There is a growing excitement and anticipation surrounding TAAHLIAH. From being the first Black trans artist to be nominated for the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, and going on to win both Best Electronic and Best Upcoming Artist, to supporting the late SOPHIE, and Jamie xx this coming summer, her debut album adds to the sparkle of her already glittering career.
TAAHLIAH brings the glamour and flare of pop to hard-hitting electronic music, whilst remaining immensely down to earth. SNACK caught up with TAAHLIAH to celebrate the release of her debut 7-track project, Angelica.
How has the last year been? You’ve been super busy – you’ve just got your new album out!
The past year has been fun – it was just at the beginning of lockdown that I got signed to my record label. It has been quite hectic.
There have also been really nice bits like the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, doing stuff at Boiler Room, working with different institutions and establishments within music that I hadn’t really dealt with before.
I feel like before I was signed there was kind of like no backup for me. Everything that I was doing then people would come to me personally to do it, or like, opportunities would just kind of fall on my doorstep, whereas now I have a team to seek stuff out which is a lot more fun, because it just makes aspirations and goals a lot more tangible.
I love the production on your new album, Angelica. I feel like in particular it’s such a strong start to open with the track ‘Brave’; it’s inspiring and moving. I’m wondering, in return, what individuals would you say have inspired you to be brave?
My friends first and foremost, and the closest people to me, provide me with the strength to keep going. It’s a good question and a tough one. Musically, it’s kind of everywhere. There’s no definitive selection of people – which I’m very happy for. There’s all these strands of ideas and strands of influence which all combine into my work.
I think this idea of having lots of strands tied together makes sense.
Yeah, everything is a remix of everything at the end of the day, and if you’re inspired by a particular artist or genre then they would’ve been inspired by another artist. It’s this lovely kind of ladder of creativity. I feel like I talk about this a lot.
Every single artist is influenced by such a different set of things; like when you think about genres, for example, or particular classifications of music, an electronic music artist might be very influenced by classical music, but then like the artist next door might be influenced by dubstep, or whatever. But people will bridge these two artists together because perhaps they sound the same, but the threads of thoughts and connections are totally different.
I feel there should be more of an explanation of the artistic process. I’m very interested in the artistic process and how other people create work, I wish that I was able to see more of that in a wider context. So perhaps like YouTube tutorials and stuff, where you could get Lady Gaga or Beyoncé on how they made a specific track; that’s so interesting. Why is that not more of a thing?
I wonder if this new focus on the internet created by the Covid landscape has affected your artistic output?
I guess I’m still making the music that I want to make but everything is a lot more restricted. Like I can’t get people into the studio, but I’m very much excited to perform IRL! I’m sick of doing mixes for people that will be put on a listening platform or virtual club spaces, like they’re great, and needed, but I’m just getting bored of them. It’s not the same. I’m still sitting in my bedroom, and I’m listening to great music, but it’s on a webcam video.
What’s some really great music that you’ve listened to recently?
Um, Angelica by TAAHLIAH? [Laughs]. No, but really, me and my friends have been listening to Art Angels by Grimes a lot, but that’s quite old.
That’s quite a toughie question. I’m listening to a lot of Nicki Minaj and Lily Allen. Chippy Nonstop actually, they’re really cool, and I’m kind of always listening to SOPHIE, Purity Ring, and FKA Twigs. I just have them on repeat all the time. It’s the familiarity of it all that I really enjoy.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Probably Nicki Minaj! I doubt it would happen, but she’s great. Her artistry is fantastic, like the way she writes, what she writes, the way she puts two and two together and gets two hundred; it’s amazing. She’s just so clever!
I was wondering if you could tell me about one of your favourite performance experiences? For example, is the connection to the audience significant to you?
I’m very conscious of my audience and I find it strange to use the word fans, because I grew up with a lot of bullying and so my voice was never the one to be heard; my voice was never the one to have meaning. I’m very aware of the listeners and the audience, and who’s coming to my performances, and what that means for the space I’m performing in.
Probably one of the best performances, or the one that I felt the most energy in, was one of my last gigs before Covid. It was Weirdo Warehouse at the African Arts Centre, and a lot had gone into the energy. It was just really nice and homely, and it was nice to be back home because Glasgow is home. I hope that when things open up again there will be a lot more moments like that.
What would you like to change about the music industry?
I think in a broader sense, financial support, predominantly streaming costs, and how much you get from streaming, because it seems like, unfortunately, streaming is the future of music. Then there’s the gender imbalance of everything! Women make up less than 3% of music producers and that’s really messed up! Plus the racial side of it; why is there such a lack of Black pop stars, and I mean like, quintessential pop stars? There’s such a lack of blackness in the pop industry.
Do you feel like representation is improving, or simply shifting?
I think it’s improving, definitely, but the rate it’s going at isn’t enough. Just because people are visible doesn’t mean that they’re on an equal playing field. I know for a fact that my music would be listened to more if I was white. People would interact with me more if I was white, and it’s just how the cookie crumbles.
It’s great that representation is slowly opening up, but I think what I’m more interested in is the rate that it happens. The fact that perhaps I can’t think of another Black, trans artist that is in a similar field to me then that’s an issue.
Using my own experience in context, a lot of people see ‘BLACK TRANS ARTIST DOING THINGS’ and it’s like, okay, that’s great, but could you name anyone else? Are there any other Black trans people in this line up? Just because there’s one doesn’t mean it’s cushty, because it’s not.
What excites you about the future?
I think currently, first and foremost, experiencing new things. Appreciating the mundane, because when you appreciate the mundane it makes the beautiful even more beautiful. I’m excited to continue on this artistic journey, and hopefully work with new and interesting artists, and make really really nice music that people are able to connect with and listen to. That’s what I’m excited for – being alive!