Nearly 29 years since her #1 breakthrough hit “I Think We’re Alone Now” launched Tiffany to teen stardom and made her an iconic part of the musical 80s, the singer is still embracing the decade her songs helped define. In 2011, she teamed up with fellow pop star Debbie Gibson for a summer concert tour called “Journey Through The 80s,” and among her many annual tour dates are performances she does with her band, Sunset Boulevard, in a show called “The 80s Experience with Tiffany.” Fans wondering what she’s been up to since her heyday will be delighted to know that the 44-year-old Nashville-based singer/songwriter is still as active as ever, joining forces with the cutting-edge entertainment platform Pledge Music to release her new album, A Million Miles.
Famously launched via a publicized shopping mall tour in 1987, Tiffany Darwish—a former Star Search contestant who placed second the year she competed—set a record for being the youngest female artist to top the Billboard 200 with her quadruple platinum, self-titled debut album. In addition to “I Think We’re Alone Now,” she hit #1 with the ballad “Could’ve Been” and reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the gender-switched Beatles cover “I Saw Him Standing There.” Her platinum follow-up album, Hold an Old Friend’s Hand, included the Top 10 single “All This Time.”
Though her adult years have found her largely focused on her family and raising her son Elijah, she’s continued to record and release notable projects. Billboard ranked her 2000 set The Color of Silence among its “Top Ten Best Albums of the Year,” and her 2011 EP Rose Tattoo was a critically-acclaimed return to her childhood country roots and a reflection of life in the Southern California native’s adopted hometown of Nashville. She has also a visible presence in recent years as an actress in several SyFy Channel movies and on numerous reality TV shows over the years: ABC’s Celebrity Wife Swap, VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club and Food Network Challenge.
While her early albums, the first two produced by George Tobin, featured contributions from top pop songwriters, Tiffany has blossomed into an insightful songwriter herself over the years, contributing co-writes to her last four recordings, including Dust Off and Dance (2005) and Just Me (2007). A Million Miles includes many deeply personal expressions of love and grief and includes one tune (“Fall Again”) about the painful cycle of addiction. It features co-writes by Tiffany with an eclectic group of veteran tunesmiths, including Ellen Shipley, Kirsti Manna, Julie Forrester, Steven McClintock (who co-wrote “All This Time”) and Canadian blues/rock artist Trevor Finlay. The project also marks Tiffany’s official debut as a co-producer, working alongside producer Stephen Leiweke (Chris Tomlin, Michael W. Smith, Ingrid Michaelson) to have a hands on role in realizing her goal of creating an “epic” record.
“I’m currently in a place where I feel fortunate to have an amazing family, with Elijah now in his 20s and 13 years married to my husband Ben,” Tiffany says. “That’s where my strength comes from, my family, good friends and my loyal fans. Counting those blessings has led me to a place where I could create A Million Miles. While celebrating my life, writing, producing and recording it has been part of a healing process because the last five years of my life, I’ve lost some wonderful people, including my dad to cancer and my cousin, who was more like a lifelong sister, best friend and mentor to me, to a disease related to alcoholism. Other friends have moved away. The album is truly an evaluation of my life, and I wanted a big sound with a lot of musicianship, guitar parts, vocal parts, strings and cello. I had always contributed ideas to my earlier producers, but I didn’t feel comfortable taking the title and completely filling the role till now.”
Both the title track, a co-write with Shipley, and “Fall Again” were inspired by her late cousin, who, Tiffany says, helped her stay stable and grounded while being bold about career opportunities during the time leading up to her stardom and negotiating the emotional changes after. “A Million Miles” describes how Tiffany sees her life now, with her cousin gone physically while still being an important part of her thoughts and memories. “This is easily one of the most personal, intimate songs I’ve ever recorded,” Tiffany says. “I had an appointment scheduled with Ellen in L.A., and as with a lot of those sessions, I bring in melodies, lyrics and titles that I’ve dictated into my phone.
“I drive to most of my gigs and meetings, and I remember being on the road to L.A. with the title ringing in my mind after my husband made the casual comment that it seemed like we had driven that far,” she adds. “The title spurred a lot of reflection, of all the things I had done in my life and all the goals I had yet to accomplish. Then the thoughts turned sad when I realized that the person who was always there for me is gone. I started singing the chorus to some degree and the melody of the first verse, and knew I wanted to develop it with Ellen. When I told her the concept, she totally got it and she went to the keyboard and helped me flesh it out. I brought the song back to Nashville and put strings and cello on it.
“The first time I listened after it was mastered, I sat in my car listening, crying hysterically. It was so beautiful and meaningful to me, and I had a good feeling it would touch others the same way. A lot of the songs here evolved from these kinds of organic experiences and bringing an open mind into the collaborative sessions, which is far different from the way I worked with George (Tobin) in the ’80s.”
The singer is also excited to be involved with Pledge Music, which gives artists the tools, services and support they need to create music, videos, merchandise, exclusive events and personalized fan experiences that, until now, have never been available in one place. The platform sought her out just as she was putting plans together to record as an independent artist, and she was excited about the opportunity to keep her fans of multiple generations involved from beginning to end—including behind the scenes content (including glimpses of her writing and recording sessions), special merchandise premiums and exclusive updates. She was even able to invite two lucky fans into the studio to observe the creation of a track from a raw state to fully produced track.
Very involved in her local Nashville community, Tiffany is an official spokesperson for the American Heart Association, producing charity concerts the Humane Society (she and Ben have eight rescue dogs) and regularly mentors young singers and artists, providing aspiring musicians guidance and advice about how to break into and navigate the music industry she’s been a part of for over three decades.
“I tell everyone I advise the same thing: just keep doing it, because the more you put yourself out there, whether it’s in church, clubs, karaoke bars or backyard barbecues, the more people will recognize your talent and turn those into greater opportunities,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. If you’re a country singer showing up on rock night, sing rock and roll and vice versa. Learn what works best for you and your voice and how to turn a crowd around. The more confidence you have before you start recording, the better prepared you’ll be. I started singing in public in front of grocery stores when I was nine, and not everybody was happy to hear me, but I loved it and it gave me confidence. Some nights you’ll connect deeply with your audience and other times, you’ll have off nights. But they’re all valuable in helping you find your true voice as an artist. The more you see all these different experiences leading you to a good place, the more you’ll keep reaching towards that next level in your life and career.”