“Everybody has different characters within them,” says 21-year-old star in the making Tyni of the multi-faceted persona she adopts on stage, on record and everywhere in between.
“It all comes down to whether or not you choose to bring them out.”
Tyni describes her music as being “like jumping into my very own Wonderland where each song’s a different chapter of my very own fairytale”, and three new chapters form the Fighter EP, whose atmospheric, glitchy title track has been remixed by Frank Ocean collaborator Troy Noka and sits alongside XCX-ecque synth banger ‘Touch Me’ and the elegantly sparse ‘Cherrytrees’. These songs are the result of Tyni having spent the last few years between LA, London and her hometown of Sheffield, recording with the likes of Wayne Wilkins (Beyoncé, Jordin Sparks), MNEK (Madonna, Little Mix) and Britney collaborator Ana Diaz, all of whom have provided the perfect foil for Tyni’s nuanced balance of style and substance.
Tyni grew up in Woodhouse, a small village just outside Sheffield, which her pharmacist mum, gas man dad, and elder sister. “It’s a proper English village,” she laughs. “There are still stocks there from when they used to throw tomatoes.” School was hard work, as school often is – her secondary school, she estimates, is possibly the worst-behaved in Sheffield. It was there, without ever really having felt like an outsider, that she became fascinated by the divide that was starting to appear between her own outlook and those of her peers. “Well, to be blunt, some girls wanted to beat me up,” she says. “Was it the fact that I had a unicorn on my bag? I don’t know. I wasn’t quite like everybody else.”
Rather than withdraw into herself or conform to fit in, Tyni’s reaction – and you can hear this steadfastness in her music – was to just get on with her life. Mind you, some of her decisions were a little on the outré side. “For my prom, I wanted to turn up in a funeral hearse,” she laughs. “My friends were like, ‘this is disrespectful’. I said, ‘well, it’s different’.”
She didn’t get the hearse, but she’s making up for lost time now and it feels like the space between a mid-teen Tyni and her more conservative friends is the space where the Tyni we see before us today, a ready-formed pop superstar, started to grow. She talks animatedly
(and with an authority rare in artists so young) about heroes whose images and music she admires: Farrokh Bulsara as Freddie Mercury, Stefani Germanotta as Lady Gaga, David Jones as David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. All artists whose music is authentic and honest, but who also put on one hell of a show to bring it to life. Tyni’s own persona, she explains, is “an artist having a love affair with her music, which means more to her than any other relationship could. And that’s just how it is. It’s the way it’s always been”.
By the age of 14 Tyni signed up at Sheffield’s Joy Reynolds theatre school. Her journey to where she finds herself today began with a chanced-upon advert in The Stage which eventually led to a music industry showcase themed around the films Halloween (“you’ve
got to admire Michael Myers for his determination”) and The Grudge. “I crawled out onto the stage,” she remembers, “then there was a Blair Witchy bit where the light would flash on and I’d be in one place; flash off then flash on again and I’d be somewhere else. Then it stopped and all these label people were just sitting there going, ‘er…’. They looked quite scared.” But one audience member was impressed enough to introduce Tyni to Wayne Wilkins, the award-winning writer and producer behind hits for the likes of Beyoncé and Natasha Bedingfield. “He came to London – we had a meeting, and he was like, ‘well, you could come to my studio in LA…’,” Tyni recalls. “I’d never been to America before but a few weeks later there I was in Santa Monica. We worked from midday to 4am every day. I never got tired, I was just thriving on pure adrenaline.” Their union brought out the best in both parties, Wilkins’ ear for a hit and studio knowhow bringing a real ready-for-radio sheen to Tyni’s extravagant, colourful pop.
Before long Tyni’s unicorn bag was stuffed with enough innovative pop songs to establish her as an exciting, innovative new artist. With college out of the way she could look ahead to new challenges, continuing to work with Wayne Wilkins while adding to the mix the likes of MNEK and Ana Diaz, and dividing her time between LA, London and Sheffield. During this time she decided to go by the name Tyni as a nod to her dyslexia and as a constant reminder that, in her own words, “despite the challenges I may face, I can still try achieve whatever I want”. She also experienced heartbreak for the first time, which became part of the inspiration for ‘Fighter’. “Sometimes your own mind is the worst place you can be,” Tyni declares. “But everybody’s got a fight within them. Whether it’s on a huge global scale or just inside your own home, people fight for something they believe in every day of their lives.”
For the eye-popping ‘Fighter’ video, Tyni recruited Charlotte Rutherford, whose portfolio includes the likes of Charli XCX, Marina & The Diamonds and Perfume Genius. “I was imagining trashy glam — something halfway between Quentin Tarantino and Christina’s
‘Dirrrty’ video,” Tyni explains. “I wanted to channel my inner Beatrix Kiddo because she’s the ultimate badass bitch. Charlotte and I were instantly on the same page, so it was fun bringing our ideas to life.”
For Tyni, bringing ideas to life is what this is all about — and you’ll rarely find a pop artist bursting with quite so much life. “Everybody’s split down the middle,” she states. “Everybody has two sides. One side is always more flamboyant. And my flamboyant side is just the way I want to be all the time.”
So if you’re wondering where all pop’s big personalities have gone, Tyni may provide a clue — or several. “It’s fun to be different people,” she smiles. “Who’d want to be themselves all the time?”