Teneia, you’ve been a singer-songwriter since the age of 8. Do you feel music is an impactful tool for learning?
Absolutely. For me, songwriting has always been a great tool for processing my emotions and storing information since I was a child. At school, I had a difficult time retaining the material the way it was taught in class. So I would make up rhymes and songs to study for my tests. I think when we infuse creativity in our learning, we not only retain the information but it creates an emotional connection to the material that we are absorbing. At least that’s what worked for me.
After following your music and content for some time now, I noticed that you talk about social justice a lot in your work. Why is that important to you?
As an African-American female from Mississippi, one who has experienced racism and sexism throughout my life, I think discussing these issues is very important. I know what it feels like to be treated as less than and to face discrimination. Addressing these issues starts with having tough conversations. I choose to do that with my art. I feel like music disarms people and opens up their hearts in a way that simple verbal conversations cannot. Music is really powerful in that way! I want to make people think, as well as have a good time. That way we can create real impact and change in our interactions.
One of the things that I notice about you is your music is always evolving and changing. How do you think that ties into your mission of love and equality?
My writing and recording process has always come from an intuitive place. I find that I don’t ever think about genres or trends when I create music. I tap into what’s going on with me personally and how that is a reflection of what’s going on in the world. My goal is always to be as authentic as possible. I know that being truthful always lands well in the hearts and minds of the listeners. I’m a firm believer that when you give artists the freedom to be who they are and they are not worried about fitting into boxes, they create more interesting projects.
My mission is always evolving. So my take on love changes as my relationships change. And my thoughts on equality change the more inequality I see showcased in the world. I think missions and mission statements aren’t static, they are ever-changing and they evolve as I evolve as a creator. I always say you don’t get equality without a fight. No one gives up their power freely. Especially when they have benefited from inequality for a long time.
I would say the same about love. It initially comes from an ethereal place and then it becomes tangible. Love takes a lot of action. So both love and equality require a level of action, awareness, and creativity on how to solve problems and get to a better place. They are two sides of the same coin to me.
Your latest single, "Angry Man", addresses toxic masculinity and has a very different sound than your most recently release, Black Empress. Can you tell us why your direction has changed and why this latest release is important?
I actually wrote "Angry Man" in 2019 when I was writing Black Empress but it didn’t make the album. After revisiting some of the songs in my catalog, I felt "Angry Man" captured a lot of what we are seeing politically and in our workplace. That toxic masculinity that bleeds over into everything and it creates problems in our world.
Like many, I was struggling with the rude awakening of blatant racism in our country, from the election in 2016, to the rally in Charlottesville in 2017, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s deaths and the recent U.S. Capitol insurrection. I thought until this anger is addressed, we won’t be able to move forward. I feel my heart is looking for ways to talk about hard things in a way that makes people think.
From a musical standpoint, I grew up in Mississippi (the home of American Music) and classical music was introduced to me in high school. It was where I really learned how to sing and I loved it! I wanted "Angry Man" to sound current but have some classical elements. And to also have a medieval vocal and storyline along with a pop hook. That to me feels so exciting and interesting! Because it bridges so many genres that I love. My hope is that people truly connect to the story in this piece.
How can we support you and your release of "Angry Man"?
"Angry Man" is available for download now at www.teneia.bandcamp.com
. It’s a pay-what-you-want format. A tier list is featured with perks for the price point of your contribution. In honor of Black History Month and going into Women’s History Month, I’m giving 50% of what I raise to The Loveland Foundation
that helps Black women get the therapy that they need to deal with trauma. Therapy has been a game changer in my life when I’ve gone through difficult experiences and I think if more black women had access to therapy we can continue the process of healing as a community.
Bio: Originally from Jackson, Mississippi, Teneia is an internationally-touring musician and songwriter, and has seven
albums to her credit. She has won multiple awards, had her work featured in television and film, and shared the stage with various critically-acclaimed artists.
One of Teneia's most prominent pieces, "Stand," earned a placement in the HBO documentary, Prom Night in Mississippi featuring Morgan Freeman. "Stand" embodies Teneia's ability as an artist to address deeply rooted social issues fearlessly and confidently.
Her true talent however, is how she strips down the audience, leaving their minds filled with reflection and their hearts filled with hope. With a career spanning over a decade, Teneia has toured relentlessly throughout the years. Her most recent side project, Heart Society gained recognition through the Sixthman Cayamo music cruise alongside John Prine, Buddy Miller, The War and Treaty, Lee Ann Womack and many more. Heart Society was also selected to perform a three week long tour on the continent of Africa in April of 2019 by the US State Department organization, American Music Abroad.
All while spreading a message of love and equality. Teneia is a visionary with the heart to match. No matter what project she is a part of she always delivers a stellar performance. With folk-soul roots and infectious hooks she teeters on the edge of defining a new sound and genre. See Teneia's music at her FaceBook, Instagram, and website