how did that come about? Like how did you end up working with J HUS outside of like him just moving into your block? 

TSB: That was a big factor to be honest. Him moving to the block, because we were now in close proximity of each other. I used to smoke quite a lot. I used to smoke a lot of weed init, so I feel like there [was] probably one day when he wanted chip or something and then maybe we would’ve bumped into each other and he might have just asked me for chip or vice versa even. It could have been anything like that, you know what I mean? Obviously, I already knew JAE5, so sometimes JAE5 would be like, “Go upstairs and work with TSB,” especially if JAE5 for whatever reason was busy or wasn’t about. So that’s kind of how it started. I think one day he asked me to come down and listen to some of the music that they were working on and then from there we just started building our own relationship. So, I would say pretty much, that’s how it started. Then we made loads of songs way before ‘Spirit’, some just ideas, some that got finished but never released or whatever. Just practice hours essentially init. And I guess ‘Spirit’, was kind of birthed in all of that. 

UD: What music did you listen to growing up that inspired your sound?

TSB: I listened to everything growing up. A lot of people say everything but not everything. I’m not gonna say I listen to Heavy Metal, ’cause I don’t. I don’t mind a Limp Bizkit every now and then. But what did I listen to growing up? A lot of Gospel music, a lot of Soul, R&B… My dad was really into that – Jazz, Blues and stuff. A lot of Hip-Hop, a lot of rap, Grime, Garage, a lot of stuff, I guess it wasn’t really Afrobeats then, well early stuff, Dancehall. I think growing up in South London as well, I had just a lot of different cultures connected to me, so you’re just taking other people’s way of lives and you’re hearing so much different stuff. My barbers’ was a Ghanaian barbers’, so that’s how I would hear a lot of Hiplife music and this and that. So I wouldn’t really say everything that I listened to has influenced my sound per se, but a lot of it has and I created so many different kind of things. So I feel like somewhere along the line, I can put it down to what I’ve listened to growing up. 

UD: What are your main sources of inspiration when you start cooking up something new?

TSB: Good question. Main sources of inspiration, God first. That’s where all my inspiration comes from, and then I guess wanting to do something different that’s inspiring itself, wanting to continue to innovate and just change the scape of things and just do things differently. A lot of music sounds the same init, so it’s quite exciting to task yourself with trying to create something that hasn’t been done or hasn’t been done in a specific kinda way, so that definitely inspires me. Life inspires me, my circumstances and my situations can inspire me. A lot of inspiration can be birthed in struggle, a lot of inspiration can also be birthed in a place of prosperity. So it really just depends on how I’m feeling on the day and what I’m able to look at and draw inspiration from. 

“Life inspires me, my circumstances and my situations can inspire me. A lot of inspiration can be birthed in struggle, a lot of inspiration can also be birthed in a place of prosperity.”


UD: Is there anything that puts you off creating?

TSB: Sometimes, the business – it can just be frustrating at times and I think as a creative person you don’t really wanna allow yourself to get frustrated by these things because it can really stop your art from flowing – your heart is an organ, init? So it’s just like music flows from within. It comes from the heart. If something was stopping your heart from pumping blood, you’re not able to function properly. So I think it’s the same thing with music. There’s always external factors that can stop you from wanting to create and wanting to do this and do that, could even be down to circumstance, you know what I’m trying to say… Some people when they’re in moments of pain or depression or whatever, they can create, others can’t. So [it] really just depends. But yeah, there’s definitely things that can deter me if I’m wanting to create. It just depends on how I feel. If I wanna decide not to create and let that feeling pass or if I’m gonna block it out and overlook it and still create. 

UD: What comes first most of the time, your production or an artist’s vocals and lyrics? Which way of producing do you prefer?

TSB: For me it’s only ever been really one way, which is production first. It’s rare, I can only probably name a couple instances where, for example, I’ve worked with an artist and they’ve already had the lyrics there. Nine out of ten of the records that I’ve produced, which are even out or that I’ve worked on, all stems from me being in the room with the artist and building from scratch together, talking about concepts and what we want the music to represent essentially, and then how we gonna go about doing that? What story are we trying to tell? So yeah, I’d say music first and then lyrics. 

