Now/It's: An Interview with Tatiana Angulo (Artist Manager, ISA + JUDE)

On occasion, there is an occurrence that reminds us that Nashville is far from being the only point of interest in the world. In turn, such occurrences can make an endeavor such as Now/It's feel slight and rudderless, considering limited ability in invoke change outside of Nashville. The senseless devastation that took place in Parkland, Florida earlier this week was yet another installment in one of America's most unfortunate ongoing tragic spates. It only continues to exasperate and beleaguer the national psyche, and unfortunately, there appears to be no resolution in sight. There are, however, individuals we can look to for clarity in such dour moments, individuals who are lucid enough to explicate and pontificate on the milieu at hand, in hopes of inspiring others to shift their intentions toward a greater. Speaking for Now/It's, one such person who has provided ultimate coherence in times of great tragedy is Tatiana Angulo. Arguably one of the most passionate and compassionate artist managers, entrepreneurs, promoters, and in general, people we've had the privilege of knowing during our time in Nashville, Tatiana has always remained cognizant of larger issues, and reticent on enacting changing when and where she can. So at the tail end of a dark week that has left so many broken and unbalanced, Now/It's is lucky to feature Tatiana Angulo, and we celebrate such a fact, but Tatiana would also undoubtedly want to let it be known that there are larger issues at hand, far more pervasive than a conversation between friends. Hopefully, this conversation will serve as a respite from a highly disconcerting week, but by no means should it serve as a diversion from harsh realities which must be resolved.

Now/It's met with Tatiana Angulo at Zollikoffee on 8th Avenue near Downtown Nashville.

N/I - So you’ve been doing Isa & Jude by yourself….

Tatiana - It’s my baby.

N/I - And I started [Now/It’s]....

Tatiana - I know! And I’m so proud of you.

N/I - Well thank you [laughs]. This will probably read like I brought it up to be complimented. For the record, I didn’t.

Tatiana - Stop it. I really am. I remember literally sitting in this coffeeshop - right over there - and you were telling me that you were starting a new project, and I was so excited. I think it was a year ago, was it? Or not even.

N/I - Not even a year, yet, which is crazy.

Tatiana - It was shorter, what? Nine? Six?

N/I - I’d say closer to nine now.

Tatiana - And you said it was going to be this thing, and it has done exactly what you said you wanted it to do.

N/I - I hope it has, to this point.

Tatiana - You did! I was literally talking about this with Adri Uribe [of Paradigm], because I was telling her that I was going to talk to you, and she said, “I just love every single one of his reviews for shows.”

N/I - Oh, well that’s very nice.

Tatiana - And she said, “He’s at every show. I’m going to talk to him about those shows.” And I was like, “Yeah, do it.” Every single day, it seems like you have a new show, and I’m so impressed.

N/I - [Laughs] Well thank you. That’s really nice of you and Adri. I’m honestly unaccustomed to such unsolicited compliments [laughs].

Tatiana - Yeah! I love when my friends succeed, it makes me happy.

N/I - Well so do I! In doing this interview, or in wanting to do this for a long time, I realize that I’ve never really sat down with you and truly talked about how you got involved with everything you’re involved with. So I’m hoping that this can serve as a sort of reparation for such a fact [laughs].

Tatiana - Oh gosh [laughs].

N/I - And I know things are shifting….

Tatiana - They are! It’s really interesting. So I came to Belmont, and I thought that I was going to become an entertainment lawyer, because I idolized Clive Davis, and I thought I was going to do that, and one of my professors told me I was a “Bitch on wheels,” at Belmont.

N/I - Older professor? Younger professor?

Tatiana - I’m actually still really close with this professor. It’s funny. I thought it was hysterical, because I never lost a negotiation in his class….

N/I - What class was it?

