Maxim Meyer-Horn

10 Dec
Music

Interview: Belgian Singer Tessa Dixson Talks Debut Album, Style and Growing Confidence

Belgium is becoming one of Europe’s biggest countries in pop music and with the Brussels-based Tessa Dixson, the Belgians might have their next superstar. The upcoming artist already worked together with Belgium’s best producers and attracted a lot of attention from the international press with her debut. Minutes after performing only her third show ever, we met the singer backstage where she was talking with, Belgian singer and main act, Warhola. After a kind welcome, we made our way upstairs.

Hi Tessa, how are you?

Tired af, but I am super happy to be able to do these shows and get out all these singles I’ve been working on for a while now. I’m writing a lot now, so I quit my artist school in Brussels because I really want to fully focus on my music. It’s very tiring, but it’s also so cool and I love it.

You just came off stage. How was the show?

It was really cool. I love performing and the crowd was so welcoming and seemed to like the music. That doesn’t really happen that often, because people are often chatting or drinking something when a support act performs. It’s a real privilege for me that people actually listen and enjoy the music.

Tonight must be very exciting for you, because you’re also releasing a new song at midnight. What’s the story of “Crystal Water”?

That song is basically about being crystal clear, about who I really am as a person and about people that try to say who I am, but they don’t even know. It’s also about being hurt by that, like people are always minding about your business and are saying ‘this is this’ and ‘that is that’. “Crystal Water” is a very personal song and is actually one of the first songs I’ve ever written. I am really, really proud of it.

Aren’t you nervous for the release?

No, I am rather excited because I have all these songs for a while now and I was waiting to get them all out. I’m sure people will like “Crystal Water”, because it’s a nice song.

In the past, you have worked with Roméo Elvis (one of Belgium’s biggest rappers) and Stereoclip (a successful Belgian DJ), who are both huge acts. How did these collaborations come about and how was it to work with these two?

Roméo was like two years ago. He came to me, because we’re obviously both from Brussels, and he was kind of starting his career. He wasn’t at the point where he is now, but I am still very proud to have a song with him as it was really fun to work with him. He was super easy and chill. Stereoclip is actually a very good friend of mine now. I just love working with people that love music as much as he does, so that merged.

If we had to describe your sound, we would describe your music as a mix of Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Oscar & The Wolf. How would you describe it?

When I started off with music, I really loved BANKS. Her whole vibe is so breathtaking, and she’s also a great person. I’ve been to her concert and I was like: “Fucking hell!”. Her music is very dark, yet very personal and super dancy and I really love it. I don’t like to put myself into boxes and I try to make, as much as possible, songs with a different vibe. Especially today, you don’t have to put yourself into a box because there are so many ways you can go. But if I have to put myself into a box, potentially *laughed*, it would be dark pop.

Apart from making music, you’re sometimes doing shoots as a model. Does that inspire you in your music?

I mean, I am not really in an agency, but I do take pictures because it’s a cool thing to do. It doesn’t really inspire me, because I prefer being an artist more than a model. It is kind of a side thing, but if there are opportunities, I take them of course.

You have such a cool style. What’s the main concept behind your clothes?

I am very much into streetwear and ‘garçon manqué’ (a tomboy) but I try to make it cool and sometimes sexy. I like making an effort fashion wise, but I also kind of don’t want to make an effort. Style is super diverse and is very mood depending. I can be very sad and don’t want to dress up at all, but there can be some moments where I try a bunch of things. I love creating and mixing a lot of things, so it feels like a playground.

You’ve recently released “Beautiful Pain” together with a beautiful music video. Where did you get the idea of the gold theme?

I actually got that idea at school. My school was very open, and you could always involve your ideas and projects, so I had this vision of gold paint for “Beautiful Pain”. I didn’t really know how to put it in pictures, but then I saw a video of Julia Dubois (a photographer from Brussels) and Rutger Claes (a Belgian filmmaker) that looked like how I imagined it, so I contacted them. The video is something I am really proud of.

Your debut single “Prayer” came out a year ago and received raving reviews from all over the world. How did you experience that?

That was a really cool experience, because it was my first single and it was obviously super stressful. It was a great start that I didn’t expect. I’m currently doing a little more underground music I guess and less international coverage, but it’s still really good. Since “Prayer”, a lot of things have changed, but I’m still extremely proud of it.

You are currently opening for Warhola (a popular Belgian pop project) and you are working with them. How is it to work with Warhola?

It’s truly dope! I didn’t really know them before they asked me to collaborate on a song. They’re all great people and Oliver (the front man of Warhola) is super inspiring ‘cause he loves what he does. He is extremely into everything and we’re actually working on a song right now. (Spoiler: the song is called “Drive” and will be on Warhola’s debut album.) It’s been a great journey until now and for me, it’s a great step. I’ve learnt how to be on stage and got more confidence.

Your first show ever was in May of this year. What’s the biggest change of evolution you made in performing since then?

Confidence! That’s the thing with Warhola. It wasn’t my show and I was only performing one song with them, but it gave me so much more confidence. The first show I did was in front of two hundred people and I knew almost every single person in that room which made me very nervous. Actually, I don’t remember a thing from my debut show because I was so fucking nervous, and I blacked out. In these past months I learned how to be on stage, just simple things, and I couldn’t have wished for more. Now, I have these moments where I really live in the moment and I try to connect with the crowd.

At the moment, you’re calling the studio your home. How is the process of making and writing new songs?

For the moment, I work with a lot of different writers and producers, because I really don’t want to work with only one person. You can get so much just from working with so many people. I’m learning a lot at the moment. There is a producer I work with in Ghent where we try to start with the lyrics and then put a beat or production over it, which is super hard. I’d rather just have a production and feel it and then write the lyrics in the process. I’m just trying a bunch of things and we’ll see what works. I do have a lot of songs now, but I never have enough so I’ll keep on writing.

2018 was a big year for you. What has been your highlight of the year?

Ooh god… I would say Pukkelpop (Belgian festival) because that was the biggest crowd for me. Actually, there isn’t a real highlight because I do so many things I love, and I am enjoying life. It’s so fun now because I’m at the point where I don’t have to prove anything or have to be or behave in a certain way. I can do anything and that’s awesome.

Since this year is almost over, what are your plans for 2019?

2019… Well, there’s a lot of shit happening and we have a lot of singles we want to get out that are getting out. We’re supposed to have an album, but I don’t feel we’re ready… The people working with me think we’re done, but I am a perfectionist, so I’m like “naaaah”. Next year, I want to do some little concerts and I’ll probably do festival season, which will be dope because I have never done festivals all by myself. I hope to experiment a lot in 2019 and maybe I’ll be able to make a cool live show at a weird location happen. I am already soooo excited for the next year.

We’re excited too! Good luck and enjoy.

Photos by Julia Dubois Rosca

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