In her latest mixtape Sunsetters / Daybreakers, TYSON offers the heart wrenching “Promises,” a retrospective RnB song that bares it all in a constellation of emotions, in the name of a reminiscent cry over a past failed love affair. This is the kind of authenticity we’ve come to expect from TYSON, the London-based music artist making mad moves through her music and other ventures, championed by REEBOK LTD.
While the artist has served us with singles, EPs, and now a new mixtape, TYSON’s music is barely scratching the surface when it comes to this multihyphenate. In 2015, TYSON co-founded Ladies Music Pub, a non-profit organisation that specialises in uplifting female, non-binary, and gender non-conforming artists trying to break through in the music industry.
Whether through music or her day-to-day life, TYSON is never one to hold up on expressing her truth and calling out misdeeds, from past lovers or industry-wide issues. Today, we caught up with the artist to talk about her creative process, her new mixtape, and her work at LMP.
What has been a highlight of your year so far?
Wow, I don’t know. I feel like this has been the longest year of my life, in a good way. There’s a lot of highlights: one of my best friends got married in Gambia, I played SWSX (but just being in Austin for the week was the best bit – ate loads of tacos, danced a lot, met new people, drank lots of margaritas), a writing trip to LA where I spent a lot of time with family, Glastonbury, my cousins wedding
After your stunt in the electro pop duo PANES and a life-changing vocal cords-related surgery, you finally found your footing in your debut EP, Pisces Problems. Was there a certain pressure to meet expectations with this EP?
To be honest yes, but only from myself. Your first project is your first project, so there’s nothing for people to compare it to. This time I felt more self conscious. I think it’s because Pisces Problems was well received that I felt pressure for this next project to be ‘good’ or to be a certain way. And in a way that’s a good thing. But I definitely felt like people had expectations for me to deliver and I’ve never felt that before. There were a couple spanners in the works bringing the project together so I lost some confidence at one point. But it all worked out exactly as it was meant to be and I’m very proud of what it became.
Whatever those expectations were, you blew it out of the water. From the instrumentals to the vocals, there’s a certain intimate quality to your work where, as listeners, we can tell you pour your entire heart and soul into it. Has music become this sort of therapeutic way of processing your emotions?
Thank you! I have to shout out all the people that helped make the project too, all the producers and collaborators. I didn’t do it on my own. But yes, this one was definitely an emotional one for me.
Music has always been kind of therapeutic. I’ve always been a very emotional person, even as a tiny kid. I think maybe I feel things very intensely compared to some people. I don’t always know how to talk to people about these feelings, so I write about them.
Does it ever scare you opening up that much in your songs?
Sometimes. There’s a vulnerability to it. I think that’s why I like playing with words. The music is personal but it’s also nice when some of it is open to interpretation. I like when you listen to music and it’s the artist’s story, but it’s also your story, whatever you need the song to apply to in your own life.
You started your own recording company, LMP Records, stemming from Ladies Music Pub, the collective you created with your gal pal. Tell me a bit more about the importance of female and gender-minority representation and support within the music industry?
The music industry, like so many industries, isn’t run by us. Hannah TW and I started LMP so that gender minorities could get the support we weren’t getting from within the industry. There are four of us now – Hannah TW, Marina GB, Nellie Owusu and I. We are for women, trans and non-binary people so we don’t use the word ‘female’ as it isn’t inclusive to everyone in our community. A massive motivation for us is ethical and diverse employment; if the same positions continue to be filled by white middle class men forever and ever then nothing is going to change.
The issues we face as women and gender minorities stem from the patriarchal set up of the world, through to the entertainment and culture industries and music industry. We try to make sure members of our community are able to get ‘in’ and have access to jobs and opportunities. LMP is a multifaceted organisation that continues to develop depending on what is needed, and I love that.
This year, we saw the release of your new mixtape Sunsetters / Daybreakers. How did you land on that title?
