Monday

TIFFANY INTERVIEW





PIECES OF ME: Composer, vocalist and Norwalk, California native Tiffany has continue to flourish throughout a career that has spanned more than three decades. Most recently a part of the hugely successful Mixtape Tour, Tiffany will soon be embarking upon a forty-date headlining tour in support of her most recent album, Pieces Of Me and the resultant single, Beautiful. Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell caught up with Tiffany during a rare break in the Mixtape Tour. Their exchange follows below (Click on above image to enlarge).


FEELINGS OF FOREVER:
A CONVERSATION
WITH TIFFANY
By Michael McDowell

It has often been said that timing is everything.

Conversely, despite the emphasis on both attributes in some circles, such periphery as chronology and geography generally play at best a marginal role in the aesthetic development of music. However, when timing is a factor, the latter can nonetheless contribute to the proceedings exponentially.

Such was the case in Southern California during the independent music boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Veteran area greats such as Jan And Dean, Thee Midnighters, Billy Mize, Cannibal And The Headhunters and Rosie And The Originals' Rosie Hamlin continued to draw capacity crowds in various area venues. 

In turn, such richly diverse aspirants as the Blasters, X, Black Flag, the Three O'clock, the Long Ryders, the Heaters, the Point, the Rain Parade, Wednesday Week, the Dream Syndicate, the Go-Gos and the Last built formidable and enduring reputations both on stage and in the studio in short order. Their causes were also championed by such sympathetic radio outlets as KRLA-AM, Long Beach's KNAC-FM and Pasadena's KROQ-FM. And of course Blitz Magazine led the way in terms of extensive and ongoing press coverage. 

For the composer and vocalist known as Tiffany, the timing could not have been better. Born Tiffany Renee Darwish in October 1971 in the Los Angeles suburb of Norwalk, Tiffany was initially drawn to music in 1975, when she mastered her own interpretation of Tanya Tucker's 1972 signature Columbia label single, Delta Dawn.

In 1981, Tiffany made her professional debut at a venue in Chino, California with vocalist Jack Reeves. The following year, she had the extraordinary opportunity to share billing with two of music's absolute masters, country music giant George Jones and rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis. Both proved to be excellent mentors in an artistic and professional capacity. 

Concurrently, she was discovered by renowned vocalist, composer and actor, Hoyt Axton and his songwriting mother, Mae Axton while performing at the much missed Palomino Club on Lankershim in North Hollywood. Months of career developmental activity followed, including an appearance on former Cameo Records recording artist Ed McMahon's television program, Star Search

By 1987, Tiffany had landed a contract with MCA Records. Her eponymous debut album for the label followed shortly thereafter, produced by George Tobin. While the album's first single, the Jody Moreing-penned Danny (and its initially non-LP flip side, No Rules) did not attract the attention that was initially anticipated, thankfully its ambitious follow up became the game changer that forever put Tiffany on the map. 

Originally released on Morris Levy's Roulette label in 1967 by first generation garage rock greats Tommy James And The Shondells, I Think We're Alone Now was still regarded as controversial enough for its lyrical content in some settings at that point to prompt James and his colleagues to ready a less confrontational back up single, Mirage in order to sustain the band's formidable momentum. 

But two decades after the fact, in Tiffany's hands, I Think We're Alone Now took on an anthemic stance of sorts. Her spirited cover remains a best seller, prompting a re-recorded version in 2019 that has generated more than one million views on social media. 

Meanwhile, a series of acclaimed singles followed the original release, including Feelings Of Forever, Radio Romance, Hold An Old Friend's Hand and New Inside. In turn, Tiffany found herself a regular presence on many of the acclaimed Various Artists CD collections surfacing at the time, such as PolyTel's Turn It Up, where her All This Time closed out a fourteen-song set that included contemporary offerings by Samantha Fox, Tone-Loc, Rick Astley, Animotion, Was (Not Was) and others. 

