Brussels-based musician Tessa Dixson knows what she wants. The alternative-pop singer, songwriter, art school student and sometimes-model has just released her new single, “Beautiful Pain” — a sultry, melodic and deeply personal song with an equally evocative music video. The statuesque singer appears otherworldly as she is seen in a dark open space, dipped in gold paint, moving slowly through the low-fi glow that surrounds her. The first of a handful of up-and-coming releases from an EP to be dropped over the next few months, Dixson is pleased to share her strong vision with the world and wants the audience to make their own judgement when taking in her work.
Your video is deeply emotional and raw – what was your mindset throughout the creative process?
It was a really hard process. [The colour] gold is something that is quite personal and triggering to me. It’s pure. It could mean anything: love, loss. I decided to direct the music video and it was hard seeing in front of me what I had in my mind. It actually really resembled what I had in mind. It was also just really hard to show people something so deep and personal. I worked with a few young artists from Brussels on this as well, which was so exciting to bounce ideas off of.
How important is it for you to have creative control and input in your final products?
It’s super important. That is what makes it more personal and what makes it more ‘you’. You know what you want and you know how to put it on paper or film or whatever. I do everything [creatively] myself. I hope that for the next single I can do the graphic design myself. I’m in my second year of university right now studying graphic design [at L’école de Recherche Graphique de Bruxelles, in Brussels.] It’s a really cool school. It’s an art school and while my course is graphic design I can basically do whatever. I can do performance, painting, photography. It’s a really cool thing to have with my musical projects. I can mix and match everything I do.
Does anyone at school know what you do on the side?
I don’t really like talking about my music there. That is just something on the side for me. When I am there I just like talking about school projects with people. It is cool because it is just really collaborative. You can just brainstorm with a bunch of people and have a photographer do this, and then work on this, work on a video.
How do you compare your previous single Prayer to Beautiful Pain?
I think Prayer was a more mysterious, more sad song which I wrote a while ago. I prefer people to make their own assessment on what I am talking about or what they feel from the song. Sometimes when I write it can be a love song, or it can just be a feeling. You can feel being sexy, or being in love, or losing someone. It’s really open to whatever the listener wants it to be. I am really trying to leave it open for the listener.
Are there any particular influences that run through your art?
I listen to [such] a variety of music that it’s quite hard to say. My parents are very musical, every Sunday there would be music on in the morning. Sade, Santana, The Beatles. Then we would know brunch was being prepared. There is so much music and so many genres I’ve been shown that I [can] get inspired by anything. I love all young pop, really. In particular, by the new scene that’s coming up now like Ama Lou and Jorja Smith — live she is amazing. She has a real thing with people. People love seeing her perform. I like songs that are emotional but melancholic.
Do you come from a musical family? When did you start making music?
Yes. My dad plays the guitar, my mother sings, and my grandpa plays the piano. I started piano lessons with my sister when I was 10. We stopped because we didn’t like rehearsing and later I decided it was time to start again. When YouTube was coming up I learned online. I did the same for guitar and taught myself on the internet. I am not a pro but I do accompany myself when I write. I prefer writing on the piano as guitars are already so melodic.
Have you had the chance to perform recently?
I performed this past this with Warhola. I did a song with them onstage at a festival. I had never done any festivals before, it was amazing. My first concert was in May, so to imagine the difference of people in each of these concerts, that was a huge stepping stone for me! I am going to open for [Warhola] in November and December. After that, will try to see what other concerts and festivals I can do.
How did you find performing your music in front of a crowd?
As an artist, you always get a high performing from people. It’s so cool to be live, being super open. I love it. I have been performing since I was 12 from dance recital as a dancer. I have always had a thing with performances and being on stage. Being on stage means you are there with [all] these people but you’re super connected. In the moment it is such a rush.
What is next for you? When can we hear some new music?
I have two more singles out before Christmas. They are more low-key, no huge coverage, and I am just letting the community come listen to it. After Christmas, we will hit hard with a really cool single. At the moment, I know what I want, and maybe in the single after the next, I will make the video myself. I have never actually filmed with a video camera before so I figured I’m at a stage where I can try a bunch of things [without] people at my throat. We will see how it goes.
Tessa Dixon’s latest single ‘Beautiful Pain’ is out now.