The red-hot stardom of the singer behind 80’s covers I Saw Her Standing There and Locomotion burned bright and faded way too fast, but the talented artist named Tiffany (Tiffanytunes.com) never truly left. Instead, she’s moved out of the malls (where she was known for performing as a teen) and hit the road behind her recent albums—all while fighting to free herself from her teeny-bopper image of old. Paste chatted with Tiffany about using media to reinvent herself, and earning new fans one small show at a time.
I don’t think it’s any surprise to hear that many people still remember you as the teen singer who performed in lots of malls. Since this was well before the days of YouTube, was this simply your way of getting your name and face out in front of people?
Tiffany: Yeah, and I think that was a lifesaver, really. You know, my album was going to be pretty much shelved. I mean, the music was fine, but being 15 or 16 years old, I couldn’t perform in clubs. If I did, I couldn’t stay after and meet the fans or anything. So, the music was doing really well, but it wasn’t my age group, and there really wasn’t anything as an avenue to promote a 15-year-old girl. I mean, you obviously can’t just start going on the road, because nobody knows your name.
So, I think, the malls were the lifesaver. I mean, that’s really where my age group hung out. And it was a way for me travel the country and get people to know me, and go to radio during the daytime and say, “Hi, here’s who I am. This is my record.” It really was grassroots.
So I look at the mall tours as a funny thing. I’m like, “Yes, I’m the mall tour girl.” I don’t regret it, and I don’t think the industry has changed that much. You kind of have to have a little gimmick like that… but it’s annoying sometimes now since that’s all some people think of me.
You mentioned that the industry hasn’t changed much, but the way that media has allowed artists to expose themselves to the world certainly has. Do you think that the process of becoming a star and growing a fan base has evolved away from those grassroots necessities that you mentioned?
Tiffany: Well, yeah. I mean, I’m a complete indie artist now. Every day is a new learning experience about social media for me, and you’re right. I’m out on the road now, and if you’re not totally on the active social media, people just tend to not come out to shows. They tend to not know about them.
It’s a fast-paced society, obviously. It’s getting faster everyday. So, yeah, I look at people who do sit home, and they create some kind of following just by being persistent in the social media world. And this is really new for me. I mean, I’ve been learning it the last few years, and every day I want to get better at it. I have people doing, and helping me with it, but I am still kind of a hands-on person.
I always think that talking about music versus playing music, it’s more interesting to have people hear what you’re creating. But as I find out about it, sometimes that’s just a YouTube video at home, with you and a guitar player.
So, I’m trying to chill out a little bit more in my old age. But it really is all about social media now. You can create being a star from being in your living room. Some people I agree with, some people I’m like, “What? I don’t get it.” But it doesn’t discount the fact that it works.
Do you feel like you benefited from having to go through the old-school way of actually having to perform in front of all different audiences early in your career?
Tiffany: Yeah, because I feel like I can talk about my shows, and be excited about my shows, and look good, and do all of that. But I also know when you’re going to actually come to my show, I have the chops. I have what it takes. I’m a professional performer, I love performing live, you’re have a good time, and my voice is better than ever. I’m a songwriter now, so I’m much more into my music than ever before. That is where the old-school stuff really works… the connection with the crowd.
You’ve been connected to the music industry for three decades now. From your perspective, how has the business changed over the years, and do you think that touring or recording music is the priority in 2017?
Tiffany: Well, the artist makes the most money off of touring. I mean, songwriters don’t make as much anymore. It still matters, but for the artist, I think it’s still about the touring and getting out there. But, again, sometimes behind the scenes … That’s just you in the studio, that’s you making the project. That’s you walking your dog.
I mean, you can keep a fire going now through social media, just by being you on a daily basis. And I think that really is important now. People expect that of you. Before, it was intrusive. That was paparazzi time, to get the sneak footage of you playing with your kids or something, you know? Now, celebrities are willing to do that because they know that is really building a brand, and that’s how people get to know them, and that’s their fans, and people expect it of them.
Is that something that you’ve become accustomed to?
