For veterans of the internet, Tessa Violet is a well-known name - rising to fame in the late 2000s as an YouTube star, Violet has made numerous career endeavours including vlogging, acting, and singing.
Violet’s music career began under the name ‘meekakitty’, and although she does already have an album out - this has since been removed from Spotify as she wanted to start over with her real name - growth and self-reflection are in fact some of the themes of her upcoming album, which will be split into three parts.
Now 29, Violet began learning how to play guitar at the age of 23 after a friend left his guitar at her house. She was unable to return it to him so decided to teach herself, and six years later she is on tour with Coin, due to head overseas, and is releasing single-by-single her ‘Bad Ideas’ three-part album. We caught up with Violet while she was travelling for a quick chat about song-writing, crushes and bucket-lists...
Everyone wants a relationship, romantic or not; community and being seen and known, and I think that’s integral to humanity - I don’t think that’s cultural.
COUP DE MAIN: How has the Coin tour been going so far? It looks fun!
TESSA VIOLET: SO MUCH FUN! We’re having such a blast, Coin the band is so kind, their crowd is SO much fun - we just played Salt Lake and they were really rowdy. That was awesome.
CDM: The chorus of ‘Bad Ideas’ is so relatable (“Bad ideas / I know where they lead”). Do you think that sometimes we’re just drawn to things, even though we know the repercussions might be bad?
TESSA: I can only speak for myself, and certainly in the time when I was writing that song I just felt like the high of whatever it is I wanna do in this moment is worth whatever consequences I face later. Now, was it really? I don’t know! But that’s how I felt in the moment.
CDM: What was it about ‘Bad Ideas’ that made you want to name your upcoming album after it?
TESSA: Ooohhh, as I was writing the album I’d been writing a few songs, but nothing was really sticking. When we’d start producing them nothing felt just right, and ‘Bad Ideas’ was the first song I brought in that just came together in a day. I’d written it mostly in the night, I bought it in and I was like, ‘I don’t know if this song is gonna work, I can’t play the chords, but here we are - you play and I’ll sing,’ and just in one day it all kind of came together and I was like, ‘Oh yes! Yes, yes, yes! This is the cornerstone of the album,’ and of my experience of that year!
CDM: That must have been such a cool feeling when you were like, ‘Aha! I found it!’
TESSA: Yes! It was such a cool feeling.
CDM: What can you tell me about the three-part release schedule for the album?
TESSA: Yes! We’re gonna do it in three EPs - ‘Bad Ideas’ Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 - and we’re doing them in the track-listing of the album so when the album comes out they’ll be released. That’s the tracklist of the album too.
CDM: Were they put together in any chronological order, or do they make sense in a story format, or did you just want to split the album up?
TESSA: It’s definitely a story. When I wrote it I wasn’t planning to release it as three pieces, it was just one whole piece and the tracklisting is sort of in the order I wrote them - but not really, just more in the order that I think I sort of looked inwards. It starts very surface level with ‘Crush’, projecting outwards like 'I could be your crush,' this could be so much fun. ‘Bad Ideas’ is, ‘Ahhh I know this isn’t a great idea but let’d do this thing,’ and I think it just slowly turns inwards and I’m like, ‘Oh, what’s really up with me? I don’t know.’
CDM: In the pre-chorus of ‘Crush’ you sing, “I’m just tryna play it cool now,” which I feel like is such a stereotype that is expected of people at the beginning of relationships. Why do you think people always try to ‘play it cool’ in the beginning?
TESSA: I guess it depends on the person and the circumstances, I think too much too fast can definitely feel like too much pressure and then there’s not enough room to explore each other and if you like each other. I was definitely afraid of scaring them off, so I’m like, ‘Haha! Totally casual! Totally cool about this! I like you a normal amount!’
CDM: How much of pop-culture do you think defines and teaches us what we are supposed to do in relationships, and how much of it do you think is an actual reflection of real life?
TESSA: I don’t know if I’m an expert to speak on that, but I guess I think a relationship can be so much about our culture, and our childhoods, and what’s expected of us from our genders, and what we’re trying to heal in our own childhoods - for better or for worse. But also in a healthy way, everyone wants a relationship, romantic or not; community and being seen and known, and I think that’s integral to humanity - I don’t think that’s cultural.
CDM: I also love the imagery in ‘Crush’ when you sing, “Making me feel like you're on my island / You're my permanent vacation.” Do you remember how you came up with those lyrics?
TESSA: Yeah, that’s actually Solomon Olds, my co-writer who came up with that! I wrote the song with Solomon and Lauren Olds.
CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
TESSA: I always start with a first line for the most part. I’ve had a few songs where I wrote the chorus first, but that’s rare. I tend to be at my piano and I’m just thinking through thoughts - what’s on my mind. With ‘Crush’ I’d been sitting at my piano for two hours scrolling through this guy’s Instagram and I was like, ‘Ugh, man - I really cannot focus on what needs to get done,’ and I’m like, ‘That’s a good starting off point, I’ll just start off there!’. ‘Bad Ideas’ was the same thing, I started off with the first line, ‘I hope you don't think I'm rude, but I wanna make out with you,’ which is paraphrasing what I’d said to this person. I like to let songs unfold, I think I really enjoy in music when it’s confessional and conversational, so I tend to write like that too.
CDM: If T.E.S.S.A. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
TESSA: Oh, I am not good at these sort of games! I think I’d have to think about it - I’m not good at scrabble, I can’t unscramble words, I don’t know how people do that.
CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
TESSA: Ooohhh. <laughs> I think a really great song is like a song that takes my breath away when I hear someone say lyrically something that just encapsulates a feeling that I have had for a long time in two really great lines, and I’m just like, ‘Ugh! Yes! I never thought about it that way, that’s so smart!’, that’s what great songs do for me.
CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence, what would it be?
TESSA: Dignity! <laughs> I’m just kidding. Steal one thing without consequence… I don’t know! I’m sorry.
CDM: What’s one thing on your bucket-list for 2019?
TESSA: I’d love to just keep touring, I love to be on the road. I’d like to do a headline this year, and I hope to make that happen. I’d love to do some touring overseas.
CDM: Maybe you can come to New Zealand one day! You can add it to your bucket-list.
TESSA: Yes! I would love to come to New Zealand, I’ve never been.
Tessa Violet’s latest song ‘Bad Ideas’ is out now - watch the music video below: