Published Jun 06, 2017As Bryson Tiller celebrates his first No. 1 album with the recently released True To Self project this week, he's consciously enjoying the moment — but at the same time just focused on not letting success change him.
True to Self (out now on RCA/Sony) is more than just a title for a "trap and hip-hop-influenced R&B" record that sold more than 107,000 in its first week — it represents the Louisville, KY-based singer-songwriter's approach to newfound celebrity, and a marked evolution from his 2016 breakout Trapsoul.
The self-described introvert tells Exclaim! that he's more comfortable hanging at home playing Mario Kart or watching anime than dealing with the trappings of fame.
"I just want to be able to take care of my family," he says. "I just got my grandmother a house. That's amazing. I love the success part — but it's the fame stuff that's still weird to me. I'm trying to show my face out there and be out there some more. So there's going to be a lot more videos this time around."
True to Self was originally slated for a late June release. Why was it moved up?
"We are going on tour so I wanted to give the fans enough time to get ready for the music. It was just part of the plan originally. Last time we dropped an album, we dropped it a week early."
You created Trapsoul and now True to Self in your home basement studio. How has success — and a larger bank account — changed your approach to DIY production?
"It's pretty much the same, only that I added a subwoofer. My speakers are a little bit more expensive, and a better mic. [But] I still have all the old equipment that I used to record on. I keep things the same: two monitors, an interface, a laptop and now a subwoofer and a microphone."
The album sees you working with a range of producers including Teddy Walton, Nes, T-Minus, BOA-1DA and Wondagurl. Walton (Kendrick Lamar, Goldlink) recently stated you largely communicated over social media and email, never over the phone or in person. How is this the best approach for you and what are the benefits of recording at home, alone?
"I'd never change it. [All artists] should invest in your own studio equipment. When you are recording by yourself, there is no one to judge you. You do whatever you want. I remember when I first started recording music, I was trying my hardest to record with others in the room, but they were giggling and laughing. You can literally try anything.
What was it like working with Canadian producers like BOI-1DA (of Drake/OVO Sound fame) and Brampton's Wondagurl, who's worked with Jay-Z?
"BOI-1DA is a really good friend in the industry. I have maybe a few, but he's one person who's been a real dude. We met up in Toronto at one of my shows and we were backstage just talking about Mario Kart, anime and stuff like that. I got his number and he started sending me beats and a few tracks that made the album. Wondagirl always sends me some fire beats. She's really nice, humble, and kind of reminds me of me: she's kind of an introvert and doesn't really talk much. I think that's cool, I like people who aren't really looking for attention."
True to Self is 17 tracks with you talking about coping with love, relationships and romantic breakups. What did you consciously wish to do different with this record? And how are you growing as an artist?
"It's a lot more upbeat this time. It's an upbeat album. You should be able to hear the growth in my lyrics. I was 23 when I made [Trapsoul]. I've done a lot more, been a lot more places, dealt with this and that so you are going to hear that on this album. It's about keeping true to myself with everything going on. Sometimes it feels like I'm in the Matrix. I feel like I'm in a tornado constantly. I told myself when I signed my first deal to RCA, I told them that I didn't want to change. That I was never going to change. But the conflict is, I'm a really shy dude and I'm like, in my shell, like a turtle. I'm an introvert trying to be an extrovert. So I'm trying to break out of that. But still at the same time stay true to me and not seem like I changed. I'm just becoming a better version of me."
How do you stay grounded in the face of constant touring and the trappings of fame?
"The fans all make it worth the while. They like who I am — that's the best part. That's how I stay sane. [And] I keep my closest friends around me — if I ever start to talk crazy, my family is always around me and I don't do things that I never used to do. I don't go to parties or mingle with celebs. That's not me. The industry is a lot like high school. I just kind of stay to myself."
Bryson Tiller plays Vancouver on August 18 and Toronto on September 3; check out all his North American tour dates here.