From releasing two EPs, Argentine altpop musician TEI SHI ventures to unapologetically having her heart on her sleeve. Her newly released debut album Crawl Space involves a conscious shift to a more earnest disposition with more commanding singing, adamant lyrics, and playful music.
Spending her childhood in Colombia and growing up in Canada, Tei Shi was raised on duality. Bogota, Colombia, was in her words wonderful and carefree. The city holds many of her early memories—of being surrounded by family, love, vibrancies, amazing food, and beautiful geography. Her formative years, however, reside in Canada where she learned a different set of cultures and values that remain with her today.
Reflecting her upbringing, her music taste is also a melting pot because of the different artists she grew up listening to. “I think all of it has influenced my sound or my intention to make music that mixes different genres and is not labeled as one thing or another,” Tei Shi shares. She cites an amalgam of influences from her parents’ playlist and older sister’s favorites: classic rock, jazz, powerhouse female vocalists, and staples of ‘80s and ‘90s. But Tei Shi has managed to create a formula that separates herself in the arena of bedroom R&B and worldy pop. Today, the Argentine musician continues her duplicity by taking on the role of singer, songwriter, and producer in New York City. In the city, she learned to embrace living alone as part of her music making, adding that, “the writing process is all about a solitary state for me.” But it has never been easy for Tei Shi, as she describes her road to being a signed musician as arduous. Eventually, she found footing in her sundry upbringing, saying, “I pull inspiration from the diversity and differences and the fear of not doing [music] and regretting it.”
“The writing process is all about a solitary state for me.”
Her former EPs were more of a personal project, but with her growing audience however, Tei Shi shares that the process for the new album Crawl Space was very different as she knew she was putting it out there for people to hear it with her. In this album, she shares the larger role she played in production, learning more about recording, operating a studio, and playing live in a way that she’s never done in her former releases. “There was a lot of personal growth more than anything, so that’s deeply tied into the album,” she sums up. Known best for her breathy singing and ethereal music choices, Tei Shi forays into a more confident territory as she opens up stylistically and sonically. In her former releases, Tei Shi’s voice is glossed over by production but with her latest offering, she lets her voice breathe and take its natural form. The album title references her childhood space of solace but almost ironically, the album is hardly anything but safe. In this new outing, she asserts herself by stepping out of her comfort zone and proving that she has embraced parts of herself with a willingness to bask in the light. While producing Crawl Space, Tei Shi looks back on her used tape recordings as a child and wove them in the album in order to create, in her words, “a very personal and confessional-type of experience.” It forays into dealing with the breakdown of relationships and finding some companionship through music, in which she wishes that her listeners can find things that they identify with and that they can relate to.
“I pull inspiration from the diversity and differences and the fear of not doing [music] and regretting it.”
Despite her commendable sonics, Tei Shi’s lyrics transcend its simplicity. She considers words and melody as central to her music, her words fragmented but concise, straight to the point, and in your face. Her first single off her album, “Keep Running,” Tei Shi is a completely different girl—playful and teasing her object of affection as she slyly opens with, “Every time I look over my shoulder/I’m getting older.” “Justify,” in many ways, is a culmination of her growth as she learns to assert her own space. Look at her age, name, and face, she asks of her listeners and puts it simply in the refrain, “This is just me.”