Tinashe began her journey into the world of music at the young age of fourteen in the all-girl group The Stunners. The singer spent four years touring with the group until ultimately deciding to venture out as a solo act. “Honestly I’ve known that I wanted to perform and be an artist, and just be in front of people and sing for as long as I can remember,” she says. And now, as she approaches the debut of her first solo album, Aquarius, the singer takes time to reflect on the two people who helped her get to where she is today: her parents. “My parents never really told me that I had to do something else. They always said I could do whatever I wanted. I really give them a lot of credit for how far I’ve come because they instilled a huge sense of self-confidence in me.”
Tinashe is currently making headlines for her single “2 On” for which she is climbing the R&B/Hip Hop charts. Her debut album, Aquarius, features collaborations with the likes of A$AP Rocky and Future. Aquarius was released on October 7th via RCA Records. “Aquarius is my official album introduction to the world and represents a new season of music and art,” says Tinashe. “I cannot wait to finally share with the world what I have been working so hard on for the past few years. This is just the beginning.”
Amidst her hectic schedule, Tinashe sat down with The Untitled Magazine for an exclusive interview, where she talks touring with Justin Bieber, Aquarius, and working as a solo artist. Read our exclusive Q&A below and make sure to pick up a copy of the “Legendary” Issue 7 now or download the free “Legendary” Issue App on iTunes now!
Indira Cesarine: What inspired you to begin performing music?
Tinashe: Honestly, I’ve known that I wanted to perform and be an artist—just be in front of people and sing—for as long as I can remember. There was never a moment of revelation where people were like ‘Oh my god you can sing!’ or anything. My whole life I remember that this has been my end-all-be-all goal, so it’s been awesome that I’ve really been able to pursue that and follow it, and that I’ve had support. I think what continues to inspire me to keep going is my fans—the support I get from them. My family is definitely a huge support system for me as well!
IC: What inspires your songwriting?
T: I really like to write about human relationships. Whether it’s first-hand experience, stuff that I’ve been through with people that I know, or just stories from friends where I can put myself in their headspace and write from that perspective. I’m really inspired by the interactions between humans. I like to be in creative spaces and energetic environments, and I am also really inspired by nature. A lot of times I’ll go outside, or take a walk or a hike, and I can really come up with some good songwriting then.
IC: How would you describe your sound?
T: I think it’s a bit of progressive R&B. R&B is definitely changing from what it used to be — it’s not the stereotypical kind of R&B. I’m definitely blending a lot of genres, so it’s not easy to categorize. There are influences from Alternative and Indie music in there, and then there’s also Pop influences as well. I think it’s somewhat of a mesh of genres, but a lot of music nowadays is, which is really fun.
IC: Do you remember the first time you performed in front of an audience?
T: The first time I performed I was four. I had a ballet dance recital. I remember all of the little girls were really scared and they just stood there and I was the only one dancing. I remember thinking, ‘What are these girls doing?’ That was my first time on stage and I was loving it!
IC: You started out in an all-girl group called The Stunners. Can you tell me about some highlights from that?
T: Overall, I think that performing in The Stunners was a great learning experience for me. I learned how to perform in the studio, and how to record music, as well as the entire experience of touring. Probably one of the best, or the most fun thing that we did, was going on tour with Justin Bieber. At the time he was so on top of his game, so the stadiums were full of kids, and it was a great energy to be able to go out and perform for all of those people! It was really a fun learning experience for me to perform for fifty thousand people. I had never been in that type of a venue before. So, that was fun.
IC: How was it working with Bieber?
T: It was cool! He was a very different character than he is now. He was underage; his mom was with him a lot at the time. His mom was his manager. I remember we used to go to different malls in the different states we were in and go laser tagging and mini-golfing. He was really into ‘activities’ ! He had a Segway that he used to ride around backstage… it was good fun.
IC: So what happened with the disbanding of The Stunners? Can you tell why you decided to go solo?
