Daily Discovery: Looking at the Vibe Behind “Don’t Talk Back” by Tiara Thomas

Photo via The Hive Social

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Los Angeles-based, Indianapolis, Indiana-raised songwriter Tiara Thomas holds the distinction of being both an Oscar and Grammy Award-winner.

For Thomas, achievements like these come down to the act of hard work mixed with intuition. That leads to the act of putting pen to paper, which she’s done “for as long as [she] can remember.”

“As a kid, I’d make up raps all the time,” she tells American Songwriter, “for class presentations, at the lunch table, or just at home for fun. As I started getting more into music I started writing my own songs and recording them.”

But, Thomas says, she “didn’t start writing for other artists until after my first No. 1 hit.”

Born September 12, 1989, the R&B singer earned a prestigious feature in 2013 on the Wale song, “Bad.” That has since gone on to be certified three-times platinum. She later signed to Interscope Records and in 2021 she won the Grammy for Song of the Year after co-writing the track, “I Can’t Breathe,” performed by H.E.R. That same year she also earned a Golden Globe nom and won the Oscar for Best Original Song, co-writing the track “Fight for You” (also with H.E.R.) from the biopic Judas and the Black Messiah.

To achieve these dreams, Thomas looks more to a feeling than anything else.

“My music is a vibe,” she says. “It feels good. It’s laid back, but edgy—like me. It’s sexy but there’s a roughness to it. Musical but raw.”

For her new bassy, percussive, grooved-out number, Thomas says, she mused on the concept of “taking control.”

“I only talk about it in one context,” she says, “like sexually, but the phrase could mean so many different things. Anything sassy and like, ‘bitch don’t talk back!’” 

To actually write the two-minute track, Thomas says she looked to some close friends. From there, brick by proverbial brick, the track was conceived of and created.

“A super talented producer, Ron Gilmore, and dope songwriter, Sam Ashworth,” she says. “We started with just the base you hear in the beginning. From there we were trying to figure out how to build the track out, and I started playing that groovy 808 [drum machine] you hear come in. That really gave it a bounce. Then Ron produced out the track while I worked on lyrics and melody with Sam.”

For Thomas, who is constantly conceiving and growing (as any artist should), growth is on her mind while also maintaining that link to what makes her her.

“I want to show a more fun creative side while still being true to my smooth sound,” says Thomas. “This is the first song of mine that I co-produced and I really love the way my music has grown sonically. I’m excited for everyone to hear what else I’ve been working on.”

Photo via The Hive Social

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