Bryson Tiller Opens Up About ‘TRAPSOUL’ Album, Sleeping in His Car and Inspiration From Kanye West [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Bryson Tiller is sitting on top of the world, well, New York City that is. Nearly 20 stories high from the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan's streets sits the crooner on a modern black couch inside RCA Records. Against the backdrop of skyscrapers, the T R A P S O U L creator sports all-black attire. His fitted cap covers the top half of his face and he rarely looks up except when he's visibly excited (like when he talks about his co-signs from Drake and Sylvester Stallone).
With three songs ("Don't," "Exchange" and "Just Another Interlude") claiming the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Emerging Artists chart, it's clear that Tiller is winning. Hailing from Kentucky, the 22-year-old is now holding the torch for his hometown of Louisville. The father-of-one is in good company with the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who's also from the Southern city. According to Tiller, he's the "hottest thing" since the People's Champ came on the scene.
Last week, the singer dropped his debut album, T R A P S O U L, exclusively on Apple Music one week before its official worldwide release on Oct. 2. For an artist who hasn't entered the lexicon of many music snobs, he scored a major feat; the project has claimed the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart and the No. 11 position on the Billboard 200 chart. Not bad at all for the new guy with no features on his LP. Not to mention that just a year ago he was living in his car and working three jobs while creating music.
Now when he's not in the studio crafting new sounds or traveling around the U.S. living his dream, the self-described "burger connoisseur" often spends time with his 1-year-old daughter, Harley. He shares their cute moments together on Instagram too. Father's Day seems to be a 365-day celebration for the singer.
In an exclusive interview with The Boombox, Bryson Tiller opens up about his love of sci-fi movies, inspiration from Kanye West, sleeping in his car and why he asked God to make him immortal.
The Boombox: You're a pretty big deal right now. How does this moment feel for you with the positive reception to your album release?
Bryson Tiller: It feels amazing. It feels very amazing. I was struggling. I was really living the struggle and I’m not living the struggle anymore.
Did you have any fears before you dropped T R A P S O U L?
Yeah, my fears were that people weren’t gonna… a lot of the songs are already out. I knew that my day one fans would be upset about that. I just want them to just have faith in me and just know that I’m gonna do better next time, you know, on my next album. It was just, the label and everybody was just so in a rush for me to put it out so it was just like alright I gotta put it out now. I’m ready to be done with this whole project. I’m ready to start on something new. I wanted to add about four more songs too.
If you could choose one song besides “Don’t” or “Exchange” to describe your life now, what would you choose?
I would pick “502 Come Up” because in the song I say "I woke up in the hills this morning" and it’s crazy because I say, "A year ago I was sleeping in my car," and to be able to wake up in the hills. Like I literally woke up one morning and was like "Wow, like this is crazy," you know what I mean. Sometimes my life is moving so fast that I forget what’s going on. I’m just going with the pace or going with the flow. Like I don’t really stop and try to pay attention to things for too long. So I got kind of lost in that moment.
Watch Bryson Tiller's "Don't" Video
You mentioned Kehlani and Sy Ari Da Kid as "dope artists" in a recent interview. What is it about each of them that you like?
I like Kehlani a lot because she’s on her grind, she does everything herself. She’s writing her own music and you know, putting all the vocals together and she’s just dope. She just reminds me a lot of me. We’re both coming up right now. Me and Kehlani both like Star Wars so like she calls me Luke and I call her Leia because we’re both like the chosen ones it feels like. And Sy Ari, I got put onto his music about a year ago through a friend. And I don’t know, I just thought he was dope. There's something different about him.
You mentioned a song by Sy Ari Da Kid you liked earlier…
“Don’t Make Me,” that’s my Miami anthem.
Would you like to do more collaborations with them?
I’ve done two songs with both of them. And I’m excited to work on more songs with them.
I also saw that you said you were a fan of Kanye West and that he always makes you want to “invent some s--- and change the world.” How does he make you want to do that?
He’s just, he’s a father. He’s out here getting it. And he recently tweeted something like "Do everything you possibly can in one lifetime" and I was just like, you’re right. I remember he said, I think his mom or his grandma told him he could do anything and I believe that too. I feel like I can do anything. There’s nothing that I can’t do. I couldn’t make music once upon a time, you know what I mean? But I got in the studio every day and I tried to get better. So, yeah.
