Music, Mental Health & Spirituality: An Interview with Tangina Stone

Tangina Stone is the breath of fresh air that alternative R&B needed. The ‘Ohio-born-Brooklyn-raised’ singer-songwriter has a sound that speaks for itself, balancing the perfect combination of R&B, soul, alternative, electronic and rock. After dropping her debut album Elevate last year featuring Nelly Furtado, Eddie Vanz and Liana Banks, Tangina Stone is ready to dominate 2019, breaking down the doors of the music industry with one sweet harmony at a time. The lack of queer R&B singers topping the charts is noticeable and problematic to say the least but Tangina has her eyes on the prize. I caught up with Tangina Stone to discuss music, mental health, spirituality, what being a queer woman of colour means to her, the current state of R&B and much more.

What does being a queer black woman mean to you?

We are currently living in triggering times and as a queer black woman in America, it’s hard to navigate. This social and political climate is very damaging not just to my mental health but to everybody else’s too. For me, being a queer black woman means there are so many strikes against you. A strike for being queer, a strike for being black, a strike for being a woman, a strike for just simply being myself. The LGBT+ community is always under attack. I’m constantly trying to create a safe space, not just for myself but for the people around me, people who are like me who need some place to be safe in, to feel safe at. I think about all the spaces I enter and the venues I perform in, there’s things that I will not tolerate under any circumstances.

I think that being a queer black woman who also happens to be a creative means, I have to protect myself. I have to be hyper vigilant. I’m free as a motherfucker, I’m free to be openly me and anyone who comes to my shows pretty much knows these things about me and that’s why they support me and my music. I talk about these issues, I speak about the communities I’m apart of, I march in the streets, I’m a part of it all. Being black and queer in 2018 means being radical. To be a part of these things that exist, you have to be ready all the time, ready for people to challenge you, treat you in ways that you don’t deserve, being ready to protect yourself and the people around you. That’s what it means to me.

As an alternative R&B singer, I want to know your thoughts on the current state of R&B? Do you think it’s in a good place right now?

Right now, I feel like there’s this formula for the right R&B record and sometimes I get frustrated about being boxed in. My music certainly has R&B roots to it but there’s also that element of pop, some bits of electronic, some bits of alternative. I feel like often, a lot of black artists get shoved into that genre, whether or not our music actually applies. It very much feels to me like if your a black singer than your simply just straight R&B and that’s not the case. Music evolves all the time but it seems as if the music industry is still trying to box us all into one genre. Boo’d Up by Ella Mai to me has a very specific R&B formula. I feel like the artists who are following that formula are doing great but the artists who aren’t end up being categorised when we are actually so many other genres. We have a harder time.

It’s weird because you see a round of GRAMMY nominations with a bunch of artists in one category and it’s like what?! You got Kehlani, Lianne la Havas, Syd from The Internet and Ariana Grande all nominated in one category and it just doesn’t make sense. It’s a weird time for R&B right now in my opinion. I love R&B, I just don’t like the politics surrounding it. I don’t like what classifies something as R&B because usually it just means ‘urban contemporary’. The politics of R&B have now become a ‘R&B-just-means-the-person-making-the-music-is-a-person-of-colour’ and that’s what it’s come down to. It’s frustrating in my opinion.

Photographer Neriah McBain
Photographer Neriah McBain

Any dream collaborations?

Frank Ocean and Kaytranada. Those are my goals. Frank is the bar for me, he’s amazing and has done a lot for R&B. Right now, I’m currently working with Nitty Scott. She’s amazing, she’s a queer artist as well, she’s a rapper. Oh and also, Angel Haze. I love her she’s amazing too.

Last year, you dropped your debut album Elevate, where you addressed your mental health issues. How important was it for you to speak on the topic of mental health especially as a queer woman of colour?

