Hana Tia is an alternative R&B singer from Birmingham, UK. Inspired by gospel music & R&B growing up, she became drawn to singing & song writing. Her unique song writing process reveals an unfiltered & authentic style to her melodies & musical style, sourcing & curating instrumental beats & recording her immediate, most instinctive ideas down in the first take. As well as being self taught musically, Hana also extends her creativity to her own artwork, videos & merch. Her influences include Rihanna, Bryson Tiller, Jhene Aiko, 6lack & Drake.
I guess, we could start by talking about where your music journey began, was this something that started from a young age our did you kind of grow into writing and creating music?
I would say, when I was younger, literally from when I could talk, I would be singing. It was just my thing, I used to freestyle and just sing all the time. When I hit GCSE's and A Levels I just became so focused on job security and focused on my exams and qualifications, I kind of just pushed my creative side to the side, a little bit.
It was literally my second year of uni, when I started connecting with myself a little bit more. I think we're very much an emotinally detached generation, so it was hard for me to write because I couldn't communicate with myself, if that makes sense. So I couldn't express how I was feeling, so I couldn't write. But then in my second year of uni, I just started healing, and when I was healing, I was writing, and that was my healing in a sense, so yeah I just write to heal. That's where I'm at now. Social media, its almost like we're living through other people's statements and emotions, because we can't express them ourselves. So we like it when people say things that we're feeling. So yeah, I just unlocked from that. So I suppose I grew into it, after I started music from a young age. So kind of both.
Growing up, was there any specific artists or even creatives in general that influenced you?
I'd say musically, the most influential person I could think of is probably Rihanna. I'm obsessed with her. I really loved her, like her albums, I used to wear t-shirts with her on, perfumes, I used to have everything Rihanna. I remember, back when we didn't have YouTube and Spotify and stuff, we had to watch music on TV, like the music channels, and I used to sit through the whole Top 40 and wait for Rihanna 'Unfaithful' to come on. When it eventually came on I used to be like "Nan!!!". Rihanna was someone I adored as a child.
Has that changed now, who would you say your main inspirations are to date?
I think that they've changed as I've grown. I feel like I've grown into an entreprenuer a little bit, and I'm very focused on my goals and my targets, I'm very driven to succeed. I think, when it comes to it, those that work from the ground up are the people that inspire me. Rihanna is still my inspiration you know, but for different reasons. She's really just built her own empire and I respect that. I really respect Dave as well, the way that he's so transparent and articulates himself in his music. The way that he connects with people and communicates with people, in a way that isn't like too full on, it's just him expressing himself. I just love that, I rate that so highly.
How has growing up in Birmingham shaped your creativity?
I feel like to give a good answer, I still..., I know that my answer will be better in the future. Birmingham has really been all that I've known, until I went away to uni. I remember when I moved away, I really appreciated it, I don't feel like I would ever find the energy thats in Birmingham, anywhere else. But in terms of the music scene, I don't really feel like Birmingham is known for R&B at all, it's more like grime. But I think that motivates me in a way, because there is a gap for me, but it's hard because when you look at the big picture I think it's difficult to breakthrough with R&B in the UK, it's not as appreciated here compared to American R&B.
Going back to the beginning for a second, what was the first album you bought or was gifted?
I think it was Loud by Rihanna, you know. It had 'Love The Way You Lie Pt.II', 'Skin' and 'What's My Name' on it. I mean I was like eleven or something, singing all these lyrics.
You’ve recently signed with BE83, which is great, could you tell us a little bit about how that came about?
It's still surreal, I can't lie. Basically, it's a really weird that just happened. In January 2020, I had the urge to go to the recording studio, I can't explain it, I am very impulsive and when I want to do something, I just go and do it. So, I booked the studio and recorded 'U (Freestyle)' and orginally I didn't plan to release it. I was just a bucket list thing, to have my music on my phone. Then during lockdown, I was just listening to it, and I was like, you know what this actually pops off, I should just release it. But when I went to the studio, I just recorded the lead vocals, so it didn't have any layers, adlibs or harmonies, so I just added them at home with a microphone by brother left at home. I took the cover art, and just said let's whack it out there and see what happens, then my friend Dom messaged me and said send it over to BBC Introducing, because he just had faith in me, and I thought no way would they play it but I've got nothing to lose, so I sent it off.
A couple months later, they emailed me and said they were going to play it, I was on the bus and people must have thought I was so mad, I was like "Mom!!! They're gonna play me on on BBC Introducing". A couple of weeks later, Andy [Smallman], whos now my manager got in touch and from there we just clicked straight away. Andy really has alot of faith in me and I respect and rate him so highly and yeah from there we had a meeting, brought my family with me and met Despa [Robinson], whos the owner of BE83 and from there I couldn't even tell you in words what has happened. It's been crazy. I'm so so blessed. It all happened so quickly, now here we are writing music, meeting amazing amazing creatives and just finding my way.
