CULTED SOUNDS: TIANNA ESPERANZA TALKS DEPICTING A JOYFUL QUEER EXPERIENCE & THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING NOBODY’S FOOL
At just 21, Tianna Esperanza knows how to make an impact – whether that be sonically, lyrically, or broadly creatively. Often dubbed as an ‘old soul’ for her love of classic musical icons such as Nina Simone and Eartha Kitt, Tianna’s sound cherry-picks the seductive vocals of eras gone, but updates them with a contemporary flair – evidenced in her counting inspiration from the prevalent Hip Hop artists of today.
We caught up with her to discuss her journey, sound and dream projects – touching on advice for the younger gen, as well as what it takes to bring a project from conception to actualisation. Spoiler – it involves hard work, friendship and a strong, overarching narrative.
Hey Tianna, let’s launch into it. What does the word ‘Terror’ mean to you?
Terror feels like a word that rains down from the sky. It is threatening and assaulting like thunder and lightning. At the receiving end of the word, to me it means powerlessness.
What would be your dream project in the next 5 years?
My dream would be to work with some of my favourite artists: Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, and Anderson Paak.
Who are your creative influences – music or otherwise?
Eartha Kitt and Mae West are two of my favourites. Both were brilliant, clever, and delightfully cheeky women that commanded their field. They were nobody’s fool. Kitt became one of the most desired women in the world despite being so undesired in her early childhood.
To say West was a force is an understatement. She was no mouthpiece for anybody even for Paramount, rather she accepted her culture’s limitations and made bank out of her bombshell role. Eartha and Mae are so inspiring to me as a writer and as a woman navigating the entertainment industry.
Your sound has been described as sultry and boundary pushing – but if you had to describe your sound in two sentences, what would these be?
I draw from early American Chanteuses —the classy stuff and the dirty blues as well as raw early rap and early British punk. I like my lyrics to bite and my look to lure.
Do you have any advice for emerging artists – something you wish you’d known?
I would say I believe that knowing your worth is a major key to longevity and success in this business. You’ll be more fulfilled as an artist if you do the work honing your craft. I always have self doubt but I have years of performance experience and nuggets of wisdom I learned from mentors to fall back on.
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Can you talk us through your favourite project – conception to production?
I had so many ideas for the new single’s music video, “Princess Slit and the Raincoat Prince” but I knew that I wanted to depict a joyful experience of queerness. I specifically wanted to portray a polyamorous relationship in a way that felt like there was equality between the characters. The director Peter Campbell Collins and I had multiple discussions on how best to do this, because oftentimes in music videos especially, the artist is surrounded by models with no purpose other than to accessorise.
We approached the concept with the intention to almost create backstories and characters. We did multiple rounds of chemistry tests with potential actors and models, and when we found the right fit, the day of shooting was so much fun- and I think that shows. During our costume fitting up till the day of shooting, my “polycule” and I came up with backstories and character developments. It is a casual approach but I think we achieved that feeling of friendship and intimacy in the video. The added layer of a golf course, with the double entendre of four people golfing (a foursome) made the video clever too. I’m really proud of this project and grateful for everyone involved!
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Lastly, name 5 tracks you’re loving right now and why?
Aged and Mellow Blues – Esther Phillips
The storyline is funny and relatable to me. And the arrangement and vocals are beautiful.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – Roberta Flack
I listened to this dramatically after every concert on tour recently. I thought about the crowd and about connections I made in the excitement of moments and if the connection would last. Also, Roberta Flack is one of my favourite singers, so I can listen to anything of hers.
Time is On My Side – Irma Thomas
I’m so grateful and lucky that my music career is launching at my age but sometimes I get stressed about the journey towards my goals but this song reminds me that I have so much time to make mistakes and successes.
My Body – LP
“Tightrope” is my favourite song of theirs but after hearing “My Body” while on tour together this past month, I’m addicted to this one too! Needing somebody isn’t a new concept but the way LP belts it feels refreshing.
Cuz I Can – P!nk
I used to listen to this on repeat when I was a teenager and I rediscovered it recently and love it again. I think it’s funny, empowering and badass.