It feels diminishing to try and describe what draws us to an artist like Tessa Kaye when one can watch a video of her singing on her Instagram and understand it immediately. But there is an effortless radiance she possesses— the kind that can’t be postured and it’s safe to say there is a wave of relief when an artist brings an energy like this to the city. A shot of something true, not bedazzled by any borrowed affect.
Now it’s possible the listener may be thrown off course from the lightness of her spirit when they hear the title of Tessa Kaye’s new single, “You Know Who You Are and I Hate You”, but upon a deeper listen, we learn the song is pointed inward…
“It’s important to me that my music’s up for interpretation—as far as who I’m really singing to, it’s as if my anxiety is a separate person.”
Says Tessa of the surprisingly buoyant pop tune. Produced by fellow LA-by-way-of-Utah transplants, LaFrantz, the single galavants through the issues of anxiety, addressing the storm and comforting the listener simultaneously. Tessa found a conflicted identity to be the initial catalyst for that anxiety, growing up as one of the only women of color in her primarily white, Mormon area of Utah.
“Even though other kids and I were more alike than different, my differences were the focal point for many people. As a kid already struggling with anxiety, being the only black girl most of the time heightened that distress in my mind.”
Finding heightened diversity and more liberal standards have been the most exciting parts of Tessa Kaye’s move to Los Angeles. But in the positive nature that one quickly learns to expect from Kaye, she reflects on how much the city has made her appreciate the love she received from her adoptive parents and siblings and the continuing support they give her. She says herself she may not have made it without them.
We were lucky enough to chat with Tessa and dig a little deeper into the self love that is getting her through this year, her new music and of course her growing acumen in parallel parking…
“You Know Who You Are and I Hate You” could lead someone to believe this song is pointed at someone, perhaps an ex-lover that you’re seeking to call out, but it actually carries a personal weight for you. Can you elaborate on who you are really singing to?
Yeah! It’s important to me that my music’s up for interpretation and if my listeners need to let this be a call out, be my guests haha. As far as who I’m really singing to, it’s as if my anxiety is a separate person, and that’s who this is directed at. Living with quite extreme anxiety can be soo frustrating and maddening so I love that the title expresses exactly how I feel about it. I also found speaking to my anxiety in the writing/recording process of this song to be very cathartic for me.
There is a surprising and refreshing levity to the sound of this song, especially knowing what it deals with. How did you decide on the direction for the music of this song?
Thank you, I really appreciate that! Giving the song that feeling was very important and intentional. I wanted the track and vocals to sound super full but light/floaty at the same time. I’m honestly just so grateful for my producers LaFrantz, cause they always get what’s going on in my head. I needed to write about my anxiety because I felt like it would be a key way for me to cope, but I didn’t want the song to feel heavy just because the subject is!
When writing a song like this that deals with such a personal struggle, do you find you write the words first and then search for music to shape around it or vice versa?
When this song was in the very beginning stages I was just focusing on the words mostly, but the words I was writing were talking about a thunderstorm. Those lyrics changed, but I still wanted the track to capture the feeling I was describing when I was first writing. So it was kind of both simultaneously for this one. It was really, really important to me how this song felt. My producers LaFrantz are truly the most incredible and captured everything I needed the track to be so perfectly. I feel like this song just gives you a hug and sweeps you away into a comforting thunderstorm for a few minutes, which is what I wanted.
Your childhood is singular in many ways—from being raised by an adoptive family and furthermore growing up in a very Mormon dominant area of Utah where you were one of the only women of color. Can you expand on how you think this shaped you and perhaps if or how it led to the anxiety that you struggle with today?
Yeah… growing up as a black girl in Utah was a very unique experience to say the least. Being black in a predominantly white community comes with many challenges. It was difficult to always feel othered in most areas of my life. Dealing with racism and microaggressions in school, dating, etc. wasn’t easy either. Luckily I grew up with 4 siblings who are black as well so of course that made things better! I’m not sure I would’ve survived without them haha. When we’re little we just want friends and to be liked by our peers… we want to fit in. I hated being so different from everyone around me for quite some time. It was just wildly uncomfortable. Even though other kids and I were more alike than different, my differences were the focal point for many people. As a kid already struggling with anxiety, being the only black girl most of the time heightened that distress in my mind. I think because I was always looked at as the odd one out and oftentimes in a negative way, it’s taken a lot of work to be comfortable in my skin. Now, I love the skin I’m in and am so proud to be a black woman. Despite the difficulties of growing up black in Utah, I had an incredible childhood filled with the most love and I’ll always recognize and be grateful for that. My parents are the very best, and made sure to celebrate the beauty of blackness every moment, in every possible way they could. Growing up that way was hard, sure, but I think it’s made for me to be someone who is quite resilient and I’m proud of that.
Los Angeles is obviously a different world from your hometown. What have been your favorite and least favorite parts about your new location?
Oh it’s night and dayyy, so incredibly different and I love it. My first favorite would be the diversity here. It’s so refreshing compared to Utah. I cannot put into words how nice it is just to go to the grocery store and see people who look like me. It might not seem like a big deal, but I know that anyone who grew up in a situation similar to mine will feel me on this! Aside from that I really appreciate the openness and free spirited mindsets many people here have. I’ve personally found there is a loss less judgement here in LA than Utah. The area in Utah where I grew up is very conservative and that’s not something that works for my soul, so I’m happy to be free of Utah in that specific aspect. I do miss the mountains and changing seasons once in a while, though. My least favorite part about Los Angeles is the parking. It’s impossible! I definitely got quite a few tickets when I first moved, but I’ve figured it out for the most part… and now my parallel parking skills are *chefs kiss* so I gotta give a shout out to me one time haha.
How do you feel this strange year has helped you evolve as an artist?
This year, yo… damn. So I’m an introvert and a homebody already, right? But this year I have spent more time all alone than ever in my life, and it’s been a trip. I’ve gotten to learn a lot more about myself which is cool, and has helped me evolve as an artist cause I know that it’ll all show up in my writing/my music. My mind has expanded in ways it never has and although uncomfortable at times I’m grateful for the opportunities it’s provided for me to grow. Honestly it’s just brought me to a different level of understanding in too many areas to name, as I’m sure it has for all of us and I’ll reflect on 2020 for a very long time.
And since this song deals with anxiety, do you have any advice for those that deal with the same kind? Any tools you use to assuage your discomfort?
There are quite a few things I do to manage my anxiety. Energy Healing, which is just my preferred method of therapy, meditation, and daily affirmations are some of the things that help me the most. Those and talking to my mom haha, I Facetime my mom at least once each day, but usually more than that. She can get me through anything. I work really hard to keep my mind as healthy as possible! However with that being said, I try to honor the difficult days as well. When I have a really awful day mentally, I tell myself I just get to be grateful that a brand new day is coming soon. I’ve had to learn how to not be too hard on myself when it seems like my anxiety has taken the W for that day. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly okay to have days when you’re down, the key is figuring out how to not sit in that for too long if you can help it.
I want other people dealing with this to remember your feelings are valid. Please allow yourself to simply exist as you are in each moment, no matter how that looks! You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, you’re human. We’re all dealing with things no one else knows about. We need to be more gentle with ourselves, and not shame ourselves on top of the battles we’re fighting because honestly that’s truly so exhausting. It’s easier said than done, but once you allow yourself to express how you’re feeling in ways that are true and authentic to you, the most beautiful healing gets to take place. One of my favorite quotes says “You have to feel it to heal it.” and I completely agree with that statement. It’s not always pretty, but it’s a big part of self love in the end.
CONNECT WITH TESSA KAYE
photos / Rachel Green
story / Chris Hess