“Why the F*** am I Holding Anything Back?” Anti-Pop Powerhouse tiLLie on Her Transformative Years that Led to ‘Loud Mouth’

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in March 2019.

Unscripted, unapologetic and distinctly original, tiLLie is a force to be reckoned with in pop music. Getting her start years ago and eventually posting cover videos on social media, her 2016 cover of “Peach” by The Front Bottoms being the first time I discovered her, 2019 is set to be a monumental year for tiLLie, the anti-pop powerhouse with a lot of things to say.

For those unfamiliar, “anti-pop” is a subgenre that does not conform to what is often presented in mainstream pop music. While “anti-pop” is open to an artist’s interpretation, independent artist tiLLie chooses to use the subgenre as a way of defining the DIY way in which she creates her music.

“A lot of people would describe my sound as pop, but the ethics, the heart, and what goes on behind the scenes is the opposite of what everyone thinks of when they think of that genre. I write, play multiple instruments, co-produce the songs, design the artwork, direct the videos, pretty much anything that’s gotta be done, I’ll just fucking do it.”

tiLLie’s new EP, Loud Mouth, is the perfect representation of the passionate DIY artist she is. Made up of 4 incredibly strong pop anthems, Loud Mouth not only shows her versatility in style, but also her willingness to experiment with her sound. However, while on the surface Loud Mouth may be a collection of songs filled with infectious pop hooks and 90s dream-like aesthetics, it is also a snapshot into what tiLLie’s past few years have been like.

Unreserved and candid, we recently caught up with tiLLie to talk about the meaning behind Loud Mouth and how she managed to transform her recent difficult years into one of the best pop releases of 2019.

“I started writing music as a way of coping with my parents’ divorce when I was an early teen so a lot of times, my songs sound like the way they start, like a page out of my journal.”

tiLLie has never been afraid of oversharing when it comes to her songwriting, finding the whole process of picking thoughts from personal experiences and forming a song therapeutic. At its core, the unfiltered, no bullshit storytelling in her music are qualities that separate her from other up-and-coming pop artists.

“I believe the job of artists is to say the things that other people feel, but may be too afraid to say out loud. Sometimes, the only way to do that without sounding preachy as hell is by putting your personal experiences out on display.”

While the songs featured on Loud Mouth were all conceived by the end of 2017, parts of them being rewritten and reimagined for the EP, this past year alone has been one of the most transformative for tiLLie, leading to a shift in the way she sees herself and the world around her.

“In the midst of my individual struggles, I lost my big brother and it completely changed me. He was unapologetic and larger than life and losing him drew out more of those qualities in me. When you experience a loss like that, it almost makes you stop and say, ‘why the fuck am I holding anything back?’ I try to honor his life the best I can by living my life as authentically and unapologetically as possible. There’s no holding back and I think you can hear that in my music.”

The “no holding back” mentality that tiLLie has adopted is inevitably clear on Loud Mouth, each song being representative of the trials and tribulations she has gone through over the years while also being so open and honest, it feels like you are reading from the personal pages of her journals.

The EP’s lead single “Faith” presents itself as a quintessential pop anthem, featuring a punchy chorus that gets stuck in your head and a dreamy pink-hued retro-inspired music video to go along with it. However, tiLLie’s inspiration for the song goes much deeper than what is presented at first glance, opening up the whole EP with her personal story that is far from the upbeat bubblegum sound presented.

“I wrote “Faith” as a way of making peace with an incredibly frustrating situation. After I broke up with my abusive ex, he started telling people I was ‘crazy’ and ‘making up the abuse’ before he went on to release a song I helped him write without giving me writing credit.”

tiLLie went on to file a police report for the assault and also hired an attorney to help with the legal implications following the “song-snatching”. Choosing to not devote any more of her energy to the situation at hand, she put all of her feelings and emotions into her songwriting, “Faith” being the end product of the ordeal.

“”Faith” was my way of saying, ‘I don’t need to consume myself with your demise because you will do a better job than I ever could.’”

A few days following her writing the song, the allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein emerged, launching the Me Too Movement we are all familiar with. The headlines that followed in the coming days and the personal anecdotes that emerged from the survivors gave the inspiration behind “Faith” another meaning for tiLLie.

“The story broke a week after I wrote it, and I was like, ‘holy shit.’ This song is for all of us.”

Written shortly after “Faith,” “Loud Mouth” was inspired by the comments and criticism she received following her decision to take legal action against her ex-boyfriend. Growing up as an “opinionated, strong-willed woman,” “Loud Mouth” is also tiLLie’s response to those stereotypical comments often directed towards women like herself who freely speak their minds.

“As women, we are often told that holding our tongue is a way of taking the ‘high road’ or ‘being the bigger person’ or that somehow being quiet about our feelings garners us more respect as if our emotions are something to be ashamed of. “Loud Mouth” is my response to that, my declaration of being who I am unapologetically and reclaiming those words that have been used against me and painting them in the way I see them, as some of my greatest strengths.”

Collaborating on the track with Kyle Moorman and Nick Bailey, the song was transformed for the EP, taking inspiration from some of tiLLie’s biggest influences to create the edgiest and most unique song on the new release.

“As soon as the chorus popped into my head, I just heard these really dramatic Queen/Bowie-esque vocals. The lyrics also reference another one of my biggest influences, Talking Heads, so I wanted the production to be big and dramatic while paying homage to some of my biggest musical inspirations.”

Incredibly strong with just four tracks on it, Loud Mouth is one of the best pop releases of 2019. Not only does it hit hard in terms of original sound and distinct style, but it also conveys real life and personal experiences within songs you can still dance and sing along to.

What comes as no surprise is the fact that Loud Mouth barely scratches the surfaces in terms of the material tiLLie has up her sleeve, leaving us to wonder when we will hear more of her tell-all tunes next. For now, Loud Mouth’s release could not have come at a better time, the EP feeling more representative of tiLLie’s life than ever before.

“I’m sitting on more than an album’s worth of songs, but these four represented a very important personal growth for me. [The songs] seem to become more and more relevant with each passing day. It felt like the time was right to finally share them.”