Hope Tala

MUSIC


Hope Tala

Introduction by Matthew Burgos
Interview by Teneshia Carr


Photo Credit - Campbell Sofitsi Docherty


Plump cherries ice the whipping cream, and their plush skin conceals the opaque syrup that clothes taste buds with a depth of irresistible sweetness. While this imagery summons delight and dessert, Hope Tala portrays cherries as the holy ground of one’s vehemence, the collision of the material and emotional universes of self. Her intense homage to the fruit helms her new single Cherries in collaboration with Aminé. The upbeat R&B slash jazz tempo cloaks over her slow and calming voice as she sings phrases from Scarlet venom to keep in jam jars to Sunlight eats your skin, look at the state we’re in, stanzas of metaphors and personifications sealing her signature style.

Since her commencement in writing lyrics, Tala has always been drawn to the presence of fruits, the Garden of Eden, and the story of Adam and Eve as the crux of her artistry. Her penchant for objects of desire and biblical references has culminated into her new EP Girl Eats Sun, an anthology of her self-revelation to the world. The cover depicts the songstress as a supreme power of the universe, her head cradling between the sun and the moon, while she wears a pair of cherry earrings and positions above a dystopian Earth. The paraphrase, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen, powers the title’s backstory, and reflect the artist’s character and ruminations. As the girl devouring the sun, Tala dares everyone and fears nothing.

Before she peeled her layers of self and unwrapped the enigma of who she is, the London-based artist journeyed from her fondness over neo-soul and R&B genres to emulating such styles with a bossa nova twist and fortifying her music with literature and personal mythologies. In our exclusive interview with her, she echoes her point of origin in the industry and narrates her past, present, and future.

The upbringing, the influences, the lyricism, and the moniker. Hope Tala bares it all for Blanc Magazine.

TC:
How does it feel to be in London right now with the now fourth… what is this? I don’t even know which lockdown this is now…

Hope Tala:
Yeah, so we’ve got what’s called tier four, which is like a pretty strict level of restrictions. So we’re essentially back in lockdown. All of the nonessential businesses are closed. And we’re not allowed to see anyone inside; I think the most we can do is go for a walk with one other person outside of our household outside. So it’s pretty strict, which is sad. But I mean, I think it’s just one of those things, cause we’ve done it already now, for so long, it feels a lot easier this time.

TCr:
Where does your name come from? Is that your birth name, or is that your stage name? Like where does Hope Tala come from?

Hope Tala:
Hope is my real first name, but my real middle name is Natasha. I’ve always liked it, but I’ve never really thought that it was very me. One day, I was looking up online, like nicknames of Natasha, and obviously, Natasha is a Russian name, and it’s a nickname for the name Natalia. And I think in Russia, like another nickname of Natasha and Natalia is Tala. And I saw that, and I was like, Oh, that’s such a beautiful name. So I just used that, and yeah, I think one day maybe I’ll change it for real. I don’t know, but I think it suits me better.

TC:
Yeah, it’s a cool name. What is your background? Where are you from, you’re from West London?

Hope Tala:
Mm-hmm. I’m from West London, and my ethnic background is that my dad is black, and his parents are Jamaican. They moved here, he was born in the 1960s, and my mom is white British.

TC:
What is it like to grow up in a mixed-race household?

Hope Tala:
My experience has been pretty positive. I mean, I’m lucky to live in a place that’s very diverse, and I never felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb, or I’ve never felt like my family is the only mixed race family. So I think I was really lucky to have that.

Hope Tala:
My dad has always lived here. He’s visited Jamaica a couple of times, but he’s definitely a Londoner and a British person. And so I think it would be different if he had been born there. He has two older siblings who were born in Jamaica, but I think he has a different relationship with Jamaica to them, simply because he was born in the UK.

Hope Tala:
But no, I’ve always had a very wonderful experience, and I think I just grew up with the kind of mentality and the message that it’s just amazing to have kind of exposure to multiple different cultures. I spent a lot of time with my Jamaican grandmother. She lives in London, and I spent a lot of time with her growing up and my cousins from that side of my family and my aunts and uncles, and similarly with my mum’s family. And they were often quite different environments, but both very, very loving environments and environments where I learned a lot and definitely shaped me into being the person I am.

TC:
What was your relationship with music growing up?

