The pop duo Tiara & Andrew, having left an indelible mark on Richmond’s diverse musical landscape over the years, is recognized for their captivating and melodious sound. Now, Tiara is preparing to step into her own spotlight with the release of her debut solo project, “Tribe”, slated for release on May 13th.
I was fortunate enough to experience an early preview of the two tracks that comprise this release, and they were nothing short of extraordinary. With a theatrical undertone, multi-layered harmonies, and an exceptional production quality, these tracks are a testament to the musical magic that Tiara can create.
I recently had the opportunity to delve deeper into her latest project and discuss her musical evolution during a conversation at the Main Street Dragon.
Jonathan: If people don’t know, you go by Tiara and Andrew. Are you going by that now?
Tiara: Well, this is a Tiara project. It will be released under Tiara & Andrew, but I guess when I put down the credits, it will be ‘Tiara Mustafa did this’.
Jonathan: Wonderful. And you guys don’t live here?
Tiara: Not at all. We live on the outskirts in Brunswick County, Virginia. That’s about 30 minutes away from North Carolina. It’s out there in the sticks. We have a Walmart, maybe 30 minutes away from us and a couple of Food Lions and houses, but yeah, we come here for music, but we do not live in Richmond.
Jonathan: So, you play shows in Richmond?
Tiara Yeah, I mean, where we live, it’s more like bluegrass and country. We’re like pop artists, obviously. And so, it doesn’t really register there. They have a lot of restaurant gigs and stuff. But here, the enrichment of this music scene is more vast. People are more accepting. So yeah, we spend a lot of gas coming to Richmond to play music sometimes for free.
Jonathan: Right. And I’ve been there. So, you’ve been writing some new music?
Tiara: Yeah, so we were set to release an album in March. Is this month? No, this is April, we were set to release an album, our second album. And unfortunately, it got damaged. We were in the studio, and the guy’s computer crashed, and then the entire thing vanished. So we had to figure out whether to continue to work with him, go to another studio, or do it on our own. We decided to do it on our own. But in the midst of that, we were writing new music because, I mean, this album was done, like it was set to be released and everything. So you know, we’re artists, our brains are constantly moving. We are in the middle of me, like mixing and doing all of that stuff with the album we’re working on. These new songs kind of came out of me.
Jonathan: So, you’re making this in your house?
Tiara: Yes. In our living room, oh my gosh, you should see our living room.
Jonathan: Because if you made the two tracks that you sent me… if you made those in your living room. That’s pretty impressive to me. I think it sounds so good.
Tiara: Thank you so much.
Jonathan: It really does sound good. I am not just saying that. And of all people, you know, I don’t just say things.
Tiara: I appreciate that. That means a lot. It started with me playing the drums on my keys and just using my harmony box. Then he (Andrew) kind of helped incorporate the drums on his MPC to give it like more of that. An MPC is basically a drum machine well, they have multiple things but what we have is like a drum machine it has all of the sample beats and stuff like that. It’s got like 808’s and things like that. So it’s basically this little box of sample pads that you can create beats with. Like I said, I started on my Casio keys making beats, and it sounded okay. But my timing was off. Like everything was just kind of the original recordings, which is more like freehand making the beat and singing in the harmony box. But for timing or rhythmic purposes, he (Andrew) put it in the MPC. So it could make more sense, I guess. But that’s our best friend, the MPC.
Jonathan: Wow. Okay, well, I’m gonna have to Google that later.
Tiara: Yeah, you’re a solo act sometimes. So if you wanted to have like, a drum in the background or a rhythm, you don’t have to hire a drummer, you can just get an MPC or a drum machine.
Jonathan: Well, me, I just play guitar. The evolution of your music from here to now has been pretty interesting. And very nice to follow. Why don’t you take me through like your musical journey? Where you started and where you are now? Is there a difference? Or do you think you’re just kind of doing the same kind of thing?
Tiara: I think it’s a little bit of both, honestly. We started off as singer-songwriter folk, it was more like, he (Andrew) had the guitar, and I was singing, and it was very acoustic. It was just simple. Instrumentation with lyrics, because I’m a big lyric person. I like to hear a melody.