You said it's all happened quite quickly. Your debut release ‘U (Freestyle)’ has already gained a lot of attention both on streaming platforms and your music video is growing in views. But of course, a lot of people don’t see the hard work and long nights behind the scenes. How would you describe the process of establishing yourself as an artist so far?
Being in this industry, I wanna be here for the long game. I wanna make sure that the seeds that I plant now will grow over a long period of time, like a long career. So I think that the most important thing for me to do now is to just learn, learn, learn. Like, learning about myself and the kind of artist I want to be, topics I want to talk about and things I wanna touch on, how I want to portray my art in videos and cover art. Just learning about the industry, because up to this point has happened very fast, this is the time that, I don't neccisarily want to slow it down but I want to make sure all my ducks are in a row. It's just learning.
When being in a creative job I guess you could say that we venture into other things,
how important is it to you to have creative input in the likes of your artwork, music videos etc?
Yeah definitley, sometimes I feel like I like to be in control too much *laughs*. I'm like a backseat driver, I watch what people are doing and I'm always interested and asking what they are doing next. I think that it's important that if my name is on the end product, then it's important that I'm part of every process, even if I'm just observing and taking everything in. I just feel like it's very important for me to be apart of everything. At the end of the day, if that is what is going to be a representation of my brand then it's foolish of me not to be involved. Also, this is such as huge blessing, it would be foolish of me not to be involved in everything, learn everything and meet everyone, you know just be a part of literally every stage. It would be a wasted opportunity for me to not do that, and I do like learning, just seeing the process of things to apply it within the future.
When it comes to my cover art, I like doing that myself. I have a couple of unreleased songs that the cover art is already done, because I like doing stuff like that so that's hopefully something I can stick to.
Having a team around you must be great, especially BE83, do you think it's important to surround yourself with like-minded people?
I think that when it comes to the ultimate goal it's a representation of you. If you're not all motivated and driven and want success for yourself, for example if I am waking up and thinking what are my goals for the week and another person is thinking who am I linking with today, if the priorities aren't in line, long term, then it will be a problem. One of you will be taken off course. But I also think it's good to challenge people, and be challenged by your people. I think long term it's also good to be challenged by the people around you, that's where the growth comes in.
Talking of like-minded people, are there any artists, specifically females, that you think deserve more hype?
Nao, and I know with Nao it sounds stupid because she gets millions of streams, but I feel like she is not appreciated in the UK. The way people hype Summer Walker, they should be bringing that same energy for Nao. This is what I'm saying about it being intimidating in the UK, and I understand why Ella Mai did her thing over in America, because the UK love to gas up American R&B but wont gas up their own. So definitley Nao.
I feel like someone to look out for is Dreya Mac, I think she's from London. I heard her song 'Skippin' last summer lockdown and I was literally playing it on repeat. Her and her flows are so sick! Also, there is this R&B singer called Darshae from Birmingham, she's so talented.
Bit of a fun question now, we like to do this a lot with creatives. Press shuffle on your favourite playlist and tell us the first song to pop up.
Oh this is pressure. Let me do my Chill Playlist. Oh ok, Skyline by Brent Fiayaz.
Going back to your song 'U (Freestyle)' and your current success, you’ve achieved all of this in a time where it’s been very limited to do things. Has the lockdown hindered your creativity or inspired you at all?
I've been really fortunate over lockdown, and I have to praise God everyday, because the fact that my family haven't been touched by Covid is the biggest blessing in itself. My heart aches for the people who have been through that over, like the past year and a half. I've lost track of time, time just alludes me but I've been really fortunate. The timing of lockdown, I'd finished my second year exams at uni and I'd been put on furlough so all I had time for was creativity. I started with random stuff, like drawing, then I quit my job and needed a hustle so I began a custom business, like painting Air Force and selling them on Insta. Obviously, I wrote 'U' and so much music, so I'd definitley say it inspired my creativity because I had all the time in the world, and I'm the type of person who can't just sit around, so it definitley inspired my creativity.
What is next for Hana Tia?
Im learning alot about myself and I'm growing at a really fast rate. So I think, even when I release my next single, people will feel my growth, hopefully. You can hear how I'm evolving through my music. I'm just going to be learning, writing, meeting people, networking, growing and discovering myself. Just all the good stuff, I just want to grow exponentially and build exponentially.
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