Born in Toronto to Trinidadian parents, Tanika Charles was constantly surrounded by music while growing up. She and her brothers would constantly jam out to her father’s jazz records, and later her eldest brother would be the first to coach her in singing and recording. Now one of the best-kept secrets in soul music, her sophomore album, The Gumption, drops May 10. With themes of vindication, uncertain love, forbidden fruit and the state of the world today, the album reflects “not being afraid to address situations that aren’t comfortable for me,” says Tanika. “I’m comfortable in my skin now in a way I never was before.”

We chatted with her this week.

SDTC: When and where do you feel most content?

TC: In bed, asleep. Any time. I love sleeping.

Who/what has had the greatest influence on your music career?

My father.

What was happening in your life that informed your latest album?

I was touring quite a bit in the last year and a half—exciting new cities/countries—interacting with people and learning different languages, and it was these interactions and experiences that inspired my album. Human interaction.

What song always makes you get up and move?

“Good Look For You” by Gavin Turek.

What dish always satisfies you?

Mango! All day, every day. Pelau w/ avocado, a traditional Trinidadian rice dish with chicken or beef, pigeon peas and spices.

What film/show has recently wowed you?

Sabrina the Teenage Witch! It’s so dark…

What’s on your current reading list?

Who Says You Can’t? You Do by Daniel Chidiac
The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi

What Toronto spaces do you truly love?

I love being outdoors (especially in the summer), and Toronto is riddled with amazing parks and spaces where you can relax with a blanket and a good book or go for a nature hike. Guildwood Park, close to the Scarborough Bluffs, has a collection of relics from demolished buildings in downtown Toronto from the 1950s. It’s pretty great.

What are you dying to see?

I’ve been to Halifax a handful of times and I’ve yet to see the Africville Museum.

Your go-to coping mechanism?

Spa day at home after getting my hair and nails done!

What five things would you want if you were deserted on an island?

Unlimited mango, a comfortable bed and pillows, water, music, and another person?

What’s a childhood memory that always brings a smile to your face?

Oh man, this is going to sound so corny, but our family trip to Disneyland always makes me smile. My dad (or maybe it was my older brother) won these massive stuffed Minnie and Mickey Mouse plush toys. I’m talking larger than my little brother and me…

What life philosophy is currently helping to guide your journey?

Faith and the power of positive thinking. Meditation, daily.

One skill you’d love to improve this year?

The art of patience.

What’s a piece of career advice that has served you well?

Someone once told me to slow down. I’d never been more motivated to succeed.

What outfit makes you feel the most you?

If it isn’t sweats and a T-shirt, it’s my wardrobe on stage. I work with an incredible designer. Her clothing is stunning, comfortable and, damn, I don’t need to dry-clean! I can throw in the wash! Bless.

What book have you held onto since you were small?

I have every single Archie book I’ve ever collected collecting dust at my parents house. Every. Single. One. Hundreds.

What’s a subject that is currently holding your attention?

Ha! Understanding the music business and how to run a business.

When you compare yourself now to where you were at ten years ago, what’s a major change you can identify?

I struggle with body issues, confidence and serious insecurities when it comes to singing and even writing music. While I’m still growing, some days are definitely better than others. I’m managing the consuming negative thoughts with a more loving and patient approach, asking myself more questions, sitting in my feelings, trying to understand where they stem from, and moving from there.

Goal(s) for 2019?

Definitely more touring, meeting new people, achieving personal goals, continuing to create music and living my best life.