October 8, 2021
TEE-M, an unsigned rock musician from Karachi, Pakistan, was the subject of an interview I conducted with him.
For the fifth consecutive year, TEE-M has been named one of Music Connection Magazine’s 100 Hottest Unsigned Artists. On WPMD’s “TEE-UNsigned M’s Music Show,” he co-hosts with Mike Stark and can be heard worldwide.
TEE-M has toured for Starbucks and is featured alongside Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Wayne Kramer (MC5), Tom Morello, Ice T, Steve Earle, and others in The Ultimate Song’s short film. Farm Aid and SXSW have both screened the film.
TEE-M recently completed his debut album, “EARTHIOTIC…songs from a one-room palace,” which premiered on WPMD.org’s “Rock 50” internet radio show. The CD has gotten rave reviews.
On YouTube, you can watch a current music video for one of EARTHIOTIC’s tracks, “Disappeared.” A video for another song, “Aao Aao Aao,” is also available.
TEE-M, I appreciate your time
I understand it’s an abbreviation of your name, but why did you chose “TEE-M” over, say, “Artist Formerly Known As…?”
Or simply “T”?
TEE-M: When I first came to the United States from Pakistan, I thought to myself, “How can I make things simple for everyone in terms of my name?” So I started using my initials, TM (Tariq Mirza), because it’s easy to remember. Still, when I began performing in America, I decided to make it more like a stage name, so I added two ee’s to the T, resulting in TEE-M. And now that I think about it, it perfectly fits my EARTHIOTIC…aspirations. TEE-M could be from any part of the world. Apart from Prince, “Artist Formerly Known As” didn’t exist until TEE-M was coined. (laughter)
Please don’t misunderstand me when I say that when I first heard about a Pakistani rock artist named “TEE-M,” I was blown away. I was scared you’d have a heavy accent, but you don’t have one in your music at all. In your English-speaking music, did you make an effort to lose your accent?
TEE-M: I left the thick accent in the speech because singing was a natural process for me, and I didn’t have to work hard to lose it. I also write and perform Urdu (a language spoken in Pakistan and India) songs. In reality, “Aao Aao Aao” (Suji Ka Halwa), one of my songs from the album EARTHIOTIC, is half in Urdu and half in English. It’s generating a lot of buzz throughout the world, and it’s a big YouTube hit.
What sources do you use to get your ideas?
TEE-M: I get my inspiration from everyday things like people, food, and life in general. For example, when “Spunk” was born, I was at a wedding in Los Angeles. There was a female out there with a lot of energy and a cosmopolitan vibe. The rest is songwriting technique and craft.
I was waking up in the middle of the night with a numbing sensation on my fingertips for two or three days, which gave me the concept of “Time To Wake Up.”
In this particular parking lot near where I used to work, I used to stroll by this car with newspaper covering the windows. I didn’t see the owner again until about two or three months later when the front door was cracked open, and a woman sat on a chair outside. This was in one of Los Angeles’ most affluent districts, so it just blew my head. That is how the song “She Lives In A Car” came to be.
Is it more fulfilling to compose songs or to sing them?
TEE-M: They’re both rewarding in their way. Even though I prefer to perform overwrite, once an inspired song is completed, the greatest thrill is to record it, perform it live, and have it acknowledged. Once the fruit has been plucked, one must savor every bite.
A school of thinking holds that one should write every day. I have songwriting in higher regard than that. I wait for inspiration to strike, which is why I’m probably the world’s slowest songwriter!
Why haven’t you signed yet, or are you just waiting for the ideal opportunity, as I’m sure some major labels would jump at the chance to sign you?
TEE-M: I appreciate it…
You’d think so, wouldn’t you?
With an album like EARTHIOTIC…songs from a one-room palace, I reasoned, why would any major label have an issue signing TEE-M? I should have already had a worldwide multi-platinum selling album, be neck-deep in debt, and be out of the Betty Ford Center, rehabilitating, at this point in my career. But, I suppose, all of that is still to come. (laughter)
I’m enjoying this natural progression of my music career and where it’s going. Let the chips fall where they may; I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and that’s what matters to me.…