We’re taking a break from HR and stepping back into the ‘80s! In this week’s episode, I’m co-hosting the show with Vadim Liberman, and our guest this week is singer, songwriter and actress Tiffany, known for her hit song “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Tiffany became an icon then, and her songs are still featured today in films, shows and more.
Decades later, Tiffany is still singing, and she’s also a songwriter with a new album called “Shadows,” which will be released on Nov. 25, 2022. Vadim is co-hosting with me because he is an ‘80s cultural historian, a fan of all pop divas and just so happens to be my former boss.
In this episode, we are talking to Tiffany about her life as a teen pop star, how she went from singer to singer-songwriter, connecting with multiple generations through her music and finding her sound.
Punk Rock HR is proudly underwritten by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is a B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head over to thestarrconspiracy.com.
Growing From Singer to Singer-Songwriter
It’s been 35 years since the release of “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Back then, Tiffany worked with a group of incredible writers with whom she remains in touch today. She learned a lot from them and knew she wanted to do what they did.
Today, she’s accomplished that as a singer-songwriter in Nashville. “My biggest thing, I think for me, was to become a valid songwriter,” Tiffany shares. “To write my own songs, and I wanted to tell my story, and I wanted to be like the idols that I look up to, like Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.”
Tiffany enjoys sitting with the writers who wrote for her all those years ago. She also knows how much the industry has changed and how the way you get income has changed. Now it’s about touring and being online. Social media is relatively new to Tiffany, but she also discovered its potential during COVID quarantine when she started sharing her cooking. That’s turned into Let’s Food with Tiffany.
During the early part of COVID, Tiffany found a way to honor her loved ones by sharing her grandmother’s recipes through social media. And while she’s still learning more and more about the platforms, she’s found a fantastic community and more passion. Tiffany also has an online boutique called Radical Reds.
“I love that human connection with fans, but I’m learning about social media, about branding, and about the other ways that you can make a living,” Tiffany says.
Embracing a Multigenerational Fan Base
From shows like Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and “Glow,” people of all generations have been embracing music from the 1980s of late. These classic songs, including Tiffany’s, have seen a resurgence in popularity.
Tiffany has a loyal fan base but is adding people of all ages who interact and connect through her music.
“I have 20-somethings going, ‘I think we’re alone now. What’s that about? Oh, OK. Oh, that girl’s kind of funny.’ …. They’re not my age group, but they like the song,” Tiffany says. “And I have lots of teachers out there wearing my T-shirts, ‘Children Behave,’ which has its own little life, which I get a kick out of.”
Finding Her Sound
Most artists stick to their niche and don’t necessarily branch out. Tiffany’s early music was centered in pop, but her heart lay with rock and roll.
Making a genre change can be disruptive to fans, but Tiffany believes that for your art to be good, you have to be willing to take the risk. “If it’s not real, it’s not gonna be fun. You’re not gonna wanna continue to do it,” Tiffany says.
That doesn’t mean she wasn’t worried about alienating her fan base. Tiffany knew what it was like to record music that she didn’t enjoy singing, but she did it for her fans. Now, she wants to do more for herself.
“You have to stand by the integrity of the music,” she says. “It has to be right. No matter what you’re doing. If the music isn’t good, that’s your problem.”'If it’s not real, it’s not gonna be fun. You’re not gonna wanna continue to do it.' — Tiffany, singer-songwriter and actress. Tune in to the latest episode of #PunkRockHR! Click To Tweet
People in This Episode
This episode of Punk Rock HR is sponsored by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to thestarrconspiracy.com. Hey everybody, I’m Laurie Ruettimann.
And I’m Vadim Liberman.
And you’re listening to this week’s Punk Rock HR with guest host Vadim Liberman and guest Tiffany who sang the song most people know from the ’80s “I think We’re Alone Now.”
Yeah. And decades later, Tiffany continues to make music and has a new album coming out. It will be really interesting to hear about how she’s evolved from a teen icon to become the artist she is today.
Well, Vadim, you’re co-hosting with me today because you are an ’80s cultural historian, a fan of all of these pop divas, and also my boss.
