Tokio Myers: From BGT Sensation to Musical Innovator – A Journey of Transformation and Emotional Resonance

Picture being in your early twenties, backstage at the O2 arena, playing basketball with Kanye West… That’s where pianist and musician Tokio Myers was back in 2008. “We literally went from ‘hello’ with a handshake, straight to playing basketball,” he recalls. “Americans like to carry a basketball net with them wherever they go! It was a really surreal moment for me – I’m there like, blocking Kanye West from taking a jump shot… it was just a completely different lifestyle.”

As a sought-after session artist, Tokio experienced a whirlwind career, from being behind the scenes of Amy Winehouse’s glory days to eventually capturing the nation with his Britain’s Got Talent audition in a reimagined rendition of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. But he hadn’t been destined for music right from the offset. “I used to be really crap at music,” he laughs. “I don’t know if you had to do this when you were in primary school, but you’d go to music class, and they’d teach you how to play the recorder. I remember how annoying those classes were when you’ve got like 30 kids screeching on these instruments. Somehow everyone else could read music, and when the teacher would ask everyone to play a solo, I was honestly the worst.”

When Tokio was nine years old, he started to learn the piano. In a complete 360, he ended up flying through chords, arpeggios and octaves, earning high praise from his teachers and peers. Likening it to playing a computer game, he describes how nailing each new skill felt like moving onto the next level, and without even realising it, he started using music as a positive emotional release. 

Flash-forward 22 years, and Tokio was gearing up to release his debut album, Our Generation, which reached #4 on the Official UK Albums Chart, making him the only pianist to accomplish the feat. Since then, Tokio has taken the time to get inspired, create new music and soak up all the joy of becoming a dad. “I just felt lucky that I was in a position where I could just be with my daughter and my wife and watch my daughter grow,” he says. “Now our bond is absolutely incredible – she’s my best friend.”

Pouring his soul into a new realm of inspiration through his latest album, Awake but Dreaming: Opus 1, Tokio wrote and recorded the single, Malaya’s Song (Lullaby), on his phone using a piano that stood in the centre of his then-empty living room (which was being redecorated). In an exploration of rich, rolling tones and expressive crescendos, he expertly ties together a string of emotions from hope and love to laughter and healing, crafting the perfect piece inspired by his daughter. “The weirdest thing is that, unintentionally, the version that I recorded on that day is the version that’s out on Spotify,” Tokio recalls. “I’ve tried to record it in the most expensive studios with expensive mics and pianos, but I just couldn’t quite capture the feeling of that day when I had literally just become a dad.”

From unrivalled joy to unfathomable grief, it was in January this year when Tokio lost his father, prompting him to reconnect with a piece titled Waves Étude No.1, which was written in lockdown. Originally drawing on his connection to the ocean, it encapsulates the calming patterns of the water, the salty scent of a fresh tide and the cool sea breeze against your skin through complex piano notes and rhythms – however, it took on a new meaning after his father’s passing. Creating Waves Étude No.1 [Alt. Version], Tokio revisited the timeless composition and overlaid it with sounds of distant screams, embodying a new symphony of raw expression. “It felt like a crazy time losing a parent,” Tokio reflects. “I just wanted to emulate some of the feelings that I was experiencing. The screams and the vocals especially just gave it that edge – that outer worldly, spirit travelling kind of effect.” The result was a deeply personal piano arrangement, interspersed with eerie bass sounds and ethereal vocals that add Tokio’s signature character and depth. 

Along with the release of Awake but Dreaming, Tokio will be hitting the road later this year. The tour promises to be an emotive experience centred around the piano, with cinematic sounds, entrancing beats and high production value. “I’d hate to be the kind of artist where your album was good, but you’re really shit live,” Tokio says. “For me, I always try to beat the album live.”

With a variety of live performances already under his belt, from playing at the Qatar World Cup to a crowd of 40,000 to taking the stage at the iconic Printworks in London, Tokio’s a pro when it comes to captivating an audience. But his favourite memory took place on a deconstructed set in Paris. “I was playing Clair de Lune whilst the crew were just tidying up and putting ladders away,” he remembers. “They just started to whistle along as they were working and doing their stuff. No one was really paying attention but I just got lost in the moment – I had tears in my eyes. I thought ‘This is what life’s about’… it was incredible.”

It’s been seven years since Tokio’s Britain’s Got Talent win, and a lot has changed. He’s become a dad, written more material than ever and lived through the highs and lows of love and loss. He’s also decided to go sober. “It’s been nine months now and it’s the best decision of my life,” he reflects. “I’m not saying I’ll never go back, but right now, I just don’t feel the need to drink. I don’t regret anything that I’ve done, and in my 20s I partied hard and had a great laugh and a good time, but I’m not 20 anymore!”

Instead, he’s focusing his energy on making a positive impact by helping younger generations access music in the wake of extensive government cuts. “It’s such a shame. There’s more to music than just, you know, sitting and playing the drums or piano or whatever,” he explains. “I mean, I don’t know why they decided to cut back so much. I just wish it wasn’t that way and I’ll do everything I can.”

Throughout his creative hiatus, Tokio Myers has poured his heart into a distinctive body of work, which will ultimately see him reemerge as a new artist. He’s taken his time, experimenting with every note and chord while exploring fresh directions to represent a new era in his journey – one he’s more than ready for. “I’m just enjoying being back out there and releasing lots of new music because people haven’t heard new music in a long while! It’s for them as much as it’s for me. We all need this, and I need this.”

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