It was extremely important for me to speak about my mental health because it was something I wanted to share. Elevate isn’t just an album to me because it is my life and since releasing it, it’s been a big part of my elevation. I started going to therapy and being more open about my own issues with mental health. I was happy because it started some really important conversations and I feel so honoured that people look to me as someone to now talk to about these things.

It’s important to me that we all understand the importance of mental health, understanding that destigmatising mental illness even at a concert, for a moment really helps other people unpack what they were dealing with. I make music to help heal people, help make people happy, help people be their best selves. It’s the best way to honour myself, to honour my process and the process of everyone else who is going through these things with their mental health. I’m happy to be free.

Anxious, is a song featured on Elevate where you fully address your mental health. Tell me about the process of writing the song and how it felt sharing your story?

Yeah, it was my first time openly talking about it. I wrote that song so I could address it for myself. I remember being afraid to release it afterwards because I was like this is way too personal, I don’t need people knowing this because I was struggling for so many years. I’ve been dealing with anxiety since I was a child so for me writing and releasing this song was a big deal. When I thought about the concept of Elevate, elevation requires separation and so for me the songs that I was writing for that album, was me attempting to separate myself from a lot of stigma attached to the things that I was dealing with.

Growing up in the midwest south in a very southern black family, there was a lot of stigmas attached to that and so I kinda denied myself the care, the help and the therapy that I needed, especially when it came to acknowledging that I was dealing with anxiety. For so long, I denied myself the chance to talk about it and so when I wrote Anxious, it was a way for me to never pretend that it wasn’t real, to never pretend like I don’t deal with it because I did deny it for so long and these were things I needed to work through. There are so many stigmas attached to mental illness.

I want to talk about spirituality. You’ve spoken about chakras in your music before, how important is it for you to attach it to your music?

I’m spiritual but not religious so there are certain practices I incorporate every time I work on music. I always cleanse the space around me before recording, every time I get ready to write I cleanse the energy in the room. I use sage and palo santo to protect my own energy and so I’ve gotten into more spiritual stuff in the last year and a half. My partner is really into holistic teachings and healings so she’s really taught me how to incorporate these things into my music.

With meditation, it’s been kinda hard for me because meditation requires being still and for someone like me who is constantly going going going, I’ve started practising more and more, trying to get better at it. I don’t know if I’ll ever have it 100% right, I don’t know if anybody does but it’s always a goal of mine and it’s important to me to at least centre making those efforts for my own healing, self-care and growth.

Photographer Neriah McBain
Photographer Neriah McBain

Your new song ‘Fanta’ which is produced by Denitia drops today. How did that collaboration come about and what’s the meaning behind the title of the song?

Denitia is amazing, she’s actually one of my favourite artists. It’s always been a dream of mine to work with her and so we finally had the opportunity to get together and make some magic. That’s how the song came about. It’s a really amazing song, it was so much fun making it. The song is about getting out of a toxic relationship and moving on, moving forward. The title of the track comes from a line in the song where I was talking about my chakras. The orange chakra represents creativity and sexual energy so I called it Fanta because I needed to compare the orange chakra to something and I thought why not the orange soda Fanta. We gave it a fun title. It’s a really fun song. It’s also an interesting sound that people haven’t heard from me yet. I think people are really gonna like it. I’m super excited about it.

Cover art and graphics for Tangina Stone on the single Fanta. IMG Agency + Records.

What can we expect from Tangina Stone in 2019?

Well, I’ll be back in London in the next three/four months, that’s the plan. I’m working on so much new music, I have an EP done and in the vault with Phony Ppl, they just released a really great album. Their lead singer Elbee and I have a project together and I’m also working on a another project with Denitia. I have a project with Nitty Scott coming, it’s an EP we worked on together. So I’ve got like three EPs in the vault and then my own album too. It’s a lot of new music coming and I’m really excited for everyone to hear it.

Tangina’s new singe ‘Fanta’ drops TODAY. Stream it on Apple Music & Spotify.

Follow Tangina Stone on Instagram and Twitter.

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