Singer Tinashe wants every one of her songs to “inspire fans to love themselves, be confident, or continue on their own personal journey.” That goal is one Tinashe has gratifyingly met with the release of 333 Deluxe, a reissued version of her acclaimed fifth studio album (released in 2021). On that album, confidence is the name of the game, with Tinashe spinning a whole new perspective on the original LP by adding a host of new tracks.
Tinashe has been in the entertainment industry for most of her life; from her humble beginnings acting in productions such as Two and a Half Men and The Polar Express, Tinashe’s tenacious musical talent led her to international superstardom. She often crafts her music from her home studio inspired by her personal experiences and what she encounters on a day-to-day basis, emphasizing her desire to connect with her audience.
Tinashe caught up with Editor-in-Chief Indira Cesarine to talk all about her career milestones and how they have all led up to 333 Deluxe. Read the full interview from “The REBEL Issue” below.
You are known for being a genre-bender – how would you describe your sound in your own words?
I think I’m always taking influence from things I love and then just trying to incorporate them in new ways. That’s also evolved over the course of my career. So right now I consider myself a pop artist who makes music that’s inspired by R&B, hip-hop, dance, electronic, house; there’s so many influences that can make it pop-slash-other-things. I feel that’s what I like to do.
I was reading about some of the people that have influenced your music; you had been quoted as saying that you loved The xx as well as legendary popstars like Michael Jackson, which is such a range of music taste. What would you consider to be the artists that really inspire your work today?
I think that’s very relevant to the current generation and how listeners consume music now. I think with streaming services, everyone’s exposed to so many more different artists. It’s impossible to have a favorite genre per se, because we are able to explore and appreciate all different sides of the spectrum. And so I think for me, I grew up with that mentality of enjoying things from indie rock to R&B. My playlist was always very eclectic and had a whole array of artists.
Do you have any current favorites?
My current favorites are usually my classic favorites. I think I always keep those people in rotation that I really love and come back to and reference all the time, whether they be James Blake or Britney Spears, of course. Like I said, the range can definitely be something that would be surprising to people, because I find influence in so many different places.
Let’s talk a little bit about 333 Deluxe. Can you tell me about how it enhances the original version of 333?
This is the first deluxe version of an album that I’ve ever released, so I’ve always loved the idea of taking a project and then giving it a whole new perspective and new thought. I think a lot of the times when you think of deluxe versions of albums, they just have that extra special something that really sends it over the top. I didn’t want it to feel like an afterthought, I really wanted it to be very intentional in the songs that I chose for it. I decided to have some songs on there that just felt, from a genre perspective, even more outside the box of what the rest of the album sounded, sonically. “Naturally” for example has this slower flow, almost country. There’s just so many different kinds of vibes in that song that you can interpret. Then there’s “HMU for a Good Time,” a more vibey, cool girl song. So I think there’s an opportunity when you have an album to be able to add more characters to the narrative, and that’s what I think we did with the deluxe.
Can you tell me a little bit about the angel numbers 333 and what that means to you personally?
When I was working on this album, I was very in touch with my own spiritual journey and trying to figure out how I felt dealing with where the pandemic was, dealing with not being able to tour and play shows and wanting to still create a body of work that I could play shows from eventually. I also wanted to create music that felt inspiring to me, in the sense of being energizing and excited for the future… and hopeful, because I think there was such an era of melancholy and waiting around and not really having any sense of direction. So I really wanted to give myself some of that, and I think that 333 being the angel numbers really represented the spirit of what I wanted the music to represent, which was just that you’re divinely guided and protected and moving in the right direction and to continue on your path and to always look to the universe to trust your instincts to move forward, and everything will work itself out.
What was it like performing right after the pandemic? It was a difficult time, I would imagine, to kick off a tour?
It was a really interesting, different version of the experience, because we obviously had to make some adjustments because we wanted everyone to be safe. Meet and greets and things like that have definitely changed a lot. But I think just being able to get back in the room and perform music for people is so important to so many people in our sense of connection to one another and our inspiration through art. Just being able to perform again was a really big deal to me, it meant a lot to me. And also to connect with my fans, to feed off of their energy in order to stay inspired to create new music and to keep going as an artist. I think that’s always really valuable. So not having that for a couple years, I definitely didn’t take it for granted when I was able to get back on stage, and it’s been really really fun.
When people go to see a Tinashe show, what can they look forward to?
