Tinashe on Creating Her Own Lane

Would you be surprised to know that only a third of young people say their vote will “make a difference,” according to the Harvard Institute of Politics youth poll?


Photo: Getty Images for Bug Light

How about the fact that in 2014, youth voter turnout fell to its lowest level on record. In fact, just 19.9 percent of 18- to 29-year-old citizens cast ballots in the fall of 2014, compared with an average of 26.6 percent for the same age range in other midterm elections over the previous 40 years.

With stats like those—and with an important election ahead of us youth—civic engagement is paramount and at this stage any measure of civic outreach is a welcome hand. With echoes still in the air from both the Republican and Democratic National conventions, millennials might find inspiration in the Bud Light Party Convention Tour currently taking place across the country – featuring some of today’s hottest artists, including Big Sean, 2 Chains, Lil Wayne, Wale, Ludacris, T-Pain and Tinashe.

JET recently spoke with Tinashe about performing on the tour, how she feels about those Beyoncé comparisons when she hit the scene as a solo artist, navigating this fickle industry while still trying to maintain the right to choose what image of herself she wants in the zeitgeist, and more.

Tinashe, whose name means “we are with God” in Shona—a Bantu language native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe, which is her father’s nationality – is on the brink of her sophomore album called Joyride. In it, she’s looking to experiment and possibly redefine her style of R&B.

JET: When you first started out there were a lot of Beyoncé comparisons – is that scary? Is that good company to be in?

Tinashe: It’s obviously a lot of pressure because she’s an amazing artist but I think you can only just take it as a compliment. I think she’s an incredible woman that I definitely look up to in a lot of ways.

JET: Have you met her?

Tinashe: I haven’t met her, but I’ve been to her show like five times. I opened up for her but I didn’t meet her. We shared a stage. And I worked with all her people – her dancers were my dancers and her choreographers were my choreographers, her tour manager is my tour manager but we’ve never crossed paths. But it’s gonna happen!

JET: But you are your own Tinashe, and in a field that’s full of young singers, beautiful girls, you’ve been able to find your own niche. How have you been able to create your own lane and stay in it thus far?

Tinashe: I think it’s staying true to yourself and really owning who you are and your creative opinion and that perspective because it’s really easy to get caught up in people’s idea of what you should be and what you should. When that happens I think that’s when you really lose sight of who you are and it’s harder to be able to carve that own niche for yourself. For me, it’s always just been about following my instincts and staying true to what I love and doing what I want to do and creating the music and the visuals and everything that I want to make.

JET: But how hard is that, as a Black woman, in the industry to say, “No this is what you want, this is who I am,” because we can imagine that there are 50 thousand people coming at you saying you should do this ,you should be more sexy…

Tinashe: Absolutely! There’s always pressures I think again it just comes from really knowing yourself and really trusting that sense of self and knowing what you want to do and being able to follow your own instincts and not have to rely on too many other people for advice. That’s something that I’ve tried to continue to make sure that I do. As the more that happens to me the more it’s important to stay true to what I want to do.

JET: You’re coming into your second album and people fell in love with you for a sound, for a look. Wou recently tweeted: “I want to grow. I want to be better. We are made to grow. You either evolve or you disappear.” That sounds like a slippery slope to some fans– can you elaborate on that?

JET: I think that’s a challenge that all artists face because, yes, initially people do love you for a particular reason, whether it be a song or something that really inspired them. But as a creative person, we’re always being inspired by new things. We’re always evolving and changing and growing as people too, everyone grows and evolves, and to expect someone to stay the same for their entire life, or their entire career, is pretty simple minded honestly.

So as much as yes, you do have to cater to the fans that have been there from the beginning, you also hope that they have enough sophistication to grow and evolve with you, and if not then perhaps you just gain new fans. But as a human being, and as a creative person, there’s always an evolutionary process happening.

JET: So what’s the evolution on this album, Joyride?

Tinashe: On this album I think there is some because I have traveled the world and I’ve seen so many new cultures. I’ve seen how people embrace music and how they listen to stuff and what they’re in to. I think it’s opened my eyes to even breaking down the genre barriers even more, like maybe even stepping outside even more of what people think what R&B is and pushing those boundaries. That’s been really important to me. To make people question what genre is this? Where does this fit?’ That’s been important to me with this album.

Tinashe will resume her Joyride tour when her album drops later this year.

Find more Bud Light Convention Party tour dates here.