TiKA Talks "All Day All Night" And Making Purposeful Music
TiKA is a Toronto native who’s not one to shy away from conflict: in confronting political adversity with “All Day All Night”, as well as her own personal demons with a new album, Anywhere But Here, she’s proof that art is the ultimate catharsis: sometimes, even when you can no longer speak, all that’s left to do is sing.
“All Day All Night” was a surprise drop; when it became clear that overt racism and subsequent tragedy would dominate the news cycle, TiKA’s response as a woman and an artist of color inevitably followed. It’s this artistic relevance and connection that makes her such a stand-out musician, and also what makes her music so personal; she’s stripping herself bare for Anywhere But Here (slated for release this spring), inviting us into the most intimate nooks and crannies of her mind, and hoping we come back for more. Spoiler alert: we wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Peep the single below and then keep scrolling for our full heart-to-heart.
What was your inspiration behind your new single, “All Day All Night”?
I feel like black people have to endure quite a few normalities of traumas when it comes to racialized anything. Like, I can watch TV and see instances that traumatized me and I’m unable to carry on about my day and I just have to continue to be fine somehow and keep working. I started thinking what would it be like if my father was killed by police and what would that be like for me and how I would keep going. A lot of times it’s difficult for me to articulate how I feel with words and sometimes when I can’t even speak I’m so grateful for the fact that I’m still able to sing and I wanted to be able to convey that somehow. I drew a lot from Erica Garner, her story, her situation with her father Eric Garner, how resilient she is, how she continues to work and speak out, slowly becoming this activist. It’s what “All Day All Night” is about; how we don’t get the opportunity to breath, to sing, to talk, to even retain what’s happened before something else happens. So, it’s just like the repetitiveness of “All Day All Night” and we just have to keep going; it’s a message of encouragement, and I want to encourage other black people to remind them that we are still here.
And is “All Day All Night” a part of your upcoming album?
It’s a totally separate single. I was really affected by everything that has been happening politically. I wasn’t suppose to be dropping anything else actually until my upcoming album—which is called Anywhere But Here—which drops late spring or early summer. So yeah, after Donald Trump went into office and with the more heavy and weighted racialized instances happening in the U.S., I felt like I needed to use my voice effectively. As soon as I heard the instrumental by HMLT I thought, this sounds like the score of a Spike Lee film and starting writing and navigating after that. It ended up being a blessing.
On the note of politics, do you feel like people with a platform have an obligation to speak out?
I think it’s important to educate yourself before speaking. I think it’s really important to speak but when it comes to the topic of politics it’s really important to educate yourself first so you’re well-versed on all sides of things. But I believe in freedom so I feel like all artists, especially artist of color, should be doing their due diligence to ensure they are speaking about the things they see and that they shouldn’t ignore. It’s a really great time for us to connect and music is our universal language. I’ll quote the late, great Nina Simone who said, “an artist’s obligation is to speak and reflect the times” and this is the time we are currently living in. You’d be a fool to ignore what’s happening in front of you. It’s right there. I’m still learning and growing and trying to stay open to educate myself more but I do feel that this is helping me connect to other artists of color that I feel help me grow respectively.
Can you tell me a little about your upcoming album?
The upcoming album is Anywhere But Here. I recorded it three and a half years ago after returning from New York and working as both a curator of events and an artist manager and nothing was going in my favor. So I decided to take some space and go home to Toronto. When I came home my family and the home I knew was in complete shambles. My mother was going through trauma and there had been a death in my home. My family was trying to hide what was happening from me.
So, when I came home it made me realize that everything that I knew to be true was not. And that I needed to ask myself, “What do I want to do with my life; what do desires mean from my perspective; how do I want to live for me?” I had never questioned those things about myself; I think I spent so much time working and delving head first into work that I had never done any form of self-reflection and self-evaluation up until that point.
The only thing I needed to do in that moment was music. It was a form of release, escape, and therapy and that was the album I put together three and a half years ago. So, I got together with a friend of mine; Casey MQ—he’s one of the Red Bull Sound Select Montreal graduates and also the lead singer of Unbuttoned. He didn’t know that I did music; he thought I was just a promoter because that’s how I always presented myself, you know? I told him, “I want to talk to you about music.” So we get together and started building this project. I have struggled before with being an artist and not finding producers who are able to hear what I heard in my head, and I thought that I wasn’t talented and told myself that I was comfortable with the idea of working for other people as long as I stayed within the conforms of creativity. I think a lot of artists go through that and that’s not the case; it’s not because you can’t find a producer that you’re not talented or that if you can’t formulate the sounds you want to hear it diminishes your talent. It could be that you aren’t ready to receive in that time and I had never considered that either. I just simply thought I wasn’t talented. So when Casey and I got together it just worked, because I learned how to be vulnerable and how to be open about my emotions and I hadn’t known how to do that before. Everything that happened made me open the mirror to myself. This journey is less about the music and more about me learning about myself and learning how to let go of having control. When I learned how to do that, that’s when everything started falling together. So, I changed my name to TiKA with a lower case “i” because I am the smallest part of my journey; I am the tiniest part; I know I come from nothing, we all come from nothing, but I believe as artists we’re just the messengers and I believe everything that I’m conveying is just a message and everything that has been bestowed on me is from a higher power and it’s only my job to deliver the message.