Definitely a lot of energy. I wanna take you on a ride throughout the entire journey where you’re engaged throughout. There’s a lot of dancing. There’s a lot of extra music and instrumentation that’s added to make the songs even more energetic than you hear on the record. But I also like to be able to tell the story of my music as well and show off all the different sides of my personality and all the different things that I go through, whether it be the more emotional side or the side that’s really sexy and braggadocious and confident. I like to be able to just be on stage and really take it there, in a performance sense. It’s probably my favorite place to be, on stage.
So speaking about your music and the themes that run through it, what sort of inspiration do you draw from for your music and songwriting?
I think a lot of it is obviously from my own life and my own personal experiences and things that I’m going through and things that I’m feeling. But also I’m very inspired by the thought of inspiring other people and inspiring my fans – whether it is to love themselves, be confident, or continue on their own personal journey. I think that you can do that in a lot of different ways that maybe are not so obvious. I think when you have music that makes people feel confident and sexy and powerful and whatever other positive emotion that it makes them feel when they listen to it, I think that goes a long way. Or if it inspires you to dance and move your body! I think those things are all really powerful and really important for people.
Looking back at your career so far, what have been your biggest career highlights that really stand out to you now? When you look back, what are you the proudest of?
A lot of different moments have led me to where I am now, and so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where these turning points are – because it really becomes an accumulation of moments. But I could say the first time that I was in a movie when I was five years old, the first time that I felt that excitement going to a concert when I was 14 years old and I saw Christina Aguilera, or the first time I had my own CD when I was five years old. I got a Britney Spears one for Christmas and I put it in the computer and I watched her music videos and I was just so inspired by her. There’s the first time that I performed in front of an arena, which was on the Justin Bieber My World Tour when I was 15 or 16 years old; hearing the screams and being so inspired by that. Or when I signed my record deal when I was 20, that was a huge step. I could say when I left my record label and went independent and then started creating my own music, or even when I made my first mixtape in my bedroom when I was 17 and started my music career as a solo artist. I think those are all probably the ones that stick out to me right now. But obviously it’s an accumulation of moments, and that’s what makes longevity in a career.
Can you tell me about what inspired you to go independent versus working with a label?
Maybe it’s the Aquarius in me, but there’s something about carving my own path that feels just so much more fulfilling to me. And sometimes that doesn’t necessarily fit into the structures that are built out for us. I feel like when I was signed to a record label, sometimes I felt very confined by the system itself. It’s not necessarily that one single person did me wrong per se, but I felt the way that it was set up had a lot of problems with it, so it was just about having the freedom to be able to be creative in the way I wanna create and have that spirit of “I’m not gonna wait for someone to do this for me. I’m gonna take it upon myself to create my own art and create my own destiny and create my own success.” That’s a mantra I think that I’ve always followed whether or not I was even aware of it when I was younger. I just try to continue with that spirit now and focus on creating good art and following my instincts and focusing on the fact that I’m really lucky that I am able to make my own creative decisions and have a successful career.
What sort of advice would you give to a young musician who wants to launch their own career?
I would definitely say have patience with yourself because it’s a bigger picture thing when you think about a career. Don’t get caught up in all of the little individual moments, don’t get caught up in how long it does or doesn’t take. Just continue to focus on making good art and not letting the machine brainwash you.
Are you really close with your family?
Yeah, I see them almost every day.
Were they really supportive throughout your career? What was that relationship like?
Yeah! They really were, and I feel very, very lucky for that. I’m so grateful for the level of confidence that I was able to develop for myself because they did support me. They didn’t really necessarily know how either, other than just letting me follow my passions and trying to give me all the opportunities that I could to succeed, I suppose. They didn’t come from the entertainment industry. They didn’t come from a family with any type of connections and they didn’t really know how to make this happen. For them trusting in me or trusting in the universe and trusting that it was all gonna happen, I give them a lot of credit.
That must have been a lot to have your five-year-old child booking roles and movies! And you started so young, it’s really impressive. I think it’s great that you’re so close with them. That must be an amazing support to have.
Yeah, I feel very lucky.
Are there any philosophies that you live by as a songwriter, or in everyday life that help you get through each day?
I think as a songwriter and as a human being there’s good days and there’s bad days. I think you can’t force yourself to always have good days in songwriting or good days emotionally. Whatever you’re going through in life, you have to give yourself the space and the compassion to be able to have room to have both good and bad. I think that is what music and art is about. There’s always a journey, there are ups and downs.
What do you think have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career that you’ve had to overcome?
