Behind the storm: A sit down with 24-year-old Singer-songwriter Tallia Storm
Just before starting our conversation with our guest, a media powerhouse and singing sensation, Tallia Storm, we did a quick check-in to see how she was doing. I instantly fell in love with her charm, authenticity, and candour.
Interviewer: So, how are you feeling today?
Tallia: I'm so excited, this has been such a dream so far. Hair and makeup, styling… everything is to perfection to a T.
Since emerging on Spotify in 2017, with her independently released album, Teenage Tears, the 24 years old singer has made her claim to fame in all facets of media. From publishing two novels to being awarded the ‘Best New Artist' at the 2019 Boisdale music awards, Tallia Storm is a force to be reckoned with.
It’s no surprise that Nile Rodgers invited Tallia to do her own TED talk, and also tweeted that she was one of his 'favourite new artists in the world'. This was not the first time Tallia had been recognised in this way, and it most definitely will not be the last. At the young age of 3, she was on her boldness and desire to be someone.
She fearlessly left her demo CD with David Furnish, Sir Elton John's partner, in a hotel restaurant. Within 24 hours, the teen singer-songwriter received a call back from Sir Elton John, inviting her to open his concert at a stadium in Scotland, performing in front of 17,000 people. It’s not luck that has gotten her where she is today, it’s her sheer talent and courage to dare to do what others would not.
Her journey into the industry, before first debuting on streaming platforms, began at a very young age. Even before the age of 13, she was singing wherever she could, playing the piano, and grew up listening to artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Washington.
PWR: Thinking back to when you first discovered music - who were your key influences and how have they shaped your sound?
Tallia: I grew up loving Jazz because my dad was a jazz pianist, so I liked Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Washington. I love that element of music in terms of the mass of arrangements like Amy Winehouse always spoke about. She shaped her style of soul and passion for art through that. I think because I am so loud and entertaining and love putting on a show, that when watching Disney channel, Hannah Montana is everything I wanted to be.
That passion for entertainment was Disney channel and Hannah Montana. You know I think High School Musical was everything I wanted to be too. I watched that movie 500 hundred times. I remember going to Asda and finding the soundtrack before the movie came out because they released the soundtrack before the movie. I remember I had this little karaoke box and I sat with this High School Musical 2 CD and the lyrics were on the inside. I remember imagining in my head what the scenes would be like. This is actually full circle, I met Gabriella, i.e., Vanessa Hudgens! When I tell you, I genuinely felt like I was done. If this girl knows how much of my life was dedicated to her and I met her and I got a photo with her, I was just feeling about 12 again.
PWR: You’ve released 2 books, both based on your life. What message do you want young people to take away after reading?
Tallia: Take a chance, take a risk, especially when you are young. I would not be here if I didn’t knock on every single door. I’m so lucky to have my mum and dad. They are very hard-working; my mum was in branding and marketing. I’m not going to take that away from it, I’m very fortunate to have had parents in the creative industry. But I think she is the one that taught me to knock on every single door, and who cares about rejection. It’s not even rejection, because everything is a lesson in life. Also, I feel like you get away with it when you’re young, like just asking people.
It may sound ridiculous but genuinely just asking people, ‘can I do this for you’, ‘can I do that for you’. Till this day, this time last year, Nile Rodgers has supported me for years, I’ve done Ted Talks through him… and one day he messaged me. He asked if I could help him with his TikTok. So, I set it up for him and started posting for him. It was literally filming and editing Nile Rodgers TikTok’s! Next thing you know, five days later, I was writing in Abbey Wood Studios with him.
So, the more you just get out there and do stuff, be busy and just take chances, the good things will always come from it and I think that has been my motto in life. Don’t be afraid. It’s the fear that holds most of us back, not the actual thing.
On Tallia planning to write any more books…
The first two books written at the start of her big break, post-opening for Sir Elton John, she views as the opening to her life. The two books were based on aspects of her life experiences and dreams of being discovered. She now hopes to fulfil what she said she would, as depicted in her books, then prepare for the next phase of her life with new books updating her readership on how far she has come. She stated her plan is to ‘get the music on the go and we can follow with books three and four as if it is like a part two of my life. But we are going to get there!’For all Tallia Storm fans and those of us waiting for more novels from her, sit tight, something is brewing!
PWR: What's your writing process? And how does it differ when writing a novel vs song?
Tallia: I think writing a book is easier than a song because I waffle a lot and I can just talk for Britain. But I think getting a story, start to finish, and making people feel something in essentially 2 minutes 30 seconds song is really difficult.
But I think I have definitely found my feet in terms of my new single ‘Boyfriend’. I’ve found my voice and know what I have to say. I have never experienced love before this year, and I had never experienced real heartbreak either. So, you don’t know until you’ve experienced it. This year was weird for me. I felt like I really grew up, I felt so many emotions in one and I’ve also been so closed off. I’ve always been career driven and focused on what’s going on… just wanting to make it. I’ve never given my emotions any real-time. So, when I actually did, I realised, I am a hopeless romantic and I am also the most dramatic person, it’s frightening. I was literally crying, walking around Hyde Park every day. Like, I am a drama queen! I’m not even mad at it, I’m just grateful that I got to experience it and now I know what is out there.
