As a singer lurking under the Dark Trap and Alternative R&B umbrellas, Tesstamona offers up a dynamic vocal range that is comparable to the spectrum of Ashanti to Amy Winehouse.
Wild stories and blunt vulgar lyricism are commonplace for Tesstamona and her music, with delivery on her more aggressive tracks that border on speed rapping. It is easier to categorize the emotion and story behind Tesstamona’s music than it is to categorize its genre.
Though she is typically known for Dark Trap with an occasional bleeding heart R&B track, her latest release is a cinematically eerie and dark Blues song titled, “Quarantine Blues.”
In the hard-hitting ambiance that pulsates through your headphones, the washed and distorted bassline pairs with the beating kick drum like a fine wine in, “Quarantine Blues.” The instrumentation holds a menacing depth as we dive into the ominous exterior shell.
Placing her vulnerability on a silver platter as she delves into the unfortunate truths she holds within, Tesstamona tells her vivid story of the strenuous feats she had to face with losing housing multiple times, betrayal from loved ones, and ending up in jail when the Stay at Home Order in Los Angeles began.
Tesstamona’s vocals send chills down your spine as the reverberated resonance in her tone allows you to take in her carefully crafted tales. With her musical talents touching on the dark melancholy of her lack of luck, Tesstamona illustrates striking images through her sonic interpretation.
The authentic depths in her longing and despair tugs on us like a weighted rope. “Quarantine Blues,” has us focused on the ‘sinister vibes,’ that Tesstamona brings to life in her depiction of life events. As we pray for better days for the emerging artist, we applaud the manner in which she takes lemons and turns them into auditory lemonade in the brilliant creations that resonate.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, Tesstamona! Congratulations on the latest release of your single, “Quarantine Blues.” With the trials and tribulations that you have faced, you have always remained vulnerable with your audience. What encourages you to be transparent with your listeners on the level that you are?
Thank you! I feel that the more open I am with my own struggles/emotions, the better I’m able to reach others and bring some sense of comfort or connection. I was once told, “when pain is shared, love is born” and in my experience, that's been the truth. Aside from that, it's a way for me to let out the pain that I don’t know how to let out any other way. I have to be able to express myself and I hate sugarcoating or tiptoeing around anything.
Could you please offer us some sight into the creative process that brought, “Quarantine Blues,” to life?
As far as the creative process, I am motivated creatively by any type of pain or anger, so writing the song was like a never-ending response to the chaos that I talk about in the song, because I was writing this in real-time with those events. I eventually had someone tell me to put the pen down, because so much continued to happen that I kept rewriting the song to try to get it all in there, but that wasn’t possible. They said I’d need to make other songs about that and to move forward with what I had. I took their advice.
I wrote and recorded the song as I bounced around from place to place in my unsuccessful attempts at finding stable housing. Everything was on the go and felt out of control, but somehow it came together. I just hauled around my small amount of studio gear to wherever I was staying.
What messages would you like your listeners to take away from the music that you create?
Man, that is a great question, because if I had a magic wand I’d just want us all to see how similar we are in the pain and suffering we experience. When we’re aware that we’re not alone in what we’re going through, powerful change and progress can be made because we can come together, instead of being in the “me against the world” cycle.
As one who has faced some grand events this year, do you have any words of wisdom to offer some of your listeners who may be down on their luck?
Adaptability, introspection, genuine connections with others, and relying on our own intuitions are more important now than ever. Oh and a big one, swallowing pride. (That may not apply to everyone but I’m just sharing my experience.) I’ll elaborate.
For connection and intuition, I’d point to our global crisis where people are being bombarded by tragedy, fear, loss, isolation, political chaos, and conflicting/fear mongering media on the daily, which takes a huge toll on peoples psyches. I believe these lockdowns are more dangerous than this virus and we have seen that in the massive spikes in overdoses, suicides, depression, anxiety, loneliness, homelessness, loss of livelihoods/businesses, and violence. These conditions in our society have led to a loss of connection and have put us in a state of fight or flight, which can make it hard to tell the difference between intuition and impulse.
