Image by Sophie Hur
Philadelphia R&B songstress Orion Sun is something of a romantic. Her lyrics are soft-spoken and heartbreakingly nostalgic—her music occasionally suggests someone who is primed for the return of happier times, but who also might be apprehensive because of their impermanence.
Lo-fi, DIY beats aestheticize this feeling. Her first project, Voice Memos, was thoughtfully and intimately produced in her bedroom on a hundred-dollar mic and Apple’s pre-installed recording software. It’s not a polished pop album screaming, “I want you back”—it’s a journal entry that letters, in a delicate hand, “I made this for you.”
“I feel like I try to keep to myself, because I do wear my heart on my sleeve,” Orion (whose real name is Tiffany Majette) confesses to BlackBook. “The friends I do have know that I’m very sensitive; but when it comes to music, I’ll tell music things that I couldn’t even tell my closest friends, let alone myself—until after I’m done writing. Music is the most vulnerable place for me. When I go out into public, there are walls up.”
She has a new album, Hold Space For Me, which will be released March 27 via New York indie label Mom + Pop Music. Intriguingly, her recent video for “Coffee For Dinner” follows a stranded astronaut as she urgently searches through a post-apocalyptic, urban landscape. It’s not immediately apparent what she’s looking for…but what is clear is that she can’t seem to find it.
The video, it turns out, takes inspiration from The Twilight Zone. “It’s one of those things that I used to watch every New Year’s with my mom,” she recalls. “I wanted to do an homage to the pilot episode, which is called ‘Where Is Everybody?’”
After re-watching it in her early 20s, she felt a distinct connection with what the main character himself is seeking to find.
“In the episode,” she says, “he’s practicing for the isolation he’s going to face when he goes to space. And I feel like a large portion of the last five years was preparation for the isolation I would feel from my peers, my family, and in society. I went through a rough patch in my life where I didn’t have someone who knew what I was going through.”
Indeed, while her peers were out doing what 21-year-olds do for fun, she was working two jobs. But it turns out the social isolation took her to where she needed to go, artistically.
She explains, “I wanted to paint a picture of me kind of losing it for a minute and just feeling like, ‘Where am I? What’s happening? Why am I feeling so alone?’ But then breaking through and coming out on the other side and realizing that everything had to happen to lead you to where you are. Your destiny, really.”
It seems as though Orion is always looking behind herself, even as she marches steadily forward. “I fall heavy into nostalgia in my darkest times,” she says. “My family and I used to be really close, and we’re working on it now, and it feels really good. But for the past five to six years, I didn’t really talk to them. I just helped out financially. We were not as close as we were. And so, during that time, it felt really good, but also really bad, to reminisce on childhood days. I hold nostalgia close to me. I’m definitely that kind of person that keeps my concert tickets. I’m just so scared of forgetting.”
Her self-produced, photo-collaged music video for her single, “Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me),” captures this sentiment as it pertains to matters of the heart. The opening lyrics, “Swear you came down like a comet / You be all in my dreams like I’m f*ckin’ haunted / But it’s beautiful,” evoke a pleasurably tortured love—for contrasting the feeling of being swept up by romance in the present tense is the haunting sense that it might just leave one day. Perhaps it’s a quiet admission about the fleetingness of happy moments; the present is always at risk of fading into nostalgia; but just the same, for Orion, the future offers new possibilities.
Five, ten years down the line, she sees herself as a collaborator and benefactor: “I’m a little shy—but hopefully as time moves on and I get more comfortable, I could produce for other people, song-write for other people. I definitely want to start some sort of grant here in Philly, just to support artists, because I was struggling a lot, and I’m really glad that things are moving how they are. I want to give back in that way…I just want to make a lot of stuff before I go.”
For now, she’ll be heading out on a 12 date North American tour to promote the record, including a stop at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere on April 23, then wrapping up at the Moroccan Lounge in LA on May 13. She’s also trying her best to maintain a reasonably philosophical viewpoint on it all.
“When you lose everything,” Orion concludes, “it just changes your perspective. You start to realize material things, honestly don’t matter. But I won’t be the type of person to say that money doesn’t. Because money helps out a lot, unfortunately.”