Finding Full Expression: The World Of Tamzene

A Scottish artist with a voice to stop you in your tracks...

Tamzene is a talent to cherish. The voice of an old soul, she blends those impeccable, classic influences – a childhood spent soaking up Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin – to an urge towards expression. Hailing from the tiny Scottish town of Cromarty, her new EP ‘Details’ was pieced together on walks by the harbour, the waves lapping against the pier as the firth stretched out before her. A gorgeous, striking listen, it presents songwriting fuelled by emotion, and the will towards communication; sparkling, emotive, and refined, ‘Details’ presents a world to inhabit.

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Finding Full Expression: The World Of Tamzene

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When Clash is connected through to Tamzene, she’s on ebullient form. A notice for her first full UK tour went out a few hours ago, and she’s also passed her driving test. A competitive sibling, she’s eager to show off both achievements, her warm, self-effacing nature hiding her empathetic streak, and her desire to succeed.

We start by looking back on her roots, on that Highland childhood. “My step-dad was the musician in my house growing up,” she explains. “He actually had his own salsa band! He came into my life when I was very young – like, four or five – and there was always music playing in our house. I was definitely drawn towards it.”

“I started to cover songs, and started recording myself on Audacity with my laptop microphone when I was about 12. My stepdad helped me, and within a couple of years I had started writing my own songs! I was pretty young, but then I was always serious about music. I’m not a serious person, generally, but with music I didn’t mess around.”

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Still in her early 20s, Tamzene’s ascent is marked by determination, and a defined sense of purpose. From those early viral uploads to her brand new EP, each moment is illuminated by Tamzene’s emotional touch, and that wonderful, wonderful voice. “There are so many moments that put me on my path,” she observes. “But I think writing ‘Accidentally Told You’. A lot of things happened in my life for me to write that song, and I was adamant that I would never release something so raw. Everything I’d been working on was so polished and pristine, but this really connected with people. Obviously, meeting my manager, signing to the label are important – but the biggest break came from within myself. I wanted to write something that would reach people, and it started with that song”.

For Tamzene, songwriting is almost an act of self-discovery, a means of shining a light on the darker recesses of her emotional life. “It’s very much wrapped up in identity,” she says, “and seeing yourself for who you are. There’s no one moment to becoming an artist, it’s something you step into on your own terms. The moment I stopped looking around, and started looking inwards, is when it all changed, I think.”  

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Finding Full Expression: The World Of Tamzene

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Out now, ‘Details’ is a remarkable achievement. Broad yet finessed, it displays both her blossoming talent and her curatorial nous, presenting Tamzene in 360. Yet she’s also intimidated by the release, and it’s impending sense of revelation. “I mean it’s terrifying!” she laughs. “Six songs is pretty substantial. But I’m really for that. I’m ready to share it. I’m ready to share this side of me. I think it’s going to unlock something within me.”

She’s unafraid to get personal. ‘Dance With You Again’ is about her mother, and the isolation brought by lockdown. Graduating from Leeds College of Music, she returned to the Highlands, but her mother moved to Jamaica. Still incredibly close on an emotional level, the sheer physical divide – a full ocean – was tough to navigate during the pandemic. “I mean, it was hard not to write about it,” she says. “Especially when things are so heavy on your heart. I’d been on the phone to her right before I started a writing sessions, and the producer Toby asked me what was wrong. I told him, and we started writing from there – what was on my mind ended up in the song.”  

“I actually grew up dancing with my mum,” she says. “I was her demo partner at salsa lessons.”

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Finding Full Expression: The World Of Tamzene

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An empathetic artist, Tamzene turns the light inwards on break-up hymn ‘Cut Me Out Your Photos’. “I had an early heartbreak,” she says. “I was such a hopeless romantic! And then having your heartbroken, at that age, is a recipe for disaster. That’s a part of me that I’ll always have, and always be able to draw on. It never leaves you. Those thoughts, those feelings, will always be there.”

“I like that song,” she points out, “because it is a heartbreak song.”

There’s a classic edge to Tamzene’s work, a young talent who is unafraid to go toe-to-toe with the masters. “I always find myself reaching back to those early influences. But you can hear those sounds in someone more modern, like Joy Crookes. I always love to seek out feeling in music, because that’s the world I want to be in.”

Lockdown allowed Tamzene to tap back into her roots, using the space and tranquillity of the Highlands to complete her new EP. Zoom became a key tool in her creativity, and Cromarty became a canvas for her to sketch on. “Life doesn’t change in Cromarty. Even with the pandemic, people still carried on. It’s a sleepy town, but very inspiring. I was there, I guess, out of necessity, but I leaned into it – I was just grateful to be there with my family.”

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Finding Full Expression: The World Of Tamzene

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Unable to tour due to the pandemic, Tamzene used the internet to level out the playing field. Sharing some gorgeous live clips online, she swiftly gained a huge following – she even made pick of the week in HMV Inverness, where she would go on teenage shopping trips with her mum. A few days after our call, Clash catches Tamzene at the Great Escape in Brighton, playing a tiny, intimate showcase. The audience is enraptured, and she clearly relishes every moment, each note teased from her lips and poured out over the crowd. It’s a beautiful moment, one that she truly cherishes.

“I’ve loved being onstage again,” she says. “It’s so rewarding. I’m so proud of every song I play, It’s so exciting to see everyone back exactly where they belong – whether it’s artists, sound engineers, or gig photographers. It’s how it should be.”

From the pastoral Highland fields of Cromarty to the hustle and bustle of Europe’s biggest new music showcase event – with Tamzene, everything seems to be falling into its right place.

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'Details' EP is out now.

Words: Robin Murray
Photography: Yasmin Cowan

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