"My dad would always yell, 'Tebby's home!' because I was always singing everywhere," Bahamian-bred singer-songwriter Tebby Burrows recalls from her childhood.
The now-20-something, known simply as "Tebby," adds that even as an adult she "can't go very long without singing throughout the day."
She says her cousin recently reminded her: "When you were 5, you were practicing your wave and saying, 'I'm either going to be a singer or a dermatologist.'" And if it's not clear enough that Tebby was destined to make music, she comes from a churchgoing musical family. Growing up in the Bahamas, her mother, ten aunts, and uncle all sang in the choir at their nondenominational church.
Tebby says she also loved putting on plays when she was young, but it was when she first picked up a guitar at age 11 and learned to play that things came together for her musically. "I wrote poetry a lot when I was little, and I started turning that into songs," she says. "Writing is how I express myself."
Though Tebby now lives in Miami, she has bounced from place to place. She was born in the Magic City but raised in the Bahamas. She went to boarding school in North Carolina in 11th grade. After attending Palm Beach Atlantic University, she moved to New York to work in marketing by day and continued singing at night. She has put in her time at odd jobs, including landscaping ("I can change a sprinkler," she laughs) and even at Dairy Queen. Besides hard work, yoga and meditation are also a big part of her life. "It's something that keeps me grounded," she says.
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A couple of years ago, she returned to the islands to concentrate on her music career full time. She was recording and performing frequently when a friend introduced her to the Grammy-winning Miami producers Cool & Dre, who have worked with Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, and Fat Joe. They liked what she was writing and wanted to work with her. That's how her new single, “Feel Alright,” was born.
The upbeat song mixes R&B and electronic sounds. Its message inspires faith in the future, and its beat gets feet dancing. The first line is a nod to Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car," but instead of the car never starting and heading anywhere, Tebby's voice soars over a bouncing, Diplo-influenced beat that parts for the strum of her guitar. It's an instant club classic.
When writing the song, she says, "I was holed up in my friend's apartment, and I was just listening to all of the tracks [sent by Cool & Dre], and I heard this and thought, This is really cool. I started toying with some words. The tracks made me feel like it brought in the emotion that I was having at the time, which was So much is uncertain. I'm going down this nontraditional path with music. Who knows how it's going to turn out? But here I am, jumping, taking a leap of faith... Everything in life is a little bit uncertain, but I had that moment where, That's OK. I know and I believe that things will work out for you in the end the way it's supposed to. I think everyone can relate to that. It's a message for me and you. I felt like I was soothing myself and everybody else."
With the help of her producers, Tebby has taken her acoustic sets to the next level. "I'm still crafting my sound," she admits. She only really considered two years ago that "there are producers who are making these beats that are more than just piano and guitar; tracks that are written on guitar can go a million different ways," she says. "It's really been a discovery for me, like, Let's see how this sounds with an R&B vibe or a pop vibe." But her roots in stripped-down simplicity win out. "At the end of the day, for me, guitar and chords are what I love — things that are clean and clear."
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Now that Miami is her home base, she's building her career. She has performed at Irie Weekend, Miami Art Week events such as I Heart Fashion, and gigs at Blue Martini and Crazy Uncle Mike's in Boca. She's set to sing "Feel Alright" on WTVJ's 6 in the Mix Thursday, November 8.
Of her new home in South Florida, she says, "I feel like Miami is the perfect medium between the Bahamas and New York." It's not too slow, it's youthful and up-and-coming, but "there's more breathing room from the city. And it's not too cold."
Tebby plans to write and collaborate on much more music. Expect a string of new singles from this young talent, including an upcoming track with Def Jam recording artist Jeremih.
Tebby. 11:30 a.m. Thursday, November 8, on WTVJ-TV's 6 in the Mix.