I think that my experiences have been me learning how to get out of my own head and out of my own way and into my heart, you know? And I didn’t know how to do that before this whole album; I was super apprehensive, paranoid and I was terrified, every time in the studio I was in disbelief, I would cry, for like six months solid I was bawling. People had to keep reiterating to me, “you’re talented, you have it, you have it within you, you’re going to be ok, it’s going to be alright. I respect the journey now so although I sounded apprehensive, I sounded terrified, I sounded scared I know I was pushing through and I’m so proud of that. So it’s an opportunity for me to show artists that it’s ok to be vulnerable and more importantly that it’s ok to make mistakes because I think the whole part of the process is being comfortable with the idea of making mistakes. Nothing is going to be perfect.
And you’re releasing a film with the album, right?
Yeah. It’s just understanding that life is about flow. I became a practicing Buddhist and once I learned a lot more about flow, energy, and the universe and what you put in is what you receive, I’m realizing that the earth and the world is about balance. So nothing is ever going to be perfect; it just doesn’t work like that. There is going to be ups and downs and it’s just up to you to stay balanced and calibrated so you’re able to go through the process without being shook. Once I learned that, I realized that a short film showing the process of losing whether that be losing yourself in a job, losing yourself in a relationship, losing yourself period, was what I wanted to do. I’ve lost myself and lied to myself in so many different ways and at so many different times and I wanted to be able to show that in a film that so closely correlates to the entire theme of the album. The album is called Anywhere But Here because I wrote every song when I was in a place where I didn’t want to be. I just wanted to show what it feels like to be lost. As corny as that sounds, it’s about consistency and being true to yourself.
Yeah, being a perfectionist can really drive you crazy.
Exactly! I used to want to sound like Whitney Houston. But, I have a raspiness to my voice because I smoke my blunts so I’m just like, “Damn, there is nothing I can do.” But the truth is that is what I love about my voice is the vulnerability, the rasp, the grit of it all; it’s unapologetic, it’s like, “Look, this is what it is, I’m in turmoil, going through anguish and despair, and you’re going to hear that.” I’ve learned to just kind of accept that about myself. It took a really long time to stop trying to sound like other people and learn how to embrace what I sound like and that just takes time. It’s like learning how to love yourself, which takes time. The imperfections of the self…it’s like, are we ever ourselves because we continue to evolve, right? I’ve just learned to stay open to all of it, the entire possibility that I may never be whatever, and I just want to stay open to new experiences and new things.
I’m stoked to hear the album!
I can’t wait to send it to you! When I recorded that album I would literally purge. It just took time and I think my story is interesting—I don’t know too many people of color or people in general that have gone from corporate to creative fields. It’s so inspiring to me because you know, you can let it all go, because you believe in yourself and you believe in who you are and what you have to offer. That took a lot of time for me. In my mind I thought it wasn’t possible or that I wasn’t capable of making that work for me. I was really insecure about that but my working atmospheres definitely contributed to how I felt.
Yeah, taking a risk on yourself can be a terrifying thing.
Even the process of performing…I can’t even! I’m comfortable on stage because I’ve hosted shows but singing is just a different layer. Two edibles prior to stage and then I’m ok. But that’s just what it is, you know? I’m just learning now how to be present and still be on stage. That’s going to be my new venture. Usually when I’m on stage I’m not even there, I’m still performing but I’m not even there; it’s very much an ethereal and spiritual experience for me. So yeah, I’m learning how to be more present because a lot more shows are coming up—it’s crazy—and I’m touring this year too. So there are so many things happening and it’s a lot for me to retain because I would have never fathomed or anticipated that my life would’ve taken such a crazy shift. It’s happening very fast and I’m just learning how to keep up with these punches as they come and it’s a blessing. I am living proof that if you decide that you are going to succumb to whatever your deeper desires are, it is truly possible.
Images via Tanja Tiziana and Kadeem Ellis
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