This June, indie-pop songstress Tatiana Hazel was nearing her 90th day of sheltering in place and preparing to release her debut EP, Duality, when she received the news that she was a recipient of the 2020 Latin Alternative Music Conference’s Discovery Award.
“It’s really great,” says the Mexican-American musician, who admits the honor was somewhat bittersweet, in light of social upheaval and a pandemic. “I want to spread my music and everything, but...I don’treally focus on being recognized necessarily, so it was really cool. And it also came during the first couple of days of the [Black Lives Matter] protesting. I got that news, and it was just weird to process because I had been so low energy — and just to be recognized for something, I was like, Oh yeah, music matters. I forgot for a second.”
Hazel says she’s been very focused on what’s happening in the streets and has attended some of the racial justice protests herself.
“You can’t just sit at home and be upset...[there’s] the urge to have to do something,” she says. “Big businesses and everything [are] finally at least starting to change some of their business models a bit, [which] has been encouraging.... And I hope that the momentum keeps up. I think that was a lot of people’s concern: Is it just going tobe right now? Or are people going to keep this same energy?”
The Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter is a self-taught musician (piano, ukulele, bass, and drums), a music and video producer, an engineer, and a fashion designer, having designed for KaliUchis and Girl Ultra. Her undeniable talent, delicate physical beauty, and quirky creativity have quickly made Hazel a press darling — she’s recently been featured in Paper, Flaunt, Rolling Stone Colombia, Nylon en Espanol, The Chicago Tribune, and Milk, to name a few. Hazel also landed on many folks’ radar when she gave a mesmerizing performance at the Latino International Film Festival in L.A. earlier this year. At press time, several of the singles from Duality (like “Hasta Que” and “Don’t Care”) were already making a buzz and rapidly racking upstreams online. Hazel says she’s excited to finally share the project with the world.
“I was trying to find my sound with all my past releases so far,” says Hazel. “And through this one, I’ve really taken on a lot of the production myself...and it really feels close to...me. I called it Duality because I just felt a lot of duality within myself when it came to writing in Spanish for so long, but this whole project is in English. Also, just my influences from growing up in Chicago but also visiting Mexico, and just like all this duality within myself of culture, and also sexuality.”
Speaking of sexuality, the 23-year-old’s attitude about labeling hers echoes that of many others of her generation. She embraces the true fluidity of gender and sexual attraction, she says.
“I would say bi,” Hazel says with slight hesitation when asked where she would place herself on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, “but I guess it’s just really any person that I connect with.... I don’t really think about the gender behind it. So it can be different. It doesn’t have to be a male-identifying or female-identifying person...gender is so fluid nowadays.”
Hazel also says this is the first time she’s outright addressed the topic in her music as well.
“I wrote a song called ‘Summer Girl’...specifically about a girl — and it wasn’t anything on purpose — but I just realized it was my first time really ever addressing, like, my own sexuality.”
Though she grew up in Chicago, Hazel says she feels very emotionally connected to Mexico (which she visited often in childhood) as well as to Latinx culture. One thing she doesn’t always love about traditional Latinx culture, however, are the sometimes antiquated attitudes around gender roles — which is why Hazel says she includes empowering messages to women and LGBTQ+ folks in her music, especially in her Spanish-language material.
“The stuff that was really popular never really connected with me,”says Hazel of mainstream Spanish-language music. “So I just wanted to create something where you can go get that dance music, but the lyrics are empowering. I just don’t know that enough of that exists in Spanish — some does, for sure, but I just kind of want to keep pushing that.”
Duality is now available on all major music streaming platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube Music. Check out Hazel’s amazing live visual performance of the EP below.