Tiara Thomas has just gotten off stage from a tour stop in Munich, Germany with H.E.R. Born and raised in Indiana, this is the first time the 26-year-old R&B singer has ventured outside of North America. She is equal parts enamored by the different cultures she is experiencing, but also, the international reception to her music. “At the end of the year, you get a Spotify update and it tells you how many people and in what country streamed your stuff in one year,” She tells me. “Yeah [for me] it says 62 countries. And I just thought they were trying to gas me up, but when I came out here like these kids know songs that are like my random songs. They were singing them. Man, that was awesome. I’m having so much fun.”
The first time most have heard of Tiara Thomas was through Wale’s hit single, “Bad”, five years ago. Wale and Thomas became acquainted with one another at a nightclub in Atlanta while she was on spring break during her sophomore year of College. “He gave me this guys phone number and his email and told me, ‘when you get back to your hotel room, call this number and leave a voicemail of you singing.’ So I left a voicemail and my friend was like freaking out. Eventually, he flew me out to New York,” She explains. “I co-produced ‘Bad’ and wrote the guitar for that song in my dorm room at school.”
Since then, a lot has changed for the young artist. Last March, she released Don't Mention My Name, a 5-track acoustic EP showcasing her talents as both a singer/songwriter and musician. “I wanted to put out something different then what I heard was coming out. I sing, I rap, I write, I play guitar, I coproduce. And I wanted to show that on Don't Mention My Name. I wanted to do an all acoustic EP, I wanted to write all the shit, do all the vocal arrangements and still be myself and talk shit on it like I always do.” We reached out to Thomas to talk about her new project Fucking With My Mind, self-honesty, and confidence. Listen to “I Need” and read the interview below.
Noisey: Your new EP is called Fucking With My Mind. Do you live inside your head a lot?Tiara Thomas: I do. I live inside my head a lot. I like it. I think my head is really interesting. I think people that date me are like, “woah I’ve never dated anybody like you before because you're kind of weird, with the way you think about things.” You know, I’m in my head alot about a lot of shit. And so that’s why I decided to call the EP Fucking with my mind. And I think I was really honest with it. It’s fun and it’s sexy and its vibey, but I've got serious songs like “I Need.”
“I Need” talks about this dissonant longing for love, for personal peace, money, success. Is this song a testament to something you’re going through at this moment.
Well, I wrote the song a couple of years ago. I didn't have peace of mind because I'm trying to figure out how do I maneuver through this industry… like how do I make it in this industry? A lot of people say I'm slept on and I do feel like I'm a really good artist and you should feel that way about yourself. So I'm like how come other people get the opportunities that I don't get? And what you have to realize is, it’s part of the journey. You don't have the same journey everybody has. It’s not the same process for everybody. Sometimes you have to go through a little bit more. “I Need” is basically me trying to talk myself through it. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that shit. I'm saying on the hook, “I need money, I need peace, I need new shit. It’s like I need a peace of mind.” With my music, I'm not necessarily trying to say, “Here are my problems and these are the answers.” Sometimes I don't have the answers. Sometimes I'm just saying like, “Here’s what I’m going through.” And at the time [I wrote the song] I was all fucked up because I was like, man, I feel like my purpose is music and I'm trying to make it here, but….”
Do you hold yourself accountable—for the same self-awareness and honesty the way you say you do in your music—in your everyday life?
Yes. One hundred percent. One thing for me I don't feel comfortable saying stuff in music, like “Oh I have a Ferrari” because I don't have a Ferrari so, I don’t wanna talk about that kind of stuff. I want to talk about stuff that’s real, even if it’s painful. I honestly don't even want to do music if I have to sing a bunch of bullshit that’s not true.
Well, it’s clear you have a lot of integrity. Besides that, what else do you think is your biggest asset as an artist?
I think my writing. Here’s the thing, I’m not a powerhouse singer like Whitney Houston, you know? I think I have a cool-ass voice… a dope voice. Artists I grew up on listening to was like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Sade. People with those cool voices, I feel like I have that kind of tone. My main thing is my writing. I actually like to spend time writing my songs, because it matters to me like how the lyrics come across, how the lyrics touch people. I think that's my strongest point. I just want to be a relatable artist.
You're very self-assured…and by that I mean, You know who you are and what you want. Have you always been this way?
No. When I was a teenager I used to have problems with insecurity.
In what way?
I just felt weird. I grew up in church. I always knew I’m not a religious kid. I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum. I don't think that anyone would be shocked by anything that I did in my family. I’m the total wild card of my family. I was the outcast and I didn't know how to deal with it. Being 15 years old—and a lot of people go through this—you don't know who you are, you're trying to figure it out, you think something is wrong with you, but you're not sure. And I felt very insecure about that. I used to have very bad acne. Another thing was my sister (she’s 4 years older than me)—she’s light skin. and my mom is light skin and I'm brown skin. And I don't think I could embrace that at the time. That was hard for me, the whole skin complex thing.
How did you overcome that?
I realized that I'm gonna be happy. I’m not gonna sit around and feel bad about myself. I have confidence because I'm the only person that has to live in my body. I’m the only person who has to go out in the world and do this shit. And I'm going to be happy as fuck doing this. So I carry myself with a lot of confidence.
You tweeted, “I’m a singer, but I can tell ima turn into an inspirational speaker when I get older bc I care too much.” What do you mean by that?
Facts. I wish somebody was there to tell, the 13-year-old me like “Tiara it’s going to be okay.” I just want to help people, when I see young people or when I see someones insecure or unsure or they don't feel like confident about themselves I just want to shake them. And say “You’re the shit!” I know what that feels like. It’s very hurtful, it really sucks. And so I care. I know I needed somebody and so I just want to be that for other people. That’s all.
Andrea Gambardella is a writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter.