by Nadirah Simmons
In a music environment where viral moments and Internet clout can make or break you, singer-songwriter Teenear has both and a whole lot more to offer on top of that. The 20-year-old singer started out singing covers on YouTube as a teenager, and today is signed to Slip-N-Slide Records. Not to mention her video for “Need Your Love” has is close to 2 million views on YouTube. It’s the kind of success artists who have worked for years dream of having, and the kind Teenear has to be proud of achieving at such an early stage in her career. But even with all of those wins under her belt, she’s just getting started.
We talked with Teenear about the roots of her music career, how spirituality influences her sound, the importance of asserting her voice and more.
When did you decide that you wanted to start making music?
I was born and raised in Miami. And honestly just growing up in Miami, the scene with Southern type records, I was always around it and it wasn't necessarily something that I was interested in immediately. In school I was doing entertainment and musical theater was like my thing. And then around the age of like 13, 14, you know when you're in junior high you're trying to figure yourself out-that’s when I was like “okay let me see what I want to do.” I started venturing out and trying different things with musical theater and to be honest to the studio I never tell and I just started going it was at the time Justin Bieber had just came out and I'm like “who is this kid?” I went to look him up and he came out with this contest where you had to write to one of his beats. And one night I just sat there and did that contest for myself I never put it out. But just that experience of creating something is what sparked it for me.
Then I joined the praise team at my church, and the CEO of Slip-N-Slide attended the church. And it was really just word of mouth, people telling him “you have to come see her sing.” And one moment he was there, he heard me sing and it was really just a conversation of once again taking it seriously. So I started posting my covers on YouTube and he knew this is something I wanted to do so he let me get in the studio.
That's amazing. I know you said that you're from Miami. How has your environment or that community in particular kind of influence your love for music?
I really just feel like Miami is such a creative space. There are so many artistic people here and that in and of itself is what inspires me.
A lot of our favorite artists have their roots in the church. What role does that play in your music making process? And does how does it either encourage or discourage you from talking about certain things in your songs?
Yeah for sure. It's a battle with me because I'm a very spiritual person and I'm still like a growing adult you know. So yeah when it comes to my music there are moments where like I want to do certain things I'm like maybe I shouldn't say that. I want to make sure like I'm a positive influence but I know it it's constantly going to be a battle because I don't want to say something that might get the wrong reaction you know. But I feel like it comes with growing and growing in me spiritually and growing and music. I'll figure out my balance. But yeah definitely a struggle.
Is there any pressure from anyone around you, not just management but the industry in general, to change who you are? As far as you know how you present and what you do decide to sing or talk about?
One hundred thousand percent. And it could be people that honestly don't have an influence on anything I do in my career but it happens all the time. I hear “Oh Teenear you need to wear this you need to do this you need to say this you need to be more sexy.” It's like leave me alone. Let me do me.
When did you like know for sure that this was what you wanted to do?
For sure it was when we wrote my first single because we recorded so many different songs and it was frustrating. I was like maybe I shouldn't be doing it. It wasn’t until we wrote [the single] that everyone actually loved that record. Out of all my other songs I had recorded before that, I finally felt like “okay this is definitely for me.”
So tell me a little bit about this song “Need Your Love.” When did you come up with the idea for this song?
This song was honestly just the ultimate definition of young. There’s people telling me I need to be careful and then I don't know and I don't know if this is love or lust. So this is a personal song for me because I deal with it right now. I'm young. I don't know what love is. Do you know what love is? Just young love and just having fun trying to be in the moment, even though you're hearing a hundred opinions.
I feel like a lot of times, especially when you're younger, you have this perception of what you think love is. And people are so quick to like shoot shoot you down like “no that is not what it is, this is and you'll know when you get older.” But it's doesn’t take away from what you’re feeling at the time. You're 20 years old and not just with the idea of love but also with you being an artist, you are super young and there are a lot of older people around you making decisions. How do you make sure you maintain like your voice and you assert your truth?
It's definitely really hard but I have a good team, we definitely have grown to work together. They listen to me, and if I have an opinion they actually do take it into consideration.
Before we got started we talked about artists who inspire you and you named Beyoncé. How do you feel about the people who just treat music kind of like a hobby or as a get rich quick type of thing?
I started out when I was young. I literally recorded all my covers in my closet. That is crazy to me you'd think from my back then now and when it comes to social media, honestly I feel like at the end of the day if you're not going to put 100 percent in something if you're just doing it for like one reason or for the moment it's going to come off that way. And like you said, Beyoncé worked so hard to get what they got. And if you're not going to do that it doesn't matter how many followers you have on social media that moment is going to come and go and you're not going to last. It’s up to how much effort you put into whatever it is you try to. You can do it, do it but right.
How do you separate yourself from all of the other singers and the other women who are trying to do the same thing? How do you make sure you stand out? Honestly I'm really trying to just be myself when it comes to it all. I'm not trying to follow the next person Even when it comes to like my music; none of my songs sound the same at all. “Need Your Love” is R&B, “Friday Night” is nowhere near R&B. If I like a song I'm going to put it out-I’m not going to stay R&B or because do pop because everyone telling me to do Pop. It's just how I feel, I'm going to be myself no matter what, today, tomorrow, five years from now. That's what I want to stand on. Being who I am because I have to look back on this, and I want to be proud of everything that I do.
So what is the story that you're trying to tell or that you want people to really take from your next EP.
I really just want them to see that I'm being unapologetically me like that. There's a hundred styles in it and I feel like it's definitely going to make people understand that I can't be placed in a box. I want them to just get that like this music is just me speaking, like it really is who I am.
That’s amazing. Where do you where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I want to already start another business for myself. I'm really big into like health and like young girls and that's a goal for myself. Whether it's in five years or ten years but I need to make that a thing by ten years. And also just being in not only the music scene but also in the acting scene because musical theater was my thing when I was younger, I love acting, I love singing, so being able to do all of that by then will be amazing. Just being an artist that people really look at and really are inspired by.
What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to do what you're doing?
I would just say be yourself, 100 percent. And believe in yourself, because at the end of the day you don't believe in yourself nobody is going to believe in you no matter how much you try to fake it. It's just not going to work. And just go for everything. If you have a feeling just go for it no matter what. If there's people telling you you can't do it, just do it. I think it just comes down to this believing in yourself. Just have faith.