By the end of the 1990s, Tiffany had expanded her portfolio to include film and television appearances. She also relocated to Nashville, Tennessee in 1995 and concurrently devoted more of her time to family.

Most recently, Tiffany added the title of record label owner to her impressive portfolio. September 2018 saw the release of her tenth album, Pieces Of Me on her own Go On Then Records. In May 2019, she also became a part of the hugely successful multi-artist Mixtape Tour, which is winding up its fifty-three city, fifty-five date schedule. Upon the tour's completion, Tiffany will headline a forty-date American tour in support of both Pieces Of Me and her new single, Beautiful.

Blitz Magazine caught up with Tiffany during a rare break in the Mixtape Tour. In the following exchange, she covered all of the above (and more) in great detail; underscoring in the process not only the benefits of timing, but the blessings of talent and sheer resolve, borne of divine grace. 


BLITZ: You were born and raised in Norwalk, California. There was a retail establishment in nearby Downey back in the day called Wenzel's Music, which is no longer in business. But it was one of the main places to go if you were looking for vinyl. Did you ever visit that store at the time?


TIFFANY: No, probably not. But boy, Downey? Norwalk? That's making me miss home!


BLITZ: That's why it's always good to keep a supply of 45s and LPs on hand!


TIFFANY: I like that! I'm very old school myself. I still don't have a land line phone!


BLITZ: So presumably you were a fan of (fast food establishment) Pup 'N Taco then?


TIFFANY: I loved Pup 'N Taco! My father would not take me there, but my mother would. My father was not big on pork. So he would say, "Nope, we can't go there!" But that's old school. I love it!


BLITZ: Music became a central interest in your life in short order. To that effect, you had not only the remarkable blessing of being discovered at the Palomino by Hoyt Axton and his mother, Mae Axton, but sharing the bill with the legendary George Jones and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well.


TIFFANY: All of them were great performers and songwriters. Being around them, I was nine, I think. But their vibrancy, their interaction with the fans, and their families on the bus, they had both a career and a home life. I think that's what thrilled me at the time. 

Also, their love for music and their love for what they were doing. Putting their heart out there on stage every night.

Great performers, giving it their all. As a little girl, with all of that being impressed on me, the bar was raised for me as a performer.

Now that's kind of what I do. Live touring, being available for your fans, while still wanting a home life and raising a child. It's a blessing to have been able to do all of it! And I really think that's because early in my career, I was exposed to a lot of really hard workers. They were true celebrities. People who really lived their lives out there, with all of their passions. 

I think now I appreciate it more. But it was a magical thing. It was really cool to be in their presence. There was something special about these people. It made a big impression on me.


BLITZ: To that effect, country music experienced what we often refer to as its last collective gasp of consequence in the late 1980s with the advent of the so-called New Traditionalist movement. And while country music seemed to be an ideal fit for you, upon signing with MCA in 1987, you nonetheless went in a decidedly different direction.


TIFFANY: By twelve, I was already doing different types of music. From the time I was about eight to twelve and living in Southern California, the music was huge!

People loved my music and loved my voice. But because I was twelve, producers were thinking, "We can't figure out how to work it!" It was a question of me wanting to work pop and rock music into my set.

I've come full circle now. I'm actually just doing what I love to do. I have a solid band now. We all write and play on the new album. It's great to be working with people of like mind and with a great rapport.


BLITZ: You had the best of all worlds early on, in that you created original material. You also recorded new material that was presented to you, as well as cover versions. The obvious one would of course be Tommy James And The Shondells' I Think We're Alone Now, which pretty much put you on the map. How much of a challenge was it for you to follow the battle plan, versus charting your own course?


TIFFANY: I don't think that I had a problem. I loved recording the first album. At first, I was a little leery of recording I Think We're Alone Now. But I'm very grateful to have that song in my life. By the time I recorded the second album, I was doing very different types of music.

But by the third album, I was in New York recording. There was the expectation of a test pattern from people like Debbie (Gibson) and myself. You know, with the "crazy girls" and all of that. But that's what we're celebrating (with the Mixtape Tour) tonight!

