Updated: Jul 30
"If I have a plan B, that's me accepting that my career doesn't happen. It means that I have something to fall back on. I don't want to have something to fall back on."
It's no secret that for someone to excel in their craft, they must be willing to put in the work. It is the key to success. What people tend to forget when using that wise advice, however, is that they will also face enough obstacles to break even the toughest of workers. This is something that up-and-coming West Island artist Tatum Quinn (née Sammie Libman) has been learning each day. Through relationship fall-outs, rejections and, a worldwide pandemic- Quinn has found the stamina and inspiration needed to blow her career wide open.
I spoke to Tatum Quinn in a West Island News Exclusive Interview.
Kris: You have a new single coming out this Friday- how did it come about?
Tatum: I've had this song for a while, but we're finally doing a release for it and I'm super excited because it's one of my favourite songs that I've ever written. I was working with Ubisoft and I had some original songs in their games, and they decided they wanted more music. So I got with my co-writer at the time, Ben Alexander, and we started writing this song, Set You Straight. I would write something, bring it to him and then we would polish & record it and do all the production and everything at his little home studio.
Kris: Needless to say, we've heard the song has a pretty...intense backstory?
Tatum: Funny enough, I was going through a really bad breakup- that wasn't even a real breakup because we weren't actually together- but we were seeing each other. He did me real wrong. There's a lyric in my song: "I feel so numb without you here"... I had that in my head and it's what sparked the whole song. At that time, that's how I felt. I knew this person for my entire life and never thought that they'd treat me the way they did. Later on, as you're done going through the emotions, you realize- how could you ever let someone like that treat you the way they did? They have no right! So that's how that thought morphed into some sort of revenge song without being spiteful.
Kris: In a sense, it's empowering; to finally realize and say "I'm better than this. I deserve better than you."
Tatum: It was definitely what I needed because I just kind of let him walk all over me. I realized when I took myself out of all that drama that I'm worth so much more. That was a really big turning point for me. I stopped wanting to accept anything less than what I deserved from people and instead, start caring about myself and what I had to offer to the world. Tatum Quinn is a whole brand. She's a rebellious, misfit-ty female who doesn't take any crap from anybody and who wants to live her best life because we never know if we're going to come back. We never know what's on the other side for us. So with that thought, I have to do everything that I want to do.
Kris: This is why I always say that songwriting is such great therapy. I find people don't realize that it's a good way to express your feelings and help with mental health.
Tatum: Oh totally! I do my best writing when I'm inspired by something. It's quite hard for me to sit down at a piano and just pull something out and kind of just run with it, because the majority of my songs are all written from personal experiences. The biggest thing for me is that I want people to be able to relate to what I'm saying in my lyrics. I also want the music to make people feel good.
There are artists like Billie Eilish who write about her feelings and what she goes through with this nice ambient kind of slow music. Billie's amazing but I just don't listen to a lot of slow music myself. I wanted to also give people something that they can relate to lyrically, but also give them melodies that would change those bad feelings into something empowering. Really: "Okay, yes, this happened and this was shitty, but now we're here and we can do anything that we set our minds to and we're just going to push forward."
Kris: It's funny that you mention pushing forward because this pandemic, has been horrible for musicians, local talent, any artist, actually because an artist's livelihood is really about performing and sharing art. The fact that a pandemic comes along and shuts everything down is unthinkable. How was that on you?
Tatum: I have mixed feelings about this pandemic because, yes, I still have not performed in over a year and a half now. My last gig- well, I didn't know that it was going to be my last gig, so that was interesting. I was about to book another show until I realized that, I couldn't anymore.
Kris: So what do you do?
Tatum: I have a super supportive family. My brothers and I are all extremely close and I respect their opinion and their knowledge a lot. My oldest brother was telling me "now's the time to build your social media because there are no more shows. What are you going to do to stay relevant and continue to get your name out so that you don't waste a year?" A lot of people got bummed about COVID-which I think is normal and makes so much sense, but I knew for myself that if I just sat around doing nothing, I would be anxious and angry that I couldn't do it it it anything with my music. I started to stream my performances on (the online site) Twitch. They don't allow backing tracks so I started teaching myself piano because I didn't know how to play before the pandemic. It's amazing because there's an amazing community on there. These people are from all over the world. I have supporters from Argentina, Bangkok, Mexico, and all these different places around the world.
Kris: You can't say you haven't been connected to musicians from all over the world though. I'm thinking of Berklee College of Music, for one. That's not a bad highlight.
