Tiffany Evans, Her Cross To Bear, And Being 'Open Even If It Hurts'
Reading as a success story, Tiffany Evans’ early fable follows a young girl propelled into the spotlight after becoming the first contestant to earn a perfect score in Star Search history. Later signing with Columbia Records in 2004, the singer released her self-titled debut album with the LP's frontrunner "Promise Ring" before taking a leave of absence to pursue parenthood. For the next few years, the South Bronx beauty popped in and out of music to drop jewels for her loyal fans. Now, nearly 10 years later, the 26-year-old is making her return to music with a bold new EP.
Last heard on 2015’s All Me EP, the mother-of-two’s forthcoming project ushers a change of pace, specifically Evans being a victim of domestic violence by her former husband. In an Instagram post, which has since been deleted, the songstress opened up about the physical and emotional disputes with her ex.
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Championing a campaign against victim-blaming, the R&B veteran has placed an emphasis on helping victims heal.
"We’re worried to open up because we’re not really sure we’re going to get the support we need to get through this thing because not only is it physical, it's mental and emotional,” Evans says over the phone from Atlanta. “I just want women to start saying f**k you, you did this. If it's going to heal me and I’m ready to talk about it, I’m going to open up. F**k you, f**k you. Don't have your mom call me, don't have your sister call me, don't have anybody call me for some sh*t that you could have avoided, you could have controlled."
Here, the singer/songwriter opens up about her journey back to music, her upcoming EP, and her struggles with domestic violence and victim-blaming.
VIBE: How does it feel to be back in the game?
Tiffany Evans: It's a little nerve-racking because you sit with music that you have been working on for so long. I speak about my experiences a lot and I love for my music to tell stories. When you sit with this music and you're not releasing anything, and only you know about it, you kind of get nervous when it’s released, because you don't know what the response may be. You know that you're allowing people to kind of see into your life, personally and everything that is going on. So that was the most nerve-racking part for me. Knowing that this record is not like... it's a true story. And it is something that I have been going through for a while and letting people know that it kind of made me nervous, but to see the response from all the women and the guys too, the guys love the record, it made me very happy. I'm like okay, back like I never left.
The last time you put out an EP was All Me in 2015. What do you think is really different between how you were making music then and how you work on music now?
When I dropped the All Me EP, my head was in a totally different space. I was going through things in my relationship but I was not ready to speak about it. By the time I started working on this new project I am going to be dropping soon—I started working on that around early last year—I just got to the point where I was ready to speak on what the f**k was going on with me and everything I have been dealing with. I'm going to be transparent, be vulnerable. I'm going to be open even if it hurts. Because this is going to help me begin my healing process. One of the reasons why I have not been healing is because I haven't spoken about it. I haven't said anything about it. So my music back then, I was just doing songs that I thought were really dope but they didn't come from my heart. I wasn't... Like I said, I like to really tell stories and be able to say what's on my mind and say, ‘Hey, I have experienced this and I want you to listen to what I am singing about.’ I was not ready to do that then, but I am so ready now. And that is the major difference, my energy toward that is a major “f**k what anybody has to say, f**k whose feelings I'm going to get hurt.” When I released the All Me EP, it was still on the clean side, still on the ‘I'm not going to say much, I'm not going to talk about much, I'm just going to do songs that I think are cool, but they aren't going to touch on my situation.’ I really wanted to make that a goal to open up this time.
Will this EP explore a more vulnerable and insightful look into what has been happening in your personal life?
Yes, and more honestly. I'm a little angry and I want to be transparent. Sometimes it can come off as "don't be bitter," "don't be." But, you know, sometimes you do get bitter and sometimes you do get angry and I want to let people know that it's okay to feel those very human emotions. When you go through so much sh*t and it hurts you, it can change you. I have definitely been changed. I want to start healing but I am angry.
Since you’re saying right now you’re in this stage where you’re angry, and you’re completely allowed to be angry, do you think that you will touch on getting to a point of forgiveness?
I definitely believe that it will lead to forgiveness. I know that I am still dealing with a lot right now, and I'm still angry. I do believe I have tasted bitterness on my tongue and the first part of my healing is me admitting to that truth and not being afraid to say, “this is where I am.” I never want to hate anybody and I never wanted to hurt anybody, regardless of what they have done to me. I just know that it definitely changed me and I do believe that eventually if I distance myself the way that I'm doing and I stay to myself and continue to do what I need to do for my healing, then it will end in forgiveness, but that does not mean that those same people or that same person has to be in my life for me to forgive them.
When you were in the studio recording “Switch Up,” were you in a home studio or was there anything interesting that happened while you were recording?
I was recording at home. I was recording at a setup that me and my writing partner go to and our engineer. We set this studio in the living room, in their apartment. I started to talk about the sh*t that I was going through and I was like, "You know what, I'm f**king done, I'm ready to open up, I'm ready to go off.” I drank some wine, and we all just started drinking and talking. The more that we talked, the more we started getting into the actual track. Then eventually it turned into a freestyle. I started going over the record over and just laying sh*t down—one line here, one line there. We didn't write one thing down, everything was popping up in our heads. It was like, "You know what, I want to say this." I kept up with the melody and it turned into "Switch Up." It's strange how it all came about, but it was a big a** freestyle.
Do you know what wine you were drinking? I need to try it.
Yes. It's the best. Sutter Home, sweet red. I'm a fan of it, I really do like bitter tasting wine, but I also love sweet red wine as well. I just grabbed a bottle from Quick Trip. They sell the Sutter Home wine products at the store. Then I grabbed one and went to their apartment and we started drinking and working. It definitely got us in the mood. They didn't think it would work for them, but it works for everyone. You should try it. I don't know if you've had it before but it's one of my favorite wines.
You said it started over a bottle of wine and here we are now. That's amazing.
Yeah, a little wine, and the inspiration was "ni**as ain't sh*t."
Speaking of, because you needed a glass of wine for this, is there anything you usually have with you when you are recording in the studio?
That's a good question. I sit with a cover, like a blanket. Oh, flip-flops. I know it's strange and it sounds like it has nothing to do with music, but I'm very much a person that needs to feel right before I open up my mouth. So I had some comfy, fuzzy flip-flops and a blanket. Normally that's what I like to record with unless like I'm going to a studio or a public studio and everybody is there. I might dress up in a track suit or whatever, but at the home studio I have flip-flops and a blanket and I was in my own zone with my glass of wine.
What can you share about your upcoming project? Do you have any collaborations in the works? Is there a title or a date?
I know that we are aiming for the first quarter. And it is very, like I said, it's very aggressive. I know you heard vulnerable and open, but it's very aggressive. A lot of times women get looked down upon for being assertive and knowing what we want, and what we want to say and sometimes we get looked at as crazy. The lyrical content is definitely something to focus on when listening to this project when everyone hears it. It’s not just the track but the words and what we say and how we say it. It's just different from anything I have ever done before. I definitely do have some features and I don't want to say anything about them yet.
No, come on, we are in a sharing zone.
I know, I know, but just know this, you guys are in for a major treat. I’m very excited about what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. I just can't say anything yet. I’m not allowed to. It's just like every day I am like, Lord, when am I going to be able to say anything? Just know that I do have a couple of features and it's going to be lit. It's going to be something a lot of women are going to feel empowered by and the guys will even f**k with it, too. But I'm doing it for my ladies, we go through so much. This whole project is for women and me being a voice for the women and the issues we go through on the daily, and how we hold these ni**as down. And it's not that I'm trying to bash a man or anything like that or doing any male bashing. It's just that we need to be okay with telling our truth without feeling like we did a bad thing by exposing what’s wrong in a relationship or what's wrong with you, and what is going on with you. We shouldn't feel bad about that and too many times we do. I just want this to be the project that women listen to and they are like damn you know what, I’m better than that, and I do deserve more than that. I don't care this guy can be cute, he can sex me right, we can have the best sex, we can have whatever, but if he is not truly right, then I want to say that I love myself enough to say I don't care how cute you are or how handsome you are, how you know how much swag you got, or money. I can walk away cause I know I deserve better.
A lot of what resonates with me is you’re really trying to help fight this stigma of victim blaming. We now live in this era where people blame victims for things that are not their fault.
It's so crazy, I just don't understand. This person obviously went through something, and the only thing you can say is “what did they do? What did they do to get punched in the face?” If I am not putting my hands on you, you're not putting your hands on me. That's how it should be.
That is exactly how it should be.
It's just as simple as that. If I’m not doing that to you, don't do that to me. I don't understand how it goes, or how many people are so quick to throw stones at the victim for opening up. This is why we are afraid to open up. We’re worried to open up because we’re not really sure we’re going to get the support we need to get to through this thing because not only is it physical, it's mental and emotional. I just want women to start saying f**k you. Like, ‘No, you did this.’ If it's going to heal me and I am ready to talk about it, I am going to open up. Like f**k you, f**k you. Don't have your mom call me, don't have your sister call me. Don't have anybody call me for some sh*t that you could have avoided, you could have controlled. It's like everybody always wants to call and say why did you have to do that or why did you have to say that about this person or why did you have to put this out for the public to know? Well, what do you mean? So you knew that this has been going on for years? And the only time you are worried is when I say something?
Do you think that experiencing domestic violence has affected your music and your journey away from and back to music?
Absolutely yes. It affects everything about you because you blame yourself for why things are going the way they are going. You don't feel like you are worthy, like you are deserving of respect and then overall it breaks down your self-esteem but you don't have the confidence for things that you should have the confidence for. My case with music, I was always concerned about not being good enough and that started with number one. I had a lot of family issues. I come from a broken home but when you get in a relationship that is not any better, that only enhances everything at once. I didn't really believe that I was good enough to do music. I was always questioning things and always insecure about sh*t and always in my head about sh*t. One of the things I don't regret, but I just wish that I was strong enough to not let it affect me. And the very thing that I was born to do. I probably could have been in a different place, I don't know. But I’m not trying to put that on anybody or blame anybody. I’m not trying to blame that on the next person. But I’m just being totally honest, if I was in a different headspace and I believed in myself maybe things could have panned out a little differently when it came to my music.
Where do you think you have found your strength in all of this?
I have definitely found my strength in God. I have been leaning on prayer and meditation and, at times, it just really wasn't easy at all. You have those days when you're like, "I'm trying to encourage myself, speak to myself, speak life into myself," and sometimes you just don't believe it, sometimes you just don't have faith. Sometimes you're really affected by things that you go through and you're really stuck, you feel stuck and stagnant. But I've started to pray because there was a time that I stopped praying and I stopped meditating and I really couldn't wrap my head around anything. I started praying and asking God to reveal my own heart to me, the things that I need to change about myself. I started with myself. Things that I needed to be honest about with myself I asked God to start revealing those things with me and allow me to have the strength to build myself up and move on in my life without.
I started praying a lot more and asking God to give me the strength to make a decision to choose. Not to make a decision but to choose. To choose to do what I needed to do. That is where I started to come up a little bit in my spirit, but it's easier said than done. Sometimes you run across good genuine people who genuinely care and want to see you do better and want to see you okay. I thank God for those people. I call them guardian angels. They come into your life, and he sends them to be a light in a dark time, so I have definitely had a lot of that. I didn't even realize it at one point, but I have started to realize it and it definitely made a huge difference.