Tatiana - It was publishing class. Dan Keen. I love him to death. So he told me “Yeah, you’re a bitch on wheels, you’re going to go far,” and that was the first time I had ever heard [something like] that as a compliment, and it was great. I was in a long-distance relationship [at the time] and I thought we had to take the path that we had discussed, but then we broke up and it was like the best thing that ever happened to me. We were both in a place where we were so young, and parents - not mine, but his - were influencing - you know my parents [laughs].... Anyway, I was able to start interning, and I started interning at a label, in radio promotions, where I quickly learned that I was not interested in radio promotions [laughs]. I think it takes a special kind of human to do it, and I have friends who are great at it, but I don’t like it.

N/I - Well at least you know.

Tatiana - So I got involved with Warner Chappell - and I love music supervision, I think it’s really interesting - and they specialize in macro and micro licensing….

N/I - What would that entail?

Tatiana - For example, any music that you hear during the Super Bowl last night, like show’s actual music, Warner Chappell owns the rights to that, and they have the musicians who created it, so they license music out for a lot of news channels around the country, and they do a lot of stuff in India. So that intrigued me, because publishing, some will argue, and micro and macro licensing, is what’s keeping the music industry afloat while we figure out whether or not it’s headed into streaming all the way, or whether or not we can still make money off of physical.

N/I - Like touring?

Tatiana - Exactly. Touring and merchandising. So this company was part of Warner, because Warner saw the shift in movement pretty quickly, and I have always loved Warner - well, I love all of them, like Clive [Davis] started Columbia [Records], so I had always envisioned getting involved there. So I was pretty dead set on the idea that I was going to end up in New York, so much so that while at Belmont trying to study for my LSAT to go to NYU’s law school, or Columbia, or where ever, even the Belmont East program. So I did a whole year at Warner Chappell Production Music - this would have been our junior year - and if you recall, that was the year The Lonely Biscuits played Bonnaroo. They’re our friends, so naturally, I bought a ticket by myself, and I’m a huge Elton John fan, who was playing too - and if anyone were to ask me who my top [act] was, I’d say it’s Elton John. I swear, that man is…. Him and Whitney Houston.

N/I - Did you get a ticket to his tour?

So I bought a ticket to Bonnaroo, and I was supposed to take my LSAT the week of Bonnaroo, and in my head, I was like “I don’t want to do law school. I want to be the head of a label. I want to help artists and develop them. I want to do what Clive did,” but also, I started learning about other people, like Julie Greenwald, who’s COO of Atlantic Records. I want to be like Marsha Vlasic, who’s the head of an international agency; not that I wanted to be an agent, but the fact that she was this leader and so amazing.

N/I - Sure. You just aspire to be like those at the top.

Tatiana - Right. So I got into the Belmont East program, took my LSAT, went to Bonnaroo, saw my friends perform, saw Elton John, saw Sam Smith, Janelle Monae, Jack White, and then I realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I wanted to be the person that got them there, to Bonnaroo. I wanted to help with their career. So I got an internship with SIRE Records, doing A&R, which was my dream. I flew up to New York, and they cancelled the interview, and I was devastated. Then they rebooked it for that afternoon….

N/I - I was about to ask whether or not you wound up with two days in New York with nothing to do?

Tatiana - I flew up for that interview, I swear, I was determined to get it. I had been working all summer at a restaurant, and I told myself, “I am going to go.” So I got the internship with Seymour Stein. Seymour found The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Madonna, and I just fell. I was like “Holy shit. I am going to work with one of the last living legends.” I ate a whole jar of Nutella and then got myself up and said “Come on Tatiana, you’ve got to buck up because in New YOrk, there’s no mercy.” You have to prove yourself. What’s funny, is that they had even said that at Belmont - which was so unnecessary - but you needed to prove why Belmont kids deserved to be in New York. Because you were competing against St. John’s….

N/I - NYU. Rutgers. Columbia. Anyone from the Ivys.

Tatiana - Which is dumb, because I don’t really appreciate unnecessary pressure, I create my own pressure [laughs]. So I get there, and I was a nervous wreck. I was the only girl intern, and it wound up being the best internship. Every single day, we had to research fans and shows, and we had to go to shows, and I think I had compiled a list of nearly 200 bands that i was interested in trying to look at. And then I only selected fifty or sixty of them to pitch to the director of A&R and his assistant, Joey, who’s still one of my best friends. And Eric, I love Eric. So Hans and I - the other intern - had developed this unknown, but known competition to see who was going to get the better pitch that week.

