For years Tiana Ohara has dazzled tens of thousands of followers on Instagram with her plucky guitar riffs.
A Conversation With Tiana Ohara and Emily Yacina
Anyone who watches Tiana Ohara play the guitar can tell right away that she’s doing what she was meant to do. Her playing incorporates the familiar pull of jazz and R&B but is stylistically modern and catchy—ebbing and flowing from a place of pure emotion. At 23, the Los Angeles-born Ohara has accomplished a lot through her love of playing. She’s a sought-after instrumentalist accompanying acts like Charlotte Day Wilson, Queen Naija, and Raveena. She’s even set to play with NIKI on stage at Coachella this April.
Ohara carries her success in an endearing and thoughtful manner; she radiates excitement when it comes to her future, beaming when asked what she loves most about playing the guitar. She uses social media to update her fans with clips of her jams and experimenting with her own sounds. Her passion in these recordings is infectious, attracting the attention of big-name artists who’ve invited her on tours, and guitar companies who sponsor her. Ohara talks about playing, performing, exploring the production-side of music creation, and cultivating a relationship with intuition.
Music artist Emily Yacina talks to Tiana about her rise, performance on the big stage, and her upcoming Coachella gig.
Emily: I know you’re originally from Los Angeles, but why did you make the decision to move back to L.A. after going to The New School in NYC?
Tiana: To be totally honest, a lot of it was for financial reasons. The New School is so expensive, living in New York is so expensive. I did a year there and part of me felt like I wasn’t in the mental space to be as outgoing as I wanted to be. I think I had a lot of self-doubt going into jazz school and being around so many people who had been playing jazz all their lives. I think I knew in my head it wasn’t the right fit for me.
Emily: Do you feel that L.A. is better accommodating to the music and work that you’re making?
Tiana: One hundred percent. Because I’m primarily a touring guitarist, a lot of the artists I want to work with are out here, as well as big rehearsal spaces! After moving back from New York, I started building up my network and I realized it just makes the most sense for me to be here.
Emily: You do so many different things with your playing: you tour with other artists, you make demos for brands like Fender, and you’re making videos on TikTok. You also record your own original material. Out of all of these modes of playing, which do you enjoy the most?
Tiana: Performing is always just so special. Performing on stage is my favorite mode of music. But I also really love writing and making music, there’s no feeling like that, either.
Emily: I saw that you were also doing production work! What made you get into that side of making music?
Tiana: After working with so many artists for so long, I fall in love with their songs, and I remember there are people who work with them to create them. I thought, “I can do that, too!” I realized that I could help people make their songs come to life. I had always kind of dabbled in music production to some extent because I went to a performing arts high school in L.A. and they had music tech programs. Now I’m just trying to dive deeper.
Emily: One of your videos on TikTok has been viewed 65.5 thousand times! It’s a clip of your solo during an NPR Tiny Desk Concert with the artist Raveena. You look so comfortable and at ease playing. What was your experience like?
Tiana: It was surreal! I couldn’t believe I was there. It happened so fast, too. I showed up and did a quick sound check to make sure everything was okay. What’s really crazy about Tiny Desk is everything is acoustic level, so everyone has to be super quiet. Her vocal mic isn’t being monitored to us in any way so we’re just going off what we hear. We all had to be very attentive to our dynamics. Our drummer was playing super light! I’m so happy with what they captured. I was just so into it the whole time, just being there. It was so wonderful being able to play with such incredible musicians and an artist like Raveena.
Emily: You’ll be accompanying NIKI on stage this April at Coachella. How do you feel about playing Coachella for the first time?
Tiana: I’m so excited for that one! It’s a huge bucket-list check-off for me. I went to Coachella for the first time as an attendee in 2019, and my friend was playing with an artist on the main stage. Watching him play I started manifesting that for myself. I thought, “Oh, this feels close in a way.” In 2020 I was asked to play with NIKI, and I couldn’t believe it. Then it gets postponed like three times or something, but we’re finally here! We’re finally doing it!
Emily: That’s huge! Congratulations! You’ve been endorsed by Benson Amps, Keeley Electronics, and more. What is it like being approached for sponsorships? And how do you choose which brands that you want to work with?
Tiana: Overall it’s been very organic in the way these connections have come about. The first company was Keeley. They messaged me on Instagram and I looked at their stuff and thought, “Wow this is so cool!” I spent some time with their products figuring out how they work and fell in love with their pedals. That’s kind of been the pattern—finding gear that resonates with me. I’ve been grateful to connect with brands that just fit.
Emily: It seems like (and this is referencing the Coachella performance, too) that you have a strong sense of your own intuition, that you’re able to listen to that and follow it, which is such a cool skill.
Tiana: Totally! Intuition is everything. Even since moving back to L.A. from New York, I’ve been in such a flow. I do believe that things have a way of working out.
Tiana Ohara Fun Facts
Tiana Ohara is a Los Angeles-based touring and session guitarist. At age seven, Tiana picked up the guitar for the first time and fell in love with the instrument. When Tiana isn’t on the road, she’s working with her own music or collaborating with others.
Emily Yacina is a musician, writer in Los Angeles. Emily is originally from Philadelphia, but now lives in Long Beach, CA with her cat, Patches. In her free time her favorite thing to do is spend time with friends and family.