Tangina Stone, the singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, has crafted songs laced, with deeply personal anecdotes, interweaving her past with yours. Her debut album, ‘Elevate’, which came out last September, is a 13 song compilation that tells the tale of her lifelong battle with anxiety, love, tragedy and mental health.
Originally from Ohio, the artist has aspects of a Lauryn Hill-esque songwriting style but the production is evidently influenced by the RnB style of New York. Fresh off the release of her new tantalizing new single ‘Fanta’, we caught up with the emerging artist about her big move, working with Nelly Furtado and her influences.
How you first got into music, and where did your passion come from?
I started writing songs really young – I was 5, and recording in studios by the time I was 12, so the start of my journey in music started really really early. I moved to New York to pursue it on a larger scale.
You’ve lived in lots of different places, so can you tell me a bit about your move to New York?
Yeah, I’ve lived in lots of places growing up. But, New York was the first place I moved to alone. When I moved to New York, it was really really difficult, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done actually. It was a totally different world to the one I grew up in my whole life. It was a really tough transition. Coming from a small place, my talent was always recognised, and coming from that situation to being one of many hugely talented artists in New York made it kind of difficult.
What made you choose to move to New York?
I’ve always wanted to move to New York, ever since I was a little girl because it was where all my favourite artists lived or spent time in. And the same thing for Brooklyn specifically, I thought that when I first moved to New York that I would want to move to Harlem, but I went to Harlem and it wasn’t for me. When I got to Brooklyn I felt at home immediately, it’s a mixture of city and neighbourhood, which I really love. I especially love my neighbourhood, Bed-Stuy, which is a historically black neighbourhood in Brooklyn, it’s really special and there are tonnes of creatives who I get to meet and be around. I get to walk the same streets as my favourite artists who also live in Brooklyn and Bed-Stuy.
New York has some really amazing things about it, but it can also be very taxing living there, especially as a creative because you are forced to always compare yourself to artists who are coming up with you. It’s important not to get too caught up with competing with other artists, but it’s impossible to not compare yourself. So, I suppose New York taught me a lot of bad habits that I’m currently unlearning.
You’ve previously said that you choose to bin the concept of genre, and prefer to put music out and allow people to interpret it… but this aside for those who may not have heard your tracks, how would you describe your sound?
I would describe my sound as alternative, with elements of RnB, elements of electronic, pop. Not much rap on the albums but live for sure.
Talking of live performances, what is the favourite standout gig you’ve ever performed?
One of them would be the Howard Theatre in DC, which is particularly special to me because when I was younger my aunty went to Howard University and I lived with her for a bit while she was in DC and I got to watch shows with her at that theatre. So, it was a really big thing for me and my family when I finally got to play it. It was the first time I had a show of that capacity in a state and stage that big.
Another really important show would have to be when I performed at New York City Pride with Nelly Furtado, that was amazing, because the year before the show I attended that very concert and watched other artists play. Performing with Nelly is always amazing, she’s just such a beautiful spirit and just so much fun and I just love her.
Nelly Furtado spoke very highly of your collaboration for ‘Exposed’, can you tell me about the collaboration process with someone who you have looked up to for so long?
I mean it felt like it was supposed to happen, I mean I picked up my first guitar to play a Nelly Furtado song. After meeting and creating with her, it taught me the power of manifesting things, because I’ve been manifesting that collaboration since such I was kid. Dreaming of working with her and a lot of artists I loved, and it happened, so there is a lot of power in that. And realising that I have the power to do anything I want to do.
It was funny because from working with Nelly lots of people questioned how and why I got her to work with me because she hadn’t put music out in so long. People were just assuming lots of different ways it came about, but in reality, we just met outside the concert.
What did you take away from working with Nelly?
Well I remember going into the situation thinking that I was so lucky, and I couldn’t believe that she wanted to work with little old me. Later one when I asked her to explain to me why she made the decision to work with me, she said that she didn’t view me or my art as little old me, she didn’t view me as small or any less than her. She just taught me a lot about how I need to see myself, because if you don’t take a chance on yourself in this industry, then no one is going to take a chance on you. So I pretended as if I was super confident in myself whenever she approached me about the record, but I wasn’t really there and I was terrified to perform in front of her. But, she taught me not to approach situations like that and told me that I was a brilliant artist, and people will see there. It taught me a lot about how I see myself, and I need to adjust a little. I’m powerful in the same way as the artists that I look up to.
