Tinashe speaks to Glass about the freedom of being an independent artist

As she basks in the success of her latest album 333, Glass speaks to singer TINASHE on how a DIY recording launched her glittering solo career 10 years ago.

It was on a Wednesday at the beginning of February 2012 when 18-year-old Tinashe Kachingwe self-released her debut mixtape In Case We Die, which would come to lay the foundation of her sonic landscape. The singer was embarking on a solo career following a four-year stint in the girl group, The Stunners, so the need to cultivate a fresh, new identity was at stake. However, this was no awkward transition but rather a seamless reappraisal of the US singer’s ability to create music. It was the genesis of a singer whom we would come to know mononymously as Tinashe.

Although born in Lexington, Kentucky, Tinashe’s story is rooted in the city of Los Angeles and her Zimbabwean heritage. “My dad’s family is from Zimbabwe and their culture is very musical. They like to sing a lot of songs in unison and harmony,” explains the now 29-year-old over the phone. “I remember being really young at family gatherings surrounded by everyone singing.” If this was the spark, then it was hearing the likes of Sade, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson echo through the family home that proved the ignition.

tinashe 1Photographer: Angelo D’agostino

“I think I started discovering my own musical identity when I was in pre-school,” she says, looking back. “I remember the first CD that I ever got on my own was when I was five and it was … Baby One More Time. I was, like, ‘this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to be 16 and I’m going to wear belly shirts and I’m going to sing and dance’. I already saw myself as an entertainer; like, I already saw myself on stage from a really, really young age.” Naturally, the young girl became a regular in dance classes across all genres, while simultaneously getting minor roles across television and film before being handpicked by singer Vitamin C, who founded The Stunners.

tinashe 2Photographer: Angelo D’agostino

“I think that being in that girl group when I was 14, 15 and 16 was a crash course in the music industry for me because I had always wanted to do this. My family isn’t from the music business or Hollywood at all. I didn’t know how I was going to get where I needed to be, but I knew that was where I wanted to go,” she continues, delving into how she learnt the process of music creation that ultimately led to that first mixtape.

“I guess it gave me the confidence to take it upon myself to get my own studio equipment and start recording my own songs in my room. It was really raw and had that inexperienced DIY energy to it. But I think that was what made a special creative environment – it was so pure. I wasn’t concerned with anyone else’s opinions; it was just all about me. I really wish sometimes that I could get that perspective back.”

Within a matter of months of the mixtape’s release, Tinashe had signed a record deal with a major label and two years later came out with her first studio album, Aquarius, which would permeate the charts and push her into the whirlwind of the spotlight. After two further albums and eight singles, she made the decision to cut ties with her label and venture forth as an unsigned artist in 2019.

tinashe 3Photographer: Angelo D’agostino

Having acquired ownership of direction, I ask her who Tinashe is as an artist today? “I really represent just taking it upon yourself to manifest your own destiny – not waiting for other people to make that happen for you,” she replies. “Not taking no for an answer when people don’t understand you, and to push forward – the way I felt at the beginning of my career. I think that being independent and still continuing to put out high quality art is demonstrative of that.”

With her fourth album, Songs for You, she raced up the iTunes charts on the night of its release, securing the No.1 spot in various countries including the US, and reinforced her penchant for creating timeless R&B music. “Getting out of a relationship that was kind of traumatic for me and how it ended gave me an energy for Songs for You,” she tells me when I ask about that transition. “I wouldn’t say urgency but there was more energy behind it to prove myself, I guess, and to continue to succeed regardless of those relationships ending.”

tinashe 4Photographer: Angelo D’agostino

But it’s what came next that anchored Tinashe’s place at the top. In August 2021, the singer released her latest album, 333. The effects of the pandemic and in-depth look into what she was experiencing personally came to be fertile ground for inspiration and her approach to this was slow and considered. She explored other genres, converting deeply specific emotions into danceable hits that blended pop with R&B.

“I settled on 333 as I made it for the most part during peak Covid-19 in 2020 and I knew that I wanted to create something that felt hopeful and energised,” says the singer, going on to explain the story behind the title. “I was trying to find a connection to spirituality, to healing, to breaking free of toxic cycles, and I felt that the angel number 333, which represents protection and divine guidance, was a really powerful mantra for me to keep in mind during this process.”

She adds: “Sometimes I do romanticise my darkness in the sense that I feel that it makes me a better artist. You know, it gives me something to be passionate about. I don’t think that’s healthy for me as a human but the artist in me likes that. I’m working on it, though.”

tinashe 5Photographer: Angelo D’agostino

tinashe 6Photographer: Angelo D’agostino

By now, it is clear that Tinashe has an unwavering vision of who she is as an artist, explaining how she has unsubscribed from the competitive side of the industry. “I was trying to chase hits, follow the latest trends and stay relevant. But you do end up suffering because it’s not necessarily – maybe it is for some, but it isn’t really true to who I am – so I try now to focus on the legacy aspect of my art. What my art will mean for me, or to anyone in 10, 20 years’ time.”

And while, her vision is on the bigger picture, I ask her a final question – what has been her golden moment? “When I made that first mixtape, it was when I first introduced myself – that’s how I look at it. That was the most special time for me creatively. The beginning.”

by Imogen Clark

Photographer: Angelo D’agostino

Stylist: Christopher Campbell

Make up: Marlaine Reiner using KOSAS


Production: Tasha Tongpreecha

Digital Technician: Jon Fasulo

Photography Assistant: Adam Debenedittis

Fashion Assistant: Carolina Levi

Make up: Marlaine Reiner using KOSAS


Production: Tasha Tongpreecha

Digital Technician: Jon Fasulo

Photography Assistant: Adam Debenedittis

Fashion Assistant: Carolina Levi


Look 2: Blouse, shorts, shoes PROENZA SCHOULER, Earrings TORY BURCH, Rings PALACE COSTUME, LOS ANGELES

Look 3: : Dress, shoes TOD’S, Necklace, rings PALACE COSTUME, LOS ANGELES

Look 4: Jacket, bra top, shorts TOD’S, Necklace PALACE COSTUME, LOS ANGELES