T: Well, we were actually together for four years. We were together for a pretty solid amount of time and we started at pretty young ages. I was in The Stunners from fourteen to eighteen, so that was a big chunk of my life! Like I said, it was a really great learning experience but all five of us really had different goals for where we wanted to end up in life. Some girls really wanted to focus on acting, a couple of the other girls really wanted to go to school. I think that it was just natural that we were ready to progress. It was a mutual agreement; it was good. I’m glad it wasn’t a fight or anything!
IC: How do you feel now as a solo artist? Is it harder as a solo artist versus performing in a group, or do you prefer it?
T: I think the one thing that is definitely harder is that you don’t have as much support on stage, so you really have to carry a show on your own. Another thing that’s harder is that you don’t have that companionship all of the time when you’re traveling. You don’t have those five people with you all of the time. But, it’s easier in other aspects, such as the creative aspects, because it’s a creative realm that’s all my own. There aren’t any creative discrepancies; we don’t have differences in opinions and things of that nature. I definitely love that I’m able to create music that is true to me, and produce music that I feel represents who I am as an artist.
IC: What would you consider to be your break-through moment? I imagine being part of The Stunners was a big moment in your life. Would you consider that your break-through?
T: The interesting thing about my career, in general, is I feel like it’s been comprised of 150 tiny little break-through moments. That’s why it’s really hard for me to answer a question such as ‘What did you do to get where you are?’ or ‘How do I get into the music industry?’ It’s particularly hard for me to give good advice on that subject because I started acting, performing, and being in front of the camera in the entertainment industry when I was five years old. It’s been a whole fifteen years of working on building my professional career. Whether it’s booking Two and A Half Men or whether it’s joining The Stunners and going on the road with Justin Bieber, or signing my RSTA deal–all of those were mini breakthrough moments that led me to where I am now. I think potentially maybe my biggest breakthrough to date is the single that’s coming out. That has the potential to be something really big, but it’s still the early stages so we’ll see!
IC: When you were five and you were running around performing, were your parents with you? Was your family very supportive of your creative endeavors?
T: I think from an early age, my parents knew that I really loved to be in front of people, loved to put on a show, and loved to be the “center of attention”. I’d put on little performances for people and I think that they definitely always supported the entertainer in me. My dad would take me to auditions all the time growing up and my parents never told me that I had to do something else; they always said I could do whatever I wanted. I really give them a lot of credit for how far I’ve come, because I think they instilled a huge sense of self-confidence in me.
IC: When you look back, was there ever a moment where you thought ‘I don’t know if I want to keep doing this’ or were you always convinced that this was your path?
T: Honestly, no. There have been moments of discouragement, but it never got to the point where I was like ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ and I think that is really a blessing. Maybe it is one of the reasons why I have been successful up to this point, because I think a lot of it is staying powerful. You come across so much adversity in this business, and so many obstacles, and many people that just don’t get it; if you let that stuff get to you it’s really easy to give up. I’m telling you, that happens all of the time. You really have to have a strong sense of what you want to do, and not let the little things affect you and your end goal.
IC: You sound like you’ve got a really mature attitude about it all.
T: Yeah, well I’ve dedicated a lot to it for a long time. I left school after ninth grade to really just focus on it (I tested out early). I just made a lot of sacrifices, missed out on a lot of things, so I definitely gave a lot to it.
IC: You’re currently working on your debut full-length album, what can we expect from that?
T: Well the single is featuring Schoolboy Q and it’s called “2 On”. The music video is in the works right now, so hopefully it will be out soon. I have a couple more features on the album. A$AP ROCKY is one of them. The title is “Aquarius” and it’s supposed to come out this year. That’s about it!
IC: Are you an Aquarius?
T: Yes I am, for sure. February 6th. It’s going to be somewhat of a progression. Just sonically, it’s going to be a slight progression from the stuff that I was doing before–definitely with the essence of what I was doing with my mix-tapes and my previously released projects.
IC: Do you feel like you’ve grown a lot as an artist with your new album?
T: Yeah, I do in a sense. I think that I’ve definitely mastered how to record for myself in major studios and really work with other people on my own music. Before, I was really doing it all myself–writing all the songs, recording all of the songs. So I think I’ve grown in that way. I think when you work with a lot of other really talented artists, you learn a lot. You feel like you gain some knowledge just by hearing stories from people.
