Hope Tala’s assemblage of sonic velvetiness and dreamy lyricism is momentous. Perhaps that’s why it comes as no surprise that Barack Obama selected her song ‘All My Girls Like to Fight’ as one of his many hand-selected favourite songs of 2020. *Fangirl moment*
A west Londoner at heart, Tala’s stellar EP ‘Girls Eat Sun’, released just months ago, captures the quintessence of pure RnB and Hispanic-inspired sound – a musical voyage to euphoria if you like.
In conversation with PAUSE Her, the 23-year-old stops by to grace us with an exclusive interview, delving into how growing up in an ethnocultural society inspired her melodic output, her greatest epiphany yet and she even lets us in on some of her dream collaborations…
Hey Hope Tala, it’s so nice to connect with you. How are you?
Hi! You too! I’m doing well all in all, taking each day as it comes.
A West London girl at heart, the London borough often synonymous with arts and culture. Being around such a fusion of multiculturism, did your surroundings play a role throughout your developmental years?
Of course. I always feel very fortunate to have grown up here. I think from a young age I was able to have an appreciation for the arts; I was taken to a lot of museums and galleries as a kid, and to plays and things, and I went to a music school every Saturday for almost ten years. I played the clarinet in orchestras and wind bands at both my music school and at my comprehensive secondary school which had an amazing music department. I’m very privileged to have had access to all of that.
Was there a specific time in your life that you realised music was the thing you wanted to pursue full-time?
I think I always knew deep down, but my epiphany moment was when I wrote Lovestained. I immediately thought that the song had the potential to really make people happy while they were listening to it. I had this big feeling about Lovestained the day I wrote it – like nothing I had ever felt before – and then I released the song and it has reached a lot more people than I expected. People really love that song and feel ownership over it. The reaction made me feel like I’d made a real contribution, and I knew from then on that making more music was going to be the best way for me to spend my life.
Academically, you studied English Literature at University, graduated with a first-class honours, all whilst juggling your rising music career. How did you manage to obtain such a balance?
It was tough at times; at first music was more of a hobby so it was pretty chilled but things started picking up while I was finishing my dissertation in my final year and so at that time I had a lot to process mentally. It often felt like when one thing came to a head the other thing did as well, and it was difficult to have my mind at two places at once. Luckily that happened towards the end of my degree, so it wasn’t long until I was able to just focus on music. And I was having so much fun doing it and I felt so fulfilled by it all.
Let’s get straight into it. There’s no doubt in saying your hottest drop ‘Girl Eats Sun’ is quite the body of work. What is it that often inspires your work? Is it other music? Is it art? Literature? Or a seamless blend of all?
I like how you’ve phrased that – ‘a seamless blend of all’. I think that’s the case. Of course I have my musical and literary influences – they’re so fundamental – but the things I’m experiencing are what inform my writing the most I would say.
Does your extensive knowledge of literature help construct the narrative throughout your music?
I think so. I think the benefit of simply having an appreciation and an appetite for stories is what inspires me to write music in the first place – but literary knowledge definitely helps with the construction.
COVID who? Your latest visual offering [Cherries ft. Aminé] is a cinematic masterpiece. The video is hugely conceptual and despite the circumstances, you still managed to execute it so well. When it comes to videos, is it down to your own ideas or is it often a joint effort?
Thank you! I worked with a great director, Anna Fearon, on the Cherries video – she sent the treatment over and I immediately fell in love with it. Obviously I had my notes and things I wanted to add or change – it’s always going to be a collaborative process with the creative and visual elements surrounding the music – but for that video Anna deserves massive props and credit for coming up with such an amazing concept that speaks so well to the story of the song.
Speaking of Aminé, how did the collaboration come about?
I’ve known Aminé for a couple of years now, since before I even had any music on streaming. I was just putting stuff up on soundcloud for fun. He’s a really humble, intelligent and kind person, and the advice he gave me right at the beginning of it all when barely anyone was listening to my music meant a lot. I’ve always wanted to work with him, and I really wanted a rapper on Cherries. I knew it had to be a storyteller who was going to be able to tackle the subject matter with real creativity, and from the beginning he was on my mind as someone who I knew would bring that. What he adds to the song is so special; he elevated it to a completely different place.
Are you hoping to venture more into transatlantic collaborations, and if so, who do you wish to work with in the future?
Definitely! There’s so many American and Canadian artists I really love. I would die to work with Kendrick Lamar one day, he’s my number one. Also Justin Bieber big time. But there are so many.
Not only do your soft melodies give off a cathartic experience, but so do the names of your tracks. Everything about your being is artistically pleasing, even down to the way you assemble your Instagram page. Would you say you have a keen eye for aesthetics?
Wow that makes me so happy! Thank you! I used to really suck at posting regularly on Instagram and it’s been such a conscious effort to get better at it. I’ve always found it fun though. I would say I’m quite particular about my aesthetics – of course my preferences change but I like things to look a bit rough around the edges; organised chaos. I love film photography and 90s movies. I’m not savvy at all with anything aesthetic or visual – I can’t claim to have much of a language for it – but I know what I like for sure.
You mentioned that your EP would be stronger and bolder, prior to dropping it. Upon release and having time to reflect on the project as a whole, are you happy that you stuck to your word?
For sure. I feel really happy with this project because I see it as a natural progression; it’s still very much my sound but it’s all more polished. In my opinion, anyway! And that’s no shade whatsoever on the first two EPs; I love them both so much and I wouldn’t change a thing about either of them. They feel like a trilogy of EPs that fit together nicely. One of these days I should sit and listen to them all in full back to back – that would be quite something.
As we approach the final days of the year, care to share some of your highlights?
Oh I love thinking about highlights! Of course releasing Girl Eats Sun. Making the music videos for Cherries and All My Girls Like To Fight and meeting some amazing people in the process. I was able go to Greece in the summer with my friends which was really special. One of my cousins lived with us for a while earlier this year which is a time I’ll always treasure. All in all it’s been a weird year but I count myself very lucky and have had some really lovely times and experiences amidst the madness.