Flaunt Premiere | Ari Tibi: Walk

by Paulette Ely

Ari Tibi has a real way of making you feel at home, but talking with her about her musical journey on her own grandmother’s beachfront balcony was a feeling as safe and serene as your softest childhood blanket. Like the Malibu waves crashing below us, Ari is an unrivaled force, and her debut release, Walk, speaks to her strength both as a spiritual soul and a supreme songstress. 

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

Ari wrote Walk 8 years ago and has changed up the lyrics to fit each new emotion and every band she’s fronted along the way. Today, Walk is a folky, fresh, electro-witchy tune that only intensifies the integrity of the queer liberation that was a muse for the song’s original creation. To say that Ari is going to go on to spark a fire inside millions with her musical abilities is an understatement, and Walk serves as a reminder that everything that has blockaded her journey to true expression thus far has simply been solved by walking right through it. 

Our interview together gives me chills to recall, so be sure to read it below in all it’s glow-y glory. It’s a pleasure and an honor to premiere Walk right here as we are catching this queen at the beginning of a beautiful journey to come.

Let’s start from the beginning. Can you take us back to where the song began?

My musical journey is a very long one. I grew up very musical and had several influences through my life from family-friends to actual family.

“Walk” was born in a period where I was carrying my ukulele everywhere and I felt the freedom to write songs everywhere I was going. One day, I was walking down Taraval & Sunset in San Francisco, and I started humming along about the nature of life and how contemplative it made me. I was 18 and I had just come out as queer. I was also in Gospel choir at the time, but the music in the Gospel choir was influencing me so much to where I was like, “ What are they singing about?” I felt like I needed to know, so I started going to church with this new group of friends. They got me a bible and I did my research and I went into it open minded. I wasn't raised with a religion at all- I come from a very hippie family, and I’ve always crafted my own spirituality, but in the church and it’s music specifically I found this incredible other that I had always known myself, but they were defining it. I was really connecting through music, and I was always singing. I particularly connected with one member, Melanie, and she’s a total badass. But… I also had this other group of friends. We did bible studies together, and one particular bible studies they brought up the verse that says that it is a sin to be homosexual. I kind of perked up, and I was like, “Y’all know I’m gay, right?” They were all like, “Oh yeah we know! We’re trying to help you out of it!” At the time I was like “I love God. I love this church. I love this choir. But, I will not change. I don’t want to change, and I see no problem with it! I feel the same love in every one of you as I feel in me. I think we are all equal. I don’t get it.” I truly questioned them, and they were so upset that they drove me home that night. I sat in the back and I cried, and I never cry.

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

At 18 you’re coming into yourself, and to be told that something so beautiful as love is the work of the devil made a terrible impression on me. I was heartbroken, so I didn’t leave the choir but I left that group of friends. I was sitting with Melanie at the bus stop and I was singing her this song, and we were just having a moment of connecting even though I left that other group of friends. The chorus I sang to her was lighter and just went “Oh lady please, walk in peace,” because whatever you are going though, just walk calmly. But Melanie was like, “what if you go like this…” and she was passionate! And big! She had injected soul into the lyrics.

I ended up putting that song into every band I’ve ever been in- It has 29 versions. I was in a band called Scary Girls with my beloved Sammi who is no longer with us, and after that I was in a band called The Royal Wedding, and then Deja Voodoo, and then a band called The Pull. “Walk” had a version in every single one. They were so vastly different, and I would change the lyrics to match whatever I was going through. The Walk that we have now has nothing to do with the past but everything to do with the current present, and everything that i have learned from what I went through this year, 2019. The chorus is exactly the same. The chords are exactly the same- A minor, G, F, E- anyone could play it. I’ve always adapted it to go with what I am going through at the moment. 

Was it the song writing that let you get through whatever was going on at the time, or was it performing the song itself that made you feel like you were getting it all out?

It was both. I think healing is very multifaceted, and songwriting is giving me one perspective. When I am alone and writing these songs, intricately taking my emotions and putting them to word makes me feel seen even though no one else is there. From there, sharing it with an audience and having them feel it, or even the energy birthed from a scary time or whatever the time was combined with this shared energy is a whole different perspective, and you release it entirely. 

Do you think your ability to articulate your feelings in your songwriting helped you with your coming out?