UD: How does each artists’ process vary? Was there anything that surprised you in particular?

TSB: Every artist is different, so I don’t think something surprises me anymore, but maybe that’s just because of how long I’ve been doing it now. Some people – they don’t even wanna write in the studio. They wanna just watch you make the beat, take it home, do what they want to do. Everyone’s got their process and I think because as humans, none of us are the same anyway. I just respect the uniqueness of everybody’s process. I wouldn’t really say there’s anything that has shocked me or surprised me like that. 

UD: What’s it been like working UK rappers like J Hus and Headie One to name a few?

TSB: I wouldn’t class them as UK rappers to be fair. I think they’re just artists – I think they’re artists and I think it shows in their music. They’re not one dimensional, they do a lot so it’s fun. It’s fun when you’re able to work with artists that don’t just stay within one space, and that they can give you and offer you so many different things. They’re not afraid to take risks. I think that’s really good and I’ve experienced that working with both of them. No one song that I’ve made with Headie One sounds the same, and no one song that I’ve made J Hus sounds the same. It’s not that they’re not rappers, they are rappers, but I think they are bigger than just rappers, but yeah, it’s been fun man. It’s been proper sick, just to be able to make innovative stuff. I don’t really feel like there’s many artists that would be able to make something that sounds like ‘Princess Cuts’. I think your mind has to allow you to be free to take that risk and go to that place to do something like that in the first place, and obviously the same could be said for J Hus. No one song J Hus does tends to be the exact same. Like he just, he knows how to do so many different things in it and do it in a way where it sounds like him. 

UD: Who’s been your favourite artist to work with and why?

TSB: Depends on the season to be fair. [I’ve got] favourites for different reasons, overall I think naturally I would just say J Hus based on the volume of songs I’ve got out with him today and just like what we’ve been able to achieve together as well. The fulfilment I get when listening back to the records that we’ve done that have been released, I think is on a different level to anyone else. But I love working with all the artists I work with to be honest, for different reasons. It really just depends, isn’t it? Some artists are like machines. You get in, they’ve written their verses and their hook within an hour and it’s still at a level of quality. I love that as well. Do you know what I mean? Because it means that hypothetically speaking, we can create more volume on that day, so it really just depends. 

UD: Who would you like to work with in the future? 

TSB: Adele, Ed Sheeran and DrakeRihanna would be lovely. I just wanna expand what I’m doing to be honest with you, I feel like I’m mostly known for the music that I’ve done in the rap space, but my music is so much more diverse than that and I’m just looking forward to showcasing how strong my skillset is away from rap music really, so wherever that takes me and whoever those artists are, I’m pretty open. As long as the music sounds great, I’m not really that bothered. 

UD: What is your creative process when you get into the studio, on your own and with other artists?

TSB: I guess the difference is when I’m on my own, first thing I’ll do is I’ll pray and I’ll just make sure that the atmosphere is conducive to what I’m trying to do and then I’ll just get to it – whatever I’ve gotta do on my to-do list. So if I just wanna make beats for example, then I’ll just go about making beats, however that looks like. I think when I’m just making beats sometimes and I’m by myself, I’m more likely to use samples or loops that may get sent – that gives me more time to be creative in that respect. Whereas if I’m in the room with an artist after I pray, the first thing I’m probably gonna do is jump on keys and just see what comes to me, melody wise, progression, this and that, build some drums, do this and that. But I wouldn’t say it’s too different. The one thing that’s consistent is I’ll always start by praying, and then after that I just let God take over and whatever’s gonna be made is gonna be made. 

UD: What are the qualities you looked for in a manager and what advice would you give to budding producers looking for managers?

