Interview with Tiffany Houghton

Pop, country, 60’s doo-wop—you’ll find traces of it all in Tiffany Houghton’s songs and videos. The 20-year-old musician draws her inspiration from favorite movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (see the video for “17 Again”) to living her life. Girl anthem “Love Like That” fights back against male entitlement with a catchy beat to jam out to. After wrapping up The American Dream Tour this summer with MKTO, Houghton will be performing with Austin Mahone for the Girls’ Life Back-to-School Fashion Bash on August 19. In the meantime, she’s working on getting her songs out there with more tour opportunities and coming up with a radio plan, so she’s not stopping any time soon.
Cliché: How’d you find your love of music?
Tiffany Houghton:
I’ve always loved music. I got my parents to go to New York when I was 9 years old. I did a little camp on Broadway and came back and went to school. Then I actually moved out to Nashville when I was 17 years old, started songwriting, and then moved to LA almost a year ago.
How’d you end up with the stint on Broadway?
I went to this camp, kind of like a summer camp, when I was 9, and I was picked out by a talent scout to audition for a Broadway show called Gypsy. I went and did it and got down to the last two girls. I wasn’t on pointe ballet shoes, so I didn’t make the part. I was so determined to make it onto a Broadway show, so I kept auditioning and then I ended up getting the role for alternate for Annie on Broadway.
What was the first thought that crossed your mind when you first moved to Nashville to start everything?
Well the first thing, when I got there, actually, my car was broken into. It was really scary, and it was a rough time. Moving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the best things I’ve ever done. I learned a lot about myself as an artist, a lot about myself as a person, and a lot about myself as a businesswoman. I’m learning how to navigate my way through the music industry.
Did those lessons just come to you as you were trying new things, or did you have a mentor to help?
I met my manager shortly after moving there. She owns a social media company, and I would go to her office every day, and I would read books about the music industry. I really learned a lot from her. I learned a lot about social media and the platforms, and I was guided and directed by her.
How was moving to LA, which is such a different city than Nashville?
Honestly, moving to LA was a lot easier than the move to Nashville because I had already lived alone for a while and had that adjustment away from home. When I moved to LA, a lot more was going on with my career and it was less of a struggle. I had a team helping me and a team around me that was supporting me. I really have enjoyed LA a lot.
I love the retro feel of “Love Like That.” Are those your ideas?
I do. I have a really creative and awesome manager as well because we can brainstorm ideas, and I can work with her to really develop some kind of concept for these videos, and then we direct them. It really is a collaborative effort, and it is really nice because I get to see the vision in my head and then see it happen. She really helps to make those things happen.
When you are writing songs, do you see what you want to do for the video as you’re writing?
Oftentimes I do. There is so much potential for different dimensions of art to go along with it, and I think that the music is only one part of that. I envision different aspects and different dimensions of that art, those being videos and photos to go along with the song.
I also saw that “17 Again” was inspired by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, particularly the “Moon River” scene. I’m going to guess that you like vintage?
Yes! I just love that time period. I love it for multiple reasons, and one of them being the feminine style.
Where do you find the inspiration for your songs?
It just starts with whatever I’m feeling and going through at the time. I’ve been writing in journals since I was 6 years old. I always say that I write because I can’t not write. It’s a great way for me to get out some of these feelings that I have. It starts with a melody in my head and a story of what’s going on in my life, and then I put the two together and write a song.
Who are your musical inspirations?
I grew up listening to a lot of female singer-songwriters. I love Shania Twain, Vanessa Carlton, Sara Bareilles, Michelle Branch, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift—I really love women who tell their stories. I want to be an artist that does the same thing.
Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
I think Mutt Lange (Robert John “Mutt” Lange) is one of the most genius people to ever walk the Earth. I love the work that he did on the Def Leppard records, and then the way that he carried over to Shania Twain’s music. I think he revolutionized country music and brought a pop sound to it. I really admire his work. I think he’s a very smart person. I also have always loved Nick Jonas. I would love to work with him. I think Nate Ruess is a really smart person as well. He’s a great musician. And obviously, I would love to be in a room with Shania Twain one day.
You’re on tour with MKTO; is that your first tour?
This is my first big, national tour that I’ve done. I guess it goes into Canada as well. I’ve done some touring and was in a band and went to colleges and middle schools and high schools, but this is my first big tour with a band.
So how’s that going?
It is so fun. I absolutely love it!
How is it being with a different group?
I obviously got a little nervous about different things. I was worried that my team wasn’t going to gel very well. I had some feelings of nervousness, but the team is so great, and we all get along so well. It’s really been a great transition. It’s so much fun. We are all excited to be on the road for the summer.
Photographed by Steven Taylor
Interview with Tiffany Houghton “Living the American Dream” was originally published in Cliché Magazine’s Aug/Sept 2014 Issue

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