For someone who’s not too worried about her musical path, she puts a lot of work into it. Tang, whose music is influenced by R&B, pop and rock, just released her second EP — along with getting a college degree. She was also in the top ten for Hometown for the Holidays, is playing both the Westword Music Showcase and the Underground Music Showcase, and was recently included on the enviable New Music Friday playlist on Spotify, which has over two million subscribers.
Lost or not, she’s doing well.
Westword caught up with Tang to talk about her new album, Stranger, her evolution as a songwriter, and Denver’s music scene.
Westword: You released Stranger in 2018. What was the concept for this album/EP?
It was all over the place, because I’m doing a lot of experimentation with my music. Just a few years ago, I was in the singer-songwriter realm, not knowing which direction I wanted to go. I just wanted to write good songs. Recently, I’ve been working with some different producers to explore different genres. This is a representation of that period of time. That’s why we named it Stranger — for not knowing exactly what you want and who I want to be yet as an artist, but also being cool with that and riding the wave.
Everyone has so much pressure on them all the time: “What do you want to do with your life? Who do you want to be?” I think it’s silly. There’s no reason to have that pressure. If people are like, “Why doesn’t this EP sound all the same?” — it doesn’t matter. It was what I was feeling in that moment.
How did Stranger evolve from last year’s Passion/Aggression EP?
I was in a rock phase, and again, with the singer-songwriter stuff. I was a little lost, to be honest [laughs]. I still am. I was listening to a lot of classic rock, pop rock, and I hadn’t really discovered the genre I’m doing now. I was locked into my little, “I want to do this, I want to sound like John Mayer, James Bay,” but once I started to branch out, that’s when I felt, “Why can’t I make all different kinds of music?” There’s no reason I couldn’t be able to do that.
Was there something specific that set you off into your new album?
Honestly, yeah. I had a revelation. I did the Passion/Aggression EP and worked my ass off, doing all the marketing. I did a crowdfunder project for that and raised $10,000, and I was emailing people every day, posting on social media. I put on the entire show by myself, and all of a sudden, it was over. The EP was out. And I realized I wasn’t really happy with it.
It felt overwhelming and emotionally taxing, and after, I was like, “Why aren’t people listening to it?” I put so much heart into it — why aren’t people? It was less of a “What the fuck, world?” moment and more of a “I think I haven’t found my thing.” I was reflecting on myself. I wasn’t mad at anyone for not listening to my music. I just felt like something could be done to take it to the next level. That’s the attitude I’ve tried to have ever since then: always learning, always growing. So that’s what happened. I decided to listen to a fuck-ton of different music and study people and figure out what I liked.
So that’s what sparked Stranger...I wanted to find my thing and do me until people notice it.
What do you find yourself writing about? What gives you inspiration for your songs?
Just real shit. There are no songs that I ever write that are things that didn’t really happen or things I didn’t really feel. It’s so much easier to write about things when you’ve experienced them in a really deep way. A lot of them are about relationships — not necessarily romantic, but experiences I’ve had with other people. I’m pretty introverted, so when I deal with difficulties with other people, it becomes magnified. [My songs] are rarely ever about materialistic or surface-level things. Those songs can be really fun, but it’s hard for me to find the words for something I haven’t experienced.
Do you have a favorite song on Stranger? Could you tell us about it?
Or your favorite song today on it?
Okay, today. “She’s Not Me” — because that’s the most recent one I did on the album, and I really liked it, because when I was writing it, I was feeling so extremely inspired, and it came out so naturally, and the writing was very quick. I wrote it within a day, went into the studio and did some edits. It was a personal song, more so than other ones. Everything in that song was detail-oriented. There’s lots of words crammed into one song, but it was such a storytelling moment for me. My band really likes playing it. It’s a fun song, but also a breakup song. It’s a little sad, but I tried to keep it a positive sad [laughs]. It’s, hey, I’m moving on. An empowering thing, but at the same time, I’m sorry I hurt you.
Are you working on anything musically now that Stranger is out?
On May 30, I released a song with Covex, an electronic-music producer. I’ve done these acoustic videos called “Indy Sessions,” because no matter where I am, my dog [Indy] is there. The first is out. It’s a cover of “Location,” by Khalid.
Acoustic video sessions are fun, but I wanted to incorporate another element into it. At the end of the video, we said my dog is always the first one to hear my songs, and I give the information of where I adopted him, and I’m hoping we can give more information on local Denver shelters.
How are you involved with the music scene here in Denver?
A lot of it was through school. There is such a tight-knit group of music kids at CU Denver, and that’s where everything stemmed from. I really enjoy the music scene here because I get to practice playing live a lot. People are so supportive of coming out to see local music.
Outside of being in the live scene, I really try to get to know people who are doing cool things here. It’s a unique community compared to L.A. or Nashville or New York. It’s a great stepping stone to be here. People are just really nice. They aren’t going to shoot you down immediately — they’ll give you a chance.
I feel I wasn’t really a person until I went to college here. I was a little baby. Does that make sense? I still did music, [but] my attitude was: “So I’m going to take over the world. This is so great.” Then I got here, and I realized perspective. The world is so big, and I’m so small. The world does not accommodate you. That has helped me figure out a path and set realistic goals for my music career. Denver has been my second home, because I’ve met so many people who have believed in me and lifted me up.
Do you feel the Denver music scene is fair to its male and female musicians?
That’s an interesting question. I moved here in 2014, and back then, I did notice a lot of male-led or all-male bands doing really cool things. That was when I was first jumping in: “Who’s big here?” And I noticed, okay, a lot of them are males.
But recently, as I’m more integrated into the scene, I’m noticing more female-led groups and female artists, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting deeper into the scene or if it’s because things are shifting. People who are doing huge things, like Wildermiss and YaSi, they’re killing it right now, and I see that and think, dope, let’s keep doing this. Even for Hometown for the Holidays, that was a huge topic of conversation, because over half of the top ten finalists were female-led. Girls are fearless. I really want to dive deeper into collaborating with other females.
Westword Music Showcase, Saturday, June 23, noon, Golden Triangle neighborhood.