Talking of collaborations, who would be your dream person to collab with?
A dream collaboration, I mean this is super out there, but it is Stevie Nicks, she’s getting out there and needs to be protected and kept safe. I just hope there is time for me to meet her and to create with her.
But, there are a lot of artists who, but I think Stevie would be the only one who I view as a dream collaboration, because I feel like everything is in reach. All the other collaborations I want are really things I can attain. I was once in a position that Nelly was a dream person to collaborate with, and then we worked together, and it taught me “wow, you don’t have to just dream about things, they can become reality”. So, a lot of the artists I look up to, I can say that I want to work with them, but they’re not dreams, this is the reality and they are attainable. I can make them happen if I want to.
Stevie is the dream because she’s hard to pin down, she’s busy, she’s touring, she’s not releasing much new music according to herself and concert. So, that’s why that is a dream, because I’ll really have to jump through hoops.
You hosted the last two Women N Sound events, what does it mean to a part of this Series & Fundraiser?
Women N Sound is really important to me. I think it is very important for women, and when I say women I mean that in an inclusive way, to take up space everywhere, especially in the music industry. Hosting Women N Sound and booking the artists means a lot to me, because we are creating a safe and inclusive space for women to showcase their talent, to build their network and community. This industry gets really caught up on the competitive nature that exists, and I think it’s important that we tackle that and work against that, because we can get so much accomplished if we work together and treat each other with kindness. The world right now, especially in the States has been so unsafe for women for such a long time, and I feel like it’s important to be in the fight to change that.
You’re set to release your latest single ‘Fanta’ in November, how are you feeling about it?
I’m feeling very excited about the ‘Fanta’ release, it’s a very new sound for me, well I guess a new sound for other people to hear on me, but not a new sound for me per se. I create lots of stuff that doesn’t sound like the stuff I have out, but this is the first time I’ve let people into the different side and sound of me.
I also love the producer of the record, Denitia, is a really great artist. Just how we talked about dream collaborations, denitia was once a dream collaboration for me, someone who I loved and admired so much. I got to book her for WOMAN/N/SOUND and I got to work with her for this record, so again everything is attainable, and I’ve got to remind myself that often.
And can you tell us what the songs are about?
I don’t want to give too much away because the name ‘Fanta’ is supposed to distract you and not give too much away, but I’ll say it’s a song about reclaiming one’s talent after a situation that has had you out here.
What was the creative process behind the track?
It was really simple! We had a session at my house, which we’d been talking about for a while. Denitia played me a record and we just hammered something out that we loved straight away. It was a one take thing, and from the beginning nothing has really changed. We work really well together.
You addressed your own mental health issues in your track ‘Anxious’, is discussing your own personal life within your music something that is important to you?
I think that it can be, I certainly don’t think that it is a requirement that I discuss my mental health and my experiences in music because I feel like when I’m in a position to do it then great, but there are times that I question why people who have experienced awful things put in positions where they have to do more labour. The #MeToo movement has had a huge impact on my mental health, and sometimes I feel like being really open, but other times I don’t feel open. So, if there’s a time when I feel comfortable and safe about discussing my experiences then I will share my experiences, then great! But if I’m not in that position, then I won’t, and I don’t think people should be shamed for not talking about their mental health.
For me, it’s important that I’m in a state with my mental health that I’m stable enough to talk about it and show up for people who are experiencing those things. But, if I ever find myself not in that position, then that’s ok too.
It’s important, but it’s not something that I think is required of me or anybody who are trying to navigate life.
Finally, what do you want people to take away from your music?
People take away different things all the time. My grandma will listen to my music and take away one message, and someone else will take away a different message.
But, I hope people who listen to ‘Elevate’ feel a) propelled and encouraged to elevate, and b) I hope people feel seen, heard and acknowledged, which is really important, because for me that’s why I wrote a lot of the songs, the really personal songs had a lot to do with not feeling seen. The intro to the project ‘Confidence’ was my mantra telling myself that I need to just have a little bit more confidence, particularly in situations when I’ve felt low.
You just briefly spoke about your grandma then, how have your family reacted to your music and your successes?
It’s been mixed! My family often want to censor what I talk about in my music because a lot of the time it has a lot to do with them, but it’s my experiences so I can’t allow my music and my truth to be censored by people. But for the most part my family have been really excited that I’m succeeding and I’m in the place that I am.
Listen to Tangina Stone’s new single, ‘Fanta’, below: