Tiffany, an American singer, songwriter and actress chats with Kevin Cooper about her relationship with Debbie Gibson, mentoring young artists, her latest album A Million Miles and her forthcoming Let’s Rock concerts
Tiffany is an American singer, songwriter, actress and former teen icon. She is most notable for her 1987 cover of I Think We’re Alone Now, a 1967 original recording by Tommy James and the Shondells. Released as the second single from her eponymous album, Tiffany, the song quickly became a teen anthem. She has recorded a total of eight albums, the last one A Million Miles was released in 2016.
Outside of music, Tiffany posed nude in Playboy and guest-starred in several television shows, including Celebrity Fit Club and Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling, together with the movies Necrosis, Mega Piranha, and Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, the latter co-starring fellow 1980’s teen idol and musical rival Debbie Gibson.
Whilst busy preparing for a trip to the UK she took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.
I’m fine thank you Kevin, how are you?
I’m very well thank you and before we move on may I just thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
No thank you, I really do appreciate it.
And I have to ask, how is life treating you?
Life is very good at the moment. I am very excited about being in England right now because it allows me to reconnect with friends and family. This is my first visit to England for almost twelve years now. Also I have manged to go on holiday to Italy and saw a few of the sights. That’s what life is about, it’s about me still being in the music business, being in a position to make new music and still reaching out to my fans. I am very, very happy with my career. I feel that I am growing as an artist and on the other side of the coin it’s great having my very good friends and family around me. You can’t really ask for more. I am in a really good place and I feel very blessed.
Apart from the English weather (laughter).
Well I knew what I was getting into, put it that way (laughter). When I lived here in England I used to actually write a lot of songs here so that kind of kicked off a lot of the deeper aspect of my writing career. Naturally I am a happy go lucky person but I do tend to like love ballads and the melancholy and all of that kind of stuff so if you put me in an environment where it is rainy and cold, I just sit down and write songs and reflect on life. A lot of good music has come out of me being in England and, let’s say, it’s not so good weather (laughter).
All that I can say is that you shouldn’t expect anything other than rain as it’s the tennis at Wimbledon.
Pretty much right, that’s the way that goes (laughter).
Swiftly moving on (laughter). Your latest album A Million Miles what can I say, I love it.
Thank you, that is so nice of you to say that. I am very proud of it. I honestly think that this album is going to be the one that turns the corner for me as a vocalist. So many people come to my shows and say “I didn’t know that you could sing like that” and I always tell them the same thing, that I am still trying to get that message out there (laughter). I am a vocalist by heart so I really wanted to make an album that kind of celebrates that and shows that off a little bit. Again, I love a lot of ballads but even my up-tempo stuff I wanted to be a little more theatrical.
This is my first time co-producing and I came with a ton of ideas. I wanted strings, cellos and a lot of instrumentation that I felt was going to be great on the album but when played live in concert was going to be amazing.
Personally I feel that your voice has mellowed and is sounding warmer, together with more personal and heartfelt lyrics. All in all it sounds as though Tiffany has grown up. Would you agree with that?
Thank you. You are far too kind but yes, I would definitely agree with that.
You worked with Pledge Music to fund the album. How did you find the experience?
For me, I have to say that I found it to be both a learning and growing curve. At the time I was lacking in social media. I tend to put a hindrance upon myself now, for example, if I’m not looking good then I won’t take a picture. I might post something and then a little later think that was silly because nobody really wants to know that. So I try to keep it all very professional and I don’t really keep it behind the scenes. Which is okay but I think for me working with Pledge Music and having my fans be a part of the album was really for me a great experience. They gave me a lot of encouragement; I was able to hear and take on board their views and comments as the album was being made.
Whenever I got their comments I thought that was great as it was only the beginning of where we wanted to take that particular song. It certainly gave me a great deal of encouragement letting me know that I was on the right track. Also I really think that for my fans, some of whom have been with me now for thirty years, who can’t be in the studio with me and they won’t know the process, it was again a really great chance for me to bond with them and to let them know that this is how this stuff gets done (laughter). I personally feel that it is a very special record as it felt like we were all in it together.
Your fans are already saying that the album is your best work to date, would you agree with that?
Well I really do hope so. I definitely think that it is and I am very, very proud of it. I am proud and grateful of a lot of my albums and I think that they take me to the next level. However the new album A Million Miles is really me coming out as a producer, songwriter and moving me onto the next level. I walked away from the studio thinking that this was the best album that I had ever made. For me as an artist I think that this is really just breaking new ground for me.
My current personal favourite on the album is Cry. What was the inspiration behind that track?
Bad relationships (laughter). My guitar player Trevor Finlay who is out on the road with me now, and I sat down together and just started talking. I told him that I wanted the song to be well rounded and obviously I come from a viewpoint of trying to be a better person whenever I am getting over a hurt. Trevor started strumming a little on the guitar and I then came up with the melody. I was thinking about bad relationships and thought that sometimes all that you can do is just cry. You are totally defeated; there is no fixing the situation and you just cry, get over it and move on.
Trevor took that on board and started adding a few lines. He added the line “I hate you for bringing me to here” which I think is so strong. I think that one line says it all. Sometimes you just think why did this have to be like this. It was really a magical afternoon as we were writing that song and I love the song so much that it simply had to be the first cut on the album. I feel that Cry really does set the pace of the album.
If I had to push you what would be your favourite track?
The title track Million Miles is something that is near and dear to my heart. I wrote that on the 40 freeway while I was on my way from Nashville to Los Angeles. The title A Million Miles was at that time a kind of joke as I like to travel in a car as I really don’t like to fly. My husband said “I think that we have probably travelled a million miles in a car”. At first I laughed at it but then I thought that it would be a really cool album title and I did in fact feel as though I was on a million mile journey. The melodies just came to me and so I started to write the song; I don’t really play any instruments but melodies just come to me.
After I had started to write the song I realised that I was really writing it about my cousin who had passed away from alcohol addiction and that is something that you just never plan on. She was a wonderful woman who simply got caught up in a number of things. I felt that a lot of things in my life have been so great over the last year and the one person who I wanted to share that with was not here. But you hope that somehow they are up above maybe still being able to see and somehow maybe be a part of it. And so that is what that song is really about.
I think that vocally it is probably the most tender track on the album. There were a couple of times where I actually started crying while recording the vocal and I had to back off a little bit. So that’s the song for me.
You have recently played a couple of gigs here in the UK at Butlins and also Let’s Rock, how was it?
It was awesome, it was really great. Let’s Rock is totally amazing and Butlins was a lot of fun. I do a lot of 80s Retro shows back home in America but I have never been to a camp where they are doing a theme (laughter) so I had a blast. It was a lot of fun and the people were very endearing. I got to hang out with some people and have a really good laugh; it was really a good night. Let’s Rock for me is all about the other artists who are on the bill that I love, so it makes a big impression to see my name alongside the likes of Rick Astley and T’Pau who I grew up with and am still a fan of theirs.
I have got to know some of them and now call them my friends. There is a lot of respect there. I look around at some of these artists and I think that they still sound great. They are still achieving great music and I am very proud to be in that company.
Did you manage to catch up with Samantha Fox?
I haven’t yet no, I will have to put that on the schedule. Sadly it’s worked out that everyone is so busy while I am over here. I am going back and forth from being around London to being in Cannock. Cannock is just not on the map for anybody; that’s where our family is at so we want to make the most of our time as well and really spend some time with the family.
Will we be seeing a full-blown Tiffany tour here in the UK anytime soon?
We are trying to work on something for the next year or so for sure. These recent gigs here in the UK were to let everybody know just what I am doing now and for me to reconnect with the fans because it has been a while. It’s allowed me to come openhearted to see just how people receive me together with the new music. And now we are starting to get more phone calls about me possibly coming back to the UK sometime next year and I would definitely be open to it. My band are already asking me “so when are we coming back” (laughter). They really do just love spending time here in the UK.
I can’t speak to Tiffany without mentioning that particular song can I. Taking you back to 1987, you were sixteen years old and suddenly you were recognised all around the world. What sort of pressures did I Think Were Alone Now bring?
The one thing that I remember is that the song bought with it a hectic schedule but at sixteen you just kind of roll with it. I think that the biggest pressure was from the critics. It definitely wasn’t from my fans, my management or my record label. I had a lot of people asking me all over the world “where do you see yourself in ten years”, really heavy types of questions which made me feel as though they were all trying to validate me as an artist. At sixteen the answer that I gave to them all was that I would like to see myself still making music in ten years’ time because that is what I wanted to be doing.