Take a step back from what the media is saying, from what other people are saying, and really look at what's happening in the world objectively, and make decisions on how to move forward in your life accordingly. Who is feeding us information, do we trust our leaders, do facts that we witness in our own lives add up with mainstream narratives? Question the motives of anyone before you listen to what they have to say about how to navigate in this time. Now is the time to follow instinct. An example of that is all the people who have moved out of cities where there is no work, or conditions have diminished to a point where they are unlivable, so as scary as it may be, find a new frontier if you need to. Don't stay stuck. There's a time to hold your ground, and a time to know when to leave. That’s where I messed up.
I think a lot of my suffering is attributed to my stubbornness of “standing my ground” and not leaving situations that were clearly dangerous or not working, because I had worked hard to get to where I was, or I had built this life or this career; whatever the case was, I wasn’t willing to let go. When you lose everything or nearly everything, it's important to step back from the situation and really weigh the likelihood of things eventually improving in the current environment you’re in. I never did that, I was consumed in the chaos and fighting every fire in front of me. I wasn’t playing chess, I was playing checkers, and ultimately that gets you nowhere. Some things were beyond my control and I had to go through them, but looking back, my intuition was going off to leave the area I was in, (in some cases I was unable to, but I had little pockets where I could have, and I was stubborn and stayed because I thought I could find a way to make it work.) I kept trying to stay afloat, and that was a complete dumpster fire. I’m still not out of the woods on that one.
Being stuck in my ways of wanting things to turn out exactly as I wanted them, and continuing to work to make that happen instead of realizing I needed to evolve in my methods so I could approach life in a different way, created a lot of madness. My own stubbornness kept me afloat and kept this song alive, but it also took a toll on me because instead of going with life’s flow, it felt like I was against the grain and on sandpaper the entire time. I thought this whole lockdown thing was going to pass but right now there’s no real end in sight, so it's time to stop relying on what governments are saying in my opinion. So I’d say don’t be like me and let pride stop you from leaving what you were building before all this hit and it all fell to the ground. If you can build once you can build again, I’m not telling anyone to give up on dreams or goals, I’m saying there are things we might have to give up in order for those to materialize, things that we normally would have never considered before the pandemic happened.
Just make sure you have a place to live and some sense of stability if possible. I’m still searching for that myself, but I am past the phase of “I’m not leaving an area that clearly isn’t livable” because the truth is that no one is coming to help or save us besides ourselves. As much as people think and want everything to go back to the way things were, they won't, so we have to make moves in one of the most uncertain time periods in our lives. This is a revolutionary time, but change requires destruction. It's all gonna come down to how we use this energy. So to sum it up I’d say my ultimate suggestion would be fluidity and being open to making life choices that you might not normally make if they could be ones leading toward your highest good, even if they seem unorthodox or strange. Follow your gut. Normal doesn’t exist anymore.
The last thing I’ll mention is money. I mentioned people leaving cities where there isn’t any work, where businesses are closed. This is just my opinion, but don’t rely on the government or anyone else’s assurance that someone is coming to fix this problem, we have to figure out what's best for us, and in my situation, one of those things is living in an area where I am able to work. I’ve had to get creative and find alternate sources of income but it's still not the same and not enough, and for people with families, they dont have time for that. If you're down on your luck in the way that I’ve mentioned, the bottom line is to situate yourself where you can survive and truly live, both financially, physically, mentally, spiritually; do anything you can. Be careful who you trust but at the same time, don't let pride prevent you from reaching out for help, whatever type of help that may be. That's another area I messed up in, and I paid the price for it.
2020 has been a very challenging year for everyone. What has been keeping you inspired to create music? What advice can you give another artist who's finding it difficult to do so?
