Describing Tiffany Gouché always leads to conversations regarding millennial artists refusing to be “boxed in” by genre. From the Inglewood native’s perspective, she’s even evolving past the alternative R&B/soul label given to her music by tastemakers, fans and even herself.
“I want everyone to define 'soul music,' because we all have souls and we all are musicians, so we need to find another word for that,” Gouché says at her Highland Park home studio, which she shares with her manager, Vatana Shaw, and storied industry engineer Claudio Cueni. “I believe my music is my expression. I’m expressing fully in the most vulnerable capacity. I just believe it’s that. Just vulnerability.”
Since she dropped her 2012 debut project, LionHeart (later remastered and reissued in 2014), under the alias TGooch, that consistent artistic candor has made her one of the more unusual singer-songwriter-producer triple threats to come out of Los Angeles’ contemporary indie scene.
Releasing two EPs since then — 2014’s Fantasy and her breakout, Pillow Talk, a year later — Gouché has turned herself into a sought-after opening act, supporting Little Simz, Lauryn Hill, Anderson .Paak, Solange and KING, among others, on tours both nationally and abroad. “She dropped Pillow Talk in late 2015 and got 85 dates from it,” Shaw says. “I mean, we’ve been blessed.”
The respect among peers has grown significantly as well. A random shout-out from Grammy Award–winning vocal powerhouse Lalah Hathaway during an interview led to Gouché writing and producing for Hathaway's upcoming album, Honestly, set for release in September. Fans were recently treated to that project’s first single, “I Can’t Wait.”
“She did an interview with DJ Moonbaby and she brought me up,” says Gouché, who has lent her services to a multitude of notables including Missy Elliot, Usher, Pussycat Dolls and even Iggy Azalea. “We got a clip of the video from Claudio. We posted it on Instagram and she reached out. I hadn’t met her and got a co-sign. I was like: All right, God, I see you.”
Gouché also collaborated with Terrace Martin on his Grammy-nominated Velvet Portraits, which competed against Hathaway’s Lalah Hathaway Live for Best R&B Album this year. (Hathaway won.) “Just being in that company for me was eye-opening and just showed me where I’m headed,” Gouché says. “It was very inspiring. … I get weary along the way and it’s encouraging to see things like that.”
Her many recent challenges, including the death of her mother, coming to terms with her LGBTQ identity and being burned many times by an unforgiving music industry, seem distant as she passes it off with, “But I’m good.”
No doubt Gouché is in a creative, happy place. Those emotions are on full display as she drops dual singles this week, “Dive” and “Down,” both slated for a currently untitled album she plans to release next spring. Expect “Dive” to please longtime fans with its slow vibe. Meanwhile, “Down” offers an uptempo dance feel. Both reflect her life as a single woman.
“This is the first time in my life where I’ve been single so I’m able to engage and foster in different relationships and have more fun,” she explains. “'Dive' is about a girl I met. We’re both doing our thing and not trying to get too serious, but if it ever went that way, I’d be down. 'Down' is another situation about a girl I met in London. Just on some fun shit.”
While LionHeart featured songs sung from a heterosexual perspective (possibly because the mixtape was made up of polished demos of songs written for other artists), Gouché's later releases have fully embraced her lesbian identity.
“Who I was, growing up in a Christian home, is not celebrated,” she explains. “You’re so shunned and you’re going to hell and all of that. After I dealt with that trauma and those things inside of me, I was like 23 and I had an epiphany. I came out to my dad. I’m going to do this gay thing. I’m really this. I had that moment — it’s fine to say 'she' or 'her' [in a love song], because that’s real to me.”
Being unapologetically herself is something that makes Gouché special, according to her manager Shaw, who understands first-hand the music industry’s impulse to make someone unrecognizable in an effort to make them more “marketable.” As a former member of hip-hop/R&B all-female group Candy Hill, in her late teens, Shaw was pushed through the “pop-friendly” machine when they signed to Universal.
“I think she’s not trying to fit into anyone’s formula,” Shaw says. “I think she’s authentic and her talent and gift is transcendent from something metaphysical. It’s not something she’s listening to or taking influence from. Her vocal ability is unparalleled in my opinion. She’s able to create in her own essence entirely because she’s writing, producing and recording the music herself. It’s not any other influence but her, so the sound isn’t compromised. It’s very pure.”
Gouché feels the same way about the otherworldly inspiration she pours into her music.
“I’m just a vessel,” she says. “Music sparks from so many different things. Life is music. Everything has its own sounds. I went to the beach. The wave has its own rhythm, so you can go back that. The city has its own sound. Just listening to people talk and the laughter can create its own music, too.”
Tiffany Gouché performs at the Soulection Experience with Smino, Steve Lacy, Sabrina Claudio, SiR and many more on Saturday, Aug. 12. Tickets and more info.