Tallia Storm has always been fascinated by duality, a concept depicted in one of her favorite gothic novellas, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. “It’s the fact that we never truly know a person,” she says. The London-based singer-songwriter pins such truth to a corkboard of silky production and an R&B-stitched melody with her new song, “Kinda Savage, Kinda Sweet,” which explores often contrasting personality traits.
Her voice carries with it a particularly tart flavor. “You can be as sweet as a sugar-coated cupcake but can burst with red velvet in the middle. As an artist and creator I really want to dive in deeper into what I am perceived as and what I actually stand for,” she tells Audiofemme. In borrowing from the absolute extreme in the Jekyll & Hyde tale, she delves further into personal experience to present the reality as she sees it.
“I am often seen as a sweet 21-year-old, as it’s easier for male executives running this business to undermine the ambition and hunger I have,” she says. She runs her own business and has been self-funding her burgeoning musical catalog, beginning with 2017’s debut entry “The Good Lie” and more recent cuts like “Drowning” and “One of a Kind.”
“Kinda Savage, Kinda Sweet,” her first for Sony’s The Orchard imprint, arrives as a statement of empowerment; it is quite evident Storm’s unwavering work ethic is paying off. “It takes thick skin to follow a dream in this game, but I really believe that with all the ‘stitches, bitches and broken hearts’ anything is possible if you work hard enough,” Storm says. “Without sugarcoating or softening a word, I wanted to embrace the modern-day reality of being an empowered and ambitious female working her way to the top.”
Mixing the track with Grammy-winning engineer Phil Tan, who has worked with Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani, and Rihanna among others, hints that she’s destined for the canon of unapologetically fierce pop stars. “Every day, females are forced to fit into a box. I am so much more than just ‘a sweet girl’ or ‘a savage’ one. We can be unpredictable and unapologetic without the force of being put into one box. I want to be a role model to young girls, bold and motivating,” she continues. “I want young girls to listen to my music and feel confident, and feel and be anything they want.”
The accompanying visual further articulates her drive to the top, as well as the strength she’s collected from self-love and confidence. “Don’t touch my crown with those filthy hands,” she sings over a fluttering back beat. The imagery shifts from intimate close-ups to sweeping cinematic shots of a gloriously plush estate, lush countryside on the horizon. “As far as the camera can go, it still can’t find my soul,” she muses.
As such, Storm keeps the viewer guessing, not only with her many wardrobe changes (that leopard print!) but her willingness to get goofy. “I want people to discover and see something new every time they watch the video,” she says.
Storm was famously discovered eight years ago by none other than Sir Elton John. He had heard a demo of her song “He Loves Me,” a muted, somber performance, and was immediately struck by her talents. She opened one of his shows, performing a 25-minute set in front of 18,000 people, and life has never been the same. Now, as she takes a moment, reality sets in. “It’s only recently that I really sat back and appreciated how far I have come,” she says.
She originally hails from a tiny village on the outskirts of Glasgow, so the simple idea of chasing such lofty dreams never felt real or attainable. “I have a bad habit of reaching my goals and moving the post as soon as I get there. This year has been all about gratitude and appreciating how far I have come, not just my music but as a person,” she says. “I grew up really quickly when I think back.”
While her musical career was taking off, she also had opportunities to give several TED Talks and publish two books ─ all by the time she was 15. “I love what I do, and I really feel like I am starting to make some waves as the emerging female artist I am, all whilst staying true to the music I love and the brand I have created.”
Her 2017 debut studio record, Teenage Tears, displayed great promise, a compilation of every song she’d written from 12 to 18 that summarized her entire life’s journey up to that point. “I started writing music at such a young age, and it’s really all I can remember. I was obsessed with noise and rhythm, and it became really clear to me early on that I was most myself on stage,” she says. “I love entertaining and nothing makes me happier than hearing fans sing back the songs I have written. I am so proud of my debut album. There was no pressure, no radio plugger, and no team behind me ─ it was just a young girl and her love for music.”
In the coming years, Storm continued releasing singles, but she admits she “hadn’t found the power to convey” what she needed to say. “As I experienced a bigger picture of the music business ‘reality’ and the brutality of the climb, it really let me go through a roller coaster of emotions, frustrations, and ambition,” she remarks. “I am hungrier than ever, but I still feel like I am emerging.”
“Kinda Savage, Kinda Sweet” anchors her forthcoming second record, tentatively expected in 2021. “You can expect a mature me ─ unafraid, fearless, and unapologetic. That doesn’t mean I wont be vulnerable and soft; it just means every word is written with passion and self assuredness. I know that this is exactly where I am meant to be, in this exact moment at this exact time.”