Photo Cred: Majo Grossi
Age is a state of mind. Why? Because maturity, vision, and self-awareness depend less on how long we’ve been on this planet, and more on how we take advantage of life’s opportunities to learn, grow, and create a path for ourselves so that, maybe, we can get a shot at making the world better.
That’s the first thing that came to mind when I learned about Tazmin Barnes. The British singer and songwriter grew up in China, where she began singing at the age 6. At 16, she has already received wide recognition for her talent and work. She was listed by The Revue as one of the Top 35 new artists to watch in 2018, was a finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest, organized by the BRIT Awards, and has twice achieved Top 20 positions in the iTunes Pop Album Charts, with Powerful, her latest EP, reaching #11 and being featured live in session by BBC Introducing.
But it’s not her early success that makes Tazmin a role model for so many young artists, and an example to follow for more established ones. It’s the message behind the powerful femininity of her voice; the chill-inducing lyrics that show a level of maturity and understanding that is hard to find. That power comes from a need to create an authentic path for herself, one guided by messages of girl power, environmental consciousness, and purpose.
Tazmin represents a generation that struggles with balancing the search for meaning and awareness, with hyper-connectivity and constant distraction. So how does a young artist bridge that gap? She makes pop music that explores the issues that affect our society. “With topics such as climate change, for the public, they seem so far away, so distant. So, putting that into the form of a song or music closes that gap, because music speaks to everyone,” she says.
It wasn’t until I listened to her latest EP, Powerful, that I understood the importance of what Tazmin is doing. While these are topics that are often explored in slower, ballad-like songs, Tazmin uses the playfulness of pop to say: this is not just some people, this is all of us. Lyrics like: “living in society that offers left and right,” “the big ones don’t believe it and the little one can’t fight it,” and “it’s not a silly tweet or some political plea,” from her tracks One Good Cure and Extinction, are so real, so on-point with the challenges we face today, that you need to stop for a minute to let reality sink in.
Then there are tracks like “Trapped”, from her first EP which goes by the same name; a soul-pop, melancholic song, with a sense of self that reflects that need we all have to look inside for answers. The vulnerability in a track like Trapped is something everyone can relate to, and you wouldn’t believe me when I told you she was 14 when she wrote it.
The spotlight is a powerful tool for change, especially nowadays when artists have a much more direct access to their audiences through social media. Now more than ever, the world needs people like Tazmin in the spotlight; people who remain true to their values, who turn their concerns into action.
“I write about what I want,” she says, “my frustrations and feelings about subjects I think are very important.” Tazmin explains that because her work is less commercial, and doesn’t focus on something that will please the majority crowd, it’s sometimes hard to increase its visibility. Even with the rising number of online platforms and unconventional methods for artists to expose their work, she says there’s been a huge shift in the social media world, and the standards can sometimes be as much about fitting the mold as in traditional outlets. But she understands how vital a fan base is to release music and to get a message across, so she’s been hard at work using platforms such as YouTube to connect with a wider audience, in a more personal way.
While Tazmin loves singing and songwriting, her true passion is performing live. “The feeling that you get on-stage is so fun, it’s so exciting. It always seems to make things feel better,” she says. Tazmin is a natural on stage. She’s been performing in front of audiences since she was seven, when she joined her school’s rock band, The Delinquent Aces, in China. The band would perform at corporate events and gigs all over Beijing. I took the liberty of looking them up on YouTube, and was not surprised to see an even younger Tazmin engaging the audience with the same confidence and ease she demonstrates today.
There’s an authenticity to Tazmin that goes beyond her talent; she’ll go from being a young woman who is confident and mature beyond her age, to poking fun at herself, and surprising you with a refreshing sense of humor. When I ask her about her day-to-day she teases about getting her hair done, riding a limousine to London, and meeting with producers. “I’m joking,” she says. In between studying piano and vocals, working on her covers and YouTube videos, and sometimes practicing for gigs, Tazmin leads a regular teenage life. She continues to go to school full-time and is focused on her academics. “I know how important it is to get an education. I’ve got access to one and I should take advantage of it,” she explains and says this is her way of keeping a leveled head in an industry that is as much about hard work and talent as it is about luck.
“This year at school I had to pick 3 ‘A’ Level subjects – which if I do well will enable me to go to a good University. But these are all academic subjects and not really connected with performing arts. Even though I want to be a singer and performer the chances of success are really hard to predict so the best bet is to ensure you have solid academics,” she tells me on a Skype call. It surprised me to see the honesty and humility with which she affronted the challenges. It’s not easy to be an aspiring artist; to dream big and still be realistic about the outcome. So, aside from keeping her own feet on the ground, Tazmin also uses her experiences and perspective on the music world to coach and help other young artists, such as our very own ambassador Azul Girola, achieve their dreams.
The challenge is making people listen. It’s a task that takes a lot of courage, especially when what you’re doing hasn’t been done before. “My self-belief falters at times. When I look at other artists and I wonder ‘how am I going to get there? Is there any chance for me, or do I need to try something else?’” she says. When I ask her, what keeps her going, Tazmin takes a minute to think, and answers with two words, fulfilling potential. “Unfulfilled potential for anyone, I think is really scary,” she says. “I want to contribute; I want to make something of this that I have: my voice and writing my songs.”
It can take people a lifetime to come to that conclusion. Often the fear of failing at something we love can lead us to choose a different path, and we spend our lives doing other things only to realize we were meant for something else. But Tazmin isn’t willing to let that happen, and this is the most admirable thing about her. She shows us that no matter where life takes her, she has already won.
Don't miss out on Tazmin and Azul performing "Rise Up" here!