Tihirah "Tiger" Harris lost everything in a fire when she was younger, which eventually lead to discovering her love for music as it helped her heal from the tragedy. Years and many musical accomplishments later…. Tiger has truly made a mark in the industry and has impacted many lives with her songwriting. She shares her story below...
Please share a bit about how you discovered your love for songwriting and how you got started in the music industry?
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my house and everything I've ever owned burned down to the ground right before the holidays. My parents provided all they possibly could, but the kids in the community were relentless and my own thoughts paired with their cruelty, broke my heart and my spirit. I lost confidence, my identity, and the light within me. My mom quickly noticed the rapid decline in my spirit so she signed me up to run track. That helped for a while but, growing older, puberty deciding to kick in at that last minute and being "the awkward middle child" added to my broken pieces and I needed something more than just 800m around the track. My entire family thrives in the fine arts so music came easy and natural. But, when I picked up the guitar and started playing, everything sort of made sense. Lessons weren’t in the budget so for a while I was just picking at the strings but, it really helped me internally. I started to sing, and write everything I was feeling that I could never say to another person. I was pretty much hiding in plain sight. I always watched music videos and how happy musicians seemed on TV so I told myself that’s what I wanted. The internet really started to pick up around this time so I made profiles under various pseudonyms to see if I was good enough and see how other people responded to me. There were other young girls like me battling the same things I was and turned to writing and music for the same cathartic release I did. From there I made so many friends, and networked online that their friends became my friends and so on, and now... here I am.
How do you get into songwriting mode? Do you typically have to set your scene or do you have to be in a specific mood when you are writing?
One of my favorite poets, Rudy Francisco, actually said it finest; “I write best when I’m falling in love or falling apart.” I’ve only been in love once and I have a great support system so I don’t frequently fall apart but I have to channel those emotions. I can write anywhere because different places just evoke different emotions from me. Again, I was in a dark place when I first started writing so naturally I’ve blocked out a lot of my younger years. I honestly can’t tell you much about anything from back then because I’ve pushed it so far out of my mental space that I’ve forgotten. However, sometimes things that happened come back in flashbacks when I’m in certain places, or I hear certain songs, certain scents, and even when I’m listening to someone else’s stories. I can tap into those emotions and use it as fuel to get a song or just a melody. It can be really draining but, everything I’ve ever written has a piece of my life somewhere in it.
You are now a signed writer for a major label, how did that opportunity come about?
Networking and more networking. I’ve given songs away, I have songs from years ago floating around the internet that I’ve forgotten about and I’m constantly on Tumblr and Soundcloud listening to underground artists and sparking conversation to simply get better at my craft or possibly help the next person out. You never know who an individual is connected with so you have to treat every conversation as an interview. A friend of mine performed one of my songs for an A&R at Sony which landed her a deal and my name being floated around. From there my industry career sort of started.
How do you prepare for writing sessions with artists that you are assigned to work with?
I never know what I’m going to get honestly. I can walk into a studio and the artist has something they want help with or I can walk in and the artist has nothing prepared but has a certain sound and vibe they want. The most important thing the industry has taught me is to stay true to my identity. My idea of a great song could be completely different from the next person and they may choose to not use my song at all. I never take anything personal because everything isn’t for everybody. I was raised listening to the likes of Nas, Lauryn Hill, Common, Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway and others so I’ve adapted my own sound and way of composing that I feel distinguishes me just as they did. The last thing I want is to sound like everyone else and not be memorable, so every single session I remind myself who I am and why I started before I see who is on the other side of the door.
What insider tip or piece of advice can you share with someone looking to break into the music industry?
First and foremost you need to know who you are as an individual. You need to have values, and goals, set a standard for yourself before you even attempt to break into the industry. It’s easy to get caught up in the glamour of everything and get lost in the scene and lose yourself. Don’t get so caught up in the world that you forget your foundation. That foundation will come in handy when thousands of people tell you no, and laugh in your face or when you’ve been working on music for years and you haven’t gotten a break yet. Next, I’d say put yourself out there. Social media is so huge now and there is no much at your fingertips if you just ask. Look for events labels are having, even look at the positions they have open. Everyone has to start somewhere even if that means being an intern. You can’t be afraid to be turned down. Work relentlessly on your music and keep finding new ways to break into yourself and your mind. Post it on every platform you can find and keep up with them all. Perform at local shows and keep your name in the mix. Network constantly and meet new people who are like minded. No one is going to pay attention and want to know you unless you make them; so you keep working until they turn around and see you.
How has working in the music industry helped with other goals that you have set for yourself? What are some of your future goals and plans?
I started making music to release and find myself. I’ve been on this Earth for about 8152 days and I know who I am now. Of course there is always room for growth but, music is no longer doing that for me. When I was noticed I was excited, but working in the industry has definitely changed my outlook on a lot of things. Once you get your foot in the door you would expect one to be ecstatic and have this ideology that “This is it!” but, I had a different feeling. I have chosen medicine and ministry over music. My accomplishments in the industry have helped me set goals I first believed were unattainable. But, there is no better feeling than completely demolishing every barrier, every stereotype and being better. I’ll be graduating from college as a double major in Science this year and starting medical school in 2018 with the hopes to be an Invasive Cardiologist. I’ve managed to successfully break into the industry all while still being a college student, maintaining my high GPA, mentoring young women at my church, and holding a full time job as well as 2 part time jobs. That fire all those years ago may have taken everything out of me back then but now I’ve gotten it all back in surplus. I refuse to settle, I refuse to be mediocre, and I refuse to give up. I have God, an amazing family and friends who are my support system and a best friend that is my boulder when I think I can’t go any further. From where I am standing, there is nothing I can’t do; I mean... who’s going to stop me?
Women On The Grind Loves You, Tiger! Keep up the great work…XoXo!