Tatum: (Laughing) Berklee -was- an amazing experience for me. I grew a lot there, too. Funny enough, after high school, I wasn't thinking of even going to college or university or CEGEP. I said to myself, I'm going to put my all into music and that's what I'm going to do. I was in a mental state where I just got out of high school where I was held back in grade 3 and then again in 10th for math. I also did summer school every single year of my existence (laughing). When I heard about Berklee, I still was unsure. It was a form of school after all...
Kris: I think that's what makes or breaks a musician, though. Some people love the craft. They can excel and do well in it- but once they learn that, to get better, they have to practice or dedicate more time working on it- it turns them off. It's really what defines a good artist versus one that won't make it.
Tatum: Well, the funny thing that I've been learning about the music industry and honestly, about life, in general, is that it's really hard. I was talking to my friend the other day who's an upcoming tattoo artist. And we were talking about how life wasn't meant to be easy. Any time you're you're passionate about something, there will always be an obstacle. What we've both been noticing is that every turn we make, there's an obstacle and we just have to find comfort in the fact that life wasn't meant to be easy. Your dreams and your aspirations weren't meant to be easy, because if they were, everybody would be doing it all. I'm dyslexic and have ADHD. Being able to sit down and have a plan and trying not to be overwhelmed by everything that you don't have the answers for is quite hard for me.
Kris: Was it easy at Berklee?
Tatum: Well, I ended up auditioning for them and I put it out of my brain. I said to myself that there's no way that I'd get into a school where students from 50 countries audition. Also, at the time of my audition, there was only a 12 percent acceptance rate. So then, I go audition for Vanier's (Montreal CEGEP) music program. It was me and another person that was auditioning and they decided to go with the other singer. They told me that Vanier is less of a "performance" school and that they care more about the theory of music versus the performing. So I was like, okay, well if I'm not getting into Vanier, there's no way I'm getting into Berklee. Two days later, I ended up getting a call from them saying that they were accepting me into their program. Go figure.
Kris: When one door closes...
Tatum: For sure. That's my little Berklee story. It was a wonderful experience. I had so many amazing teachers. One of them was Livingston Taylor who's also James Taylor's brother. I got to learn so much from him. He's quirky and I wasn't sure that he and I were going to be a good fit for each other but he took me under his wing and I learned so much from him. That was amazing.
Kris: And now you'll be releasing the 'Set You Straight' single on July 30th! How's that for a plug?
Tatum: Yes! I also have a music video coming out in two weeks on August 13.
Kris: On every online platform?
Tatum: Yes! I'm releasing all my songs on every streaming platform: Spotify, Apple Music- anywhere that you can stream music, For my music video, I'm going to put it up on YouTube
Kris: You keep yourself busy. Will this single perhaps lead up to an EP or album eventually?
Tatum: Yes. So actually, I have this whole six-month plan right now where I'm not diving into an EP or album right away, but it will for sure happen. I've decided that what I'll do is I'm going to try and release a single every six weeks. I'm currently also writing and in the studio making new music. It's hard to not want to put that music out right away, but I chose what I think is going to work best release-wise, at least in the first upcoming months.
I'm already planning my next release, which is going to be for another song called 'You Lost Me'. After that, I'm going to be shooting a music video. I'm hoping to do two music videos for two songs after that as well. I'm also in the process of creating album art, merch, and all that good stuff that's super exciting for us artists to create.
Kris: The readers will feel your passion.
Tatum: I just want them to know that music is important to me and I hope that I can give people something to relate to. The biggest thing is I don't want anybody to ever feel like they're alone. I think that's a really beautiful thing about music, is that you can reach so many people and have so many different thoughts in one single song. I'm hoping that my music can give people comfort in whatever scenario that they're going through, whether it's happy, sad, angry, and just let them know that they're never alone because I will always be there with them through music.
Kris: You definitely will be there, especially with all the work you're putting into it. I guess we can't say that you'll be having a boring few months.
Tatum: No! I'm putting everything into music. Without it, I don't know what I would do. Everybody gets a bit, you know, annoyed with me in a sense, because they say, "oh, you put all your eggs in one basket." And I understand the whole notion as to why I shouldn't, but for me, the reason is I don't want to have a Plan B. If I have a plan B, that's me accepting that my career doesn't happen. It means I have something to fall back on. I don't want to have something to fall back on.
I want to put everything into music and make sure that this happens.
Tatum's new single "Set You Straight" will be available on July 30th, wherever music is streamed.