Oh, come on, everybody. Look, if you know Laurie, you know that there ain’t no bossing her around. But seriously, if you’re interested in having a little fun today and getting to know more about a musician and her job, sit back and enjoy this episode of Punk Rock HR with Tiffany Darwish, better known as Tiffany.
We are so pleased to have you here. I’m Laurie Ruettimann. This is my friend, Vadim Liberman, my co-host. We’re just pleased that you’re here today, and Vadim is what we would call a strong fan. So I’ll let him start with the questions. How does that sound?
Awesome, sounds great. Thank you.
All right. I am a fan. This is so exciting for me. I cannot even tell you. Let me just get into it, Tiffany. Let me get you a hard-hitting question right away. I’m legitimately curious, it’s been, I know you know this, 35 years since you came out with your first album. I’m wondering, how is making music today different from in 1987, not just for you, but in general?
Oh, it’s a lot different. It really is. I was just talking to someone earlier and they were saying, “I think we’re alone, I think we’re alone. It’s major, and it’s got all these streams and Spotify and all that.” I’m like, “Yeah, I didn’t write it.” I don’t receive any money from the publishing. Some of the writers from the early albums are my friends now because I’m a songwriter now living in Nashville. My biggest thing, I think, for me was to become a valid songwriter, to write my own songs. And really, more because I want to tell my story and I wanted to be the idols that I look up to, like Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Again, living outside of Nashville was a big deal for me to cross into that and really be taken serious. But I’m with some of the songwriters now that are still my friends. We’re sitting having glasses of wine, talking shop, which is cool because I was 14 when we first started together. Now it’s like I’m one of them, which is cool.
They’re telling me the songs that they wrote on my album, that they went and bought a house with just off of those cuts. Even if they weren’t a hit, just being on the album itself generated a lot of income to them that as a songwriter, they’re publishing. They were able to cash that in and make a good living. Now, if you have 100,000 streams on Spotify, to the writer, I might be able to buy wine or ice cream, a little dinner. I don’t know. It’s just so different. You can’t really make a living off that, if you will. It still goes back to live touring. I think now, really, the education I’m receiving, because I’m still a newbie, is social media. Building that brand, if you will, showing the other sides of yourself, which actually for me is very freeing.
I love it, actually. I’m able to do my cooking club, Let’s Food With Tiffany. That’s what kept me sane in COVID, sharing that with my fans. I missed my family like we all did. We missed our friends, we missed all of that. Unfortunately, my family mostly passed away. So it really took me in a direction that was a downward spiral. I really got depressed and felt no stability. What’s going to happen? I just wanted to talk to my mom and my dad, although they knew nothing of what the new world or what was happening. Nobody had experienced that before. But just having them there, I would’ve felt comforted, but they weren’t.
So I started cooking my grandma’s recipes and then sharing them with fans and connecting. I felt like their spirit was there with me. By reminiscing, I felt the love, if you will. That’s how Let’s Food started to happen. But since then, it was like, well, don’t put these fun things away now that COVID is workable, if you will. We’re starting to get a life back and working within the new norm or the new world, if you will. We still have our challenges, but why am I putting these tools away? They’re an asset to me. They’re a way for me to bond with other people.
Now we’re doing Let’s Food with Tiffany, I’m doing cookbooks. I also have my Radical Reds Boutique online, where I do shopping with ladies and all the funky finds that I find. I used to have a Tiffany’s Boutique actual clothing store here in Nashville. So I kept all of my stock. I thought, well, this is useful. I can shop with fans, I can cook with fans. Now we have the new music out, and now we’re able to tour again. That’s what I really do. I’m primarily a touring artist. I’m a live artist. It’s great to be able to be out to do shows. I never took it for granted, and certainly don’t now. I love that human connection with fans. But I think, again, I’m learning about social media, about branding, and about the other ways that you can make a living, if you will, off of these other opportunities.
Tiffany, I love the evolution of your career. First and foremost, you’re an artist. You’re a writer, you’re a creator. I just wonder what your fans are like these days. How have they evolved over the years? Have your early fans followed your journey from pop star icon to mogul, which is what you are now?
