The stage was dark with only a tiny amount of light spilling onto the drummer from the laptop as it played a collage of sound bites from Crawl Space, R&B-pop artist, Tei Shi’s debut album. As the sultry songstress descended the staircase down onto the stage, her curly brown locks showed off how good they could bounce, and the crowd showed off how much they adored her by how loud they could cheer.
Tei Shi, born Valerie Teicher, brought her fall tour to Music Hall of Williamsburg last week, the biggest venue I’ve seen her in, and boy did she fill out the room. Between the elegant way her arms danced with the air and the microphone and the way her face contorted with emotion as she sang, her performance was something not to be missed.
“I was singing and writing song ideas for most of my life, but I started writing more regularly and recording myself when I was at music school,” Tei Shi says.
Born to two Columbian parents, she spent the first few years of her life in Buenos Aires, Argentina and then moved to Bogota, Columbia. When she was 8, she, her parents and her three older sisters moved up to Vancouver, Canada. She basically grew up going between Bogota and Vancouver, starting college in Vancouver and finishing in Boston and eventually ending up in New York City.
Tei Shi wrote most of the songs off her EP Verde while she was in school and when she moved to New York, she was given the ability to record those songs and start playing live. While writing and recording Crawl Space, Tei Shi took about a year and a half off to really focus all of her attention on her new album for however long she needed.
“It allowed me to separate the writing phase from the recording phase and then from the production phase,” Tei Shi explains. “That was a big learning experience for me and it helped me figure out what I wanted the album to be.”
She was also able to record in different environments and include more live instrumentation in each song whereas previously her “heavily-electronic sound” was produced fully out of her laptop. “It was great for me because it was the first time I was able to spend 100% of my time on one thing, and to take as much time as I needed, whereas with my EPs I made those in a much tighter time frame of a month or less,” Tei Shi says.
Some of her songs were written and recorded in the intimate setting of her bedroom and others she recorded elsewhere, allowing for other musicians to come in and play live instruments on some of the songs. “Overall it was different than my process had been before in a lot of ways, though creatively still stayed pretty true to how I’ve worked in the past,” Tei Shi says.
Her favorite song on the album changes frequently but currently it’s the hauntingly dreamy “Sleepy” on which she recorded the main portion of the song on her grandma’s piano. Playing it live during this tour for the first time has brought her joy and “revitalized” her connection to it.
Sprinkled throughout the album are snippets of recordings of 9-year-old Tei Shi. “I had a phase where I would sit in my room and just record myself on a boom box my sister passed down to me,” she explains. “I would sing and write songs and do little skits and you could hear my family coming in and out.”
Tei Shi revisited these recordings while finishing the album and picked a few bits that wove well between the songs she had written. Being able to create something special is one of Tei Shi’s favorite things about being a musician.
“The process of coming up with an idea and making it come to life and ultimately end up being something that other people connect to and that moves them as well is the best part of what I get to do,” Tei Shi explains.
Crawl Space came to life that night on stage and I could tell that it was just as special of a moment for the audience as it was for Tei Shi.
Article: Merissa Blitz