TSB: Find a manager that’s honest that could tell you what it is, tell you how it is without being scared about hurting your feelings, needs to be your biggest fan and your biggest critic. They need to be so honest, you know what I mean? I put extra emphasis on that. Honesty is so important man, you gotta be able to trust them and truth be told, trust does come over time init, but I would say that’s one thing you should be looking for. I feel like a lot of people sometimes they look at a manager like, “Oh yeah, I need a manager that’s gonna bring me XYZ opportunities,” and of course that’s what you want, but you also gotta make sure that you yourself are ready for them to do that ’cause one thing I read the other day – but it’s also really true – sometimes we’re always expecting opportunities to come and we get upset that opportunities don’t come our way, but sometimes our managers can only pitch us for opportunities and if they’re pitching us, then that now becomes on us and what we’re doing. Have a manager that’s got a gift of the gab, someone that can network well, that is in good circles as well, because sometimes opportunity or life-changing opportunity can literally stem from the circle, so I’ll definitely say that’s something to look out for. Look at their track records, what have they done before? And if nothing, then is it a journey that you wanna start together with that person? Because that sometimes might be the best thing to do as well. Sometimes it’s not always best to go with a manager that’s got loads of clients, because then you may not get the type of attention that you want. There’s many things to look at. It’s not something to rush. I think the best thing to do is learn how to self-manage yourself, up until a degree or a stage where you feel like, “Okay, yo, I really can’t do this by myself anymore.”

UD: How does your team at The Flight Club help your career?

TSB: They’re good facilitators, I guess their job is to understand me as well as they can and to help me build a better future for myself to build a better brand of TSB. So whether that’s using the infrastructure that they’ve already got in place or going out, having conversations with this person or that person to see how things can come together for essentially the greater good of TSB, then they do that. They have their own experience in music before me as well, which also helps. It gives me something to also lean on, and then I think naturally, their love for music as well. It’s always good when you work with a team that’s got a good ear. I think that’s rare as well, not everyone’s got a great ear, so having people that have got a good ear really makes a difference and then even just down to some of the other clients they’ve got as well. When you can kind of see the success that other clients on the roster have, it can also boost your thing subconsciously, without you even really knowing it sometimes. Sometimes it’s about the company that you are in. People might question, “Okay, this person’s next to this person, I wonder why.” So, there’s so many knock on effects of how any management company can be good, but specifically Flight Club, that they know what they’re doing in that respect, so when it comes to TSB as a producer, they’re great. They help me get sessions that hypothetically speaking, I may not be able to get myself. I always think a manager’s job isn’t to help you do what you can already do for yourself. It’s to help you reach the places that without assistance you would struggle to reach.

UD: What is your dream studio setup, what equipment would you put in there if money was no object?

TSB: I’m quite simple. Funny enough I’d probably go and get one of them fat mixing desk like a SSL desk for the sake of it, ’cause it just looks good. And then get me some PMC speakers in the wall, 100% percent – get me some fat PMC speakers in the wall. Then I’d have some crazy ADAMs as a B mix. I’ll probably get some NS10s as well. Not ‘cause I use them, but ‘cause everyone else seems to use them, I’ll probably have them there as well. I’d have a state of the art microphone. I’ll probably get that Sony mic, I think it’s the C800, probably get that, that mic’s crazy – so good. Definitely need a handheld mic as well, like a short SM57, something like that. Depending on who you’re working with – a lot of the time when I’m working with songwriters and they just wanna put melody [and] the ideas down, they don’t want to really go into the booth, so that’d be perfect. If it’s the dream studio it will definitely have a studio with a booth as well… Who knows the booth might even have a fish tank can or something like that, that would be kinda sick. Bare keyboards, analog gear, everything plugged in and ready to go. I’d have engineers on rotation. I’d make sure the studio was spec’ed. I’d probably have – if my money was no object – I’d probably have everything in it, but I’d try to have stuff that I personally felt like I was going to use or I’d been able to learn. I don’t think it makes sense for me to have gear that I’m not going to use or learn, but I guess if I dunno how to use it, my engineer should init.

UD: How do you know when a track is finished?