Thank you. Well, yes, they have followed. I love my fans. We’ve been in it, like I said, 35 years. It’s like, “Ah, what?” I think that I’m connecting with people again on different levels. Now the new music, having that punk, pop, kind of rock base, there’s a lot of people going, “What? Tiffany’s doing what? I want to see this, hold on.” Then they come to a live show and the best thing that I get is, “I didn’t know you could do that. I didn’t know you sang like that. Girl, I didn’t know that you really liked rock music. Girl.” Whatever it is, it’s like, that’s awesome. They’re a new fan. I have “I Think We’re Alone Now,” that’s always spinning. That’s part of my world that I’m always grateful for. Ending up in an umbrella academy or on a commercial somewhere.
I was just in a McDonald’s commercial in the U.K, which again, I have 20-somethings going, “I think we’re alone now.” What’s that about? Oh, okay. Oh, that girl’s kind of funny. Then they’re checking out the Radical Reds, or they’re checking out something or any other experience. They’re not my age group, but they like the song. I have lots of teachers out there wearing my T-shirts, Children Behave, which has its own little life, which I get a kick out of. So you just have to work these things. I think it’s great that I have such a multi-level platform of fans of all different ages, from all different types of upbringings and mindsets, all around the world. That was something I was given when I was young, being a worldwide pop star, if you will. It’s something I don’t want to let go of.
So finding these different avenues to connect with people, I think that’s what social media has done. It can be overbearing, especially for a non-techy like me. But then it really can be freeing, where you could just pop on there and talk about your day. Engage with people and connect with them in a heart way, sometimes. It has nothing to do with music, but you’re of like mind. You’re telling your stories and they’re telling you, and it’s a human experience. I love that. I’m trying to use it in a positive way, all these new wonderful avenues that we can use.
I loved hearing about this evolution and how social media allows you to connect better with fans these days. I’m curious though, a lot of artists do get stuck artistically, and I’m thinking that comes from a fear of losing fans, losing fame. Which is like losing their jobs. And so I’m wondering, has there ever been a point where you’ve thought about that? When you are looking to record new music, going into a new direction, let’s say, do you ever worry, “Uh-oh, what if I alienate this group of fans? What if I lose fans, what happens?”
I’m sure I have, but you’ve got to do you. I think if it’s not real, it’s not going to be fun. You’re not going to want to continue to do it. I’ve done things before that people go, “This is what you got to do.” I’m miserable and it’s not me. My fans are like, “I could tell you really didn’t like that.” You’re not going to fool them.
There’s been times I’ve recorded songs to put on albums that my producer wanted to record in the past, and I really don’t like them. I don’t enjoy singing them, frankly. I do it because of the fans, but it’s just not my thing. It’s a balance, really. I think the current album is a perfect example of that. Tiffany wants to do what? More rock-based stuff. Where’s this coming from? Isn’t she the girl from the mall? Isn’t she a one-hit wonder?
I think most of my fans who’ve continued to be in Tiff World knew this was coming. With “Color of Silence,” and how you hear me talk and all the differences — knowing my background and what music inspired me, it’s not such a far stretch. But if you didn’t know, you’re like, “What is happening here?” I couldn’t really worry about that. I had to do what was right for me. I had to do what I knew was the next breakthrough for me. I was given the opportunity to work with people who wanted to support that and bring the best out of me.
Because yes, I was somebody prior to doing “Shadows” or even “Pieces of Me,” that was saying, “Well, I tried the rock thing before, or the pop-rock thing before.” We start that way, and then it gets watered down to where it’s just pop because everybody knows that’s an easy sell. Then my heart gets broken and it’s just fluffy crap that I really didn’t want to do, and I don’t release it. So I’ve got a lot of that in the archives. Then to have the right people who went, “Who said you couldn’t do that? You just have to do it.” You have to stand by the integrity of the music. It has to be right, no matter what you’re doing.
If the music isn’t good, that’s your problem. So is the song good? Did we write a valid song? Is the production great? Okay, now, let’s find the right tribe. I’m very lucky that my fans, from my pop fans to my gay fans, to some of the younger fans, I love you. I love you. They all have come to “Shadows” now and they’re all, “I like it. I like it for you. I get it. I rally around you and I am supportive of this new album and this new sound.”
