Singer Songwriter Tianna Esperanza is releasing her first album “Afro Gypsy” on Friday, June 26. She describes the sound on this album as experimental jazz and folk with some hip hop influences as well.
The 20-year-old Provincetown native cut her teeth playing coffee shops and open mics on the lower Cape as well as speaking at TedxProvincetown and performing at the 2018 Cape Cod Women Festival.
She released her first single at 17 years old and went on a tour of England with her grandmother “Palmolive,” who is the founder of seminal, 1970s all-girl punk band The Slits.
I caught up with Tianna over the phone to talk touring, early influences and being a young artist in a rapidly changing world.
LV: I read in your bio that you grew up in the Pentecostal church and didn’t get to experience secular music until you were in your early teens. Do you remember the first pop music you heard that you really connected with?
TE: Growing up on the Cape all my friends were white. In that environment honestly it was like Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez and Kelly Clarkson. It was my first time hearing what was on the radio and connecting with people who weren’t from a strict religious environment.
LV: When did you start writing your own music?
TE: I started writing when I was really young. I loved writing little books and essays. I loved reading. In terms of songwriting, I started the same year that I started trying to be a singer. I think I was fifteen.
LV: Can you remember what one of those little books you wrote as a kid was about or what it was called?
TE: I think I just wrote about how I was feeling and the things around me. One of the first books I wrote was about my family. I don’t remember what it was called. Basically I would draw a picture and then write the story like, “This is my mom,” or, “This is my grandpa.”
LV: When you went on tour with your grandmother were there any remarkable moments that stood out?
TE: I learned a lot more about the logistics than the thrills. I was kind of in the background. I watched my grandmother get high off of the audience and the admiration. So I could kind of see what it would be like if it were my tour and I had fans flocking to me after a show. It was a very important trip for me as an artist. I got to see what touring is like and it’s really hard. That wasn’t an experience that made me think “oh, this is what I want to do.” It was more learning what the business side of music is really like.
LV: You have a pretty impressive crew of Cape-based musicians who worked on this album with you. Can you tell me about putting that band together?
TE: All of the people who worked on this album with me I’d met at different times over the last five years. Frank Poranski and Larry Chaplin were the main two people I’d been working with. I met Frank at an open mic at the coffee shop The Mews in Provincetown. Some of the musicians on this album are friends of mine from school. We are all different ages. Some of us are trained and some of us aren’t but the values that we all have and the genres we enjoy made it work.
LV: Did the pandemic change the way you planned on releasing this album?
TE: Really just the touring side of it. I was planning on releasing it then playing some shows here to build up to a small tour. Fiona Apple just released a really great album without any touring and I sort of followed suit, although obviously not on that level. I think people don’t have much to do right now and it’s a good time to give them some music. To be honest in some ways it’s relieving to not have to book a tour. As an independent artist who has to do that myself it’s taken some stress out of the process.
LV: What’s it like being a young artist in this time of upheaval, with mass protests against police brutality in our country?
TE: I’m someone who’s been thinking about race for a long time. Since I started writing music the racial inequality in our country has been on my mind and it comes out in some way in most of my songs. The upheaval has always been there for me. I think more people are now joining and more white people are thinking about it too. That’s just on the racial side of things. There is so much else happening. I want to be careful how I word this but for me these are sort of exciting times. I think with the coronavirus and the killing of George Floyd it’s really pushing the boundaries of what our society is going to look like, changing people’s mindsets and pushing people to think outside of the box more than we traditionally have as Americans. I’ve been thinking about how to use music to be an activist. Right now as a young artist it’s exciting and validating to feel that what I’m saying is important and that it’s being heard.
LV: Is there any artist that would be a dream collaboration?
TE: I have a few that I would love to work with. Dave Chappel is one of my favorite comedians and speakers. I love his humor and the way he attacks issues. I’ve always wanted to collaborate with Eminem. I like his horrorcore style of dealing with trauma. I write a lot dealing with personal experiences. There’s certainly plenty of arguments around him but I would like to pair that with some of the elements I bring to my music that maybe he doesn’t. Pair that intensity that he brings with some ideas that may be refreshing and rejuvenated. I love Alicia Keys and Erykah Badu. Those are two women I’ve always wanted to work with and be mentored by. The collaboration I’d be most curious about would be one with Eminem though.
Tianna Esperanza will release her debut album “Afro Gypsy” on June 26 on all major platforms. Her website is tiannaesperanza.com.