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Valerie Teicher, otherwise known as Tei Shi, makes the kind of genre-skipping sound that’s tough to put into a single box. Weaving her silky-smooth vocals around lush R&B-inspired melodies for a warm, woozy-feeling finish, her tracks like “Bassically” and “Go Slow” have been compared to everyone from SZA to FKA Twigs. But as for slapping a label on it and calling it a day? No, thank you.
Rather, the New York-based musician (who was born in Argentina, but spent her childhood living in Colombia and Canada), puts it simply on her Facebook page: “Mermaid music.” It’s a perfect description, just as long as we’re talking about the magical, sensual kind of creature — like Gemma Ward in Pirates of the Caribbeanas opposed to The Little Mermaid (no offense, Ariel).
After months of dropping various tracks upon the internet, Tei Shi released her sophomore EP Verde this week. On the day of its release, she phoned in from Colombia to chat about shyness, sharing her music with the masses, and remembering to renew her driver’s license.
Hey Valerie, where are you calling from right now? I’m in Colombia, visiting my parents for a week. The plan was to come and chill out before I leave for tour, but it ended up being a million appointments and all this other stuff. I’m actually shooting part of a music video down here for a few days, so it’s been a bit more hectic of a trip.
What song is the video for? It’s kind of to be determined, actually! It’s still coming together and for something last minute just happened – It’s a secret because I myself don’t even know much [Laughs].
When did you first start playing music? I’ve been singing forever, and writing songs ever since I can remember. But for most of my life, music has been something I’ve been doing in just a private kind of way. I didn’t share my songs with anyone, and I didn’t know if I was going to ever put stuff out. I went to music school for three-and-a-half years, and it was there I made the decision to pursue a career in music. I was studying music and writing a lot on my own, but even then it was just sort of to myself.
What changed your mind to share the music with the public? It wasn’t until I moved to New York when I decided to put stuff out and create the Tei Shi project. The songs I wrote in music school were the ones that ended up being on my first EP. I never had the confidence before in thinking that the music I made was something that people would like. The last few months I was in school I met Luca Buccellati, who produces my stuff with me. We became great friends, and he was really encouraging of my stuff—we were both moving to New York after school, so we decided to work together. I had all these really shitty demos up on my computer and he helped me flesh them out and develop them further. He made me believe I could actually do it.
What’s up next for you? I’m about to start my biggest tour yet! I’ll be starting the East Coast portion of the U.S. tour with my band, and then we’ll move on to the West Coast. After that, we fly to Europe for four weeks of shows. It hasn’t really sunken in yet.
What’s one thing you can’t forget to bring on tour? First and foremost, my passport! I’m always so freaked out that something is going to go wrong. I was going to LA recently for a two-week trip for tons of meetings, and I realized on my way to the airport that my driver’s license had expired! And you can’t go to LA without driving, so that experience was so stressful. It’s made me paranoid.
What color is your hair now? Is it still green? Funny you should ask, because literally the day before I came to Colombia I was trying to get the color taken out. I wanted to go back to my natural color, but the green would not come out! So I had to spend like, seven hours at the hair salon, where they basically destroyed it trying to get the green out. Right now it’s sort of a gray, mucky color – I was hoping to do something with it, but I don’t know if I have time before I leave! I might just have to own it.
What’s the song you’re most looking forward to playing on tour? “Bassically” is always really fun, because the audience tends to get really into it. But I’m most excited to figure out how to perform the last song on the EP called “Get It.” I have no idea how I’m going to do it live, but I’m excited to find out.