What I think we’ve done right on this album is, although it has a rock edge, it has an ’80s fun to it. It is grounded and based in ’80s sound, if you will. Little rock ’80s, little Pat Benatar, little Go-Go’s, a little Ramones, a little Blondie, little Tiffany, with modern production. There’s something about ’80s music that I think even the young generation is finding — it makes you happy. I don’t know what it is about it, but it does. I know for me, I reminisce.
Well, I’m really curious. You’re clearly very proud of this album, and we are so excited. Can you tell us about one song that you’re the most proud of and why you love it?
Oh, you’re going to make me pick one. I think this album is about the light in the dark of our life, our emotions. That’s why it’s called “Shadows.” The new vinyl that’s coming out is like a pop-up, and it shows all of that. It’s kind of origami, if you will, very interactive. It’s a two-sided vinyl, and it has the uptempo songs, which again, are more punk-pop. The ballads on the album are really grounded. They’re my life, they’re my therapy. I went through a lot of things before COVID. Divorce, on and on, the death of family. A lot of different things that I write about on this album.
My favorite song would probably be “Bed of Nails.” It was like, “What Tiffany writes ‘Bed of Nails?’ What does that mean?” And it is, it’s just a song about that time being so miserable, being so grief-stricken, being so sad. It’s not like you want somebody else to be unhappy, but you do want somebody to understand you. You want them to get down in the pit with you, if you will, and get that. Get where you’re coming from because a lot of times we go, “Oh, just be happy. Just have a glass of wine, go shopping, this and that.” Sometimes you have to lay with your emotions and sometimes you have to be able to grieve or be angry. You don’t stay there, but you allow that, if you will.
You go, “OK, I’m human, and there’s a reason why I’m angry. There’s a reason why I’m sad. There’s a reason why I’m feeling alone.” Let’s address that, and let me feel that. Let me work through that and not be ashamed of it. Not put a quick fix on it, if you will. That’s what “Bed of Nails” is about.
The actual vocal on the track was a one-take. Very happy about that. It was recorded late at night, and I only had one time to do this scratch vocal before we called it at night. I just went in there and killed it. This song goes from the next level to the next level. I call it my Meatloaf, if you will. His songs were operatic, they were this big rock opera. The level kept going and going and going, all the music behind it. As a vocalist and as a lyricist, you kind of like, “How do I keep it interesting? How do I not over sing?” I went in there and sang with passion. It was supposed to be a scratch vocal so I could just be free and try things. I hadn’t even sang the song completely on the mic. Whatever came out was really true emotion. I’m very proud of that song, from the lyrics down to the performance, and that we got in one take.
The next day we tried to go in and recreate it, and it was complete crap. That was the take, that was the mindset. That was all of me giving everything. Probably a little bit of that — I wasn’t familiar with that, so there was an urgency in some of it, this momentum, if you will, when I gave that vocal. But some of our greatest performances are like that. We missed sound check and there’s nothing, all the ducks in line are not happening today. It’s absolute crap. We prepared. My hair isn’t curled, and I didn’t have time. I’ll go out on stage, and those are the best shows sometimes. So you never know. I’m really proud of that one.
As I’m listening to you talk about this and stuff that you said earlier, it really makes me think how when you were 14 years old and you were that teen icon — I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine, maybe because you didn’t have that life experience yet at that point. But I can’t imagine this kind of music coming out of you at that time. I get the sense that you really did grow into yourself as a musician. I’m wondering though, back then, when you were 14, if you could have looked to right now, 2022, what did you picture your career would look like at that age, for right now?
That has always been a question that I never knew how to answer. I always thought it was heavy. At 16, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I’m like, “Alive would be good, happy would be another.” I’ve never been somebody that, even though I’m an L.A. girl, I’ve never been somebody, “Well, I want a big house and I want this.” I just wanted to be happy. I just wanted to continue to do my music. I wanted to be a valid artist. I wanted to be a lyricist. I wanted to be the best Tiffany I could be. That’s still happening, but I’m here in the game. I think I’ve fulfilled that. Where are you going to be in the next 10 years? I took time off to raise my son. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to have a personal life and a career. To come back into it and now regain that momentum, not a lot of people can do that. So I’m very, very, very, very grateful. Very lucky.
