Saturday, July 11, 2009
A Chat with Tiffany By Joshua O'Connell
When most people hear the name Tiffany, they probably get the visions of the 80s pop star, singing “I Think We’re Alone Now” in a mall.
Sure, take the easy way out.
For a group of fans that have stayed with her, they’ve witnessed an incredible reinvention of the former teen pop star since her late-80s run atop the charts. The Tiffany of 2009 isn’t doing the cheesy dance moves anymore, but is instead consistently putting out engaging music in various genres, focusing more on a songwriting approach (even moving to Nashville from California), and has been surprising this music reviewer for upwards of a decade now.
While Tiffany is no stranger to Connecticut, her return to the state for Hartford Pride is a welcome one, both for her fans and for Tiffany herself.
"I have never done Connecticut, so I’m really excited about it,” Tiffany said in a phone interview from Nashville. “You never have to twist my arm to come to Connecticut. I think it looks a lot like England. Some of the cities are named after English cities. It was one of the first places we went when my husband came to America, and we came to Connecticut quite often.
“I have great memories of Connecticut. The people there are warm. I do well with warm people. I think [Hartford Pride will] be off the hook.”
Tiffany began attending Pride events a few years ago, a natural outgrowth of her fans’ desires, but also the fact that the music took her there. “I had the ability to do a big TV show in England called ‘Hit Me Baby.’ I did a song called ‘Love Machine’ [originally sung by U.K. group Girls Aloud] there that was uptempo. That started a lot of e-mails that said, ‘We would really like to see you do a dance album.’
She continued, “I was working with producers. We started to write some stuff and it turned into this great project. I was heavily infl uenced by heavy European dance at the time. Just really had a good time doing the album. It was a different adventure for me. I wanted to give my fans what they really wanted.”
The challenge of bringing a band along also held up Tiffany’s ability to tour as much. “I think a lot of people wanted me to attend, but the music had to apply. Once I did 'Dust Off and Dance,' it was a changing event for me. I can do it to track, I don’t have to drag a whole band. That was brought on by my fans more than anything. They ride with me going down different projects.”
She added, “It was a great growing experience for me working with different producers and now to have a different dance life. Now I’ve worked with Dave Aude and Josh Harris. It’s opened me up to clubs and pride events and to have stuff on the charts is an awesome thrill for me.”
Indeed, Tiffany made the Billboard Club Play charts with “Higher,” 20 years after “I Think We’re Alone Now” made that chart. But while Tiffany enjoys the fun and light-hearted nature of dance music, she’s put a lot of her energy into evolving into a songwriter, and returning to her roots performing country, hinted at in tracks on her latest full-length CD, “Just Me,” on such gems as “Mind Candy” and “Hiding Behind the Face.”
“Those are the direction we’re going,” Tiffany said. “‘Hiding Behind the Face’ I wrote with Tim Feehan and is about L.A. and young stars. And it’s not what everyone things it is. They’re still searching and hiding behind beauty and skinnyness. But there’s a mess there. How long can you keep going on like that before you crash and burn? It’s very serious. I wanted to write something like that.
She continued, “That song ended up being more of a country kind of thing. That was cool. I loved the track. You kind of get started and go where the lyrics go. It’s always great where you see where these little babies take you. You sit down with someone, you have a title and it makes this huge transformation before your eyes and you have a song and go ‘wow.’
“I wanted to tell the fans again that this is the direction we’re going, a country/pop kind of direction. I got great responses from it.”
She also listens to fans feedback as the music evolves, taking cues if there’s something that may be off. “I love playing my stuff in front of fans and finding out what they think, taking their pulse. If I need to go in and adjust, if I was a little crazy… I admire their opinion.”
“Just Me” continues down the path of 2000 release “The Color of Silence,” which established the more intimate side of Tiffany. Where “The Color of Silence” was a rock-edged effort with clever songs as “Piss U Off” mixed with an interesting worldview on songs like “I’m Not Sleeping” and “Open My Eyes,” “Just Me” softens the sound a bit, mixing in a heavier country influence on some of the tracks, yet flows quite nicely from “Silence.” Both albums show Tiffany getting much more involved with the songwriting part of the process, and she proves to have a good ear for strong, sturdy material to record, such as the strong pop single “Feels Like Love.”
In between those two releases was the release of her fi rst dance-oriented album, “Dust Off and Dance,” which came out in 2005, and most recently Tiffany released a few dance singles, “Higher,” “Just Another Day,” and a song also called “Dust Off and Dance.”
Tiffany says that the most important aspect of her career at this point is whether she’s recording dance, country or pop music, the quality of the song is the most important thing to her. “I think sometimes it’s really hard for a dance album and have every track be great unless you’re going to work with mega producers with a mega budget,” she said. “I’m not going to mortgage my house. Been there, done that! [laughs] There are a lot of great people who are up and coming. They are great but don’t cost an arm and a leg.
“You have to be really choosy, really picky and the songs have to be amazing. It think we’ve been lucky with the songs that have come out like ‘Higher’ and ‘Just Another Day’ and the ‘Dust Off and Dance’ album. I’m a stickler about the songs. All of those songs I do now in my live show. I can take ‘Just Another Day’ and do it acoustically and it translates.”
She continued, “A song has to be a good song. You can take it and to whatever you want. I love Kylie Minogue, a lot of dance artists like that where the lyrics don’t matter. But there’s an image behind that. There’s a stage show behind that. I wouldn’t really be able to at this point in time do that. So it really comes down to the song.”
She added, “I think there’s room in the entertainment industry for ‘let me just sit down and sing to you’ singers. I think I probably fi t into that category the best.”
Being that she’s still new in the pride circuit, she’s touring a lot, but still has ground to cover. “I’m doing Hawaii [Pride]. That’s going to be really difficult! [laughs] That’s next month. There’s a couple of other ones in the works. I haven’t done Boston or New York. I did L.A. one year. I’m kind of working the rounds a little bit.”
Tiffany promises that her pride appearance will be upbeat music, fi tting with the celebratory mood of a pride event. “I do old school. I try to keep it uptempo. When you have pride events, they’re there to have a party. It’s hard to translate [the pop, rock and country leaning] songs without a band. It’s lacking something, it needs musicians there.
“I usually just do straightforward dance. It’s a perfect setting for it. That’s what dance music is meant to do. I’m very lucky that my stuff allows me to show I can sing. I have to do that and focus and show I can sing, but I keep the energy up but [the crowd is] ready to party, have a good time.”
If you’ve seen Tiffany at another event previously, she’s careful about that, and tries to shake things up. “My fans are really great. They hop on planes and fl y in from all over. They plan their vacations round me. If it sounds interesting they hop on planes and come down. It keeps it fresh for me."
She added, “If I know I’m going to see the same faces I try to give them a different show. If I know it’s the same songs, I’ll put something old school I haven’t done something in a long time or work up something new. Just try to make it a little different so it’s not like wow, it’s the same old thing.”
Tiffany, gracious and polite on the phone while chatting on her porch, only asked one request, for those coming out to the show or the later appearance at Chez Est that night: “I rely on my fans to come and bring the energy. I bring the music! [laughs]”
For Tiffany's tour schedule, visit http://www.tiffanyontour.com, and to hear some of her latest music, visit her MySpace page.http://www.myspace.com/tiffanymusic
By Joshua O'Connell
Entertainment Editor, Print/Web Designer