We really live a life full of music. There have been some really great experiences. I'm very proud. 

As my earlier success popped, I built some walls. But now, every day, what I am doing as a business woman and being around really cool people, I look at all of it and say, "I'm doing what I love!"

BLITZ: When you finally wrapped up your affiliation with MCA, you went through various stages within the realm of entertainment, including work in film and television. Were you thinking in terms of changing direction or perhaps supplementing your music with it?


TIFFANY: There was a little bit of that at the time. But I love things like Fred Astaire movies, where you sang, you danced, you acted and you had to be pretty. 

There was a time when there was a perspective that said, "You have to be a musician. Or you have to be an actor. You can't cross pollinate!" I'm glad that we've gotten out of that.

I do love hosting TV shows. And I really love hosting cooking shows! Music is my first love. But I want my fans to know those other things. I think we could have really good adventures together!

There are a lot of other things in which I am interested. It's a really nice time because of social media. And now the fans realty want to know all about you!

I try to keep an open mind. It's really cool now that celebrities are not held back. People have a bond with you because of your music. But when you share with them other things such as your family, then they have a further bond. They want to know what makes you tick! It's a really great time to be out there working, doing what you love and holding your audience in your hand.

We're all still growing up together and making memories together. Now I know more about people and they know more about me than they would have otherwise. I think it's really smart to just go into other areas, like doing a podcast. I certainly don't just let the grass grow!


BLITZ: With respect to your reference about "cross pollinating", there has been growth on social media of what for lack of a better term could be referred to as the entertainment industry equivalent of the armchair quarterback. To that effect, such an observer might look at your career and say, "I know her for this! How can she possibly do this other thing?" Yet invariably, expectations seem to be confounded on the part of the audience because the artist does not share those limitations. With respect to those who may want to limit you, how do you counter that?


TIFFANY: To me, it just makes sense. These are things that I've always wanted to do. They are not just ideas that came up out of the blue.

I think that if you're doing good music and your heart is into it, people will follow you. If someone says, "I still want to hear the retro artists", well, then come to the retro gig! But I'm really finding that is not the case, which is very exciting.

Also, I know my band. My band is very committed to me, and they want to see me happy. I'm getting great reviews, and a lot of support from my fans. So I don't really have that problem. I'm a happy girl!

Sometimes the industry will put you in a little box. That's why I go out and do so many live shows. I'd rather do a show with a live band than a track show. And people will talk about it.

With a lot of the retro stuff, it's easier to do the track shows. On the Mixtape Tour, that makes sense. We're all performing to tracks, but it's such a fun show. It's all about the performer in this show.

But with something like Pieces Of Me, that's not the kind of thing that you would get up there and do to a track! I like to have people up there with me who will play off of me. It's a whole different experience.


BLITZ: With regards to the Mixtape Tour, you are performing with tracks in an ensemble situation, with several other artists. By definition, because the set is on tracks and everyone is working with one another at the same time on stage, the show tends to be a bit more scripted than would perhaps be a show in which you are performing by yourself. Do you find that there are any challenges in adhering to the same script every night, where you are not able to improvise all that much? Or do you view it as an opportunity to improve on the particulars of the existing format? What works best for you in that respect?


TIFFANY: That's probably more of an issue for New Kids On The Block, because they are choreographed and they have their cues. I have my parts in the show, but every performance is different. Of course I will do the dance, and my little hand movements that everyone expects. We're really having a good time with that. I do it, and I hear people in the audience going, "Yeah!!"

For me, I'm still able to be a free spirit in my part of the show. I can ad lib a little bit more. And sometimes, I let the crowd sing. It's not the same old, same old. It's a lot of fun. I come out there on a riser, and I'm literally off of the ground!

Coming into it, I knew that's what it was going to be. I enjoy it every time. I'll go walking through the venue, and I get to sing with my fans. People are crying. It's very emotional, but in a good way.

