Singer, songwriter, rapper and now label boss, Bristol-born, Tanya Lacey is definitely heading places. Growing up in the tough St Paul’s district of the city, famed for its riots in the ‘80s, but also for its multi-cultural community, Tanya vividly remembers overhearing a conversation in her local newsagent whereby a local woman proclaimed “nobody ever makes something of themselves in St.Pauls” and during that moment she knew that she would prove people wrong. Music did get her out of St Paul’s – her debut album has been recorded in London, New York and Atlanta.
Having experimented with different bands and collaborators over the years, Tanya Lacey has come up with “a classic yet contemporary sounding record with lots of depth and meaning behind the songs.” Tanya’s sound is raw, eclectic and soulful. This is not the emotionally cold R&B-dance-pop that’s currently clogging up the airwaves, but realness revisited. She confides: “As an artist, you have to be open, you have to be vulnerable and share your story, otherwise no-one’s going to feel you.”
Tanya’s school years were spent feeling like “a bit of a misfit”. Music and Art was her escapism. Although she says none of her family are musical, she still had the privilege of growing up in a household where her British-Antiguan mum played Tracy Chapman, Sam Cooke and classical and her white-British dad (who is Fluent in Cantonese and is a Cantonese Chef by trade) listened to Michael Jackson, rock-pop and authentic Chinese music.
Tanya’s route to her current fresh UK soul sound has included ragga, drum’n’bass and electro. Quitting her A-Levels midway through because during that time she states that she valued life experience more than college, Tanya joined a local reggae band with a dedicated following. She went straight into touring with the group, learning the craft of live singing and performing as well as writing organically with the band.
“I’m definitely a live singer. The best thing about my voice? I guess that would be the tone and the texture of it,” she says. “For me, it’s not necessarily about being technically brilliant. It’s about being able to hear the heart and the soul and the truth in somebody’s voice, that’s what I’m attracted to and hopefully that’s what people will connect to.”
After three years of touring, Tanya left the group to explore her own sound. As well as working with local producers, she also collaborated with acclaimed drum’n’bass producer Danny Byrd for the song ‘From Bath With Love.’ Danny had watched her perform at a local hang out spot called Sunday Night Soul – a night one of Tanya’s friends had created for musicians and singers to come together and rock out and jam. It was here where her manager, who helped her make the move to the capital, spotted her.
In London Tanya hooked up with Fraser T Smith and the, then unknown, producers Labrinth and Naughty Boy to work on songs. Tanya spent time working with musicians who were looking to change the sound of British urban music. Sleeping on friend’s sofas and studio couches, Tanya worked away, blocking out the fact that she was so penniless she couldn’t even afford cheap gold hoops or mascara.
The hard work paid off as in 2010 Tanya landed a record deal with RCA Records in the UK. However, after changes within the major label Tanya found herself out of a deal and without her album being released. “When I signed my deal I had so many expectations of how things would pan out, I was excited but also naive to a lot of the politics I would constantly come up against,” explains Tanya. “One minute you’re flying all over the world working with the best producers and feeling that you’re part of a family and then it all just stops when the people who signed you leave the label. It was surreal but it was an incredible opportunity and has led to this new phase in my career.”
The latest chapter in Tanya’s career is the forthcoming release of her EP ‘Head Chef’ out in October 2012. The 7 track EP is an introduction to the different sounds and styles of Tanya. The EP draws on all of Tanya’s influences from hip hop/soul to reggae to drum’n’bass and more. From the soulful melodies in Greatness, which features British rapper Kano, to the super-fun Too Many Cooks and the ragga-influenced Stop Start.
Recently Tanya has been having great success as a songwriter as well. Tanya was one of the co-writers on will.i.am’s global mega-hit ‘T.H.E’ “It was an idea I had originally started with Dallas Austin when I was working with him in Atlanta. On my last day we were just messing around and vibing on some ideas for this song called ‘Go Hard or Go Home,’ unfortunately I had to catch my flight back to London that evening so we didn’t have enough time to finish the track. Will heard the demo idea a year later and jumped on it and created T.H.E.’
Tanya is continuing to write for other artists following her publishing deal with BMG Chrysalis, recent credits include Stooshe, Nikki Williams and Cover Drive. But the focus for Tanya right now is stepping into the spotlight in her own right with The Head Chef EP. Her time is now.