UK born (but predominantly LA based) Taliwhoah is a growing name on the music scene. That growth has been built on a foundation of a burgeoning body of work hinting at a name with so much more to bring. Previous work dates to 2015 when she dropped her project Melodies Of Madness produced by D-Major. With ostensibly old school rnb sensibilities and a smidgen of that new school type of rnb thought. The project highlighted her musical direction. She mixed expressions of love with a candid approach to her emotional spectrum.
Follow-up cuts (and features) to that project have been numerous; think the banging Flexing with its two-step garage remix and her ep New Wave Order a tidy debut with Rostrum Records. Despite these sterling releases, the road for Taliwhoah to become a singer and song writer was fuelled by a reticence and a focus on a different path.
“Originally I just wanted to be dancer and tour for Janet Jackson or Michael Jackson. Despite those aspirations, I always turned to writing as a form of expression poetry, songs but I never thought I had a singer’s voice. I thought I had demo singing voice to lay down ideas but never actually one for recording tracks. It was not until I was around twenty-one that I really started to train my ear and develop my own sound and take my expression and use it for something.”
It seems at odds with the character who we are interviewing in Tottenham-humorous, laid back and seemingly quietly assured. She laughs when we raise this, “there are a lot of doubts which come up which you might not see the first time you meet me.”
“I felt the pressure I think.” She responds when we question this initial reluctance to build on her clear talent, “I’m quite a critical person when it comes to my taste in art. When I like something, I like them for specific reasons but I did not know myself and so I did not really know what I liked. I could not put a finger on what it was exactly that pulled me towards music, so I just thought it was due to the fact I was surrounded by music. My mum was a singer in Boney M, and she had a successful solo career, my dad was a singer, his brothers were all in a group, my aunty on my dad’s side had a reggae career. To everyone else it made sense that I would go into music, but it was not so clear to me.”
But once she realised that music meant “much more for me” and her own musical self “became clearer” she found her own “voice”.
“Melodies of Madness was the first time I applied myself to a project and completely turned it into something tangible. Seeing how people who responded to my lyrical content could draw similarities to their own life was amazing. In some ways it was funny. I felt a bit exposed. I think people saw more of me than I had anticipated. Then it turned into this thing of them seeing me but also seeing their own lives as well. As people listen to the project, they grew with me and my vulnerabilities. Some of my songs are quite ambiguous but other tracks you can definitely understand what I am talking about.” Dissonance is the stand out track from that ep.
“It was the first song that came about where I did not write it down. I literally just spewed out these words when I heard the track. There was no hook to it I just laid down the verse as it was and then listened to it and worked on it. When I listened to it, I was like ‘damn you were in a dark place for a second’. I was able to get more elemental by putting down a hook, but I think I laid down the track in about fifteen minutes while I was on a train journey from Tottenham Hale to Stockwell. By the time, I got to Stockwell I was ready to record it”.
Her modus operandi of opening herself up so people can “connect” with Taliwhoah is drawing fans Stateside and in the UK to her. Her latest release, Love Cycle will only help to draw fans in further. While there is a clear evolution in her sound on the cut, she retains the attributes that made people stand up and take notice.
Now signed to the independent US based Rostrum Records who have Wiz Kalifah and KT Tunstall on their books, Love Cycle (for us) is one of her best cuts to date. Sonically it’s a clean pared down production which allows Taliwhoah’s vocally on point self to shine with aplomb. Subject matter sees her lay herself bare as she discloses her exploration of her bi-sexuality. Importantly she does this without seeming contrived. While her nod to Donell Jones’ classic Where I Wanna Be (1999) from the album of the same name is a tidy bit of 90’s nostalgia.
“I love when people are able to spot that” she states enthusiastically when we highlight the nod, “I did that before with my track called Fast Forward where I did a nod to Mary J Blige and her track, I Can Love You Better*. I pride myself on doing covers but taking something that is original but doing it in my own way. For me it is always about keeping something and keeping the nostalgia of the track without taking things. I feel that we are in a place where people do not know where original samples come from. My little cousin was like ‘that is Drake’ when he heard the Lauryn Hill’s Ex Factor** I was ‘oh no!’ you cannot walk around thinking that.”
She adds, “I think I was in the studio writing Love Cycle and the chord arrangement just came to me. At first, I could not remember where the familiarity came from. I wrote the first verse and it just felt so natural to go into Donnell Jones’ lyrics for the chorus. But I did not want to take the lyrical content from him because it was inspired by his track. I found the middle ground with the first chord arrangement from that hook and then I just put my own feel to it.”
Her forthcoming debut album Another Dimension is due for release possibly in March. The two cuts so far Soul Food featuring singer Arin Raye and Love Cycle are mesmerising tasters. The two cuts in fact really indicate that this debut album may well see Taliwhoah’s stock rise in the UK but also Stateside as the album will be released in both markets simultaneously. And while in the creation of the album Taliwhoah suffered two major life changes she not only over-came these, but she is genuinely excited.
“My album is finished so my team and I are just getting together what will happen. I am excited about that. But there have been a few experiences around that. I lost my brother in May and that was slap bang in the middle of recording the album. My brother and I were really close and so I was less motivated about the album, but I was able to work through that. I also went through a break-up in what I would consider was my first serious relationship. It was also my first project working with the new people at Rostrum. It was a time where I really needed to discover myself and indeed, I grew in that period and so I am now ready to put it out and I can’t wait for people to hear it”
*Taken from the album Share My World (1997)
**Taken from the album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)