N/I - Naturally. That’s probably what they were hoping for.

Tatiana - Right. Judan & The Lion were still on their way up, and I remember texting Ben [Hutto, manager] that I was about to pitch them at my internship. I thought it was super cool, and lo and behold, I got to pitch two bands to Seymour [Stein], and the other intern did not. I took such pride, but I was also so nervous.

N/I - Well why do you think they chose you over the other intern?

Tatiana - I was there four days a week. I was there from nine in the morning to seven at night, every day. I wanted to show them that I was there.

N/I - Sure.

Tatiana - I also got [laughs] Seymour’s food. We became really close.

N/I - I’d imagine the longer you’re there, and the more often you pop up, the proximity benefits.

Tatiana - And not that Hans was doing bad - he’s actually this amazing producer, and he’s working incredibly with this artist, Noah.

N/I - What’s Hans’ full name?

Tatiana - Hans Durante. He’s killer. Those guys…. They’re like my brothers. I can’t even begin with them. They taught me everything about hip hop and R&B. I remember Hans, he wasn’t really into Americana and rock music, but he did catch the eye of a lot of hip hop people at ADA, because we worked a lot of production with them. He was doing his stuff, and he’s succeeding. I just love seeing my friends succeeding. There’s so much pride there. Not even pride for me, but I’m just so overwhelmed with joy for my friends who work really hard.

N/I - That’s always a nice reassurance.

Tatiana - Yeah! Anyway, I got to pitch to Seymour Stein, and he asked me “Do you have to leave?” and I said, “Well yeah. I have to graduate.” and then he asked “What internship do you want?” and I told him that I’ve never really wanted to ask for something, because every internship that I’ve gotten, I’ve gotten myself. I don’t know how most Belmont students got internships through asking, but I just applied my ass off and then worked like crazy to get the positions.

N/I - Right. There are all these programs that I’m sure serve students at a school like Belmont to a great extent, but they’re not for everyone.

Tatiana - I just kind of checked out of those….

N/I - Yeah. I was much more of a “Let me do it on my own” type person. I understand that.

Tatiana - And I never got help, and I don’t want to say they didn’t help me at all - I had really great professors - but the Warner internship, I got myself. So I [told Seymour Stein], “I would kill for the John Esposito internship,” and he said “Okay.”

N/I - And that was it?


Tatiana - Not quite [laughs]. He calls up Esposito and told him, “Espo, I have an intern for you. Don’t take anyone else.” So he tells me, “Tatiana, there’s a chance he might be up here for work. I want you to meet him here.” And this is after I had flown down to Nashville for an interview - and there was also a wedding, but I simultaneously got it so I could interview with Esposito’s assistant, Paula. She doesn’t know how much she helped me that year, but she did. So I flew down, interviewed, and I almost died, I was so nervous. Then I fly back to New York, interview with [Esposito]. I go into Seymour [Stein]’s office, and I tell him, “I don’t think I can do this,” and he says “Of course you can! Come on.” I was literally sweating. Then I end up in a room with Espo, and he was so kind, and I got the internship. So fast forward to senior year, second semester, and I was interning with Espo, and I was having the time of my life learning what a CEO does. I told him “If you ever need someone to take over your job, I’m totally here.” My favorite job he gave me was rearranging his entire CD collection - his office is all vinyl and CDs - so that was a very long job.

N/I - Did you have to alphabetize it?

Tatiana - Not only did I alphabetize it, but I also organized it by release date order.

N/I - Wow.

Tatiana - He was so funny. I loved Espo. I loved them both. I learned so much. What I learned from Seymour was the art of pitching, knowing when the right time to pitch was, which artist to pitch, and that it’s not just that someone sounds good, but that they’re also good live, and whether or not they have a package.

N/I - How do they translate into other “arenas?”

