While the name Tiana Major9 may not be familiar to all, chances are you’ve heard her sing. Whether it be on Stormzy’s ‘Rainfall’, which she performed with him at the Brit Awards in February, or the song ‘Collide’, a collaboration with Dreamville rap duo Earthgang from the soundtrack of the critically-acclaimed film Queen and Slim. Then there’s her stunning new single, the bouncy, jazz-tinged track ‘Think About You,’ which perfectly showcases her raspy old-school vocal tones. With these big hitters, Tiana is making the most of the opportunities they have presented.
“It was a huge moment,” Tiana says, reflecting on that rousing Brits performance. To remind you, she sang alongside Stormzy while being backed by hundreds of dancers and getting soaked by rain falling down on them.“It was really good, Stormzy’s lovely, and everyone was so professional and talented.”
‘Rainfall’ was not the only track the duo recorded together, the 24 year-old Londoner says. “When he was working on this album, he just hit me up and he was just like, ‘I wanna get you on my album,’ and then we did a few songs together,” she says. “We actually did loads of stuff together, a lot of songs on the album we had actually put some vocals down on. They didn’t make it, but he decided that ‘Rainfall’ was the best.”
Considering how triumphant her cover of Mary Mary’s ‘Shackles (Praise You)’ on the hook is, there’s no wonder why that was what made the cut. Harking back to the kinds of music that she had grown up listening to, she also notes Robert Glasper, Amy Winehouse and Chris Brown as early influences.
The collaboration was initiated by the rapper, who became a fan of Tiana’s after finding her on YouTube. “I was so gassed,” she excitedly exclaims. “Because obviously, he’s Stormzy. He’s a very, very talented and a successful musician from the UK, and just to be paired with him is an honour.” And what has she learned from the experience? “He’s really taught me that work ethic means everything,” she adds. “He works really hard and that’s one thing that I’ve picked up from him. But I’m sure there’s many more lessons he can teach me.”
Having grown up in Newham, Tiana’s earliest exposure to music came from church performances and being a part of the choir as a child. As time progressed, and with a little help from Limewire giving her access to a broad scope of music genres, she started to become attracted to jazz music. In fact, the name Major9 stems from her favourite jazz chord, the major 9th, which has a distinctive “hanging” sound to it.
Her debut EP ‘Rehearsal @ Nine’ was released in January last year, and showcased her unique talent for blending jazz with R&B, soul and a dash of electronic influence. As well as this, she channelled her earlier experiences of gospel. “I love the chord changes and loads of instrumentation,” she reflects. “I love live music so it’s definitely influenced how I make my music.”
It’s this blend that makes her music feel timeless, especially when paired with confessional lyricism. ‘Dearest Dystopia’ is a track that she points out so has the most resonance for her. In this track she sings, “We’d stay up all night with the rats and the demons / Our days are up, so we just harbour our feelings / Look into everything but ourselves for healing.”
“I write about things that are real to me,” Tiana says. “I try to write in a conversational style, from life experiences really. I also have a private Twitter account where I just put one liners down and I’m more comfortable writing like this at the moment. Before the notes on my phone would get lost, so I decided to do this Twitter account where I could scroll through tweets and when I’m in a session, I can just pick a concept from there.”
Relatability isn’t the only reason why ‘Dearest Dystopia’ has so much weight behind it though. “It has a very significant memory for me,” she remembers. “I recorded the vocals at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles and later on, I got signed to Motown [Erykah Badu, Vince Staples, Migos]. We had been having the conversation just before the EP dropped, then when I went to meet with them, they allowed me to go into the studio and finish off the song.”
Furthermore, Motown gave Tiana the opportunity to work on an all-star soundtrack for one of the most critically-acclaimed movies of the year, Queen and Slim. Director Melina Matsoukas enlisted the help of Dev Hynes and the record label to create an impactful soundtrack, which is most definitely achieved in Tiana’s duet with Earthgang on the track, ‘Collide’. The song itself recounts the irrepressible haze of a whirlwind romance, echoing the movie’s storyline with lines like, “Without you, I’m just a fraction / Closing in on my demise / And I love you religiously.”
After receiving the song from her A&R, Tiana requested the film script to ensure it was something she’d want to be associated with and the story resonated. “It’s a real honour because I didn’t know what to expect, but people have received the movie and the soundtrack so well. It’s put me in a lot of good conversations, good positions and has really helped my music.”
With the promise of a new project on its way soon, Tiana is making sure she makes the most of the opportunities she had earlier in the year. New single ‘Think About You’ and exudes a chilled out vibe with bouncing instrumentals and a catchy chorus, making it a quintessential summer hit. “I would say it’s Tiana 2.0,” she says, teasing what lies ahead. “I feel like I’ve written some of the best music I’ve ever done on this project.” As cryptic as that sounds, there’s something extraordinary about Tiana Major9 that makes you believe it entirely.