I definitely think so. But, there was no confusion when I realized that I was queer. Songwriting helped me unpack my feelings for sure, but it was never unpacking an, “Oh no think I like women,” it was always, “Oh! I really like women!” Then it was unpacking the, “Oh, they don’t think that’s okay? They laughed at me walking down the street holding my girlfriend’s hand. They just told me that the devil was inside my love?” That doesn’t make any sense- that’s a paradox! I had to unpack that, and I would definitely do that in poetry, in writing and on stage. That kind of stuff, you can put words to it, but there is no amount of vocabulary that can release anger. Maybe, for some people, but for me it is liquefying it on stage in sweat

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

Is it at all scary to now be doing this on your own when you always had bands behind you and by your side?

Good question. I always get nerves when I go on stage no matter who I’m with, because I care about it. I think it would more be a little tinge of nostalgia, though. Every time I’m on stage, I feel every person that I’ve ever played with. I always feel the presence of them. There was this guy, Austin, who played with me at The Pull, and he would bring my songs to life. He would be like, “Oh, you’re feeling this way about it. Okay, what about this chord progression for it?” I consider that a very intimate experience, so anytime I’m onstage I have those people in every choice that I make. It’s not that it’s scary to be alone, I feel very fortunate regardless. Victor Wooten, an amazing bass player says, “Every gig that you’ve ever played leads up to the one you’re playing right now,” and that’s how I feel about the people.

You said that each version of “Walk” is from a different part of your life, and when you would perform it it would be for whoever was listening and connecting. Is this version of Walk the most yourself and the most for you?

Thank god, yes. I feel like this song has gone through so many different versions. Let’s say “Walk” was a blank canvas, totally white. Every band I was in splattered some paint on it. I woke up with this song at the beginning of this year splattered in paint and I took it to my producer like, “Hey I got this painting!” And he’s like, “Great! Let’s tear it down and try it again.” His name is Drew, and he saw how much I was going through emotionally that he just put the guitar and chord progression on loop and said, “Just sing.” I sang it and he said, “Okay, scrap it and do it again.” The second time I did it, it flowed out of me- it just felt like I was channeling something. So, I think it kind of started a new and completely fresh version.

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

I think “Walk” has the power to make others feel powerful. Are there artists that you listen to that make you feel powerful as well and have led you to find this voice?

Thank you, first of all. It would be incredible to have anyone feel the way that I feel with this song. It’s been a source of strength for me. I would feel low and just put it on. But, for artists that make me feel powerful now… classic songwriters from the 60’s, Lizzo, Brandi Carlile, Luci- my band, my brother- he does experimental Avant Garde music. He takes tracks and tears them apart and makes them beautiful while recomposing the song. I’ll listen to them and get lost in the destruction and shimmering qualities of them. I visualize this junkyard and sun shining on it when I listen.

What do you visualize when you hear Walk?

This vision was not present until this year. Walk was always blue and purple to me, like a light blue and lavender. Woo! Queer purple! But, when I wrote it this year, I was so emotionally foggy that I visualized this person walking. They start in a room, and they see this dark colored door that they really want to open, but their heart is pounding out of their chest and they can’t even get through it. They finally get the strength to open the door, and it’s locked. They break it down, and on the other side there is chaos- a battle with bullets flying and smoke everywhere. The first verse is them getting through the door. The second verse is them getting through the chaos. The third verse is the realization that you have 3 choices when you’re in a battle: to cower away from it, to fight back, or to peacefully rise above it and get on top of the smoke and come to higher place within yourself with strength and vulnerability and confidence. I visualize this person floating above a very messy and chaotic place. They’re definitely cross-legged, they’re definitely meditating, and they are peaceful and fine. 

When did you find that place in yourself?

The second that I decided that I wanted to fight for what I love. At the beginning of this year, I felt like I was living two different lives, and one of them was not my own. I was just like, “Oh. I’ve got to fight for the life that I want to create.” That desire in me to be tenacious and to not beat around the bush or wait for anything- It really pushed me, and it definitely stirred up chaos. All of the things that stirred up the pot at the beginning of this year was because I wanted to fight, and at the end of the fight I found the strength and peace of where I wanted to be. Now I can peacefully sit and know that I feel my best and I am truthfully me. 

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

Is there anything you want to leave people with?

Walk in peace. I think anyone who is on a musical journey needs to know you can go through so many styles. This may be seen as the chaos, but I can come back to exactly who I am which is me and a guitar or a piano. I think that roundedness is really exciting because I have finally embraced it and I am who I am at the core. That folky girl, she is going to be here for the rest of my life, but she’s going to be glittered with 808’s, an organ, a choir, and synths. At the core of who you are, that’s what you get to take with you. Its a privilege to find out exactly who you are. 


Ari Tibi Walk