Tatum Lynn has the kind of radiant presence that lights up any moment. With her phenomenal voice and powerful range, the 19-year-old pop artist instills her songs with an infectiously hopeful energy, even when she’s exploring heavy emotional terrain.
On her full-length debut With Me, Tatum shares everything from feel-good dance tracks to life-affirming anthems to soul-stirring ballads, revealing the rare balance of thoughtful sensitivity and carefree spirit at the heart of her music. And in a particularly meaningful turn for the Arizona-based singer/songwriter, the album touches on such issues as the rising rates of suicide among teenagers.
“From eighth grade to my senior year, we lost eight people to suicide at my school,” says Tatum, who headed up a hugely successful effort to increase suicide-prevention awareness in her school district. “The song ‘With Me’ and my whole album are dedicated to the people I’ve lost, and to those who are suffering now—whether it’s from depression, or anything else they might be struggling with. Whatever they’re going through, I want them to know they don’t have to go through it alone. If my music is able to touch even just one life, it makes this all worth it.”
On the title track to With Me, that sense of solidarity is made all the more moving by Tatum’s captivating vocal performance. Working with A-list producer/songwriters like Jon Levine (Dua Lipa, Alessia Cara), Lauren Christy (Rihanna, Bebe Rexha), John Fields (Demi Lovato, Jonas Brothers, P!nk), Andrew Wells (Meghan Trainor), and Stephan Moccio (Miley Cyrus, The Weeknd, Avril Lavigne), Tatum brought that same intensity to all of the album, her voice shifting from breezy to soulful with undeniable grace. The result is an emotionally charged but brightly textured brand of pop music, equally built on bubbly melodies and deeply heartfelt lyrics.
All throughout With Me, Tatum taps into her gift for transforming heartache into something irresistibly uplifting. On lead single “Later Baby, XO,” for instance, she delivers a sing-along-worthy track about reclaiming your joy after a bad breakup. “Everyone needs a song for when you’re just getting over a relationship—something to blast in the car with your girlfriends, and feel good about the fact that you’re moving on with your life and doing what’s best for you,” Tatum notes.
Another poignant message of empowerment, the soaring piano ballad “I’m the Dancer Now” reflects on finding strength in self-celebration. “That song came from thinking about how, at one point in my life, I cared way too much about what other people thought of me,” says Tatum. “I think it’s something a lot of people go through, especially on social media, where you get so caught up in worrying that you’re not pretty enough or skinny enough. The song is saying is to let go of all that, and to dance for yourself instead of dancing for anybody else.”
Elsewhere on With Me, Tatum delves into the complexity of romantic relationships: the R&B-tinged “If It’s Love” gently encourages speaking up for your own needs, while the beat-heavy and hypnotic “Never” brilliantly captures the frenzy of infatuation. And on “This Is The Life,” the album offers up a dance-ready epic fueled by relentlessly pounding rhythms courtesy of longtime Prince drummer Michael Bland. “The idea behind that song is that we have to make the most of our time,” says Tatum. “We’re here right now in this life, and we have to live it to the absolute fullest.”
For Tatum, the tremendous vocal command showcased on With Me comes from a lifetime of devoted practice. Growing up in Tempe, she got her start singing with her mother and sisters in church, and later joined the school choir. In high school she began posting her choir videos on YouTube, alongside her flawlessly executed covers of songs by first-class vocalists like Adele and Whitney Houston. During her sophomore year of high school, Tatum brought her talents to a much wider audience after being asked to sing the national anthem at an Arizona Cardinals game. “That was a very eye-opening experience for me,” she says. “Getting to sing in front of 64,000 people made me realize that people believed in me and wanted to hear my voice, and in that moment I decided to really pursue making music.”
As she honed her vocal skills and started experimenting with songwriting, Tatum also threw herself into making positive change her community. At just 15-years-old, she founded Music As Therapy: a nonprofit dedicated to providing music therapy and musical instruments to kids in special-education classrooms throughout Arizona. “I saw how music changed the life of one of my best friends, and I wanted to find a way to do that for other people,” she says. “I think everyone should have the opportunity to have their lives improved by music, especially kids with special needs.”
With Music As Therapy still flourishing, Tatum became a passionate advocate for suicide prevention as well—a turn of events set in motion not long after the death of a family friend. “I’d already lost friends to suicide before that, so finally I just said: ‘We have to do something to stop these kids from taking their lives, and give them some kind of hope,’” she recalls. Along with starting a school club focused on suicide prevention (the 300-member-deep Aztec Strong), Tatum teamed up with a group called Teen Lifeline, and spearheaded an effort to have its suicide-hotline number printed on the back of every student ID in her district. But even though her work soon had a profound impact, Tatum faced more than her share of resistance at first. “The principal and staff members had a really hard time with the idea of talking about suicide in school,” says Tatum, who eventually took the issue to the superintendent. “I got shut down a lot and had a lot of doors slammed in my face—but in the end there was always another door that opened, because I had to find a way to make it open.”
While continuing her work with Music As Therapy and Aztec Strong, Tatum focused her force-of-nature energy on moving forward with her music, soon landing a management deal and setting to work on With Me in early 2018. Looking back on the album-making process, she names the recording of the title track as her most treasured moment. “It was definitely the hardest song to get down, especially the last chorus,” says Tatum. “I just lost myself in the music, and poured all my heart into every line.”
As she gears up for the release of With Me, Tatum hopes that emotional outpouring might help others to work through their own troubles, no matter how great or small. “I’d love for the album to leave people with the feeling that they have to keep on fighting,” says Tatum. “I want them to fight for the light, and to help other people receive that light too. Because even when things seem so dark, there’s always some kind of hope. There’s always someone there to help you keep going.”