Tatiana - Exactly! And with Espo, I learned knowing the balance of using intuition to know when something was going to be a hit, but also knowing that music is a business. You need business savvy, and Espo has shown that. He’s created wonderful imprints in the form of Warner Music Nashville, being the chairman, and being an awesome person. He’s so kind - both of those guys are kind - but Espo, I swear, nobody has ever said anything mean about him. He always takes meetings, so that’s what I learned from him, is that anyone that comes into my inbox, I’ll set up a meeting. You never know what genius you’re going to meet, you never know what you’re going to learn. So those are the things I learned from those guys.

N/I - Well that’s about as best as you can hope for from internships like that, is to learn.

Tatiana - Right. But during that semester, I wasn’t looking for jobs. I didn’t think about it. I wasn’t someone that was “hungry.” I mean, I was hungry, but not in a way that I appeared as if I wasn’t taking the present opportunity….

N/I - Seriously?

Tatiana - Yes. I wanted to appreciate every moment of it. So I decided not to got to law school, which pissed off my dad, so that was kind of a psyche out. Instead, I went on to be in A&R. So I applied for a lot of jobs in April when I realized I had about three weeks until graduation, and there was a job I felt pretty good about and thought that I was going to get it, but it turns out the CEO of the company was handed another assistant from within the company. But I remain very good friends with [that person]. So my company came about because I didn’t get a job.

N/I - That’s not a bad thing.

Tatiana - Not at all. But I waited tables for nine months because I didn’t want to take investors because I surely did not know what was going to happen. I thought there was a lack of development in a lot of the A&R world, but they just didn’t have the funds for it. A lot of times, [a label] would want to develop someone, but you sign ten people, and i’m sorry, but the opportunity for success is not high. You’d be lucky if you wind up with two that hit.

N/I - Right. I read something about new ventures - not just in music - where if you are an investment firm, you are trying to take up as many properties as possible knowing roughly ninety percent of those properties are going to fail, and you’re trying to zone in on that ten percent success rate.

Tatiana - Exactly. And that is mindblowing to me, because what I had learned from Seymour was the development. That true A&R style, which I love. Like with Clive, I learned that in reading all his books. I shouldn’t refer to him as “Clive,” I don’t know him [laughs], one day.

N/I - Well it’s like someone that likes the [New England] Patriots, they’ll keep referring to “Tom” and you’ll say “Tom who?” and they’re like “Tom Brady, dude! Come on!”

Tatiana - Thank goodness they lost. I am a Houston Texans fan and a Green Bay Packers fan, so I’m very glad they lost. Anyway, I didn’t know what I wanted my company to be, but I knew I wanted it to be an A&R management company that would help artists focus in on the vision they have, the goals they have, and figure out a way to make it happen, strategically. I met my lawyer, Stephanie Taylor, who I thought I was just meeting with, but by the end, she was like “Okay. You’re my client.” So that was nice. I was freaking out, because I had a lawyer. We’ve been together for three years now, since I graduated. Has it been three years?

N/I - Three years in May, I believe.

Tatiana - We’re getting there!

N/I - Well…. Getting where?

Tatiana - Of the forgetting how long I’ve been out of college phase [laughs]. It’s interesting, the business. Now, I don’t have any of the artists I thought I was going to have starting out, but that’s not for the worst, because I needed to learn that it’s okay to fail, and there’s no need to get really upset. Because I don’t know if you felt this coming out of Belmont, but some people get jobs, some people get cliques, and then they…. They don’t look down on you, but because you have a different job than them, you’re an oddball.

N/I - Well, I think Nashville might be a little more unique than most cities in that sense. And in a further subset, coming from Belmont especially, it can seem like people are involved in every aspect of the city, and if you’re not in there with them, you’re on the out. Which isn’t always true. But the “certain labels can’t hang with certain agencies” thing can be a little ridiculous.

Tatiana - Yes! And the cross pollination thing is weird. I learned from the older people I knew…. Well, not older, but more executive, wiser…..

N/I - More tenured.