It's also fun to watch the others perform. I try to go out and sneak a peek! Some of their songs still touch my heart. It's a great feeling.


BLITZ: In 2018, you released a brand new album, Pieces Of Me. It was a bit of a different situation from that which was in place when you were with MCA, in that it was on your own label. As a number of veteran artists have learned, when you go the indie route, it's a whole new ballgame.

With respect to major labels, there are many things which fall under their jurisdiction, such as promotion, correspondence, business management and the like. But when taking the independent route, you suddenly find that you have to oversee such responsibilities yourself. Were there any such challenges for you when you went out on your own in that respect?


TIFFANY: Definitely! I've learned a lot. I front my own management company, but I do have partners. I'm running my own label.

I work very hard. Before I came to the Mixtape Tour, I was in England, working Pieces Of Me, doing TV and letting people know there was a new single out. And I was writing e-mails for the American side of things, taking care of the people here.

Being an indie is great. I love I, because there is a lot of freedom there. But it's hard work. You can get a full staff if that's what you want. But for me, I want the education. I'm intrigued by it. 

And I'm intrigued by people who say, "You can't release this record! You're Tiffany!!" And I say, "Oh yeah? Well, we'll see about that!" I'm glad I got that comment, because I'll prove differently.

I'm very hands on. There are things that you have to keep up with, as things are changing all of the time. The goal is to use tools to get your message further out there. But sometimes you won't be able to do everything that you set out to do, because you are a very small label. You have to be realistic.

But we are growing. I love being independent, because I'm learning so much. With a bigger label, you look forward to a particular project to come about, but it doesn't happen. Being an independent, I know that when I say I am going to do something, that it is going to happen.

I am going to be doing forty dates after the Mixtape Tour. With my new album, I can say, "This is my new sound!" But I don't think it's so drastic. It's still pop. I want to go ahead and do another album surrounded by like minded musicians, for that consistent sound.

I'm really addicted to being in the studio and writing, which is what I do every day. I've been doing that for about a year. I think I am more vested in this project than I have been in the others, because I am running the label. It's challenging at times, and it's tiring at times. But it's still worth it! All is well.

I'm constantly adding things to the roster, and to the schedule. Being out there with the fans and touring the world is what I love. I haven't been able to get on a plane in ten years! But to do so is wonderful.

I feel good. There is a purpose. I feel freedom, more than anything. Now the floodgates are open, and I love it.

I only had one child. My son is 27, and he's doing his thing. He came to see me in Ohio, and he was at the Nashville show. He is totally supportive of my career. That's what I love. I can have family out here, and make them a part of it, as well. I'm looking forward to taking my niece and nephew, who are going to be five. They're coming out to see Aunt T in Nashville.

I have wonderful friends, and I have a great crew with me out here on the road. The biggest thing is to have fun. I'm living my dream!

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Blitz Magazine's web site is lovingly dedicated
to the memory of my beloved Princess,
Audrey J. McDowell
(19 June 1960 - 30 October 2014)






Questions? Comments? E-Mail Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell (above) at BlitzMcD@aol.com. Or write us at P.O. Box 626, Dearborn Heights, Michigan 48127 - 0626 USA.

Blitz Magazine's web site is also dedicated to the memory of some of the finest people to ever walk the face of this earth, who are greatly missed and whose contributions to Blitz are immeasurable: Kenneth E. McDowell (1914-1966), Virginia J. McDowell (1919-2004), Stella O. Brockway (1916-2001), Anna Sawchuk (1885-1978), Michael Cichonsky (1888-1973), Catherine Cichonsky (1896-1962) and Boris "Lash" Loupishansky (1916-1960).

Blitz also remains grateful for the unconditional love that was given by the three best friends that one could ever ask for: our late cats Doctor (02 June 1991 - 28 June 2001) and Baby Lee (02 April 1992 - 23 January 2006) and our beloved family dog, Peeps (01 May 1990 - 02 May 2007). 

From all of us at Blitz Magazine, may you and yours have a blessed day. Jesus is Lord!