I was just getting started; I didn’t know how the music business worked but I was so glad to be in that position. I gave them all honest answers and I think that the problem was that so many people wanted to say that I was manufactured. A Million Miles is still breaking ground there as people are finally seeing the true talent and are realising that I really can sing. They now know that I am a real musician. I still had to pound that pavement and try to break that ground a little bit so I think that was the hardest thing about being a young person in the music industry. A lot of people simply didn’t take you seriously.
Hindsight is a remarkable thing. Looking back, do you think that perhaps things happened a little too quickly for you?
No. I love music and I simply can’t imagine my life being any different. There are things that I would do a little differently but I try not to be a person who looks back on the past, because I just learn from those lessons and move on. A lot of bad experiences have led me to have a lot of knowledge to be able to help somebody else. So I try to look at it that way. Once I had been bitten by singing live in front of an audience at nine years old, there was no going back. I drove my parent’s nuts until I was on stage the next time (laughter). So it all worked out for all of us (laughter).
You try to advise young artists as to the pitfalls within the business don’t you?
Yes that’s right. I do a lot of mentoring with young artists back in Nashville and I do try to give them a heads up. In this business you have to listen to a lot of people who you don’t know at all and as an artist be grateful that people are even giving you a chance. But at the same time make sure that you are doing what you want to do because to think that you are going to come out with your first record and then tell everyone that wasn’t what you wanted to do and that you want to change everything, that is not fair on anyone and it is damaging to your career. You have to be true to yourself whilst understanding that there is a system and it is a business.
I think that was the hardest thing for me at sixteen years old especially when I wanted to grow a little bit. When I wanted to wear some more trendy clothes and dye my hair my record label were beside themselves. They didn’t know what to do with me (laughter). Once I remember wearing lipstick and they thought that I was changing (laughter) but at that time my age group was also changing. I think that the hardest thing about being an artist when you are young is that people didn’t know how to let you grow into adulthood. I don’t think that there is any right or wrong for any artist, you simply have to get out there and do it. Just make sure that you have a good group of people with you so that if you do make a mistake you recover from it.
Had you heard the Tommy James And The Shondells 1967 version of “I Think We’re Alone Now” before you recorded your version?
When I first met my manager and producer at the time, he had me sing The Beatles I Saw Her Standing There in the lobby of his studio (laughter). At that time I was singing country music and he said to me that he didn’t know too much about country music but he would like to get me into pop music. And from that point on he just started flooding me with songs and one of them was I Think Were Alone Now by Tommy James And The Shondells. When I heard it I was really hesitant because to me it didn’t sound modern at all (laughter). I thought where are we going with this.
He simply told me to go back to the studio the following day where he would have a different backing track for the song and that we would record it. To be honest I was really disappointed with the track when I got it, it sounded so dance. Again I wanted to be a valid artist; I wanted to be a pop rock singer in front of a band, a cool rock chic (laughter). I liked dance music but I never wanted to be a dance artist. However, I took it home and started learning the track and at that time I had school friends in my room and they were singing and dancing along to the track so I went back the next day and recorded it.
As I started to sing it more and more I began to like it. Now it’s funny but I really do like the song. I still do listen to the original by Tommy James And The Shondells and I feel as though I have connected there as well (laughter).
I have to say that I think that the way you have turned the song into a Country and Western ballad is fantastic.
Thank you. Even now a lot of people still don’t know that Country and Western is my roots, that’s where I started. I started singing professionally at nine years old and the only thing that was played in my house was country music. Those were the kind of records that I had accessible to me, artists such as Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Juice Newton, so that is what I played and listened to. So from a very early age my parents encouraged me to sing and I started doing mini weekend tours with country bands. There is always going to be a country sound and influence in my voice.
It really did make so much sense when I moved back to Nashville some nine years ago now for me to make a record that kind of told the whole story. It enabled me to thank everyone from the very beginning. I got my first record deal at fourteen but I had been travelling and doing a lot of things way before then. So many people had given me an opportunity and a chance when I was nine years old that I wanted to make a record to enable me to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of the people from the very beginning.
Testing your memory, what was the first record that you bought?
