#LetTheGirlsPlay: Tiera Mapping a Long Road to Nashville
When Tiera sings “Love You Better,” one immediately recalls Kelsea Ballerini. It’s a self-written, pop-country song as infectious as it is structurally sound. This teenage singer seems to be an old pro already, as skilled with a pen as she is with a guitar or microphone.
Except she’s not. “Love You Better” was the first song this Alabama native ever wrote, and she wrapped it up in less than an hour. It’s about a guy, of course — one the recent high school graduate was crushing on, but he was dating another girl.
“And she was really the worst girlfriend ever,” she says with a smile. She's seated just inside a coffee shop on 8th Ave. S. in Nashville. It gets worse. This girl ... well, she knew Tiera liked this guy, but she started dating him anyway, and then she cheated on him! Last spring the couple sat in the auditorium watching as the singer performed the song — their song — during her school’s talent show.
“She’s actually my best friend,” the 18-year-old says nonchalantly. Well, she was. For all the reasons stated above, the two haven’t spoken in a few months.
Songs pour out of Tiera, but she bucks some of the Nashville songwriting conventions. She doesn’t enjoy co-writing — in fact, she’s leery of moving to Nashville at all, but realizes for her dream to come true it will have to happen. A recent YouTube popup session that tasked three Song Suffragettes artists to co-write a song in three hours was one of just a handful of co-writes.
“I think I can be more honest,” she says of working solo. “In the writing room sometimes you’re afraid to say something. You’re afraid what the other writer might say. And then whenever I write I just write whatever I’m feeling on the paper. I don’t like to think about it.”
“Missin' You Tonight” and “Easy to Do” are the two other songs on her acoustic EP, released in 2015. The latter is a love song that she says describes her boyfriend even though she wrote it before they met. Her tribute to him may include reference to Chick-fil-A. Last February the couple made national headlines when he made her a bouquet out of Chick-fil-A chicken tenders and fries. Yes, they ate it up quickly after snapping a few pics.
Tiera is equal parts innocence and professionalism. Her co-writing anxiety will surely fade as she becomes more confident sharing ideas with her peers, but she has a better grip on the industry than most singers her age — even many other #LetTheGirlsPlay artists. She’s dug into the business of being a musician through online courses and seminars by Music Industry Blueprint founder Rick Barker. She has a management deal already. She even earned an entrepreneurial scholarship to attend University of North Alabama for her business, Tiera Music. She’ll begin classes this month.
“I don’t see it as taking a break to go to college and get a degree,” she says when pressed, “because it pertains to music and I’m learning more about my craft. I don’t think it will hinder me that much.”
The plan is to start school and travel to Nashville or elsewhere for gigs on weekends. She’s purposely keeping some distance from Music City, as she doesn’t want to fall under the wrong influence. It may be a slow road, but gigs like a recent show opening for Charlie Daniels Band boost her confidence and feed her creative soul. They loved her brand of Southern twang. It is, after all, what she grew up on.
“Dolly Parton was like Kelsea Ballerini to me, to my mom,” Tiera says. As for that pressure to give R&B a try? This bold teenager is happy where she is, thank you very much. If anything, you may find her skewing more traditional as she ages.
Hear Tiera and Others Sing "Backseat Driver"