IC: Do you have any favorite producers you’ve worked with? You’ve worked with quite a few big ones in the past couple of years.
T: Some of my favorites who I’ve worked with are Boy Wonder from Toronto, who produced the “Vulnerable” track with Travi$ Scott – he’s one of my favorites. I also loved working with Dev Hynes; he’s a really talented guy so it was fun working with him. Another amazing person that I had the opportunity to work with was Stuart Matthewman from Sade, which was a crazy experience. I was freaking out! I worked with him like three different times. I got to go to his studio apartment in Brooklyn, so it was really fun. He had all of these different stories to tell. He was probably one of my very favorites.
IC: Do you have a favorite musician? Who do you listen to if you were going to turn on the radio?
T: I have a few favorites but interestingly enough, a lot of the people that really inspire me are relatively older. I love listening to Janet [Jackson], Michael [Jackson] and, Sade. Speaking of Sade, they are one of my like biggest influences so I love to listen to them. But then some of the newer artists that I’m really into are SBTRKT, Little Dragon and James Blake. People like that. I have an eclectic range of music taste and music interests.
IC: If you could collaborate with another musician that you haven’t worked with yet, who would it be?
T: I’d love to work with some of the people that I just named. Like I’d love to work with SBTRKT, Little Dragon, and James Blake. I would also love to work with Andre 3000. I’m very interested in working on some more collaboration work with females. I’m just interested in doing more female collaborations because I’ve got like three guys on the album so far – Schooboy Q, A$AP Rocky, and I think Future will be on there too.
IC: Do you have a mentor? Is there anybody that’s guided your career, or do you do that on your own?
T: It’s mainly been my manager and myself. [My manager] has been working in the industry for a while and we’ve been working together now for a few years since I went solo. We’ve worked really hard building the whole project. But, I think life-wise, my biggest mentor would have to be my parents because they just taught me a lot about how to stay positive, to stay focused, and how to work really hard.
IC: Do you have any words of wisdom or a motto that you live by?
T: I have a ton of words to live by but it’s hard to choose a good one. One of them that I like is, “Fuck being afraid.” It’s really straight up, but it’s really honest. I feel like people don’t go after a lot of things in life, or they don’t give it their all because people are just afraid of either failure, or rejection, or what people will think. Life is just too short to not put yourself out there, and to not go ahead and try to do the things that you want to do. Make the life that you want to live.
IC: This is the “Legendary” Issue of Untitled, and we’re asking all of the people that we interview, who would you consider to be your favorite “legendary” artist or musician?
T: This may be so cliché but Michael Jackson is definitely my number one of all time most legendary people. He is legendary in the sense that he created so many amazing things that we still use today. He inspired how music videos were made, he inspired fashion, he inspired music, he inspired dance; there are just so many things that he created that affect my life, my genre of music, my style of performance. He’s huge.
IC: Who do you think has what it takes to become a legend out of all of your peers?
T: Well, I think I do! Does that count?
IC: Yeah, absolutely!
T: Well then I definitely vote for myself. I think that I have the potential.
IC: Can you tell me some of your current projects that you have coming up and that you’re working on in the moment aside from the album?
T: I’m really focused on the “2 On” music video that’s coming out right now, and then I have a collaboration with Erik Hassle that’s on his EP that’s coming out. We’re filming the music video for that as well. I’ve got that coming out, and I’m just looking forward to doing more collaborations with people. But, the album is the biggest project, the next project that I will really put out. The Black Water mix-tape is due out in November, so I don’t really think I’ll put out another mix-tape until the album is out.
Pick up a copy of The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7 for more on Tinashe!
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Photography by Jeff Forney for The Untitled Magazine
Styling by Elizabeth Watson Make-up by Victoria Aronson
Fashion Credits: Tinashe wears a dress by N/TICE, tights by Hue and shoes by Carlos Santana
See the music video for Tinashe’s “2 On” below: