Greedmont Park x TC [Interview]
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 by Stevo | 2 Comments; | Category: Career, Entertainment, Interview, Pop, RnB/Jazz/Soul
Greedmont Park sat down with young, talented singer/songwriter/artist/producer Tiyon “TC” Christian for a discussion about his inspirations, upbringing, and his career. The Paris, Kentucky born vocalist has worked with a diverse group of artists ranging from Brandy to the Backstreet Boys; to the blossoming, upcoming star, Jacob Latimore. He is now based in Atlanta and is ready to turn the music game upside down not only with his songwriting, but with his own music as well.
SD: Where are you from? TC: Orininally from Kentucky. Paris, Kentucky, but my mom moved me and my little brother to Indianapolis when I was young. SD: How old were you when you moved to Indiana?
TC : I was around 13, 14.
SD: Oh ok. I know you’re based out of Atlanta mostly now, when did you come down here and was it straight from Indianapolis?
SD: How old were you then?
TC: About 20, 21.
SD: Was your household very musically inspired? Was there always music playing in the house?
TC: [chuckles] Nah…
SD: Not really?
TC: No, but my mom did have good taste in music. When I grew up, she would play Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, which is actually one of her favorite singers, and I’m also inspired by Gladys Knight. Luther as well.
SD: So, when do you decide music is what you wanted to do? As a career?
TC: I think before I was born. I can’t really even say when I thought music was it because according to my family, I was singing before I could talk.
SD: Would you say you wanted to be an artist first or was it always to be a writer first?
TC: Definitely, I always wanted to be an artist first. I just was a little insecure about my voice when I was younger because when I would sing people would always be like, “Boy, if you don’t shut the hell up.” [laughs] And I would always say, “No I’m trying to sing” but I always kept to myself about it but I KNEW music is what I wanted to do. But, it wasn’t until I was about 13, 14 when everybody knew, “Yo, this lil boy can sing!”
SD: [laughs] For anyone who has followed your career, on Twitter, or seen your videos on YouTube, knows how much Brandy has meant to you. Was she your sole inspiration regarding singing or did you look up to songwriters as well? You know a lot of songwriters look up to Stevie Wonder for his work, but was Brandy the sole artist for you?
TC: Well, actually Whitney Houston, when I grew up, was the main person I actually looked up to. She made me want to start singing. She gave that feeling, when she started singing like, “OH MY GOD! How can she do that?!” Ya know? I didn’t want to be her, you know, because that’s impossible anyway, I wanted to have one of those voices where when you hear me sing, you’ll be like, “Wow! That’s amazing!” because that’s what Whitney did for me. And that actually led me into the love for Brandy. She reminded me so much of Whitney when she came out. So, her, Candice Nelson (who is a writer who’s been out for a long time who used to be a part of the eclectic with Keri Hilson), and JQ Smith (who did ‘Best Thing I Never Had’). You know, she really inspired me and we ended up becoming really great friends. She’s always been very encouraging…
SD: As far as Whitney?
TC: Yeah. She’s great!
SD: Aw man! Well, how did you become a songwriter or what encouraged you to become one?
TC: Well I created a fan base online. I was doing covers of other people’s songs.
SD: Was this during MySpace days or…
SD: Soundclick?! Whoa!
TC: Yeah. Started with Soundclick, then moved to MySpace and started getting so much love from that. Then, when Twitter took over people started finding me from Soundclick and MySpace, and are still finding me to this day. It’s crazy.
SD: What was the first record that broke you? TC, as a songwriter or a producer? Well, do you produce as well?
TC: I have produced, but as far as like hands on fully producing a record, no, but I do go in the studio with the producer and help and tell him the direction the record needs to go in.
SD: So you still get a placement as a co-producer right?
TC: Yeah. I co-produce and I’m very hands on with what I do and the songs that I create. I’ll record a song then tell the producer, “Yo I need you to do this. Please add this.” So it’s producing too.
SD: So what would you say is the first song that really put you out there?
TC: Brandy. ‘Acapella (Something’s Missing)’.
SD: I was going to bring that up later, but that is one dope song! Was it your idea to use her vocals as the music behind the main vocals?
TC: Yes, that was my idea. At the time me and Soundz were working a lot together, that’s like my big brother and I used to just be over his house, writing records and we had a great chemistry together and we both wanted to be on this Brandy project…
SD: Her Human album right?
TC: Yeah. This was like ’08, ’09. We went hard. I know I was stressed out because none of my records made the Brandy project, they were overlooking me, they were not giving me a chance, when I know I can deliver.
SD: This was before you met her right?
TC: Yeah, way before.
SD: So it was basically you emailing records to her management and the label?
TC: At this point, yes. I guess I was at a low point in my life. I moved away from home. I was by myself. I was going through a lot. Financially, I didn’t have money. All while trying to do this music and it was hard on me. It was just a lot. So, I prayed about it. Prayed about it. Then, this idea came to me in a dream; and being that I was working with Soundz at the time, heavy, as soon as I woke up, I called him like, “Man, yo! I have this idea. I think honestly, if we pull this off, we’ll be on Brandy’s project.” With us doing it, creating it together, the very next day, it was placed on it.
SD: That’s incredible.
TC: Yeah, I was going crazy like, “Yoooo! Brandy’s got my record!” I was excited!
SD: Did you do a reference track for that record?
TC: Yeah, I referenced it.
SD: You had the background vocals like that and everything?!
TC: Yup! Just like that.
SD: That’s an incredible record. I have to give it up to you. When it comes to creating a song, do you have the melody first or does the producer already have the music or beat and you create the melody from that?
TC: There’s two different ways. Most of the time, when I go in the studio with the producer, they’ll have some beats for me and I’ll pick out what I like. “I really like this one. Load it up.” So I just go straight into the booth and freestyle the record/melody. I don’t really right anything down. And I’ve done acappellas and sent it to producers and let them create a beat around it.
SD: I was just listening to your work, the Estelle ft. John Legend record ‘Fall In Love’ and The Backstreet Boys’ ‘Shattered’. You just have this great feel for matching your melodies and vocals perfectly with the music the producer has created. Whatever emotion the producer was trying to convey, your melodies and vocals just enhance that. How do you do it?
TC: It’s just instincts. I don’t know where the track is about to go but when I get that feeling and listen to the track, I just zone out and do my thing with the melodies. That’s how I come up with my concepts. I just freestyle whatever comes to mind or whatever the beat gives me, unless we’re creating from scratch. Then I have this idea in my head, and me and the producer and/or the artist will feed off of each other. Like with the Jacob Latimore record, ‘Dance for Killer’ with Jukebox, who did ‘Whip My Hair’ for Willow Smith, and he started playing a sample of a beat. I thought it was dope and he just goes to the next beat, but I’m like, “Yo! Put that back on!” So I had a memo recorded on my phone and told him he had to listen to it. So from me having that memo, and him hearing it, he was like, “Oh this is going to be crazy!” So he goes back to the beat and starts adding stuff up and the record was created.
SD: Speaking of Jacob. I know you wrote ‘Like ‘Em All’ ft. Diggy and there is also another version ft. Issa. How involved are you with his future project?
TC: Well, me and Jacob are signed to the same production company.
SD: Crown World Ent. right?
TC: Yeah. We’ve really been trying to make this work for a long time. Before anybody knew who Jacob was. I’ve been working with Jacob since he was about 9, 10 years old (15 now). He’s just really been going hard. He has this amazing drive and I’m honored to be a part of this project. We did a mixtape for him, I Am The Future and I wrote and co-produced every record but one. That’s what got him out there and eventually signed to Jive which of course, is RCA now. And it’s been crazy, like you said, I did his single ‘Like ‘Em All’ which is doing really well.
SD: Now there are two versions of that song; one with Diggy and one with Issa. Did you have anything to do with the music change from the two?
TC: Well actually, Teddy Riley came in and reproduced the one with Issa, which is the one out now.
SD: Wow! That’s legendary.
TC: Yeah, he’s a legend. I flew out to L.A., did my part, he did his and it came out dope. I was thankful for the opportunity to work with him.
SD: Now, with working with all these urban/R&B acts, how did the Demi Lovato and Backstreet Boys collaborations happen?
TC: The Backstreet Boys came about, late, me and my homeboy were just in the studio creating the record and we knew it was a big record. We were like, “Somebody’s gonna cut it!”.
SD: And this song is on your mixtape as well. Which came first? You giving them the record or you just doing the demo and adding it to your tape?
TC: I had the demo first and had no clue the Backstreet Boys wanted to cut it. When I found out, I was like, “Really? The Backstreet Boys want to cut it?” I was kind of shocked. So, we flew to L.A., put it on the Backstreet Boys album and it turned out amazing. These are people you grew up listening to, so it’s weird telling them, “Yeah, do that part over again.” Ya know? Should I tell him he messed up right here? [chuckles] It was very overwhelming. It was definitely a blessing. With Demi Lovato…
SD: This is ‘Together’ ft. Jason Derulo right?
TC: Yes. I flew out to Philly. Me and Jim Bean did a record together. That was basically it. Just me and him in the studio, and just bang’d out some dope records and one of those just happened to be ‘Together’.
SD: Anyone who knows you, knows you have incredible runs. So, when you’re working with an artist, who’s not as capable of doing them, how do you adjust to the artist? Do you push them to do it or do you just not worry about it if you think they’re not able?
TC: What my job is; is to make sure the artist sounds good. Even if I have to change up what up I do because I don’t want the artist to sound just like me either. I don’t want the artist to just do what I do because that’s just something that comes naturally to me. A lot of times, I have to feed it to them, and break it down. A lot of artists who I know can do them but they may not believe they can, I push them and when they do it, they’re kind of shocked. But when you put your mind to it and actually do it, you can make it happen.
SD: Now, let’s get into TC, the artist. Who is TC the artist?
TC: Maaaan. I’m just me. I can’t even put into words exactly who I am because I grew up in Kentucky. I have so many influences, from country, to rock, to R & B, even Rap. I’m country at heart, the way I talk, ya know, I’m country. That’s why I have that little twang when I sing.
SD: Now, what inspired you to put out a mixtape, Love’s Assassin?
TC: My fans man. My fans. When I started writing, I guess I’ve grown comfortable with just writing, and I kind of lost myself and I think one day, Candice Nelson, was like, “You really need to put something out. It’s too many people out there being touched by just the songs you’ve put out or covered or written. It’s only right.” To have people tell me, “You’re music is the reason why I left my abusive relationship.” or “Just listening to your voice makes me proud.” Is the reason why I felt I shouldn’t abandon from people. I need to talk about real issues, about love, about pain, just real stuff that people go through. I think that’s what makes me, me and why people gravitate towards me as an artist.
SD: Who would you like to work with in the future? Whether it be writing for, singing along with, being featured on one of your favorite rapper’s hooks?
TC: It’s a couple I would love to work with. I would love to work with Rihanna. Not because of who she is, a mega superstar, but because I think her voice is so dope; so if I’m able to vocal produce her, she would do some craaaaazy stuff. My goal is to really work with Whitney Houston because of the inspiration she’s been to me. I was on the show “Braxton Family Values” and worked with Tamar. I would love to work with Brandy again. Usher. And I would actually really love to work with Ciara. I would love to vocal produce her.
SD: Since you brought up Tamar. How did you get in contact with her?
TC: I’ve actually been a fan of Toni Braxton. And when her sisters put out their album, I was like 10. I loved them and I loved Tamar’s voice. Nobody really knew who they were, but I still have their CD. So when they came out with the show, I just put it out there on Twitter that I would really love to work with her and my publisher Walter Jones, took on the initiative, which he did on the sly, but contacted Vincent, Tamar’s husband, and sent him some records, and one of those was ‘Black Tears’ which was the song we worked on the show and he was blown away. If anyone could pull off that record, Tamar can. A lot of people don’t know but she can really sing. Like really sing!
SD: Last question, where do you see TC in five years?
TC: I see me doing everything. I want to do movies. I want to do TV shows. I want to sing the scores on the TV shows. I want to sign producers, writers, I want to be my own company.
SD: What about Grammys?
TC: Oh yes. I’m getting a Grammy. I’m just putting it out there. Speaking it. But I see myself doing everything because I’m not just someone who does one thing. I want to be a part of everything. So I thank my production company, Crown World, for pushing me to challenge myself to dive into new fields and become more well rounded. I just want to do everything.
[By Steven Dingle]