But then as we evolved, or got the drum machine, it started to have a little bit more rhythm behind that singer-songwriter stuff. It’s that and then, you know, it just kind of evolved into something else. But honestly, it also has to do a lot with where we had been performing. A lot of our music wasn’t registering well for certain crowds. We would come out there with the ukulele and I’d sing about aliens and trees but when we did a song, our songs that we love, songs with the rhythm behind it, they’re like, ‘Oh, we can get into this.’ So I feel like, we started to make music that people would accept. And then, I don’t know, one day our folk stuff, our more alternative folk. I feel like we’ve evolved in our confidence. And we’ve also evolved in the quality of our music, but it’s still relatively the same, like the album we’re working on. It’s nothing like the two songs on the project “Tribe” that I’m releasing May 13th. They’re relatively the same, but it’s still neo-soul kind of thing. You know what I mean? Like, yeah, so we’ve evolved and in our confidence, if anything.
Jonathan: In ‘the sticks,’ the stars must be pretty vivid out there. So, you guys look at those a lot? I guess you wonder a lot about aliens? Looking for a hot take on aliens. [laughs]
Tiara: We’ve seen some things, Okay. We actually have a podcast based off of the weird things that we’ve seen out there. So it’s called Otherworldly Podcast if you want to check that out.
Jonathan: I’ll link it right here.
Tiara: But we don’t go into depth about how weird we actually are. So the podcast was fun. We got to interview people, and they told their stories about aliens and ghosts and different dimensions, and it was perfect. So yeah, we’re those weird people.
Jonathan: That is something I need to check out. But anyways, let’s talk about May the 13th. Is this the date?
Tiara: Yes. That’s the date. Okay, so the project is called ‘tribe’. I’m releasing it on May 13th. Because that is International Black Fae day. So to add to the weirdness, people dress up like fairies and it’s a cosplay thing. But there is a day dedicated to acknowledging black people who dress up like fairies. It’s like a whole cosplay situation. So I thought the songs kind of felt very tribal, when it came to like that, like living in the forest. That’s what it feels like.
So I also wanted to celebrate my birthday, but I didn’t want it to be on my birthday. So I just picked that day. “Tribe” is basically my heart’s songs. It came at the right time, I was mixing our album, and I was just getting really, really frustrated. And I sing a lot in my harmony box, just like random things. But this time, I started singing and I was like, wait, I think I need to record this. Like, this actually sounds really good. And the song just kind of came out and it just felt like, uh, everything’s gonna be okay type of situation.
We don’t really tell people much about what’s going on in our lives day to day. My mom got breast cancer and our cat died. Currently, as we’re doing this interview, we had to take our cat to the vet because she has a random intestinal injury, where it’s gross, you don’t want to know it. But with all of that, it’s like dang. Like, when are we going to be able to just be okay, and keep moving with music and work on music? You know, feeling like, dang, our album is gone. And what do we do? How do we get on festivals and just kind of feeling bad about yourself?
I think all artists get to that point where they’re comparing themselves and stuff. So the songs I don’t know it was it was like my ancestors or my subconscious saying, ‘Hey, girl, you’re gonna be okay, you’re about to turn 30. And you’re about to transition into a whole different journey.’ That’s what it felt like.”
Jonathan: Is this project only two tracks?
Jonathan: I was listening to them in the car. I had them playing. I picked my girl up and I said nothing. And while it was playing in the background, she goes ‘this is beautiful’. So just saying that I think that people should check it out because it truly is great. I will say that I don’t cover things that aren’t great. I think you’re amazing. You’re going to be okay. And I think that what you’re doing matters. I think you should continue doing that. So is this all part of an album or is this just a single release?
Tiara: Yeah, this is just a project; this has nothing to do with the one we’re working on. I wanted the songs to come out and have their own time and space. Because I hope that our album will be out in like August or September. I wanted them to have enough space between them.
Jonathan: This has been a great conversation. One more time, the two songs are called ‘Tribe’. They come out on May 13. People should check that out and If anyone wants to check out your social media, we’re gonna link it right here. I wanted to wish your cat the best. And I hope that you have a great rest of your day. Thanks for talking to me.
Tiara: Thank you for interviewing me.