Tiffany: I think I have to get over the hump, sometimes, in my own head. So many times I’m told, “Well, you’re Tiffany.” You know, “You’re Tiffany. You can’t do this, you gotta be this way, you can’t… ”
When I buy into that mentality, I think it limits me. For me, I have great staff around me, so I like showing people in my staff and band that are fun… who are like, “Let’s take a video of us behind the scenes,” you know? “No, you’re not in full makeup. It doesn’t matter.” Right? You’re having fun, and this is what people want to see. They want to see your life.
They push me a little bit. Because usually, I have the perfect perspective. Because back in the ‘80s and stuff, everything was cheesy, maybe. But we were trying to be professional, we were trying to be cutting edge. We were trying to be different.
And then, as I grew up it was, you know, “Be a pretty girl,” and, you know, “Have videos, and don’t let people know the rough edges of your life.” And now, the rough edges of your life are really the meat and bone that holds it all together.
Being exposed, being a little wacky and being crazy… unfortunately, I’m all of that (laughs). I just haven’t let people into my world too much. I’m about to go out on the road, and you’ll see more of that, but for me to just turn a camera on myself, and be like, “Hey, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I’m not really that person.
But I really do rely on my band and other people, and when I’m out with people and talking about what I like, and people getting to know that I have this really sick sense of humor, and I am kind of dark at times. I mean, I’m a metal head. People don’t know I have always loved rock music. I think that I’m going to really love doing more social media. Especially now, because I feel like I can be free.
You have been really upfront over the years about the fact that your decision to pose in Playboy was largely a self-promotional tactic… something to get people talking about you again. Do you feel like that move inspired others to do the same thing in order to grow or change their image?
Tiffany: Definitely, because I’m not the only person who gets stuck in a certain category… Being successful in something that you love and that you always wanted to do, and then having it turn around and smack you in the face. People limit you and discredit you because you were the mall girl, or you were 15, and now you have this big wall to climb over, and it continues to pop up throughout your lifetime. . It’s annoying, and it’s frustrating because I do great albums, and they get great press, and they’re very solid. And then, it’s like, “Well, it’s just Tiffany.” So, I don’t know what the next crazy thing for me will be, but there’s something coming, I’m sure.
It’s a very frustrating thing, so for me, I chose Playboy, because it was like, “No, I’m a grown woman, and this is definitely gonna blow that image.” Some people didn’t get it, but I really can’t worry about that.
So what will that next step be? If the war against your previous image continues, what’s the battle plan as you look to promote your latest work?
Tiffany: The battle plan is just keep doing what you love. I love music, I love producing, I love songwriting. I have no intentions of quitting. I love being on the road, and right now, what I’m building is grassroots, small shows. It’s a struggle, getting the word out to everyone again. That’s where social media comes in, and I’m learning more and more every day to be more exposed and more honest, which I really have no problem with. But, I mean, you just keep doing it until you win a little bit of a battle. That’s the plan right now. I mean, working on my image.
That doesn’t mean you have to do anything bad, but yes, I was wearing bustiers. Yes, I was a little more sexy, and I think that matters. I think that’s what the music industry, especially for females, now requires.
I think that your image needs to be hot, and you need to be competitive. So, I think, for many years, I kind of was a mom and did my thing at home… still touring and still active, but I’d done a lot of things like Celebrity Wife Swap and getting back together with the mall girl audience.
But I’m not so sure how many of those people are my “today” audience, if that makes sense. A lot of those people don’t go to concerts. A lot of those people don’t walk in my shoes. So, I’m now finding new people, and connecting my music with new people.
That’s very exciting to me, though. It is kind of like, “Okay, I got to find my place again.” The people that I am finding love music, they love going out to shows, they love getting dressed up. They love different artists, and our lives are a little chaotic and busy and successful, and we kind of want it all. And I think I’m finding those people along the way.
I’m on the road, doing my thing… small, intimate shows that are a lot of fun. I’m showing my new music … really, more than my music, my personality: “A Night with Tiffany”. People don’t expect what that night is going to be, but I love it. No show has been the same, and I sit and drink Jim Bean and have fun. I don’t get shit-faced, but we have a good time. We have some cocktails and we hang out.