Well, Tiffany, we have one final question for you, and I’ll let Vadim ask it. But I want you to think about all the musicians you admire in this world. People you stalk, people you love, get that in your mind. Vadim, what is your final question?
I want to know, if you could pick anyone to do a duet with — besides me, obviously — who would it be?
Well, vocally, there’s a lot of different levels here. I would love to work with Bruce Springsteen because he is a great songwriter. I went and saw a show. He’s multi-talented, and it was an amazing show as a performer. So meeting him would be amazing. I would love to work with Stevie Nicks, of course, because she’s my go-to, my everything. Then, vocally, to maybe do a duet with somebody, as a male artist, I sing a lot to a little Bryan Adams. We could rock a track together. I think our voices would be great. I love Bryan Adams, of course. I love his music. He makes me happy. His songs just take me back, and I love it. We were just rocking it out in the car the other day, and I was singing. I was like, “Yes, that sounds good.” There’s a lot of people that you hope to sing with, but you just don’t know if your voices are going to be compatible.
Same thing with, you go into the L.A. things. You go to these events and everybody’s like, “Ooh, you’re going to be around.” Well, you don’t know if you’re going to get on with that person or not. You can’t really predict that. I’m always somebody that, you hope when you walk into an experience or you walk into one of these parties, that whoever’s meant to be, will be. It’d be great to be friends with such and such, but if you don’t get on, you can’t force that.
But then sometimes I just find the best people and it’s great. Lisa sends me happy birthday. I’m a big, huge fan, and we’re friends. I see her all the time on some of the shows that we do and in passing. I still trip, because I was rocking that in my room. I never would’ve thought that she’d be somebody that’s like, “Hey mama, how are you doing? Happy birthday, girlfriend.” I’m like, “This is cool. I love this.”
On and on and on with these amazing artists who’ve influenced me. Stevie Nicks, the last time I saw her said, “How are you? How’s your music? Are you still —” I was like, “What is happening here?” I try not to nerd out, but I was like, she took the time to ask me about my music and how I’m doing. It’s such an inspiration. I love that.
Oh, Tiffany. Well, it’s been a real joy to learn a little bit about what you’re doing today, about your new album. If people want to find you online and reconnect or buy that new album, where should they go?
TiffanyTunes.com, that’s all things Tiff World. Follow me on Let’s Food with Tiffany, guys for cooking clubs, cookbooks and cooking experiences. Yeah, TiffanyTunes.com. I think the album comes out on November 25 for the street date. Live shows to follow after that. Tiffanytunes.com is where the madness is, My Tiff World, and come be a part of it for sure.
Well, we’re super-pleased to have you, and Vadim, close us out.
So Tiffany, this was so great. By the way, I want a quick tidbit from you. I’m going to be in Nashville next week. What’s one spot that you can tell me, ‘You cannot miss this’?
What do you want to do? You want to see live music, you got to go to Broadway, then, of course. You got to do that. That’s all my friends down there, hooting and hollering and playing good music. That’s what Nashville’s known for. Urban Grub for food.
I just want to go out and get wasted and dance.
Well, that would be Broadway. But Urban Grub, check out Urban Grub for food, for sure. It’s one of my favorite places. It’s all in-house, all their meats, they smoke all their meats. It’s good, good, good, good. Love, love, love. That’s where you’ll find me if I want to go and have a comfort meal. It’s a great place.
Well, thanks again for being a guest today, Tiffany. It was really fun to catch up.
Awesome, guys. Thank you.
Hey everybody. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Punk Rock HR. We are proudly underwritten by the Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to thestarrconspiracy.com. Punk Rock HR is produced and edited by Rep Cap with special help from Michael Thibodeaux and Devon McGrath. For more information, show notes, links and resources, head on over to punkrockhr.com. Now, that’s all for today and I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll see you next time on Punk Rock HR.