I’m a singing, dancing Goddess and I express myself by spreading love and inspiring unity in the world. My music embodies these ideals and is a modern take on disco, funk, soul, and pop from the 70s and 80s. I find that this blends my South African and Swedish heritages together, and in the same vein, I write my songs in both English and Swedish. Last year’s single “SANNINGEN” is a taste of these influences, and there’s more to come this year.
We are launching Unlimited – a flexible pricing plan to suit every artist’s creative process. Unlimited allows you to release as many tracks as you want for a fixed price, from $4.99/month. We got the chance to talk more about creativity with Record Union artist Thandiwe.
Tell us what a typical day looks like. (Working during night hours, juggling with another job on the side, early morning walks? What is crucial for you and your creativity?)
I’m in the last semester of a bachelor’s degree in songwriting. Still, thanks to the current situation, everything is online to work on my music and thesis comfortably here in Stockholm, my hometown. I’ve somehow managed to balance my musical adventure with a part-time job in elderly care, but not without sacrifice – my sleep schedule is entirely non-existent, and I’ll often end up writing songs in the early hours of the morning. I’m awake to see the winter sun. I’ll get out for some exercise and find that new song ideas come naturally when I’m soaking in the rays.
What inspires you the most?
The connection with my inner child is what I feel most inspired by. Even though I was creatively expressive when I was younger, it’s little Thandiwe’s dreams and ambitions that I’m following now, and the journey of connecting with different eras of my life has been a big part of my music.
What does creative freedom mean to you?
It’s being able to express myself musically, visually, and physically through singing, directing, dancing, and acting. It means being able to speak my mind through my lyrics. It’s being able to go into my fantasy world and come back to tell my stories from that world. It’s being able to be me, fully, without feeling I have to pretend to be “normal”.
As we know, working with creativity rarely goes in a straight line. What is your creative process like?
Well, I get most of my song ideas when I’m in a relaxed state, a state where I can daydream and go into my fantasy world that usually happens when I’m taking a walk, washing dishes, taking a shower, or when I’m travelling. They can also come through what I call “downloads”, which is when I get/hear a complete song with all the music, vocal melodies, and lyrics already done. These usually come to me in my dreams, so I make sure to have my phone within arm’s reach so that I can record it asap before it disappears.
After I get the song ideas (in whichever way they come to me), I connect with a music producer. I’m mostly working with Marcel Tiggemann in my class. He is a great producer with a brilliant mind and understands my vision for both my brand and my sound. We spend a lot of time discussing each song’s concept and then somehow manage to translate it from my visions into a musical reality, ready to be shared with the world.
What do you find challenging about being an independent artist?
Well, everything really! But connecting with a wide range of people with different talents and creating a team for myself is a big challenge for me at the moment. I’m also working a lot on my self-discipline and consistency, I feel that many of my issues stem mostly from myself and my own mind, but I am actively getting better at it, day by day!
Do you have any tips and tricks when feeling stuck in your work? (For example, have you ever had writer’s block, and if so, what did you do to get through it?)
I’ve had writer’s block that lasted a few months, actually, so my advice is this; Give it a rest, work with other songs instead. Sometimes focusing on other works can give you inspiration or ideas for something you’re stuck on.
Another useful trick is to try playing the chords with a guitar instead of a piano if you wrote the song on a piano, or better yet, get someone else to play the song on guitar and have a relaxed jam session where you just improvise over the music. This one usually works well for me, but also, don’t be afraid to bring in another songwriter! It’s unlikely that they’re going to come into the session and change everything that you’ve worked hard on, but a little twist and change of energy here and there can really help not only the song become as good as it can be but also the workflow, which is just as important.
So, when you’re finally getting the creativity flowing, how do you know when a track is done? And how do you feel when you release it for others to listen?
I can use my latest song as a reference: I knew SANNINGEN was done when I had listened to it a gazillion times, in different headphones, speakers, when I listened to both acapella and instrumental versions, and finally felt satisfied. Since I usually have a clear idea and vision of how I want the song to sound and what feelings I want to evoke in the listener, I know when I’ve reached that goal.
Releasing a song is scary, but at the same time, it’s relieving, and it makes me feel proud of myself that I had the guts to do it. I’d imagine it’s like having your child leave home after they come of age, maybe. I don’t have any children yet, but I do look at my songs as my little babies that I’m creating with a fellow musician, and our love for the music is what makes the conception, development, and birth of the song possible.
Last but not least, what’s your next step? Do you have any projects in the pipeline?
Oh yes! I’ve been hard at work on an album, my very first, actually. Not only is it a new experience to work on such a big release, but it’s also going to be the foundation for my new brand and sound. Marcel and I have been writing and producing lots of material, and I’m also on the lookout for an art director who can join the team in making my visions a reality!