Whether she’s writing a new song, making a major business decision, or being the best mom she can be, there is no question that Teedra Moses possesses a keen sense of balance that’s kept her going strong in a dog-eat-dog industry. As one of newest additions to Rick Ross‘s Maybach Music Group roster in association with Warner Bros., Teedra is ready to present her latest works to the world in a big way.
Teedra took some time out to let us in on some of her best tough love advice, and explained how she has maintained in some trying career situations. Of course we asked her about her “break” since she debuted her first album Complex Simplicity on TVT Records in 2003, however Teedra explained that doesn’t quite see her time out of the big spotlight as any kind of a break.
With the recent release of her mixtape Luxurious Undergrind, Teedra is gearing up for her sophomore album The Lioness in 2012. So how has she dealt with the highs and lows of the music industry? What did working with a large indie like TVT teach her about work ethic? What does she think is the single most important quality for aspiring artists to have coming into this business?
Read on as Teedra Moses discusses all this and more in UrbLife.com‘s exclusive Tough Love feature!
Who is one historically relevant woman who has influenced you?
Teedra Moses: I went to a school when I was younger by the name of St. Joan of Arc, and they told us her story and how she fought. It was insane to me how determined she was and how she felt like she really had those visions. Ever since I was a little kid, she seems to be a strong figure to me, maybe because I went to the school and learned so much about her.
Her diligence and what she was fighting for no matter what people believed, whether she was crazy or not. She fought for what she believed in. That’s one woman that I always looked up to.
What would you say is the best tough love advice that anyone ever gave you in your career?
TM: It was more of a tough love experience. I think the best thing that ever happened to me was being on TVT Records. I came from being a fashion stylist with major labels, styling new artists. We call it the “Puffy Era” – when we were getting paid so much for being stylists and behind the scenes. We got so much money because the labels were passing out so much money to new artists. You got the best stylists and video directors as a new artist. They really just didn’t consider money as much as they do now.
One of the best experiences was being on TVT Records, because I could have come into the industry on a label that was treating me like that and I wouldn’t know how to survive now. I wouldn’t have known when things started to fall apart how to continue on, because people always took care of stuff for me. On TVT you had to learn to figure it out on your own, and I think that’s the best tough love that I have gotten in the industry.
Me and my team call it “TVT College,” because being with TVT taught you how to grind. I didn’t know, I just wanted to make music, and I thought working with other labels as a stylist, they took care of so much stuff. Artists didn’t really have to grind as much as we did on TVT, or like we do now where all artists have to grind.
Having an A&R like Bryan Leach, who wasn’t in the studio holding your hand, you had to figure it out on your own. I don’t think it could have been a better experience for me with the kind of artist that I want to be other than TVT.
What is the best tough love advice that you would give somebody that wants to be in the industry?
TM: You want to sing and have this career? Be good at it; don’t be mediocre, because everybody is doing it. I don’t know what people feel about my talent, but I think that my talent is unique to what I do. I remember a time when I didn’t even think that my voice was that fresh, but now that I’ve had the chance to live with it and learn how to use it and play my instrument, I feel like can’t nobody do what I’m doing.
I have a unique look to me. I may not have as many runs as Ledisi, or dance as hard as Beyoncé or whatever, but there is distinctiveness to me that I can sell that you can’t get anywhere else. Be good at what you do and have something strong about yourself. If you’re mediocre, just quit or have a hard grind. You better be bossed up on your business side, because mediocre isn’t going to get you anywhere.
You just can’t be “good enough”; you have to kick in the door. You have to have a strong stage presence; you have to look a decent way. Even if you didn’t have a label to put you together, who cares? You better still look like a star. Nobody is going to come and save you anymore, those days are gone. You better be a star when you bust out your mother’s womb, or it’s not going to happen.
Tell us a little about the break you took. How do you feel about coming back into the game now?
TM: Let’s just start by saying that I never took a break. I had no opportunities to put out an album, but I kept working and I kept making music. I put out a mixtape every year except for one, because when you’re an artist and you want to put out music, there’s no such thing as taking a break.
As an artist, you’re always going to make music or paint a picture or make films. If you’re a person that’s an artist and you do it beyond a financial gain, you do it because it has to be done. If I don’t record, I get depressed. I start feeling like something has to come out. I did this all that time. I grind really hard on the underground, doing shows everywhere.
I never put out a record with a label, because I didn’t have any support, so what I did do didn’t really jump out there that far unless it was the people that truly followed me. The great thing in doing that during the time people considered a ‘break’; I was gaining so many fans. I pretty much was working an album for years, one album and mixtapes just to let people know that I still make music.
It goes back to having something that people can lock on to, because during that time there was a lot of things that happened to me as a songwriter. Being sued for stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with me, it has to do with the producing, paying all of these legal things; it’s just a lot of stuff that comes along with that. I could have very well through in my hands and said ‘forget all of this’.
I’m smart and I could do a lot of different other things, but I wanted to do music. I love music and I feel like this is what God gave to me. The world didn’t give this to me and I’m not about to let them take it from me. I kept grinding and building my fans, and now I’m at a place where I know that I’m solid and I know that I’m straight. I know that I have people that will feed me.
That might not have happened if it was like, “Oh, you put out an album” and it goes well, then TVT falls apart and then once again I don’t know how to grind. I learned how to grind in that time. I was making good connections with people all over the country and in different countries. I was making great connections with promoters, just building a team. Now I’m ready.
Sometimes people want to do something so quick, which I did I’m not going to lie; now I’m really, really ready. I’m so solid on the stool I’m standing on, couldn’t nobody knock me off of what I’m standing on because I’ve taken the time to build this.
Tell us a little about this album. What are fans going to get from this project?
TM: We’re not going to call it ‘grown and sexy’ because everybody ain’t sexy [laughs], but it’s very, very grown. It’s the kind of grown, you know when you were younger the kind of grown you wanted to be, it’s that type of grown. It’s like the fly kind of grown, not grown and boring. It’s the kind of grown where it’s like, “Damn I want to be like that now. I’m fast, I’m 15, 16, I want to be this fresh today.”
It’s what people make love to, not mashing and beating it up. It’s just like real authentic but emotional, fly music. It’s definitely coming from a grown woman’s perspective. Either love me or leave me alone. It’s also coming from a vulnerable place, saying, “I do want to be in love and I have been broken, but I don’t know how to fix it.” It’s very honest.
I try to make music that’s honest to me, because I feel like if I’m honest with myself, then someone else may be able to relate. If I try and picture what people want me to be, then that may not work and I won’t be happy. I’m looking at music like fashion.
How do you balance your personal life with your work?
TM: No husband, no boyfriend, no nothing. I think I’m supposed to focus on my children and career at this point. I want one, but I think I’m a bit much. Not in a sense that it’s bad, but you know over 30 we know what we want, we’re not playing anymore. In that situation, my homeboys always tell me, “Dude has to be ready for a real woman dealing with you.” I don’t do the playing thing.
As far as kids, I have sons and they’re 15. I think when I first started they were like 6. They’ve just watched me do this thing and support me a whole lot. It feeds them, so they’re happy.
Find out more about Teedra Moses and download her Luxurious Undergrind mixtape on her site at TeedraMoses.org, and follow her on Twitter @TeedraMoses