Yes, THAT Tiffany
'80s Pop Sensation Brings the Mix Tape Tour to Atlanta

By Lee Valentine Smith

The rarefied air of single-monikered artists is indeed a small and exclusive world. The '80s gave us Madonna, but there was also Tiffany.

Fast forward to 2019. As a generation craves the new wave quirk of the early '80s, the late '80s have their own dedicated fans. The MixTape Tour is a lively reminiscence party headlined by New Kids On The Block with guests Salt-N-Peppa, Naughty By Nature and special appearances by pop darlings Debbie Gibson and Tiffany.

Currently on a massive cross-country trek this summer, the gregarious Tiffany's new album Pieces Of Me isn't exactly burning up the international charts, but her tenth release is a steady seller at the live shows and via www.tiffanytunes.com. It's actually a solid collection, finding the singer updated in edgy pop-rock territory with a decidedly modern approach.

Road warrior Tiffany spoke with INsite by phone from a bus parked somewhere near Washington, D.C.

Last time we talked you had been welcomed into the country music world of Nashville but now you're digging back into your pop music roots.

Yeah, but I think it's always been the same thing in many ways. I've always enjoyed telling my backstory so of course living in Nashville allowed me to do that. It was a fabulous opportunity for me to be able to go back and tell the stories of how I stated out doing country music and then to work with all the people who helped me along the way. It was great because I got to write with a lot of people that I'd really wanted to write with.

The Mix Tape Tour is a massive undertaking for any act, but by now you're used to the road.

Oh yeah, we're about halfway through this one. But then about four days after we're done, I'll go to England do all the retro festivals over there. These massive festivals outside with lots of artists on the bills, and it's fun. After that, I come back to the United States, literally a week later, and then I'll go on my own tour for Pieces Of Me. So I'm busy all this year - right up through December.

Do you have any favorite memories of this tour so far - or has it all been a blur because you've been to so many cities?

Oh, it's been really good just seeing the guys. It's so great to be on tour with New Kids On The Block again, it's just awesome. It's not work, it's just fun.

How does it compare to the '80s tours when you were the headliner and they were the opening act?

I don't think it's very different, really. It's the same in a lot of ways. It's great to see them and it's fun to see all the fans after 30 years. I think that's the magic behind this tour, to celebrate not just our accomplishments, but the fans. We all still love music and we all still love what we're doing.

It must be a big responsibility to know that each band on the bill is playing a major chunk of the soundtrack to someone's early life.

That's pretty much what's happening, yeah. It's not a big responsibly at this point, though. I'm just getting up there and sharing the music, enjoying the moment and connecting. I kinda let them do their own thing out there as we play. Some people do cry and some people dance. Like when I do the "I Think We're Alone Now" dance, they're doing it right along with me and I can see them. So really it's not a big burden or anything, it's just a fun, connecting kind of tour.

But you're igniting some memories they may not have even thought of in decades.

Oh definitely. And not only the older stuff, the Pieces Of Me album is selling at the shows. I think I'm one of the only acts who bring music to sell, and it's getting some good attention as well. I think a lot of my fans are happy to be with me now and really hear the new music as we reconnect over the past. I'm hearing that a lot of them are excited about my own tour, so I'll get to see a lot of these same happy faces again - and that makes me happy too.

Do you play any of the new stuff in the Mix Tape set or is it all hits?

Yeah, we keep this one all retro but I'm writing music for my next album as we're doing this one. We're about four songs in right now and we'll see what else is coming our way.

Are you able to write while on tour? Some artists love it but some have to wait until they're back in the studio.

The writing process on the road is never the same. You never quite know how it's going to go from day to day. You'll hear a melody and then not have time to work on it until the next day or whenever there's time. But I want to keep building on it and establish the same track I'm on now.

You've obviously conquered pop, then went toward rock and then country. What do you call the direction you're in now?

This is definitely pop. But I'm talking to people and they go, I still hear a little country in there. I go, well, probably because it's ingrained in my soul. That was my beginning. But definitely this is more like a bit retro but still of the moment. I think it's kind of like Blondie meets the Foo Fighters kinda thing. And that's pretty much my new sound really. Some are a little more adult contemporary or even a little bit of Stevie Nicks type stuff. But I'm writing more in a punky kind of vibe, like Go-Go's and Debbie Harry. It changes by the song. It's taken me a long time to get this sound and finally work with the right people then it just started happening and I'm like, 'Ok, I guess it's time. Awesome, let's do it!'

Artists need to a challenge or everyone gets bored.

Well, yeah. I can do other things so it's really not good for my talents to put myself in one place and not approach other things. It's not healthy as an artist or as a musician to not try and do other things. But this has always been in my plan. I've always wanted to do more rock-infused music. Since I've been doing this since I was a kid, and obviously I did the pop thing. But I've been exposed to so many great musicians and so many good musicians are willing to work with me, it's really been great to start that process. I really love recording with the whole band and I'm enjoying all the cool studios I've been experiencing. Sitting down and blocking out time to write is new for me, like in the studio like we did when we did the new record.

Your enthusiasm about the process is refreshing. You could be so jaded at this point but yet you seem to be as excited as you were in 1987.

I really think I'm growing every day as a musician, which is lovely. I'm kinda feeling like, yeah this is my beginning - again. Social media is great for me, too. You can just hop on there and say how you're feeling that day. It can be used for the wrong things of course, but it can be very exciting and positive. That's the way I see it. You can definitely get a message out now. Before, you had to wait for reactions and that could take so long. Now I can just go on Facebook or Twitter and engage with my fans instantly.

You and Debbie are engaging on a nightly basis with the fans during the Meet and Greet events after each show. Since people basically grew up with you, do they feel the need to share - or maybe overshare - their feelings with you?

Sometimes we're exhausted because we've done the show and travelled and everything, but the fans always make it great. If they can put up with us going, 'Um, how do you spell Lisa?' We love meeting everyone and taking pictures and it's really special. I get excited when they've bought the new album or already know about it. But I've heard a lot of stories about "I Think We're Alone Now," yeah. Things I probably shouldn't hear, I'm like, 'Okay, maybe that's too much information.' But I love that people have engaged with that song. They've embraced it, made it their own and now they have special memories attached to it.

The Mix Tape Tour arrives in Atlanta on Thursday, July 11 at State Farm Arena. Showtime is 7 p.m. For more information, please visit statefarmarena.com.

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