Tinashe’s journey up to this point hasn’t been the stereotypical one for an artist this exciting. She’s pretty secure in the company of major labels. Having been a part of a girl band that toured the US opening for Bieber straight after a childhood of show-business the signing to RCA in 2012 seemed like the next leg in the journey of a corporate-friendly soloist who would follow direction and rake revenue. Assuming that about Tinashe would be understandable but by no means correct. Whilst she might be born out of major label interest and Hollywood roots, her sound and her vision comes from a bedroom and a laptop just like all the other 21st century chancers.
On February 1st 2012 ‘In Case We Die’ created a different breed of hype. This was a mixtape (already a format less associated with female soloists) that carried a deeply mixed sound. The sound was moody, often cold. The sexiness and swagger that you might expect from a girl like Tinashe was masked by drizzling beats and reverb-heavy vocals. The came ‘Reverie’ another mixtape which was based on the US election, containing edgy production credits from the likes of turbo-chic engineer xxyyxx. The hype was coming through different avenues and the sound was in a league of its own. Things sounded dark, futuristic and sometimes hard to fully understand which for a female soloist labeled ‘RnB‘ was a first.
ShufSounds stayed up late to talk to Tinashe...
“Most of my musical progression happened when I lived in LA, when I was developing myself as an artist, I was living out here.” This is certainly evident in her music, there is a definite musicality and glamour which is juxtaposed with her harsh vocals and heavy production. “The thing about the production of my songs is that I was doing it myself, in my room and making those mixtapes on my own without any formal training. Honestly? I think I did it by ear. I certainly think I’ve improved my skill-set but I would just make whatever I thought sounded good.”
Within weeks of Tinashe breaking through, comparisons were called to artists like The Weeknd, Lana Del Rey and even Kanye West. “I think all of the people they are comparing me to are very talented artists, with really dope sounds. To get compared to someone that I like is a really cool thing. I think we all share the same influences with our artistry, I think that’s kinda fun. Just to be a part of something thats new and cool.” This scene of nu-RnB is certainly making waves, AlunaGeorge ranked high in BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll and the focus on artists like Kendrick Lamar and Solange Knowles all point to a renaissance for artist-led RnB. “I’ve been listening to a lot of SBTRKT, James Blake, even Sade, Metric, I get most of my influence from them. I’m big fans of those people.” Collaborations are surely on the horizon for Tinashe, fortunately she is in a position creatively where she can pick and chose rather than being thrown on a video shoot with 2 Chainz. “I think I’d like to collaborate with the people I’m influenced by, James Blake, Sade, I’d definitely like to work with some cool and interesting RnB artists. The Weeknd, Lana Del Rey- that would be cool. As far as rappers? Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar are all people I’d love to have on the album.”
It’s odd hearing those pipe-dreams without them feeling out of reach. She is in an ideal place creatively. It might not seem that way because she is signed to such a global powerhouse of a label but Tinashe’s ideas are trusted by RCA and they put her in a position where she can execute those ideas to a level of supreme perfection. “I think the important thing about a label situation is that you have a good relationship, that they are on the same page as you about your goals and what you want. If all of those things are in order its a great platform and a great thing for artists. They can give you a lot of support and opportunities. I’ve been signed to a couple of labels in the past, when I was in a group so getting the chance to work with multiple different labels you realize- some you gel with better than others.”
2013 is most likely going to be Tinashe’s year. “So far, I’m working on my album so I’m in the studio all the time doing that. Creating more visuals, doing that whole thing on the side while I’m working on the album. So what’s in store is releasing a single, then get the whole album situated and compiled and get the album out this year, before summertime. That’s my goal.”
Stateside, Tinashe is a name that is crippling the blogosphere, on European turf there is less of a buzz at the moment. Like proper fan-boys we asked if we could anticipate a UK visit. “Definitely, it’s top of my list.” She doesn’t give too much away. Maybe that’s a lifetime of Hollywood training or maybe its an artist playing her cards close to her chest. We don’t know, that’s part of the fun. What we do know is the part Tinashe could play in the landscape of major label releases this year could be extremely influential. Hear the spacious beat on ‘Stargazing’ or the layered vocal on ‘Who Am I Working For’. There is even a sinister streak racing through current single ‘Ecstasy’ and if these sounds start infiltrating Billboard charts and alike then Tinashe will be juggling acclaim both critical and commercial. There’s no questioning that Tinashe’s LA background sparks a scepticism about her music and nobody can know for sure the amount of control she has but when you listen to her sound and hear just how submerged her vocal gets in the hazy production it is clear this isn’t a product of any corporation. Tinashe is out on her own. We hope it stays that way.