By: Craig Claro
A few months ago we came across this rising alt-rock artist who has a strong influence of piano in her songs. It's quite different from what we hear from the indie world, and her voice immediately captivated us. We are always drawn by the story behind the artist, and what leads them into the world of music. So, we decided to talk with Tess about her journey.
We discovered your music on another music influencer's Instagram. It was your latest release, your Ep, “Something Worthwhile”. We added your song “Bed Of Lies” to our New Music Monday playlist, and we would love to hear more about your musical journey.
Thank you so much for reaching out, and including the song in your playlist. The support means a lot.
Please introduce yourself and tell us why you chose music for a career.
I’m a 23-year-old piano-centric rock n’ roll musician originally from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. I moved to Nashville in 2019, initially to accompany other artists on keys as well as work in the music journalism field. I’ve been a pianist, songwriter, singer, and performer since I was 8-years-old, but it wasn’t until I actually moved to Nashville and found myself in such a creative environment that I admitted what path I really wanted to take - that of solo artistry. I’ve always been a writer at heart. That includes classical piano compositions, choral arrangements, poetry, short stories, journalistic writing, as well as songwriting. It’s the only real way I know how to express myself and process the things I experience and see in the world around me. At the heart of it, I chose music for a career because it’s the one thing I naturally turn to at the end of the day. I’ll never know another “language” other than music, and I really believe there is beauty in honoring your authenticity and pursuing what comes most natural to you. It’s the most fulfilling way I can think to spend my life.
We would like to know what is the one question you always hope to be asked but never get asked.
Hmm. I’ve always thought it would be fun to talk about the one artist I dream of meeting and collaborating with.
Now you can share your answer with us!
My answer to that is Fiona Apple. Honestly, she was my real introduction into alternative, piano centric rock n’ roll. I love the way she carves her own path in the industry, and never takes any crap people throw her way - from judgements about her artist timeline and how long she takes between records, to the way lots of her music just didn’t fit any one category - she’s truly iconic. There’s an interview with her I absolutely love that keeps me grounded in my perspective as a songwriter and just a human experiencing life. In the conversation she talks about how she primarily writes songs when she’s angry, or experiencing some difficult emotion, because writing is the way she gets that emotion out into the open and gets through it. On the other hand, she doesn’t always want to sit down and write a song when she’s feeling great and truly enjoying life and all the little moments. It may seem like a simple idea, but her overarching attitude of making the artist journey completely her own, with the main point being what she wants or need sto express, what she’s feeling, what would best serve her life - I respect that and hope to embody that kind of centeredness in my journey as an artist. I also just think her music is dope as hell and insanely inspiring and mind blowing. If I’m ever feeling stuck creatively, I just give her library a listen and remember that there is so much more to music than what’s trending on TikTok.
We read you are a pianist, and we hear the influence of piano in your tracks. What year did you start playing, and did being an instrumentalist lead you to songwriting?
I started playing piano when I was 8-years-old. It was my first introduction to music as a whole. Being a pianist feels somewhat like my origin story - it’s what brought me into spaces that led to more serious songwriting and now, to my own solo artistry. I’d say piano is my soul instrument. I’ve spent many a night just playing improvised tunes to get myself out of a slump, or just because I love it. I started out as an instrumental composer, just writing piano pieces. It wasn’t until college that I actually started writing full fledged songs. The piano is where I feel most comfortable and I’m thankful to have that foundation to operate from as an artist.
Tell us about your Ep. Your last track on this project is also the title of your Ep. Why did you choose this, and why is it significant?
‘Something Worthwhile’ is important to me because essentially, it’s my story. The songs on this project each came from a specific moment laced with a difficult experience and emotion. Personally, when I go through really trying times, I can find myself in periods of depression and self-deprecation. I’ve had to work through a lot of self-hate, and negative self-image. But the beautiful thing I’ve found about life is that at the end of the day, no matter what we’ve gone through, we still have inherent value. Yes, there are lies, and difficulties we have to fight through, and they leave us pretty beat up most of the time. But we always have value, beauty, and something worthwhile to offer the world around us. It’s taken me a long time to really believe that and I still wrestle with it fairly often, but this EP was an effort to get some of those experiences and thoughts out into the world, with the hope that maybe there’s someone out there who needs to be reminded that no matter the hardships and lies life has thrown at them, they are still beautiful and strong and have value to bring this universe.
You’re from California, and you chose to move to Nashville. What made you decide to choose Nashville over LA? How has Nashville influenced your career so far?
Honestly, I was just tired of California. I was born and raised there, lived in the LA area, the central valley, the Bay Area, and Southern California, and I just wanted a new experience. I also had spent time in an indie pop band while living in SoCal, and kind of already got that independent artist experience out there. While it was great and fun, I wanted to challenge myself to completely up-root and build a new life in a brand new place. Moving to Nashville has been essential to my career. There’s just no replacing the open routes there are here to actually make significant progress in your career. Pretty much all the chances I’ve had to collaborate and grow as an artist have just been because I was in the right place at the right time and was prepared to jump on an opportunity. I’m thankful for the way people in Nashville really want to see each other succeed. It doesn’t feel like a competition here, which is huge for me. Granted, no place is perfect, but I think it’s about finding the pockets of the community here that really fit what you’re trying to do and who you’re trying to be. I think I’ll move back to California eventually, but for now I’m just excited to be in a place where I really feel like there’s a lot of people who love me, support me, and have my back no matter what.
What is next for you? Do you plan on more music or touring?
All of the above! This past fall, 2021, I went on my first solo tour and it was the best experience of my life. Now that I know I love it and I can actually do it, I just want to do it even more. I’ve been writing constantly, mostly co-writes, which has been really exciting for me, and I have plans to get back in the studio in December to start working on new music. I’m not sure what the specifics of a new project will be, but I have so many ideas and I’m stoked to start chipping away at them.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us!
Thank you for having me do so!
You can keep up with Tess by following her on Spotify and Instagram @tesseract