Toddla grows up

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LIFE has become a tad busy for Toddla T since he was first plugging the virtues of a new free music festival for Sheffield.

On the eve of Tramlines the third the Sheffield-born Radio 1 DJ is preparing to reconvene his Saturday night dance-a-thon at The Octagon with both festival and his reputation having grown vastly since 2009.

“It’s complete madness,” says the lad from Park Hill when we finally catch up at the ninth attempt.

As Tramlines has become huge so the life of this globe-trotting DJ – aka Tom Bell – has also become a bit of a monster.

“Everyone was a bit nervous about the reality of how it would run,” he recalls of the opening Tramlines. “After that first one it was ‘this blatantly works really well’ and I expected it to slowly get bigger. I was definitely confident it would get to the point it is at today.”

Tom seems slightly more surprised about where his career has taken him the past 12 months. With second album Watch Me Dance out August 15, he has become an international name with a flotilla of celebs in his phonebook. Hence, compiling his Tramlines bill wasn’t a chore.

“I’m lucky enough to be on the road three nights a week on average, seeing a lot of different acts, DJs and environments – people who could bring something wicked to the festival.

“So helping organise a party or an event is really easy because they’re on my doorstep all the time, people I think are really good and would be appreciated at Tramlines. Picking the acts is simple and I want to give back to Sheffield as much as I can.”

It even seems artists have got used to the revolutionary idea of Tramlines being totally free entry for everyone.

“No one really goes ‘whooar, are you stupid?’. Everyone celebrates it as a one of a kind type of thing.

“I don’t think anyone looks at it negatively, which is good because in this country we’re quick to judge a lot of things.

“People seem to really embrace it and think it’s a wicked idea.”

As well as the aspired tourism benefits of luring visitors to Sheffield at its vibrant best, Tramlines has proved a potent force in introducing people to new music and tasting different types of event.

“If someone isn’t enjoying it or they feel like it’s not their thing, they can leave and go somewhere else. It’s not regimented where you pay your money and you’re there.

“You’re going to walk past a pub or a bar and might see something you’ve never seen before and that might be the start of you being a fan of a whole new scene or sound.”

For Toddla T’s showcase, the chirpy 26-year-old has gathered touring chums and artists who appear on his records, hence Ms Dynamite and Shy FX.

“This is the beauty of what I do,” enthuses Tom. “I’m a DJ and a producer and before any of that I’m a fan of other DJs and acts.

“If I really gravitate towards someone like Ms Dynamite, who I rate so much as an artist and a performer, I will obviously try to work with them on my material whereas if I was just a DJ I’d just play records.

“I’ve seen her probably 10 times in the last year and her energy on stage is just incredible. I’ve never seen her not give it 110 per cent and not really, really entertain a crowd. She’s one of the sweetest girls I know.

“I was at Barcelona’s Sonar with her the other week, chatting at the side of the stage about her son and then she goes ‘one sec’ and runs on and from the minute she got on there she transformed into this whole different persona and absolutely killed it in front of 12,000 people. She absolutely loves being on the stage and it really comes across in the show.

“Shy FX is obviously a legend in British dance music. In the last two years, the way dance music has gone in this country, he’s really become massively relevant again. The DJ sets he does he moves around musically which I think is quite important these days.

“He’s someone I see once a month; we’ll be on the same line-up and he never disappoints. That’s one reason I picked those two, the consistency of seeing them play and how the energy always stays high.”

The Octagon crowd will also get a premiere of Always Moving, a DVD film being given away with Tom’s new album.

“It’s a snapshot into my life the last six months, everything from my mum and dad’s house in Park Hill through to going to Jamaica to make the record through to DJing in LA to my studio in London and being on the radio, put together in quite a fun light-hearted way but also some serious moments as well.

“But I’m so nervous I’m not even going to watch it,” reveals Tom. “My mum and dad are going, though.”

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