Nate von Zumwalt, Editorial Manager
There are meteoric ascents, and then there is Tinashe, whose debut single “2 On” has forcefully climbed its way into ‘Top 40’ charts since its January unveiling. It’s a case of spontaneous buzz that can occasionally draw skepticism, whether warranted or not, from critics and listeners alike. But even if it belies her refreshing charm, Tinashe’s staying – and star– power is self-evident, as is her role as a catalyst in an undefined realm of nouveau R&B.
At the moment, it’s a tall order to make any commute without overhearing a spin of the 21-year-old’s mellifluous R&B single, but it’s her early mixtape work – deftly crafted over the past three years – that heralds a breakout new talent. Now she’s gearing up to release her debut album Aquarius in September, but not before her performance at Sundance NEXT FEST alongside the Los Angeles premiere of Imperial Dreams, starring John Boyega. That event takes place Saturday, August 9, at the Theatre at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, and tickets are on sale now for $25.
We caught up with the do-it-all performer to chat about her acting background, a frenzied first half to 2014, and her upcoming debut album.
Where do the artistic roots begin for you?
Tinashe: Well as far as my heritage goes, my Dad is from Zimbabwe, so that has an influence on who I am. And I feel like growing up in LA has an influence. And as you mentioned, I grew up acting and being in movies – entertaining has always been my focus my whole life.
But you’re originally from Lexington?
I was born there, but I didn’t spend any time there. I left when I was three months old.
So Los Angeles is your home, and sonically speaking, your work embodies a west coast hip-hop feel. How does performing in Los Angeles compare to other places?
Interestingly enough, you’ll get the most hyped crowds in the middle of nowhere because they don’t get concerts that often. In LA, kids can go to shows every night of the week if they want. But, I do love to perform in LA just because it is my hometown. To know that people in my home city want to come see me live, that’s awesome.
Your acting credits are fairly extensive, especially for a 21-year-old who gave up acting years ago. Was music always at the heart of your aspirations?
For me it always seemed like the obvious thing to do. I’ve been acting since I was basically five, so it was about ten years of full-time dedicating to acting. But I always knew that music was my biggest passion – it was always what I wanted to do eventually. So when I felt like I was finally old enough to really start getting into it seriously, I was excited to do that.
On Aquarius, there are some big name collaborations that you’ve mentioned – Clams Casino, Ryan Hemsworth, A$AP Rocky. Talk about the creative liberty you had on your mixtapes, as opposed to the collaborative approach to the album.
At first I think it was definitely a struggle. It wasn’t easy. Like you said, when you’re used to doing everything by yourself, it’s hard to get adjusted to working with other people. I also think at the beginning of the process people weren’t really familiar with who I was as an artist necessarily, and they hadn’t done enough research and they didn’t know that I even had an opinion. To establish myself as a real artist and that I did have an opinion, and to get comfortable in that collaborative environment – it definitely took a few months. It was a learning process. Now I definitely have the hang of it.
What will people be surprised by when they come to a Tinashe show?
It’s important for me that there is a performance element. I feel like, especially in the last few years, people kind of put the performance aspect in the backseat and just focused on singing the songs – and that’s great. I feel like there’s always a place for that. But for me, I always remember growing up I always wanted to go see shows that inspired me, that made me want to dance, that made me excited. You know, a real show. I try to be able to do that (laughs).
On the theme of NEXT FEST, do you have any all-time favorite films that come to mind?
I think one of my favorite films… I always go back to Into the Wild. It’s one of my favorites, and I don’t why. I always connect with nature, so maybe it’s something about that.
It’s been a huge first half of 2014 for you with the success of “2 On.” Has it felt as sudden as it appears – were you prepared?
I hoped for it, I wanted it to happen. At the beginning, I don’t think I really processed that it was happening. I could tell that I was a lot more busy. Really kind of looking back on everything that happened, and just how different my life is now as opposed to even 6 months ago – it’s almost shocking. It’s amazing.