Phil Taggart on the meditative power of music: “Your brain needs a rest from continuous poking”

The former Radio One DJ talks to NME about his new show ChillDaBeats – and two specials recorded for Mental Health Awareness Week

For Mental Health Awareness Week, Phil Taggart has created a series of specials of his ChillDaBeats show – as well as talking to NME about the special meditative power of music.

Following his 10-year career at BBC Radio 1 where he fronted The Chillest Show, his latest endeavour ChillDaBeats is part radio show, part podcast – and has been amassing a huge online following for offering “alternative chill, support, escape, mindfulness, meditation and community”.

“I wanted to start Chilldabeats as soon as I’d finished at Radio One,’ Taggart told NME. “I’d built up a fairly loyal fanbase of people who liked my Sunday show, so I thought that the best thing to do would be to take it independent. The idea was just to take what I had already created and develop it into some that was as good as it could be.

“The show itself is two to three hours of the best mellow and chill music from throughout the ages and every genre, curated by me. It’s not elevator music – it spawns from hip-hop to techno to folk to old-school retro bangers. It’s designed with the listener in mind with a view to improve their mental health by just helping them chill.”

Episodes arrive every Sunday, with two this week to focus particularly on mental health and stress-busting. Check them out below.

Each episode features ‘Soul Food Selectors’ to recommend three essential tracks – with guests since launching in December 2020 including London Grammar, Pale Waves, Sigur Ros, Girl In Red, Dodie, Hannah Peel and Olafar Arnalds.

“We’ve had everyone from Jon Hopkins talking about going to the Far East to learn meditation all the way to Liam Gallagher talking about smoking weed for the first time and listening to Pink Floyd,” said Taggart. “It’s a real mixed bag of guests.  They’re just opening up their playlists to share the music that they reach for when they need to take their foot off the gas.”

Recent and forthcoming guests include Ben Howard, Jungle, Daniel Avery, Holly Humberstone, Greentea Peng, DJ Seinfeld, Rostam and Kero Kero Bonito – all sharing in Taggart’s belief that music has a healing and restorative power.

“I’m one of these people who has a natural proclivity for anxiety, stress and panic,” Taggart told NME. “Music has always been the thing that I reach for, even when I was a teenager listening to Bright Eyes. I’ve always known that no matter the mood, whether it’s panic or despair, there’s always a record out there for you to match that and make you feel vaguely normal. That’s the power of music for me, anyway. To listen to somebody sing about what you’re going through puts it into perspective a little bit more.”

He continued: “When the pandemic started, I started meditating for the first time. I’ve been doing it every day. I hadn’t really engaged in it because I thought the idea was quite hippy dippy – all joss sticks and trying to reach another spectrum or nirvana. Actually, it’s just taking a shower for your brain for 10 or 15 minutes a day. I was putting together playlists to just help me breathe for a minute and not think about the impending doom that was on our doorstep.

“It was more of a case of trying to get ahead of my mental health before it got bad, rather than trying to fix it after the horse had bolted. It has helped a lot, and certain producers music does get me every single time. When I listen to Daniel Avery or Leon Vynehall, there’s nothing else to do but just go for a walk and sit down and do nothing.”

The show has also accrued a dedicated following with its own Discord community (which listeners can join here), giving it a far more “grassroots” feel than anything Taggart has been involved with before.

“We set up a Discord channel that’s similar to how the gamers or Twitch streamers would, and there’s about 700 fans of the show on that, speaking to each other every single day,” he said. “They’re either sharing music or what they’ve been up to and achieving, and it has become this community of people who are there for each other through the good times and the bad. It’s grown far bigger than the show itself. Every time I try to get involved in the chat I just get pied out of it!

“There is one rule though: there’s a Coldplay ban on the chat. People who listen to the show aren’t allowed to mention them!”

Ultimately, Taggart said that he hopes his ChillDaBeats shows can help people find space to breathe, reflect and meditate if they’re struggling.

“Meditation’s not going to solve all your problems, but it’s going to help you try and figure them out,” he said. “Your brain needs a rest from continuous poking. If your idea of relaxing is looking at Instagram then you really are screwed! You really need to find that moment just to be yourself and think about your own thoughts.”

Taggart added: “If you’re having proper problems and you’re struggling with it then the first thing you’ve got to do is reach out to MIND or your doctor. For general mental health tips, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling and understand that there are millions of other people feeling exactly the same as you.”

ChillDaBeats is available to listen to every Sunday here.

For help and advice on mental health: