Boundary-Breakers: Music’s Next Big Thing
Tiffany Gouché is a captivating, warm beacon of light whose mission is to spread love wherever she goes through her music. An Inglewood native, who comes from a long line of musicians, 29-year-old Gouché (rhymes with touché) is a multi-faceted creative in every way. She’s a singer, a songwriter, and a producer. And you can even add comedienne to the list—her Instagram Stories are pure gold.
Gouché has been behind the scenes: She wrote and produced five-time Grammy Award-winning artist Lalah Hathaway’s project, honestly. She’s set the scene: She’s shared stages with Anderson Paak, Solange, and JMSN, and opened for Ms. Lauryn Hill. And she’s owned the scene: In anticipation of her 2018 debut album, Gouché recently released two singles “Dive” and “Down” in which her jazzy, futuristic, sultry soul sound is on full, glorious display. (Fun fact: The video for “Dive” was inspired by blues singer Gladys Bentley who performed during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance in full tuxedo—unheard of garb for a woman at the time.)
But through it all, she’s been an unstoppable force for the independent R&B and soul-music community and an advocate for queer artists, opening dialogues and unapologetically sharing her personal perspective as a queer black woman in the music industry.
Today, Gouché lives in the L.A. neighborhood of Highland Park, about 20 miles from where she grew up. We dropped by her house, caught her in action at her piano crooning to pup Daphne, and cruised around to some of her favorite neighborhood haunts. Then we sat down to talk about the messages she hopes to channel through her music and why it’s important to always be yourself.
What was your exposure to music like when you were young?
TG: “I started taking a liking to music pretty early, maybe age 5. My dad was a musician. I’d hear him play piano all throughout the house and sing songs at church. I was exposed to music very early.”
Then how did you get your start?
TG: “I started playing piano at 7 and singing in a gospel choir at 9. These were life-changing experiences. Definitely firmed a solid foundation in music for me. I listened predominantly to gospel music, which shaped my sound. But they were all beautiful experiences.”
Tell us a short story from your past that sums up who you are and what you stand for.
TG: “I grew up Christian, my parents were very Christian, so me being queer—it’s not celebrated in the black community or really just in general, period. So I grew up trying to love myself in an environment I wasn’t celebrated in, and there was a point where I was singing songs that weren’t true to me. I didn’t love me so I went through a lot of different forms of abuse: substance abuse, my own mental and emotional abuse, and partner abuse, because I didn’t love who I was. I allowed so many different things into my space, and I allowed people to treat me badly because I didn’t love myself. Having to learn to love myself got me to this point of expressing myself the way I know I should in music, of singing songs about what I needed to sing about, who I love and what’s true to me. I went through a lot of different things and now I can say that I feel full, because I had to hit rock bottom to appreciate where I am now and understand the storm to get here.”
With everything you’ve been through, how do you now live and create authentically?
TG: “I just express my experiences. Real, true experiences. I don’t fabricate things. I’m blessed to have had many beautiful experiences, and not that they’re good or bad but I’ve gone through a lot of life so I try to express what I’ve been through and how I feel inside. I’m honest with myself. Honesty allows me to be like that.”
What’s the message you want to spread as an artist?
TG: “My message is love and hope. In the times we’re in, we need more love, we need people to be speaking about it, and we need to share messages of hope. A lot of people feel the way I do but are afraid to speak up. I believe if more people were preaching love and hope, you’ll find more people who think like you than you were aware of before. Society doesn’t preach love. You have to find it in certain communities or build it. I try to be a beacon of light and love and hope, trying to spread my light, so I can find others.”
Which of your songs should people listen to first?
TG: “I would say ‘Ready 2 Go.’ It’s a well-rounded song in terms of sonics and backgrounds and lyrically in terms of how sensual I am. It expresses a level that I feel is more potent than other songs I have. I want the listener to get a good feeling. I want them to feel safe and want their ears to feel good. I want them to be happy when they hear it. It’s like eating a good meal.”
As a queer black woman, how do you embody inclusivity in your music?
TG: “I express it fully and am not quiet about things. I do things that are true to me. Living my truth and singing my truth is my stance for feeling safe in who I am and not being afraid.”
What advice do you have for other young WOC/queer women looking to break into music?
TG: “To love yourself first and fully and to trust yourself, trust your voice, and always speak up about what you want and how you want things to go for yourself. Be bold and don’t feel inferior because you matter. Someone out there needs you.”
Are there any charities or causes you champion?
TG: “Definitely breast-cancer awareness. My mom passed from breast cancer in 2002 so I want to get more involved. I’m not too hip with too many organizations but women of color, queer women of color, the LGBTQ community—I’m open to helping anybody that I stand beside.”
You recently went on tour with Kelela—how was that experience?
TG: “It was really dope to tour with a woman and a black woman at that. Everything felt so warm and inviting on stage. It gave me a safe place in the industry. To have these two powerful women together all over the world, it made my voice that much bigger. And all of Kelela’s fans treat her like a queen, so there’s a lot of love for music, which was cool to experience. I would say that my music is different and my message is not everywhere yet, so I feel I can be outcast at times, but it felt so good to be on a tour where my music was celebrated. It was mind-blowing, it felt like a big hug.”
Is there anyone you’re dying to work or tour with in the future?
TG: “I would want to work with Missy Elliott. She’s one of my biggest inspirations. She inspired me to start producing and creating my sound and not really conforming to the times, just doing what’s true to you. I believe in pushing that envelope but I deal with the insecurities around it and have to constantly remind myself to do what’s true to my heart. Erykah Badu, as well, would be a dope vibe.”
How has your style developed over time?
TG: “I think ever since I was a kid, I like being comfortable. That’s my style, so comfy clothes, baggy clothes. But my style has definitely changed over time. I used to only wear hoodies and basketball shorts and now I wear skinny jeans and crew necks. I thrift a lot more, too."
What’s your favorite footwear to wear on stage?
TG: “Lately I’ve been performing in these wingtip Stacy Adams that are dress-up shoes. I like to be sharp on stage. I like to be in my Sunday best. Before that I would wear loafers, so it’s mostly always been dressed-up shoes. There have been few shows where I’ve worn sneakers, but for the most part, I’m always dappered down.”
Two Must-Stops in Highland Park
“I love living in Highland Park,” says Gouché. “There’s always something new every month, a lot of activities and friendly people. It has great energy all around.”
“I love the staff and environment. It’s always upbeat in there. Their iced Americano is one of my favorites, no cream, no sugar.”
“I normally get their grilled-fish tacos and may grab me a Modelo beer. It’s delicious. They have the best salsa in a long time from a taco spot. There’s the right amount of spice. They probably use two serrano peppers. I can tell.”
"Red is my favorite color so I tend to buy a lot of red shoes," says Gouché. "I like my Chuck Taylors and Pumas. They’re in red too!”
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