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Written by Benjamin Levine

Photography by Michael Salisbury


The fearless introvert’s honesty connects with audiences online

 Tatiana Hazel comes from Chicago, but she captured a global fan base by before she was a name in her city. Putting herself out there on the internet came to her as the product of her need for self-expression coupled with an introverted nature. As her music connected with people, she began to see herself as a serious recording artist. Now, many singles and a critically acclaimed EP later, Tatiana Hazel is poised to become the next big thing out of The Windy City. With a discerning mind, she plowed her own self-taught path to music and fashion. Her communities, online and in Chicago, are fueling her confidence.

Tatiana experimented with songwriting at a young age and posted videos of herself playing original songs on YouTube. These early videos are still up on her YouTube channel. In most instances, she is performing a song within minutes of having composed it, her songwriting process favoring upfront, emotional ballads anchored by strong vocals. At first, Tatiana may not have realized that people around the world would view these videos. Regardless, she gained a dedicated audience. Her beautiful vocals and candid lyrics would get people to buy in. People would follow her posts and offer heartfelt thanks for the songs she had created and their emotional resonance with them and for the excitement of seeing a young artist grow.

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What began as a way for her to record thoughts and express emotions turned into a way to communicate with a genuine community to which she felt connected. At first it was just like, ‘Oh, I like to vent like this.’ It was the people that started messaging and commenting things like, ‘Oh, this is so helpful. It’s like you’re reading my diary.’ Or like, ‘I didn’t know other people related in this way.’ Stuff like that, that feeling it gave me, that made me want to feel that way all the time.”

Tatiana did well in school, tutoring in math, drawn more to left-brained work. Despite this, she never considered a career in anything besides the creative fields. “In my head I never had to plan anything else out.” Perhaps best described as certain about her ultimate destination and uncompromising about how she would get there. She attempted to get educated in music, but found herself at odds with the classroom. After failing music theory three times, she left Columbia College in Chicago after one year as a music business major. I felt school was getting in the way for what I was doing outside of school.

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Tatiana always had friends and a supportive family, but she was never comfortable in social settings and would keep to herself. She interacted with her fans online often, always responding to direct messages and treating her fans both as real and as individuals. Growing up and even now I’ve always been a very introverted person. It’s not like I had a lot of friends or would go out. So for me, I really liked it because I would talk to people who like my music more than I would talk to friends. She knows her online community in a personal way, removing barriers as often as she can.

That bond forged with fans was crucial as she released her music commercially. Independent and with no real track record besides her YouTube posts, she understood that she would first have to gain some momentum as an artist so that she could prove herself as a worthy collaborator in the city. Being a singer and self taught guitarist, she delved into the world of production on her own, applying her own logic and experimenting with software until she was creating the bigger sounds she had in her head.

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Her tinkering bore fruit with the release of ‘Dímelo,’ a punchy track with a bass line that is both bizarre and a perfect fit. Tatiana injected the song with jarring synth notes that invoke madness, tempered by congas and strong vocals. She is embarrassed to admit that she used stock sounds in her software, but that doesn’t detract from what is an original sounding track.

‘Dímelo’ was a success, her most streamed song until that point. It proved that she could record music at a high level. Her early success drew from the candid, accessible nature of her YouTube videos that made people feel comfortable with her. This newer music, however, was more polished, clean, and fully executed. Her fans loved it.

Tatiana’s style of recorded music lays at the intersection of pop, rock, and Latin. The openness in her lyrics, often detailing personal frustrations or snags in relationships, maintains the vulnerability that first appealed to people, but the production and vocal performances give off a big time vibe, something that sounds amazing on the dance floor and makes people headnod while it’s pumping through their headphones. She floats between English and Spanish, pushing her appeal even farther.

While her production and vocal skills shine on her singles, the Toxic EP establishes her as a powerful pop-writer. She’s capable of tapping into bubbly sounds, but steers them to more interesting places with her vocals. She makes catchy seem real while still feeling larger than life. Her songs deal with entrapment and other negative feelings around relationships. ‘Love Rut’ tackles this head on, with lines likeIt’s my fault love, it’s not yours. Cause I fell out of love and never closed the door, that harken to the big sweeping pop that Florence Welch executes so well. Tatiana couples vulnerable songs of admission with self-assured power. The refrain for ‘Imma Be’ goes I know I’m meant for bigger better things. I know it. I’m gonna be. She announces that she is focused on her future and doesn’t fear moving towards it.

With her sound established, Tatiana looked to align the aesthetics around her projects with the emotions evoked by the music. She pushed herself to produce something impactful. The small details started to get bigger.” She uses vivid colors and sharp images of herself to produce eye-catching, impossible to ignore, provocative album covers. She dove into the visual aspects of her art in the same serendipitous way she approached music, trusting her intuition and using her analytical mind to create unique clothing that would be emblematic of her music.

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While producing her Toxic EP, she would listen to the album as she combed through the thrift store. She didn't come with a plan. Rather, she let the music speak to her as she looked at clothing, taking the clothes she felt connected to the emotions she was working with. She would then break down the garment, looking at the stitching and figuring out how it all came together. She would then use her observations to create the outfits she dons on her album covers and in concert. Her fascination with fashion comes from the need to be outwardly expressive. She folds the heavy-metal influence of her older sister, the Mexican heritage of her family, and the urban flavor of Chicago into unique and beautiful outfits that are now being worn by elite musicians like Jamila Woods.

As all the pieces came together, Chicago took notice. Critics liked Toxic,  which was widely circulated. While she feels more connected to her online community because of the early bond, she embraces and appreciates the opportunities she’s afforded in the thriving live music community. Red Bull chose Tatiana to represent Chicago’s Latinx community for their Xicago event. She’s forming personal bonds with other artists, citing Melo Makes Music in particular as being a strong voice that boosted her self-confidence. He’s the one who was always like, ‘You’re overthinking.’ At first I was always trying to plan or say, ‘I should talk about this in my music.’ He was like, ‘You shouldn’t say ‘should’ for anything. You should just do it.’”

...I think everything is a sign from the universe...that if I feel something, that’s the right thing.
— Tatiana Hazel

Tatiana Hazel is a special person who has vibrant self-confidence, yet keeps a sense of genuine approachability. She trusts herself and doesn’t fight where the current of her feelings takes her. She is serious, but also sees the humor in following her instincts with little reservation. Literally, I think everything is a sign from the universe...that if I feel something, that’s the right thing. But it’s worked always for me (she laughs). People came to her when she put out music as a young girl. Now that she’s found her stride, she’s only getting sharper. With the city behind her and an engaged online community, her musical whims have legs that can take them anywhere.

 
 
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