PWR: In 2022, artists are speaking up and out against the industry for many reasons, including pay. Do you think the music industry needs to make adjustments to support up-and-coming artists?
Tallia: Definitely! I want to see more females. No question about it, I think the rap scene is everything right now but I want to see more ladies out there. I want to see more girl groups like Flo coming through. I think it’s just about celebrating more female voices. There are hundreds and thousands of them on TikTok. Let’s give them a moment and start supporting each other I think this is really the start of an exciting chapter for female music. I’m excited to be a part of it.
It is a business. My mum has always taught me this and that it’s so much bigger than the one artist, it’s so much bigger than just females etc. I think it has been glamourised and it’s a massive problem all over and it is really difficult for any artist to break through, especially females and I know that it’s like a cliché. I literally went for a meeting for a really big record label, I’m not going to say who, but they let me know they don’t sign females. They said I should get a TikTok account and they might consider signing me then. On the screens they had playing in the building were just videos of rapper, rapper, rapper and I was like but this is my dream. I want a music video like that, with 50 people dancing to my song. He looked me in the eye and said, but if that was a girl, we would have to pay the friends to be there. I was like excuse me?! The guy rapper would just say, I’ve got a bottle of Henny, and forty guys would be there; whereas, with a girl, girls don’t support girls. And that is your own problem. I literally screamed excuse me! Realistically it lowkey is true, if I asked forty girls to show up, they wouldn’t show. They would be complaining about their hair and their make-up, which I would do too! It is difficult. I think we have a long way to go, and I think just baby steps. I think I will take this into account and think about how many female artists am I supporting. I’ll put my money where my mouth is, yeah, they are not supporting us but who are we supporting? I now go out of my way to just support where I can.
PWR: Has anyone reached out to you - who are your biggest supporters?
Tallia: I really like Ardee. I posted a clip I did in the summer with Zai Zai and I posted it on my TikTok and Ardee posted it and said, ‘this is cold’ and reposted it. I felt like he was a real one, because I know Ardee as a friend, but he didn’t have to do that, especially as he a proper Virgo. You don’t say what you don’t mean.
Pa Salieu, he messages me quite a lot to keep going. I love him, he is brilliant. To be fair though, I’m not going to lie. There are more guys in my DMs, like famous rappers saying well done, than there are females. But I don’t blame the girls! I feel like girls are conditioned to fight for the one top spot and you’re not allowed to support another female. So that’s nothing to do with the girls, that’s to do with the label around them going telling them that there’s only one Dua Lipa, and there’s not going to be another!
PWR: Not including yourself, who are 3 artistes right now shaping the future of music?
Tallia: Central Cee. I think no one comes close to him in terms of artistry, unapologetic, being true to himself, and all-around star. He just says what he thinks and is not paranoid about doing what’s wrong or what’s right. He is true to himself. I think you can really tell the artists that are true to themselves and just doing it rather than being forced to do it. I think Central Cee is just brilliant.
Doja Cat. In terms of her artistry, giving looks, vocals, and consistency. I think she is someone I would definitely aspire to be. She puts on a show and is very entertaining.
Girl groups, I think Flo. They are brilliant. Flo are smashing it and will smash it. I think they will be the next big thing. They will probably win the Brit, I hope they win the Breakthrough Brit Award.
PWR: Sir Elton John described you as having 'one of the most impressive soul signatures he'd heard in 20 years' after hearing your demo tape. Do you think you've found your signature sound?
Tallia: Yes, in the last year.
PWR: What song are you planning to cover next on Instagram?
Tallia: Aitch or J Cole.
PWR: What do you want to see in the future of fashion?
Tallia: I want to see more looks. I love it when people use fashion as a barometer of cultural identity. I want to see shapes; I want to see big bold lips. I want to see people just stepping outside of the box. Insta baddies are great for the gram but in fashion I want people to be serving moments!
PWR: You worked on Nile Rodgers’ TikTok account, do you think that TikTok is the future of music promotion?
Tallia: I think TikTok is the future of the music industry, full stop! I think it is an incredible platform, whether you’ve got four followers or 100,000, you’re able to share your music with an unlimited amount of people. I think it gives independent artists like myself, a voice, a platform, and a chance to share our music with potentially millions of people. I never would have had the opportunity to otherwise. I think it is incredible and it has given artists a moment to shine.
There is so much more we could talk about with Tallia, she is so easy to feel comfortable around with so much wisdom to share. But for now, we will just have to be left wanting more of her unique, welcoming vibe.
Tallia’s bubbly personality is so infectious and there appears to be a strength to it. Being a notable influencer for young people, and one of the faces of the Gen Z demographic, Tallia Storm is teaching young people the value of being bold, authentic, and entrepreneurial.
As she introduced herself for a TikTok video we were working on together, she said, ‘Hi guys, it’s singer-songwriter Tallia Storm.’ Her voice was strong, yet humble, drawing everyone’s attention to her. Just like her music, she is truly captivating, and interviewing her was equally as fascinating. This will not be the last time we hear this introduction from her and what she is capable of. The Storm is just picking up.
Words by: Anu Kehinde