Detroit singer-songwriter Steffanie Christi’an is a Black woman who rocks — and she rocks hard. Although she can bless your soul with gospel and twerk to trap music, she’s truly a rock maven who deftly channels pioneers such as Rosetta Tharpe and Tina Turner. Christi’an is now poised to ascend to the next level with a tribute concert honoring Turner. Attendees will give thanks as she commands the stage at Nice and Rough: A Night With Steffanie and Tina, Wednesday, Nov. 23, at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit. Christi’an will perform songs from Turner’s catalog, along with some of her own material.
Recently, rolling out discovered the woman behind the music. She shared why she stays true to her craft, thoughts about Black artists’ acceptance in Europe, performance locations on her Bucket List and more.
Tell us about Nice and Rough.
Nice and Rough: A Night With Steffanie and Tina, is my musical tribute to one of my musical idols, Tina Turner. I’m going to be performing with a very dynamic nine-piece band. It’s 90 intense minutes of me, Tina, and just — giving you all I’ve got.
So it’s going to be part Tina, part Steffanie?
I’m performing music from Way Too Much, the album I released in 2014. I’m also performing music from It’s Complicated, that’s my release on Bling UniverCity that’ll be out in 2017. And I’m going to be performing music from throughout Tina’s career.
What made you decide to do Nice and Rough?
I can’t deny the comparisons between our voices, as well as our stage presence. I’ve always looked up to Tina for being a Black woman, singing rock ‘n’ roll, and just commanding the stage making a name for herself. When there was no one else trying to create that space for her, she did it on her own. A friend of mine talked to me about doing a tribute and I was like, “Why haven’t I ever thought of this before?” [So], I decided to put it in order.
What is it like for you, as a Black woman in rock music?
It’s a catch-22. For me, it’s very liberating to be able to perform the type of music that I like and that I want to do. It’s not a gimmick to me, I’ve always liked rock ‘n’ roll music ever since I was a little girl. I grew up during the beginning of the MTV era, and it had an indelible impact on me. But it also can very limiting in the sense that, somebody who sings R&B can go perform at a blues bar. Whereas someone like myself; I’m limited as to what type of shows I can do, who I can open for, what type of venues I can utilize.
Why continue with rock? Why not go to R&B?
Why should I? I don’t feel that I should have to. To me, music is universal and I don’t feel like I should be limited to singing a specific type of music that people want me to sing, or that I should be singing because I’m a Black woman. I love rock. It’s ridiculous to even have that conversation with people. It’s me. It’s who I am. It’s my music. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to listen to it. [But] you should not, not listen to it because it’s rock ‘n’ roll.
What is your inspiration for your music? Do you have a muse?
It sounds cliché, but life. The experiences that I go through or that I see my friends or my family or anybody go through. I can look at an experience and there’s a story in that. I might come up with a melody or I might come up with some lyrics, but it’s just life experiences.
What’s on your Bucket List for places where you want to perform?
I would love to perform at the Grammys and I would love to perform at Afropunk—that’s not so far away. I would love to tour Europe. I think that Europe is more open to Black rock artists. I like to experience an environment where people are more open to what I do.
Why do you think Black rock artists are better received overseas?
I don’t think that they have the same history as we do here in America and that has a lot to do with slavery. There’s an energy in Europe … they’re open to new things. They don’t feel like they own this type of music. This reminds me of the hoopla over Beyoncé performing at the Country Music Awards. Mainstream America is very possessive when it comes to their music. All music, pretty much in America, was built from the blues — from African Americans during slavery.
How do you balance your career and your personal life?
As a working mother, wife and artist, I won’t lie, it was difficult juggling life in general when I worked 40 hours a week. It was rough and took a lot of communication between my husband and I, making sure that we were always on the same page—especially with regards to our children. But now, since I have become a full-time artist, I have a lot more freedom and it is so much easier to balance my career and home life.
If you had one living artist and one deceased artist that you could write and record with it, who would it be and why?
I like weird sh*t. I like Mozart, I would love to do something classical with a rock twist. That would be exciting to me. I would also love to write and record with Bob Marley—oh and Nina Simone. There’s so many as far as being deceased. As far as alive, it would be Bjork and Tori Amos; they’re two of my biggest influences. They were my favorite artists, singers [and] songwriters when I was finding myself as a teenager.
What do you want people to get from the show?
Bringing this Tina Turner aspect into the show, I want to expose myself to a different audience. I also want to bring something new to the table for fans who’ve already seen me. Anytime I perform, I try to create a cathartic experience where we’re all feeling something.
When it’s all said and done, what would you like fans to associate with Steffanie Christi’an?
I want those who hear me or see me to think that I am a raw, but vulnerable, possessive — in the sense that I’m possessing the spirits of music and those who have come before me. I am paying tribute to those artists who I feel have groomed me in a sense that their music has helped to create who I am. I’m paying homage to them. I want people to leave with something. I want them to leave like, “Wow that changed me.”
If you like it nice and rough, check out more from Steffanie Christi’an at www.SteffChris.com.