Little Rock artist Tiffany Lee released her debut EP “Jailbird” in late 2016. Its five songs are soulful pop highlighted by striking vocals. The skeletal arrangements are meticulous and allow Lee’s commanding voice to move forward. “Jailbird” is easily one of the most self-assured debut recordings I’ve heard from an Arkansas songwriter.
Tiffany Lee is playing her first Fayetteville show on Saturday at Stage Eighteen with Luray and Thunder Comfort. I’m certain it will be her first of many. I talked with Tiffany about her music and here it goes…
Who: Luray / Tiffany Lee / Thunder Comfort
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12
Where: Stage Eighteen, 18 E Center St, Fayetteville
Cost: $7 in advance / $10 at the door
Info: All-ages show
You started writing and performing at a young age. What was the first song that you loved to sing?
I began exercising my vocal talent within my church at 11 years old and grew to love music more and more over the years. the first song I ever wrote is called “Release.” I wrote it from a place of compassion for those in abusive relationships that continue to stay in them. I was 14 when I wrote it. I had always enjoyed singing and playing piano and I couldn’t help but write little pieces of music. “Release” was the first song I had completed with lyrics.
Your “Jailbird” EP is an incredible debut. How did that collection of songs come to life? What’s your favorite song from the record to perform?
They are an accumulation of songs over a few years, based on different experiences of mine. “Jailbird” is about getting freedom from fear within a relationship, in order to have a healthy relationship. “Flattery” is about a guy I knew who seemed like a player, and after watching the many girls he was with, I was not wanting to be one of them. “The Kind” speaks for itself, I believe. “I Don’t Feel It” is about recognizing that love is not a feeling, but a choice. Finally, “Speak” is about a dark season I went through in losing my passion for music after finding so much identity in it. I came out of that season really understanding a greater purpose outside of music, using music.
I recorded with some of my talented friends in their home studio. We worked together to build the body of the songs, since I only came with the bare bones. They helped me draw out the sounds and feelings within and truly prioritized my vision for the EP. I learned that I had more to offer than I originally thought.
My favorite to perform is “Flattery.”
Are there non-musical influences that affect your music and writing?
Honestly the biggest influences on my music are experiences and people in my life. I find words and melodies to match the feeling they bring me. My approach to songwriting is figuring out what a feeling sounds like; it is also the most difficult part.
What have you been writing about lately? Is there a new record coming up?
There is an EP I am currently writing and I hope to begin recording this fall. I’ve been writing about letting go of unhealthy things and people in my life and being very honest about how those experiences have affected me. I’ve also been writing a lot about finding hope and freedom out of things that have formerly been destructive, and growing from them.
Who is your favorite current singer? How do you connect to their music?
It’s incredibly difficult to answer that, but I will say that a couple artists that have inspired me recently are Lianne La Havas and the vocalist from Hiatus Kaiyote, Nai Palm. The soul and creativity of these two have pushed me to think outside the box and to remember to value the feeling a song brings over the technicality of it.
Arkansas has a lot of under-the-radar talent. Are there any local artists that inspire you to keep working?
Some of my friends just released a debut self-titled album, “Ilustrada“, and I am so proud of them. It is incredible music, and their EP release show was stellar.
You’re playing at Stage Eighteen on Aug. 12. Is this your first show here? What do you like to do in Fayetteville?
This will be my first NWA show and I’m honored and excited to be invited! I enjoy the easy-going things in Fayetteville like good coffee, food, local vintage shopping and I always stop by the Dickson Street Bookshop.