Tatiana - Exactly. The clique thing is stupid. I’ve never been a clique-y person. I think you and I both are very social butterflies, we have our group of friends, but we also have friends outside of that group of friends.

N/I - Sure. You have people you’ve just known for a long time and have fostered a relationship with….

Tatiana - And they just know you. But I just started to get really self-conscious out of college, because I was waiting tables seeing all these people when they would come into the restaurant that were my age, but they had jobs at WME, CAA, and just feeling like “Wow. There’s a lot of separation here.” But what I didn’t realize was doing something else that was preparing me for where I am now, and where I’m going to be later.

N/I - Yes! That’s exactly it.

Tatiana - And it took a lot of learning the first two years that I wasn’t failing, I needed to fall flat on my ass every time I interviewed. I heard that I was “too A&R,” that I had “too much fire,” that sitting as an assistant would “make me lose.” I even had a marketing job once, and it just wasn’t for me. These were all lessons, and I wish I could tell myself then that I was learning, and that it was okay. Even if I could tell someone now, it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to not know what you want to do, because the unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves to be successful at a certain age will kill us. And then you forget why you came into the music industry. Like you said earlier, my company is going through changes, and I think it’s because we had this “moment.”

N/I - What was the “moment?”

Tatiana - It was when I was having my cancer benefit. There were also health issues that I was having, and I had to ask “Tatiana, are you having fun? Are you enjoying yourself?” It was the classic “Am I enjoying what I want to do?” scenario. Yes, I always wanted to do management, and yes I wanted to do A&R, but I already had my LLC, and I was paying taxes on that shit, I had to say “Come on!” And it suddenly just clicked. I stopped the bullshit. I have to start treating myself as the CEO that I want to be. Not as this girl that’s timid and thinks she started a company, and kind of doing those things, and is so concerned with what every fucking person in the city is thinking about me, especially, being a twenty four year old girl. Now, my gender and my age are not anywhere near holding me back in any sort of capacity, but in some people’s eyes, it does, and I hate that. So I’ve had to teach myself over the past couple of months by looking at myself and knowing that if my artist wants to succeed, she can’t have a scared woman working with her. And I’ve never been a scared person.

N/I - I’ve never known you to be a scared person, anyway.

Tatiana - Right. But in my head, I was. I was so nervous. So as you said, the growth in my company, it’s come from a moment where I realized that my health was at stake, my idea for what I wanted my company to look like was at stake, and who I was as a manager was at stake if I didn’t control what I should be. So my lawyer and I - I swear, she should be my shrink sometime - talked about what I wanted to zone in on, and it was my #Girlboss series, which I took from Sophia Omarosa, that had to be a thing. Because a lot of my friends who are women were getting put on these shitty bills. They weren’t making any money, and we have so many talented women in the city.

N/I - So many. So much so that you wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface naming them.

Tatiana - Of every genre.

N/I - There’s a wellspring of it. So many.

Tatiana - Exactly. During my last one, I had this rapper from Murfreesboro….

N/I - Is that Daisha?

Tatiana - Yes! She’s so good! I had her and Morgan Bosman, Morgan Hebert. It was a situation where I just couldn’t understand why people never booked them! So that is going to remain a thing, and we’re involving the organizations that are oriented toward women in Nashville, like the YWCA, Girls Inc., Play Like a Girl, Thistle Farms. So really zoning in on the people who are helping women, and bring arts into it. Also, my Calling All Warriors benefit. Just focusing on those things. I’m happy, because my mom is clear of all cancers, I’m clear of all cancers, and we’re in the clear. There’s no other moment but now than to seize it and say “to hell” with cancer. So if I can utilize the music industry as a platform, that’s great. And outside of that, just continue managing the artists on my roster. I have two right now, and I’m just really happy. I have EZA and Ethan Samuel Brown, and we’re going to take 2018 by storm.

N/I - Well hopefully the next few years as well.

Tatiana - That’s true. That’s the hope. But all of this wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t failed. What I’ve done has not been a failure by any means, but learning from the mistakes you make, and understanding that no matter what anyone says, how people talk down to you, you keep going.