I feel like it covers a whole night, with all the feelings and moods along the way. So I wanted something to symbolise that. It’s cheesy as hell but I was on my own in the desert outside LA at sunset and the name just came to me. I had to get myself back to London asap after that.
There’s a few features on this album, including James Massiah and Coby Sey. What does the process of collaborating with featured artists look like? Is it quite different to being in a musical duo?
I love collaborations, I think more brains are always better than one. I enjoy being a solo artist in some ways but I think deep down I’m a collaborator. My mum is very similar. I need people around me. I guess the thing with being a duo is that you mostly do everything just the two of you. In some way I think I like working with lots of different people more.
In “Promises,” the lyric that reads “Lovers good at making the promises / They’re good at breaking” was just too good. Whenever you go through something heartbreaking, such as a broken promise, do you immediately think ‘that’s going to be a song’?
Not at all. It takes me a long time to process things. I can write about things years after they happen, like I did with “Promises.” To be fair, yeah, sometimes you’ll go through some shit and be like ‘at least it’ll be a good song’!
Clearly, love is a topic that you tend to gravitate to within your work, notably your most recent mixtape. Has music, whether your own or others’, changed your perspective on love?
It’s one of them. But actually most of my EP Pisces Problems is about struggling with my mental health in my late 20s, and some self destructive behaviour around that. My next project is very much about self reflection, development and growth. But yes, Sunsetters / Daybreakers is definitely all songs about love, experiences both good and bad.
I don’t know if music has changed my perspective on love. I think other people’s music has reflected my own feelings in love. And other people’s music has definitely helped me love myself more.
What do you do when you’re in a creative rut? I’m guessing going out and getting your heart broken isn’t exactly a sustainable or healthy way of coming up with new inspiration?
Lol. It’s been a long time since I had my heart broken! I don’t know if inspiration is that explicit. Sometimes I swear it’s coming from an external force. My wonderful friend Ruby Savage runs this course called the Artist Recovery Club. On that she calls it the Source or the Sauce. I like that. The stuff will come from where it comes from, you don’t always control it. Sometimes you’ve got to surrender to whatever the song wants to be. Not to say that I make stuff up either. It can just be hidden some place until it’s ready to come out.
When I’m in a rut I don’t make anything. I have to go and find other things to do until I feel like making something. Coming together with the right person usually inspires creativity. It’s kind of like going to the gym. You know it’s good for you and will make you feel good, you know you sort of do enjoy it eventually but you have to drag yourself there when you’re not in the right headspace. And you will never regret it.
What is the best setting for songwriting for you?
I like writing lyrics in transit. Other than that, anywhere that I feel safe and supported. I like writing songs with other people but some stories have to come from yourself word for word. “Choose Peace” on Sunsetters / Daybreakers was one of those songs. Some stories have to be told in their totality for you to be able to move on from them.
What stands out about you is that you aren’t just a musical artist, but also in control of your own image and aesthetic. Who are your visual inspirations?
That’s nice to hear. I like when artists create worlds beyond their music, when the styling and visuals become part of the music. I actually don’t feel like my visual references are always amazing, that’s why I love working with other creative brains who get the music but who can visually interpret it in their own way. It takes my music to new places. I loved working with Akinola Davies Jr on the Tuesday video for that reason, and it’s why I have done all my recent visuals with my friends Tiffi and Simone who are Nothing Yet Productions.
This can easily be seen in your style too. How would you describe your own personal fashion style?
My style is a victim of my circumstances ahahahhaha. I’d be so fly if I was rich.
Lastly, do you have anything you’re working on? Anything to tease? Any words of wisdom for our readers?
Yes! I’m currently finishing another project. I wont lie to you, that’s not an album either! I don’t feel like I’m there yet. No words of wisdom just stay warm this winter. Make sure you get your face in the sunshine when it comes out.
All looks are REEBOK LTD.
More on Culted