TSB: I was gonna say when it feels good, but that’s probably a lie, ’cause it can feel good when you start making it. I don’t wanna say you don’t, cause sometimes you do… There’s a sense of calm and peace that I get. I just get that feeling of “Yeah this feels right.” It’s more that this feels right now. I’ve been working on quite a few records recently and some of them, maybe I’d started a year ago for example. And then I’ll say to myself, I’ll make notes. So for example, I’ll make a song and I’ll be like, “Hmm, I think I wanna have live strings on this.” I’ll play a bass line, and I think, “Hm, you know what, maybe I want to get the bass replayed by a live bassist,” or this or that. So I think for me, when I have no more notes to give – ’cause the truth is the song gonna come out and then after a while you might sit there anyway and be like, “[I] could have added this, could have done that,” or maybe “I didn’t need this or I didn’t need that” – down to the mix. So when do you know a song is finished? When you are happy with it. 

UD: How do you know when you’ve made a hit?

TSB: Again, when it feels good. Truth is you don’t know. There’s so many songs that I could say, “Oh, this is not a hit,” and then obviously we live in the world of TikTok now where things become hits as well. Do you get what I mean? Something can be manufactured into a hit, for whatever reason, so it’s a weird one because I could definitely sit here and say that there are songs that I have made, that when I made them in the moment, I knew what they were, so I’ve definitely experienced that and I think now that I’ve experienced that, I feel like I’m closer to knowing when something is that good. It’s a feeling, init? And also I guess we’re fortunate enough to hear the music that’s already out, so imagine you’re hearing all the music that’s already out on streaming platforms, on this and that, and then you’ve made something and it just feels so refreshing and it feels different and you just got that feeling [that] this is gonna take off. When you play it to people, you can see how they respond to it, how they react to it. I don’t decide what a hit is, I can create what I think is one, but at the end of the day it’s down to the consumer to make it that isn’t it? Difficult to say when you know, but again, I think it’s a feeling from within. 

UD: Do you think producers get enough credit in 2023?

TSB: We’re getting a lot more. I think every year we’re getting a lot more. I dunno if my answer should always continue to be no – I dunno how much credit we’re supposed to get at at the same time. Sometimes, it’s a weird one, ’cause not everybody does it at full credit, some people just do it because they love it and they wanna feel accomplished. They don’t necessarily need someone to say, “oh well done, you’ve done so well.” They might just be getting paid so well and be happy with that, and then you’ve got another person that wants to be “stroked” – “Well done, you’ve done so well,” and they haven’t necessarily done that much. So it really just depends. Overruling it, it would be nice to be more appreciated, I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t wanna be more appreciated for essentially their blood, sweat and tears, because it’s not an easy thing that we do. It’s one of the only industries [where] we work and don’t get paid a salary. We get paid pretty much based on performance and based on volume of what gets released. That’s a very difficult lifestyle to maintain. So in that respect, the more credit, the better, but until credit becomes physical currency, I dunno how worth it is. 

UD: What can we expect from your production masterclass for #IT2023?

TSB: What can you expect from my production masterclass? A masterclass man. It’s gonna be fun. [I’ll] probably break down a few songs, just talk through my process a bit more, might even create something from scratch actually. I think that’ll be quite cool. Quite interactive, it’s always nice to kind of hear other people’s ideas and see other people’s vision and just see what we can come up with. But yeah, I want it to be informative. I want it to be fun. I don’t want it to be information overload unless for example, there’s loads of questions, but yeah, I just want it to be a favourable experience for everybody that participates in it. That’s the main thing. I’d wanna be able to leave a long lasting impression on every single person that steps foot in the room and give them more power and more love for creation and music. That would be ideal. 

UD: Are there any new releases you’ve worked on that we should keep an eye out for?

TSB: There’s a lot of stuff coming up this year. I think, this year’s gonna be – by God’s grace – my most active year in music in terms of records released. There’s a lot of music to come up, man. I’m proper excited about what’s coming. I’ve got my first role as an executive producer as well, so I’m proper excited ’cause it’s on a massive project as well. I’m looking forward to releasing music – if I have my way, so much music will come out this year, so God willing, a lot of it does. 

Follow TSB on Twitter and Instagram

Words: Kat Friar. Kat is a freelance journalist, DJ and photographer with a passion for music. She likes to cover all bases regarding music so whether it’s a new album, a rising artist or a gig, she’ll be writing about it.

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