Childhood stardom is not the easiest thing to deal with. The combination of unorthodox working hours, constant travel itineraries, and also the lack of connection with others of the same age, can all prove too much for those not built for an industry absorbed in high demand. While the likes of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber have done well to not fall victim to the pressures of the modern day celebrity lifestyle, there are those who have not been as fortunate. However Tinashe Kachingwe is cut from a different type of cloth.
Tinashe’s rise to stardom began at a very young age when her father, who had connections in the theatre industry, helped kickstart the budding young singer’s career – starting with baby modeling. “Really early on I developed a love for performance so I always wanted to be a singer and music artist but I wanted to wait until I was old enough [to pursue that avenue],” she recalls, having first focused on film and TV acting, with appearances including Two And A Half Men and The Polar Express.
Her love of music however became the driving force of her passion – “When I was about 15 was when I decided to full on pursue a music career and I kinda dropped everything else. I stopped going to school full time. I tested out of school early. I went on a hiatus from acting. I just dedicated everything that I could to my music career.”
Getting into the industry at a young age is usually the result of some inspiring, and sometimes pushy, parents. According to Tinashe this wasn’t the case for her. “I was very much the driving force in my career,” she makes clear. “I really liked it and loved being on stage singing and performing for people. So I think it was more that my parents were just really supportive of me as opposed to grooming me. I don’t think they were ever pushing me or anything. They were just supportive of me. I always knew that I wanted to be in entertainment industry.”
With the recent news that Drake finally earned his high school diploma, after dropping out for a starring role in the hit Canadian TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation, Tinashe claims her situation regarding leaving school early and has no desire to return anytime soon. “For me, when I left school I tested out early. I got all of my credentials, my diploma, and all of that.”
When the singing aspect of her repertoire took precedent it was Tinashe’s involvement in a musical that set her on her way; but riding solo would not be her first point of call.
“One of the girls that was in [the musical] with me came up to me and was like, “I’m in this girl group and we’re looking for a black girl. You should audition.” Initially I wasn’t very excited about it because being a part of a group was never really my plan, but I auditioned and got in.”
The group in question grew to become The Stunners. Initially signed to Columbia Records, and then Universal Republic, the singing fivesome had a pretty big teen following, featured on the iCarly soundtrack, and even toured with teen sensation Justin Bieber. But breaking down her experience in the group, Tinashe’s honesty pours through the floodgates. “We were put together but we always pretended that we weren’t,” she admits.
“They told us to act like we were friends. We were – we did get along – but it’s kinda hard when you have four people with different career goals and expectations. I think that’s what inevitably lead to our disbanding, just because we had separate career goals and wanted different things. I think that’s the tricky thing when you have a group of people that aren’t friends first. It can be hard to keep it together.”
Going on to explain that a lot of group tension came from her unofficial role as lead in the group, the Kentucky-born beauty describes her version of events. “We all got along but I was the youngest so that also created a lot of tension. I think [it was] because I was doing most of the singing and always in the centre most of the time. I was also doing a lot of the songwriting… So I think that caused a little bit of tension me being the youngest and there were a few older girls who didn’t want to be, what they were referred to as, my backup singers. It is what it is. We eventually disbanded and they all went off to pursue their own endeavors, and I did the same.”
A far cry from the type of music she was was putting out with The Stunners, Tinashe’s solo material appears raw, edgy, and sometimes explicit. Is this the real her or is she doing it to appeal to a completely new demographic? “I’m definitely being more me now,” she exclaims.
“The music that I’m putting out now is 100% created, thought up, written, and recorded by me.
“So it’s really a more genuine look at who I am as an artist,” Tinashe says. “The music I was making with The Stunners was a bit more dance/pop, and a little more PG. So when I left the group I really wanted to be able to put something out to my fans because I had a somewhat established fan base – I wanted to be able to give them something [to help them] understand me more. That was kinda my incentive for recording the mixtape.”
The mixtape Tinashe speaks of is her debut solo project In Case We Die, a 15-track collection of new material introducing fans to her maturing musical direction. Following on from In Case We Die, September saw the release of Tinashe’s second mixtape Reverie, which garnered a wider pool of attention. “I think that also inspired a lot of downloads of my first mixtape,” she comments. “That was really great for me because I really wanted people to be able to listen to both. I think you should listen to them together as opposed to verses one another.”
Capturing listeners attention and emotions, the 19-year-old pens songs that come from a real place with an occasional bit of dramatic fiction thrown in for effect. “A lot of the lyrics in my songs come from a stand point of truth. They’re based on somewhat true experiences, or even stories that I have heard from friends.”
Now signed to RCA, Tinashe hopes that her debut album will be released early next year but as of yet has no title for it. In and out of New York working on studio sessions, she believes she has something that separates her from the other R&B starlets. “I think that there’s an open lane for a young rhythmic pop artist to come out,” she claims.
“I think a lot of young girls are looking for a new person to be their role model.”
“I feel like some of the other artists in the market aren’t exactly doing the type of music that I’m doing; either they’re doing a little bit more of a pop/dance approach or it’s a little more R&B. I want to be able to bridge the gap,” she asserts, promising “really great stage shows” with her background as a professionally trained dancer adding to her string of talents. “I think there’s an open lane for that.”
In saying that, comparisons are still made between Tinashe and many of today’s chart topping boppers. Some include Rihanna, Cassie, Lana Del Ray, and even The Weeknd. “[As artists] we don’t like to have people put us up against on other, and sometimes I feel like when people make comparisons it’s more like a, ‘Who do you think is better?’ type of thing,” says Tinashe. That said, “I think the comparisons have been really great. The people they have been comparing me to, I like their music. So it’s obviously a great thing that people are putting me in to a category with artists whose artistry I can appreciate.”
Things are definitely on the up and up for Tinashe. With on-point visuals, seductively non-compromising vocals, and the attitude and drive to succeed, those in search of substance, controlled and intricately designed choreography and that bad girl sassiness need search no more. Having worked hard for a place in the music industry, she’s now in the best possible position to infiltrate. With a debut album on the way, there’s a possibility we might see in Tinashe the emergence of another R&B star that plays both sides of the chart.