Not really wanting to fit into any particular box, defining myself as an artist and as a musician. I think I am always proving myself. I always feel I still to this day kind of have to prove myself or show, I guess, that I’m worthy to be here. Then there’s obviously a self-doubt aspect that plays into that on the days that you don’t feel as confident. About ways that people categorize you and perceive you as a woman, as a Black woman, et cetera.
What goals do you feel like you’d still like to accomplish? Are there things that you feel you still absolutely want to do in your lifetime?
I wanna continue to tour and visit more places and reach more people and continue to make art. I want to get better and better as an artist and grow as a person, and just be happy and feel fulfilled.
How do you find time to balance your personal life with your public life and performance life?
For me, they’re pretty intertwined. It is hard to find balance sometimes, but I think that my family helps keep me balanced and grounded and focused on who I really am and not getting caught up in things that don’t matter.
Are you close with any friends that you went to school with? I know that you finished school pretty early, right?
Yeah, my best friend and I’ve been friends since second grade. We went to school together and we are still very close, so I’m lucky to have her as well as a lot of people in my life that are very loyal.
I understand you have a black belt in Taekwondo too?
I do! Yeah, I got that as well. I like to be involved in as many different things as I can.
How did you get inspired to study Taekwondo?
I just like to do all sorts of things. When I was younger, I wanted to play basketball and softball and Girl Scouts and dance class and Taekwondo and other extracurricular activities; I just loved being involved in all the different things, which is very accurate to how I am now, too. I don’t know what inspired me, I just thought it’d be cool and I could be tough. Once I started, there were times where maybe I even wanted to quit, but my parents always encouraged me to follow through. So I got my black belt!
Do you still practice?
No [laughs]. I wish I could say yes, maybe someday!
What sort of things do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to be outside in nature, like hiking or in the garden, or taking care of my plants. I like to be with my family. I like to work out and be active. I like to paint. I like to cook. I like to just make things and be creative. I like to go out to dinner and talk and drink wine.
How has your creative process over the years changed since you started releasing your work as an independent artist?
I think probably the biggest difference is my sense of confidence in myself. I think by being independent, I’ve empowered myself, and that has allowed me to be more confident in myself as a creative. Because I have to make all of my own creative decisions, I feel better about the decisions that I do make, and I’m very confident in my creative perspective.
Your image is very fashion-forward. Are there any designers that really inspire you or fashion figures that you think are interesting?
I get most of my fashion influences just from social media and seeing what all the girls are wearing and seeing what everyone else is inspired by. I love being able to be a part of the narrative when it comes to being on mood boards and taking inspiration from people and giving inspiration to other people. That give and take is so much fun as an artist. I love whenever I’m thinking of a look or what I wanna wear or deciding what I want something to look like, I’m always trying to imagine that this will be on someone’s mood board and what would inspire me. I think that helps to push the boundaries.
You’ve been quoted before saying that you don’t like your music to come off as sweet or nice. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you like your music to be presented?
I think I have always been inspired by women that I view as powerful. As a woman, we’re very much taught in culture when we’re young to be sweet and to be nice and to be soft. When I was young, what I wanted to give to my fans was a sense of power within yourself and your femininity or your sexuality. I loved thinking of helping people and myself to feel powerful.
Are you working on any new music? I know you’re touring at the moment. What else do you have coming up that you can share?
I’ve been doing some shows. I just finished the European run of my tour, which was awesome. I have festivals right now for festival season, and I’m also back in the studio! I’m working today; I have some people coming over and we’re gonna work in the studio. I’m always working on new things, keeping the inspiration going and seeing what happens next.
Do you work at your home studio most of the time these days?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s still my favorite place to work and I still feel the most at home and comfortable here. So I always have people come over here to collaborate with me.
That must be a great environment, very creative.
Totally. I try to create a good creative environment. I’ve got plants everywhere and I’ve got paints and candles and all sorts of things that’ll just make you feel comfortable and cozy. It’s good vibes and you can really tap into yourself and be vulnerable and be real here.
So this is our “REBEL Issue” – what does the word “rebel” mean to you, and how can being a rebel be powerful today?
I think being a rebel is to disrupt the way that things have always been or the systems that have been built for us that don’t serve us; to question them and to continue to take chances, to inspire others to take chances. Cause I think that’s the only way that we move forward, ever, is by people being able to take chances and to be rebels.
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine’s REBEL ISSUE
To read our print feature on Tinashe, pick up your copy of “The REBEL Issue” here.
Photography by Indira Cesarine
Make-up by Marlaine Reiner
Hair by Nina J Potts
Styling by Kelly Brown
Photographed on location at Sofitel Los Angeles