Well, first I’ll just come out and say that what keeps me inspired to create music isn’t always an inspiration, it's a do-or-die mentality. I cant fathom or accept being on this earth and not making music. Its why I choose to live. In my darkest times when I’ve considered ending it all, its music that keeps me here. With that being said I’ll also admit that depression has gotten me so low that it has prevented me from making music at times, or has slowed me up a ton, and that’s definitely a mental torture chamber to be in as a creative. So ive had to find ways to make peace with myself when that happens and find out how to nourish whatever aspects of my life are being neglected in order to refuel creatively.
A HUGE thing for me and this can apply to mostly everyone since our communication has been reduced to/concentrated online, whether zoom meetings or social media, is I have met so many people all over the world that I have developed actual friendships or working relationships with, and those people have added so much richness and inspiration and beautiful energy to my life. Because everyone is online now, networking is so much easier in my opinion. Finding like-minded people, even discovering new genres of music and new artists, has been a huge source of inspiration and can definitely reignite someone's fire and create amazing collaborations as well.
In regards to creativity and just mental health in general, I also have to add that I am constantly being told to rest, or that I work too much, and “it’s not healthy”. There may be some truth to that, but I feel like I am in a situation where it is not possible for me to go at a slower pace, I feel like I’m constantly running but at the same time more exhausted than ever like I’ve been running a sprint-marathon that has no finish line. So the advice I'm constantly getting is to REST, and being asked, “what are you doing to take care of yourself?”
I realized that my life has been pretty unbalanced. It's almost 100% work. Sometimes it's blissful, but it's never restful, and it's typically stressful as hell. When you're in a situation where you're either busy or out of balance and feel like you're not in a creative space to make music or other art, I’d say look at your life and find what it is that you need that you aren’t getting. For me, I needed way more social time, rest, exercise, more food, more sleep, any type of activity to do for pleasure and not something that was work-related or even music-related, because that kind of stuff nourishes our inner-artist. Getting out in nature is huge too, which is hard during quarantines or for those of us who live in cities, I’ve traveled hours to get out of the city just to get to some nature to try and reset my brain. A lot of us are gas tanks running on fumes right now, so we all have to figure out what it is we need to refuel so we can get back on the horse.
Learning better time management has been huge for me, it has been so easy to get overwhelmed with everything I'm facing that focusing on one thing at a time is a must, so I’ve had to start training my mind and incorporate more spiritual practices/rituals into my life to do so. I’m far from perfect, I mess up all the time. But all I can do is remind myself to not beat myself up and if I dont hit the mark one day, I can always restart my day at any time, or try again the next day. But for creatives specifically, we need our alone time, we need our social time, we need extracurricular activities that dont have to do with music, something even as simple as hiking or reading a book, to refuel ourselves. A mistake I made was when I was on empty, I just kept pushing myself to the point of making myself physically ill on multiple occasions, I even lost my voice for a week. I never rested or tried to balance out my life, I was so obsessed with securing my future that I started destroying the present.
One final thing. Sometimes we can do everything in our power to improve our situation but it still doesn’t change. I learned to believe in divine timing throughout all this. Some people might think that's crazy, but for me, I have to step back and, with my personal belief that nothing happens by accident and that there's a lesson/purpose in everything, realize that maybe now is just not the time for whatever I want to work out, to work out. The reasons always reveal themselves. That doesn’t mean give up on seeking answers, just to consider an alternate perspective than one of hopelessness. It took almost 8 months for Quarantine Blues to be released. That drove me insane as it was my only outlet and I wanted so bad to be heard and express myself because I felt like I was living in the shadows and holding in all this pain in silence. There was absolutely a reason for why it had to take so long, several reasons actually, and many have revealed themselves already. Maybe a gift we have to give needs more time to come to fruition so it's potent enough to deliver what someone else needs, maybe the timing needs to be right for it to be received, or maybe a gift or dream of ours hasn’t come yet because we aren’t yet ready to receive it. Guard your heart but find your tribe, and in times like these, we have to learn to be our own best friends, because as long as we are alive, everything is temporary except our own consciousness and the body it lives in.