Change has been the theme of late for prolific Brookyln-based singer-songwriter tiides (Christiana Chavez). Making the move to New York from her hometown of Las Vegas, spending time in the city of her birth (London, UK) and discovering her voice as a solo artist apart from her former band (Chavez was previously lead singer of indie quintet Love Hate Away) have all had a big impact on tiides and the music she is looking to make. Her fifth EP will be released this November and is going to showcase a different side of the singer-songwriter best known for her stripped-down lo-fi sound. We recently had the chance to chat to tiides over Skype about growing up, the new EP and where she’s hoping to take things next.
Let’s start at the beginning. What first drew you to music? When did you start writing?
tiides: My parents have always played music around our house since I was a kid. My dad was a trumpet player when I was in high school but neither of them are [professional] musicians. When I was 10 years old my teacher, every Friday, would bring out his guitar and play us music and that was my favourite day. I would see all these kids drawn to him and he encompassed this thing, whatever it was, I wanted to be that. I asked my parents for guitar lessons that summer and picked up things from there.
You used to be in a band (Love Hate Away), now you’re focused on writing your solo music. What do you think has been the biggest shift for you in going from writing in a band to writing solo music?
t: In a band you have a bunch of people who want to put their stamp on things, so even as the primary songwriter you have to learn to write in a group. Eventually though it got to the point where I loved the guys and I loved what we were creating together but I needed more ownership. I had to take my solo project, tiides and make that my focus. At the time I was already planning to move to New York and so I couldn’t really be in a band when we weren’t in the same city.
How do you think moving to New York and the sounds of the city affect the kind of music you’re making and the stories that you’re trying to tell through your music?
t: When any artist looks back, whether it’s a writer or a painter, they can see the progression. I think that maturity was going to come naturally in time regardless of where I was, but I think that New York has completely and utterly shaped the style of how I write. I think in Vegas I was very comfortable where I was. I had my parents, I had a job. I had a bunch of friends who were supporting my band. I had everything I probably wanted at my fingertips, but the stories, I thought, were getting mundane.
I would go to write songs more as storytelling and wishing things were happening or happening fully. Now I feel like things are actually happening and, in New York, happening right before my eyes because there are so many beautiful things in this city. There’s so much opportunity now for expression and writing.
When I’m listening to my songs now it feels very cinematic. I put my headphones on and I’m walking through the streets and it feels like I’m in a movie. That’s what I feel like I’m making music for now. You can see this picture of New York City and all that life is out here. Before when it was closed off and in my bedroom there wasn’t that cinematic element that I feel is in every one of my songs now.
You recently went back to Vegas and played a show there. How was that as a homecoming?
t: I had to do a lot of growing up out here in New York. Especially in the last six months. The partner I had come out here with and I split up so I lost my sense of structure and home and comfortability. I’ve always been spontaneous and nomadic but I think everyone likes a sense of home and I lost the sense of the artist in me for a little while. At one point I wasn’t even sure if the next EP was going to come. I needed 6 months to find myself again, figure out whether I was going to stay in New York and what New York looked like to me alone. I have a really good friend group and friends out here and I’m really lucky but it’s not the same as being at home.
When I went back I played a small set and it was organized a few weeks ahead of time. It was a small room and it was all my friends and the promoter’s friends but it felt so good. I hadn’t played that much in New York but at that gig I was like, ‘oh this is where I need to be and what I need to be doing.’ Once I came back and was more open, all these opportunities came up to play and collaborate that weren’t there before and I realise it was because I was closed off. Once I was open, things really started to happen.
You’re really open and honest about the ups and downs of the creative process and you’ve shared that on your EP. That’s something a lot of artists try to hide – the nervousness, anxiety, angst that goes into making music. How do you think your openness and vulnerability shapes your relationship with your fans and the people listening to your music?
t: When you first start off as a musician, when I first started off as a musician, it was all ‘cat in hat’ a bit cheesy, you’re rhyming things then you start actually experiencing life and all of a sudden it’s not about that. With all those ups and downs of life and growing up and going through things, and knowing that I could write music through it, it kind of helped me discover a voice in me.
I was very prone to hiding away from and shying away from talking about my feelings. I was really good at you know, not telling my parents how I felt, and not opening up to people around me. My new friends, new people meeting me are like ‘you’re so open!’ but if you talk to the friends I’ve known for a decade they would say that maybe they don’t know that much about me because it’s new that I’ve allowed myself to break down a lot more walls.