Up Next: Meet Tatiana Hazel, The Chicago Indie Pop Singer-Songwriter Helping You Get Over Toxic Relationships

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Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

When Tatiana Hazel was 13 years old, her expressive voice and original compositions about teenage heartbreak was drawing in thousands of listeners on YouTube — a sign that audiences were impressed by her talent, artistry and confidence to pursue music for real. Almost a decade later, that’s what she’s doing, trading in her webcam and parents’ hardwood floor for stages throughout her hometown of Chicago, where the singer-songwriter is becoming one of her city’s biggest estrellas del pop.

Self-managed, Hazel, 22, released her debut EP Toxic in July. More poppy, though hardly superficial, than her earlier guitar-strumming folkloric songwriting, the eight-track project delves into the good, the bad and the painfully ugly of toxic relationships. “I wasted all this time trying to be someone you might like, and I lost myself the moment I met you,” she opens the first single, “Knew You Would,” of her EP before jumping into a Spanglish chorus that asks a question every confused and mistreated girl has raised to a former love: “Yo te quiero a ti. Por qué eres así?”

“I feel a lot of people make a lot of excuses because they don’t want to leave, so I wanted to make something for people to relate to and work through those issues and let them go,” Hazel, who hopes the collection inspires fans to bow out of unhealthy relationships that no longer serve them, told FIERCE.

Exploring complicated but relatable topics over dreamily experimental beats, like her 2017 single “Losing My Mind,” which tackles mental health, isn’t uncommon for the first-generation Chicana. Her music, as well as her fashion line of her namesake, is as multidimensional as she is, sewing together English and Spanish, metallic chains and florals, and an early devotion to rock with a current appetite for pop.

We chatted with the up-and-comer about her Selena love, overcoming self-criticism, excelling as an independent artist, music as a tool for healing and forthcoming projects, among so much more.

Your style of music has been called folkloric pop, but it feels more nuanced than that. How would you describe your sound?

I guess I call it pop or indie pop, but then I have the Latin side that falls into different genres, like dembow. I have a new song that’s more like reggaeton.

You credit Joanna Newsom and Kurt Cobain as some of your biggest musical inspirations. Are any Latinx artists who have played similar roles for you?

Yeah, I mean, growing up I didn’t really have any I knew of. It wasn’t until I got older that I looked at Selena and her life. As an adult, I’m learning about so many other women in the music industry that maybe aren’t as mainstream but are still super inspiring. But, as far as Selena, her whole thing is inspiring because she was able to cross over. A lot of Latin artists haven’t been able to go over to the American market.

It’s not uncommon for you to sing in Spanglish. Why? Is that intentional? Is that just the consequence of being a songwriter who is bilingual?

It’s kind of intentional, but sometimes it just happens. If I can’t say something in English, then I will say it in Spanish. I grew up speaking both, so it was pretty natural for me to sing in both.

In the past, you’ve discussed being insecure about the vibrato of your voice. I remember an interview where bachatero Romeo said something similar about himself. How, as an artist, are you able to overcome this self-criticism and self-doubt, especially singing for a mass audience?

I guess I kind of just learned how to control it more or know more how to use it. It started with me working with other people and them telling me to do less, but now that I’m working on my own and producing my own stuff, I’ve learned how to use my voice in ways that I want to.  

Producing is something you started doing recently. Why did you want to start producing and how do you think it has helped you as an artist so far?

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New music next week ???????? Photo by @alexusmclane

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It mostly came out of me not being able to find a producer I wanted to work with, so I thought about doing it myself. But now I like it. It’s not just something I do out of necessity. I like the control it gives me of my own sound.

You released Toxic, a seven-track EP exploring the good, the bad and the very ugly of toxic relationships, this summer. Why did you want to touch on these themes?

I think it’s important for my own experiences but also for the people around me, other women in or who have been in toxic relationships. I feel a lot of people make a lot of excuses because they don’t want to leave, so I wanted to make something for people to relate to and work through those issues and let them go.

I feel like it’s become more common for women to identify toxicity in their relationships, whether they be romantic or platonic or familial. What role do you think music, including your own EP, plays in helping women navigate the decision of staying or leaving or even healing after a breakup from an unhealthy relationship?

I just try to write about it in a positive way. It’s not just, “oh, my relationship is over and now I’m heartbroken,” or, as you said, it doesn’t need to be romantic, so, “oh, I lost a friend. Now everything is horrible.” I want to show that it’s not the end of the world to separate yourself from someone.

You’re not just a singer, you’re also a fashion designer and have even expressed interest in creating paths for underprivileged youth in Chicago to break into music. What would that look like for you?

I’m not sure yet, but just like a center where people have equipment available to them. For me, for so long, I didn’t know what to have. There were a lot of things I wasn’t aware of, so having resources available for kids at an earlier age I think is great and something I want to do.

You were 13 years old when you started uploading videos on YouTube of you singing covers and original pieces. Did you know then that this was something you wanted to do in the long run?

When I was uploading the videos, I didn’t expect people to watch them as much as they did. But once I got messages saying, “oh, this song helped me through this hard time,” it made me want to take it seriously, and that was at like 13.

You haven’t been as present on social media lately because you are working on new music. What can you tell us about what’s coming up?

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Before, when there was less anticipation, I would post often about my new music and new designs. But now that people are like, “I can’t wait for your new music” or “I want to see new designs,” I feel like I want to keep some of it to myself and then release it all at once so that it’s more of a surprise.

Is there anything you can tell us, though? Did you mention an upcoming reggaeton joint?

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Who is she

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I’m releasing a new single on the 28th, which is in Spanish, and there will be a whole project after that. It’s really all over the place right now, so I’m not even sure what it’s going to be like.

You’re 22 years old, at the start of your career. In a few years, what do you hope the people can say about Tatiana Hazel?

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TOXIC EP coming July 27th ???? photography by @ddesigns_

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I just hope to inspire, specifically first-generation kids and even just kids in Mexico or Latin countries and show a different side of our culture. I also want to inspire independent artists, show them you can do whatever you want if you work hard enough. You don’t need a label.

You can listen to Tatiana Hazel below:

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