Taliwhoah Talks Reggae, Solitude, And Emotional Vulnerability
Taliwhoah’s upcoming album is an exercise in emotional vulnerability, and a product of her finally being able to enjoy the journey (even if it started in a negative space). Deeply painful in parts and joyous in others, the record speaks to the artist’s increasing ability to share her story, no matter the outcome. Hailing from London and drawing from her Reggae roots, Taliwhoah hits on both the R&B Renaissance happening across the pond as well as a generational love of music that’s been faithfully passed down from her Nigerian and Lebanese origins.
For now, Taliwhoah’s been riding the wave of her latest hit track, “Details”, and—here’s betting—the hype will only increase with the release of her upcoming album. Add to that a new video for her “Meds” track and the jury is out: this one’s here to stay.
How’s it going?
Not too bad, I’m actually just trying to set up video now and getting ready to shoot some more scenes for my video tomorrow. No rest for the wicked! [Laughs]
Dope. What track is the video for?
It’s for a track on my EP called “Meds”. It’s going to be a new release in the fall.
Yeah, I’m actually so excited about this one! It’s so much brighter than what I usually go for in terms of shooting style and dress sense. The track itself is quite bright, but it’s quite grim at the same time as far as lyrical content goes because I’m kind of drilling into someone that was pissing me off on a certain day [Laughs].
So there’s an album on the way too, right? How’s that coming?
Well, that’s already done. It’s really exciting to know that I’m finally done with it and it’s in its last stages of being mixed ‘cause I’ve been quite attached to this body of work. It was very different in my growth; it has a strong meaning to me. Lyrically, a lot of the songs are very emotionally-driven and about my feelings throughout the whole project.
Where were you emotionally and mentally when you were writing?
I was very frustrated, dissatisfied, I didn’t really like the position that I was in. Emotionally, I think what people get from me is that it was a release for me. I was in a really uncomfortable living situation, relationship situation, and life in general. I didn’t really have any place to express what I was feeling through song, so a lot of what you got was me being at a point where I was busting at the seams and I just needed to make something, anything and get it off my chest.
When it finally dropped, do you feel like that’s the point where the burden was lifted? Do you get a sense of relief?
I think during the process of actually creating a song it’s like therapy for me, so by the end of the song I’ve released everything and I’m onto the next emotion, the next situation in life. I think the saddest thing for us as artists is we never really reach that point of satisfaction whether it be with a body of work or with any type of goal because I’m always going to think, “What’s next?” What am I going to be working on this time around? So I’ve definitely tried to be on the journey, enjoy the journey more than the body of work being finished because it’s never really finished for me. There’s always something I could have done better, something I could have said—there’s always those little nitpicking things that I tend to get at, but it’s definitely the process that lifts the burden more than anything.
So when you look back at Melodies of Madness and previous stuff that you’ve worked on, does it take you back to that place? How real is it for you?
It’s so funny because I was just saying yesterday, when I was listening to some old mixes of songs, that I really hate—love, hate, I shouldn’t say hate—I really hate and love the fact that every time I listen to a track I emotionally go back to where I was that very moment when I wrote the track, recorded it, and even what triggered it. It’s almost like taking a time capsule back to those situations. People always ask me what inspired the song, how did you feel in that moment, and I’m just like well, damn I didn’t really think about it before but now I’m exhausted. [Laughs] I just realized what I was really going through for a second. It’s kinda like a little snoop back into the past, like a time machine taking you back to something every time you listen to it. My mum keeps telling me that it’s okay to be there, let go, and that’s the next lesson in my journey for me—write these things, and then let them go, because I’m quite heavily attached to them, even to the point where I don’t want others to hear them sometimes, like I don’t want them to question me. They’ll be like, “Wow, what were you going through?” I’m learning to be more comfortable with sharing my stories.
What’s the feeling like when you have fans that adopt those songs and reinterpret them for their own life? Songs can take on a life of their own, so as an artist do you feel like, “That’s mine but you can have it”?
