Orion Sun helps me simmer down. The South Jersey-raised and Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist makes flowing and airy music meant to soothe the ear and engage the mind. Somewhere in the middle of folk, R&B, hip-hop essence, and jazz arrangement, Orion Sun, 23, shines bright. Debuting March 27 with Hold Space For Me, Orion Sun, born, Tiffany Majette, delivers silky and affecting vocals over pattering productions (“Grim Reaper”), with incredibly touching writing (“Trying”) and romantic sentiments (“Holy Water”) all at once.
“Ah, I love love, a lot,” Orion Sun tells me over the phone. “My inspirations like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, even Nina Simone, when they were singing romantic songs, it just spoke to me. It made me want to believe I can create any world I want for myself and that I want the love they sang about.”
Floating through Orion Sun’s world, we revel in the ease of her music. Not only do her productions bring a great lightness of soul, but they also inspire us to consider the notion of space itself. Who do we hold space for, and are they worth it? Orion Sun’s music slips ever so in the flits of space between reality and dreams, with its brisk energy as on “El Camino.” Hold Space For Me has an unprecedented weight, how it feels necessary and rightfully consumed with itself, but also, the album soars into the stars and makes its home amongst sparkle and imagination.
“Over time, I’ve learned a mantra I tell myself all the time: You could stay here, but you can’t stay here forever,” Orion Sun tells me when I ask her how she manages to tap into dark feelings without getting trapped in her own emotions. “When I am blessed enough to get how I’m feeling out in a way that sounds good to me, it makes it easy just to let it go. Tapping into that darkness is addicting, in a way, because I know once it’s out, it’s out. I feel lighter, and I feel like I can move on.”
Moving on, in the case of Hold Space For Me, sounds glorious and everlasting, a true triumph by one of the brightest upcoming voices. Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: I wanted to start by asking about Philadelphia, and how being based here has influenced your sound.
Orion Sun: I was born in Philly and raised in South Jersey, and it’s pretty much the opposite of city life. But it’s something I’ve always dreamed about: Living in the city, and doing what I want to do. With that already in my mind, and Philly being so close, I just knew this was the city I wanted to go to. Everybody wants to go to New York, but Philly has always been special to me. I found such a beautiful sense of community here.
I read music was not your first love, but being an astronaut. When did you shift from space to the studio?
My mom will say this: I wanted to be everything. An astronaut was what I wanted to be for the longest, until seventh or eighth grade. I was exposed to a video of a spaceship blowing up before it [got] to the sky. I was like, “Okay! Time to switch up professions.” I’m gonna be a fashion designer, but it was tedious, and it’s hard for me to do something when I’m not passionate about it. That was my struggle in school, “I don’t wanna do this, because it’s not moving me.” Throughout all that, I have loved music so much. It was such a comfort for me. In high school, my music teacher took me under his wing and was like, “Yo, you got a gift.” When he passed away, that’s when I felt like I needed to continue this. If anything, for him.
I’m taken by the title of the debut album, Hold Space For Me. Could you speak to that choice of title?
Like everyone in this world, I’ve been through a lot… No shade to my mom or anything, I love her so much, but we weren’t allowed to express ourselves too emotionally. I think it made her uncomfortable. A lot of the time, I just had to put on this face when I was around her and emotionally disconnect from myself to survive. I found myself attracting the same kind of friendships in that way. I rarely was able to talk to my friends in a serious and in-depth way. I got into a relationship that I’m still in today, and it opened my eyes to what it truly is like to hold space for someone and have someone hold space for you. And for you to express how you’re feeling, without feeling like a burden.
Beneath all the gorgeous and soothing productions on this album, you pour out your soul. As on “Trying,” you cover some dark topics. How do you tap into darkness without getting trapped there?
I find it easy—almost too easy—for me to tap into these dark places because it is something I think about often. It’s something that drove me to art in the first place. Before I was thinking about music, I always was writing and just trying to express how I was feeling, because [my feelings] were kind of negative and dark.
Over time, I’ve learned a mantra I tell myself all the time: You could stay here, but you can’t stay here forever. When I am blessed enough to get how I’m feeling out in a way that sounds good to me, it makes it easy just to let it go. Tapping into that darkness is addicting, in a way, because I know once it’s out, it’s out. I feel lighter, and I feel like I can move on.
There’s lightness as well. “Holy Water” is so romantic and swirling. What does writing about love bring out of you?
Ah, I love love, a lot. I was a pretty sheltered kid, so movies [and TV] were everything to me. My favorite kind of movies were those gut-wrenching [films]… I still remember the first time I saw The Notebook… “I’m crying, why!?” Then, my inspirations like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, even Nina Simone, when they were singing romantic songs, it just spoke to me. It made me want to believe I can create any world I want for myself, and that I want the love they sang about. I felt like that love was real, somewhere. I just love writing about different aspects of my world, and love is one that has been there for me.
Then there’s the standout, “El Camino,” where you sound like you’re having such a fun time with your lilting delivery. When writing and producing and getting more and more serious about your craft, how do you ensure you’re having fun with it, too?
I look at my craft and my art as a gift and a blessing because I don’t do anything else. The fact that I can wake up every day, come in my studio, and just let loose… I am so happy this is my option. After coming from working two jobs, jobs that I hated, and I didn’t go to college, so it wasn’t like I could get a job that I would find fulfilling... That reminder, I think about every day. It’s hard in its own way, but when you find your passion, it’s not really work. It’s that kind of energy.
Also, I like to step outside of my comfort zone as much as possible. I don’t like what comes from it a lot of the times, but “El Camino” was such a fun, stream-of-consciousness. I don’t want this album to be too intense. I think that song represents my personality. I’m able to be intense, but I’m also funny and lighthearted a lot of times.
Who do you hope holds space for you once this album drops?
Myself. Only because it’s an uphill battle, but every day I’m getting stronger. Loving myself, practicing self-care when I can, even when I don’t want to, just learning to push past those feelings and take a walk, take a shower, and do something that makes you happy. I make a lot of music, but the music I decide to put out there tends not to be mine anymore, solely. I have to remind myself to keep pushing forward and remember that people are not going to understand fully. But once it finally comes out, I’m gonna be doing the best I can to ensure I’m healthy, happy, and holding space for those times I do get a little caught up.