(Laughter) well remember I have only had one cup of coffee but here goes. The very first record that I asked for and was thrilled that I received it was Saturday Night Fever by The Bee Gees. However, I think that the first record that I actually bought with my own money was one of the records by Heart. I am pretty sure that it was a record by Heart. Back in the day I used to listen to my cousins records and I would sneak into her bedroom and listen to Heart. I always had to put them back exactly as I had found them otherwise I wouldn’t be here talking about it (laughter).
Who has inspired you along the way?
That’s easy for me to answer. The two groups of people who have really inspired me along the way are Heart and Fleetwood Mac. In fact I have to say that still to this day they both still make a big impression upon me.
Who did you first see playing live in concert?
That was Patti LaBelle. I had an older male cousin who played jazz guitar who thought that as I wanted to be a singer I should start being around other singers and start to learn the art of singing well. He had me listen to Manhattan Transfer, Patti LaBelle and Marilyn Scott. And then for my twelve birthday he actually took me to see Patti LaBelle. She was awesome.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
Wow really. It would probably be touring around the world and being able to be accepted. To still have that now, being able to visit other places and share my music. That was far bigger than I ever thought it was going to be. It started here in England for me, this was the first place that I came and then I started going into Europe and Asia. So the first time that I came over to England, landed at Heathrow, got off the plane and there were hundreds of fans out there, girls wearing jean jackets I simply can’t tell you just how wonderful that felt.
England to me was a whole new country which I knew absolutely nothing about and yet everyone knew so much about me and wanted to know even more about me. It really was a great feeling.
Is there anything left for you to achieve?
There is so much more that I want to achieve. I would love to start to write for other artists. I really do want to get back out on the road and be pretty consistent and start taking my tours onto a bigger level. For me personally I want to learn to play the piano. I am still trying to learn but I am really terrible at it (laughter). I would love to be able to sit down and accompany myself on a few songs and to have that be the highlight of the show. That’s a musician thing that I want to achieve. There is so much more. I have great family and friends, nieces and nephews so I want to be the best Aunt that I can be to them. I want to just to enjoy my life really.
My number one goal at the moment is to get A Million Miles placement in TV and films. I have had a few songs in the movies and I have really got addicted to that (laughter). As a songwriter you really do get excited about that.
Are you always writing and more to the point are you currently writing for the next album?
Well to be honest we still have a few songs that were left over when we made this album. So that will be the starting point for a new album. But yes in answer to your question I am always writing. I am always coming up with ideas and as long as I am making memories they are always going to lead to a song. I constantly journal titles down. I most definitely want to make a Christmas album before the end of the year because I have never made one before. However I don’t want it to be an album that you only play once a year.
I want it to be a kind of Christmas holiday album but something that still stands up on its own throughout the year and let me tell you that is so hard to do. So I am collecting thoughts on that project right now.
The music industry always likes to portray battles between one artist and another. Over here in the UK we have had The Beatles versus The Rolling Stones and more recently Oasis versus Blur. Can you once and for all tell me, what is your relationship like with Debbie Gibson?
Well Debbie and I are friends. We never were rivals, that side of things was all fabricated. However, I have to say that I think that it makes for an interesting story. I think that it was created by the record label. Our fans were made to feel that they had to pick one or the other of us. It will probably disappoint a few people but let me tell you, Debbie and I have been friends throughout the years. We are so different but we have done some shows together plus we have made some crazy sci-fi movies together (laughter). There is definitely a sister love there. What you have to remember is that we are two very different people and we both laugh about that now.
Having said all of that there really is a love there. We have so much in common; we grew up together and we understand the rise, the fall and the struggles because we are on a parallel path. I think that there is a genuine respect there between Deb and me for the choices that we have made in our careers, and our personal lives and it is really great to have her as a friend. We check on each other and text each other giving each other a lot of encouragement especially when one of us releases something new. It’s great to have that encouragement as well as the friendship.
What next for Tiffany?
I am going to finish my shows here in the UK and then head off back home as I really do have something rather special coming up. On 4th August I will be doing a show with The New Kids On The Block and that hasn’t happened in over twenty years. I am really very excited about that. So that is the next thing on my agenda. I want to go and have a good time whilst reconnecting with the guys and have a blast. It is going to be a special one off show on Coney Island. I’ve been asked to do a couple of songs and I am so thrilled.
On that note Tiffany let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you Kevin, I really do appreciate it. You take care and bye for now.