That’s exactly how I feel about it. I’m to that point now where it’s like people listen to my music and talk to me about my music—we have something in common. I’m not always exactly sure what experiences we have in common but I’m just so happy that they find me they’re like “I feel you,” because I’m one of those people that tends to feel quite alone. I isolate myself in my own mind. I think having supporters that immediately connect or resonate with the situation or some kind of lyrical content that I have put in a song, it makes me feel like I have a brother or sister that I didn’t know I had. Now, I don’t feel so alone in what I experience, I don’t feel so embarrassed or ashamed or so sad, that it’s all me, it’s all on me—it gives me a burden to share but at the same time a victory at the end of the burden because I’m able to make new friends and be able to share an experience with someone or help them through it, and vice versa. It makes me feel like I have friends and family that get me whenever I feel like nobody really gets me.
That’s cool. I guess writing is a really introspective experience that can be isolating if you let it.
Yeah, 100 percent. Life gets pretty isolating when you think you’re the only person that’s experienced something. For a long time in my life, I really felt like I was the only one going through what I was going through for whatever reason at the time that may have been. I think doing music has allowed me to realize that I’m not so alone in some of these things. My experiences can help other people the more that I share them.
I know you come from a musical background, a lot of reggae and stuff like that, do you think that influences your sound now as an R&B artist?
Yeah, most definitely. Having such a strong reggae influence in me has made me really appreciate the intricacies that kinda associate themselves with lovers rock music and dance floor. The two sounds really know how let the beat and the vocal work together almost like when you watch the tightrope walkers at the circus—they’re so in tune, one’s clearly calling the other and then they’re calling each other, but when they’re in their routine, they just complement each other so much. I think that analogy really explains how much reggae influenced my style—to take the R&B influences and elements that I naturally had in my music or naturally had in my approach to music, and when paired with the reggae it’s like back-and-forth. Reggae and R&B have been the heaviest influences in my sound so far.
I know I already mentioned Melodies of Madness, and it’s been three years since then, so do you feel like you’ve changed or evolved as an artist or a person since then?
Yeah, I’ve definitely evolved. Originally, I didn’t want to get a record deal, it was a subconscious insecurity that was like girls like you can’t go out and get record deals, or whatever other little insecurities I had at the time, has completely gone now. That was the true start to my evolution as an artist. I actually recognized myself as an artist, and I gave myself that title after seeing how much work I had put in. I think I discredited myself too much—I truly tend to be my biggest critic. We tend to be harder on ourselves about the way we do things than anyone else would be on us. I look back at Melodies of Madness and I’m actually encouraged because I didn’t have a pot to piss in when I made that. Not that I have too much of anything now, but especially then, I didn’t have anything. I gave so much. It opened up so many doors for me, and now I’m learning these little techniques as a singer that I never had instilled in me at the time. I’ve now been able to go out and perform more since then—I’m on the stage a bit more. I’m allowing myself to be more open to engaging with the crowd, not just singing back to the crowd like I did at my first couple of shows. There’s definitely a lot of evolution, a lot more growth, but I think it’s just the beginning stages of the growth and the hard work I’m willing to put in to become even better.
For everyone, especially artists, it’s always a work in progress. We’re never really done growing, I guess.
You’re never done growing, you just learn more.
Well, we’re stoked to hear the album!
Yeah, I’m really excited for you guys to hear it too, I think a lot of people are going to be pleasantly surprised with how well-rounded it is—it sounds bloody amazing. I’ve been listening to it, and I don’t normally listen to my own music after I make it. By the time I’m done, I’m kinda over it or don’t want to revisit it just yet, but I’ve been listening to some songs over and over and I’m like, “Wow, I made this?” I’m really pumped about it, I hope everyone receives it the way they’re supposed to, how they’re supposed to digest it and take it in. I’m just really excited to get it out.
Featured image courtesy of Taliwhoah
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