Hope Tala:
I’ve always loved, loved, loved music. I remember getting an iPod for my birthday. I was probably maybe nine or ten years old, and I just so desperately wanted an iPod. I wanted to be able to possess my own music in a way because there was always music playing. I had in my room, like dance parties and stuff, and there was always a lot of music around, and it was always really just such a part of who I am. And I was lucky to have music lessons as a child. And I think my parents were intent on me being able to have the opportunity to have lessons. And I played the clarinet from the age of eight, and I would go to a music school every Saturday. And so I played a lot of classical music, which was amazing and fundamental; I’ve used a lot of those skills now.

TC:
What sort of music did you like? What was your favorite band or a group growing up?

Hope Tala:
I had so many different ones, but right now, I’m thinking about Take That. I loved Stevie Wonder as a kid. I really loved Michael Jackson. Oh, I love Beyonce. I was absolutely like, dangerously obsessed with Beyonce from between the ages of about nine and like 14, and yeah, it was really, I think, unhealthy. Yeah, she was a really, really big one for me then.

Hope Tala:
I had that such an expansive taste, and in my teen years, I got more kind of into the neo-soul music and R&B. And then I think over the past couple of years, it’s widened out again, which is nice. And I’m into more indie stuff now and rap and different genres.

TC:
Hm. How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?

Hope Tala:
I would say that it’s alternative R&B with pop influence, definitely some bossa nova influences. And I would say that I think the lyrics are really important and I like to tell stories.

TC:
Talk to me about the stories you tell, how you find your influences, and your inspiration? Is it from your life?

Hope Tala:
Yeah, I think I got a lot of inspiration from my daily life or things I’m going through. In the conversations I have, someone will use a word or a phrase that I like the sound of, or I will, and I’ll write that down in the notes on my phone to save for a rainy day in the studio. And so yeah, the conversations I have, a lot of the things I go through.

Hope Tala:
I’ve always been a really big reader. A lot of the books and the poetry that I read inform what I’m writing in a way and help me structure a story, maybe more, directly inspired the stories that helped me in terms of structure and form.

TC:
How has this past year affected the way you make music?

Hope Tala:
I’ve been a bit more introspective with my lyrical writing, which is on this EP that I’ve just put out, which I wrote during lockdown called Drugstore. And I think it’s a vulnerable song. And I think that stems from spending a lot more time alone than I usually would. I’m looking inwards, perhaps a lot more than I’m looking outwards, because none of us are necessarily out. We’re not as active, and we’re not doing as much as we usually would.

TC:
If there were one thing that you could take away from 2020, any ways that you’ve grown or changed, what would you say that would be?

Hope Tala:
That’s interesting because I think the positive thing that I’ve got from 2020 is the ability to go with the flow a bit more. Being a little bit less focused on the outcome and more focused on the journey and what I’m doing, a bit cliche but less achievement-focused and just live in the moment more. And I think I worry less about trivial things because there’s so much going on in the world on such a large scale.

Hope Tala:
I think negatively though, I think I’ve become a little more socially anxious, and I’m more of an anxious person because I’m just not used to hanging out with people anymore and stuff like that. You know, I would love to say like, I’ve really grown, and I’ve learned all this stuff, and I definitely have, but also there are things that in 2021 I’m trying to work on and try to be more open and more sociable like how I usually am. It’s hard to be sociable right now, but be a bit more like confident and stuff because this year has taken a toll, I think, on that side of me.

Hope Tala:
Yeah, sometimes we have harsh restrictions in the UK, which means you can’t see anyone. Sometimes you can go for a walk and stuff. And I think that it’s just so weird that I just stutter over my words so much more, and I’m like, Oh gosh, how do I articulate this? How do I articulate that? Because I’m just not used to it anymore. It’s so strange. The way that we communicate and interact with people has changed so much.

TC:
What are you looking forward to for this year?

Hope Tala:
I’m looking forward to hopefully putting out new music, being able to go on tour. Hopefully, I can’t wait to be able to really hang out with people again and travel, maybe. Have new experiences.

Hope Tala:
I think that my expectations for that stuff have gone down a bit, which is probably a good thing, and less obsessive about all these great things happening and doing lots of great stuff because anything is an improvement from last year.
I’m just so lucky to be alive and have my health and just continue making music and just to live my life. Like many people have had it so tough, I mean, just excited for a new year. I don’t know what it will bring if it will be any different, but fingers crossed.

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