Tia Kofi found fame during the second series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK. Since then, she has surrounded herself with respected industry names to help develop a musical career that can stand on its own…
Tia Kofi shot to stardom after competing in the second series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK in 2021 – an opportunity that would propel a fledgling musical career to new heights.
Kofi went on to join the launch roster of Intention Records – a label founded by heavyweight publicist Simon Jones and G-A-Y owner Jeremy Joseph. Partnered with Absolute Label Services, the company has been built on a shared love and respect for music and drag.
At the time of the launch, Jones said, “There is a lot of musical talent in [Drag Race UK], but they are not supported in terms of major record labels or music industry love.”
It’s a sentiment that speaks to Kofi in particular, whose main career ambition is simply to be taken seriously as a musician.
In 2021, Kofi released an EP, Part 1: The Damage, which included her most successful single to date, Outside In, co-written with Little Boots and Tom Aspaul and produced by Gil Lewis.
Her second EP, Part 2: The Antidote will arrive on July 1, and sees further collaboration with Little Boots on lead single I Specialise In Love.
We caught up with Kofi ahead of the release to talk about her music and drag’s place in the industry today…
How did you first get into music?
Music has always been something that I’ve been passionate about. I was songwriting before Drag Race, I just never thought that there would be space for me, because there was never anyone who looked or acted like me that was doing it when I was growing up. Especially when it comes to drag queens doing music, it’s always been a bit like, “Look at my nails, look at my wig. I’m wearing makeup.” I wanted to do something that was a bit more real – more authentic.
What kind of doors did Drag Race open for you in terms of your musical career? What happened immediately after?
It threw the doors wide open. Coming off Drag Race, I thought I’d have to really fight and do it on my own. I was so lucky that my debut single Outside In came to me and was written by Little Boots and Tom Aspaul. Tom is an absolute queer music icon who I’m obsessed with, I absolutely love their music, and I grew up listening to Little Boots. Actually, Remedy was one of the first songs I ever performed in drag live. So, that was just an amazing coming together of things. They were so pleased with my vocal on it and the way that Gil Lewis did the production was just incredible. I was so lucky.
You were one of the inaugural artists on Intention Records. What’s the relationship like there and how does it work?
It’s interesting because it’s such a new thing, so everyone’s exploring, learning and working together. Simon Jones has been absolutely incredible at masterminding everything. I refer to him as the Pete Waterman of drag, because I think it’s hilarious. But there’s also that energy of working together and really trying to collaborate to create the package – because it’s not just purely about the music, the sound or the vocal, now there are other elements to it, whether that’s PR or social media and so on.
What’s your experience of the music industry more generally been like?
There’s often a struggle to be taken seriously or seen as real. People think that, because I do drag or look at certain way, the music being put out isn’t serious or authentic. But you only need to listen to the new EP to see that the authenticity is there.
The EP itself is named after one of the songs, Antidote, which I wrote with someone that I’ve known since I was 10. We struggled through school being creative and artsy but not being taken seriously. They went on to become a singer/songwriter and we came together to write this from our genuine experiences. That song came from a really dark place. So, when people turn around and ask me if I’m going to lip sync because I’m a drag queen… It’s a constant fight to be taken seriously. I think we’re getting there, though.
You think you’re seeing some changes, then?
I think we’re still early days, but whenever someone does something, they smash another wall for someone else. I was on Ru Paul’s Drag Race for a reason: because Ru Paul’s already been there smashing down walls: being a drag queen who had music that people actually listened and danced to, which would never have been thought of before Ru did it.
So, there are people who have paved the way but, even now, when it comes to pitching music to playlists, trying to get on radio and so on, it’s just very difficult. But we’re getting there. We’ve got the proof of what we’ve done in the past, who we’ve worked with and the sound of the music. We’re bashing down doors.
What’s your ambition as a musician long term?
I just want to have that moment of being recognised as an artist beyond being a drag queen that was on a reality show. I want that personal moment. I don’t know what that would be: whether it would be playing at a certain venue or having a song hit a certain point in the chart… We’ve had amazing milestones like being played on Radio 2, Gaydio and all these great stations, but I feel like I’m going to have a moment where I can say, ‘Oh my god they get it and they take it seriously’. So, my ambition is a feeling rather than a tangible thing.
The new EP is releasing on July 1. What kind of things are coming up around it?
Lots of shows coming up: Prides all around the UK any beyond. By the time the EP comes out, I’ll have performed some of that music on stage at The Clapham Grand, which is my home venue. We’ll be at Pride in London, Birmingham, Brighton, Manchester… All over the place. I can’t wait for people to hear the music.