How are you going to change the world?
By inspiring people. I want to inspire people to change the world. I just watched a movie yesterday, I forgot what they said. You ever seen Tomorrowland? It’s really good. It was a unique movie. Something about wolves, a quote that I’m going to use a lot now. I want to inspire people to change the world. That’s something that I feel that I’m meant to do here... really going to change the world. I asked God to make me immortal so I can do it.
On Twitter, you said "8 months ago @iWorkTheHardest [Smitty] and @ContactSwad3 [Stephon] gave me 600 dollars to buy studio equipment and I made 'Don't.' life is so crazy." How did it feel to have those people believe in you enough to give you money to pursue your dream?
That was love because I’ve dealt with people who have money and wouldn’t help me out. And that was not even expensive, $600 isn’t a lot at all. But I was really grateful for that. I mean, they drove all the way from Lexington, which is only an hour drive but they drove there. You know, we went to Target, we bought a desk. I put the desk together, it took me like an hour but I put it together. And they were like, "Yeah man it’s all good" and I was like "I’ma pay y'all back, I promise." And they was like "You don’t have to pay us back" but you know, I’m one of those people, I don’t like taking free stuff from people. So I had to pay them back.
Are they still around now?
Yeah, I actually went to… well, I tried to link up with them. It’s kind of crazy now because of my schedule and stuff now but I try to link up with them whenever I can.
How has your life changed since those initial recordings?
I used to work drastically. My life has changed drastically. Like I said, I was sleeping in my car and now I’m on the road a lot, you know what I mean. Just doing what I used to do. But now I’m doing it for a living. On my project, I say something like, “I used to do it for fun and now I do it for funds” because it was really everyday after school I used to go to my boy’s crib to record songs. I mean, I used to cut school sometimes and record songs. So now, I’m doing the same thing. Every day I’m in the studio but getting paid to do it. So that’s pretty dope.
Have you moved out of Kentucky?
I haven’t really moved anywhere. I got a little spot in Miami but I don’t really be there for real. I’m just everywhere. I’m just living out a suitcase right now.
So you released songs before “Don’t.” How would you say your sound has evolved or changed since your first mixtape, Killer Instinct, when you were 17, until now?
Yeah, definitely. Mainly because I’m better at expressing myself and now when I write songs, I don’t just try to say things that might sound cool. Like I actually say how I feel and just like I say things that I feel like will resonate with people. You know what I mean. Rather than just saying something like I don't know. I used to say a bunch of corny stuff.
I was just listening to it the other day before T R A P S O U L dropped on Apple Music exclusively. But, I said some corny stuff on there. I said something [like] "Trying to get signed like a tree bark, carving [laughs]." Like, what?
I know you're a big fan of Drake too. How does it feel to have Drake reach out to you?
Amazing, man. That was so... it just didn't seem real. It was surreal.
Have you guys talked about working together at all?
Yeah, definitely. We talked about doing some songs and stuff.
Can we expect to hear you on the new album?
That would be crazy. I'm not even going to say yes or no or if we talked about it or not. I'm not going to say it. I just pray for the best.
Listen to Bryson Tiller's "502 Come Up"
Has there been any other artists or producers that reached out to you?
Yeah, man. Trey Songz reached out to me not too long ago. He was just giving me some advice too. Wale hit me up. He loved my project and it was dope. Who else? Fabolous posted my project, I guess he's rocking with the project. A lot of people been showing love.
Anybody you were surprised by?
Oh! Yeah. The other day I woke up and somebody sent me a screenshot and it was Sylvester Stallone, Rambo himself. Tweeting my song. Rambo. And I went absolutely nuts in my hotel. Like I was jumping on the bed screaming. I just started singing the song. It was crazy. Crazy.
So now you're 22, which is an age many people are in college. Was that ever on your mind to attend? Or was music always the path you wanted to take?
Nah. Nah. That's why I said on the song, "502 Come Up" on my project, I'm 22, I gotta get it now. I'm sorry, I can't just be in class all day. Somebody said it's like an acquired taste or something like that. Like you have to like it. I just don't like school, at all.
So music has always been the path.
Yeah, that was the only option. I want to get into film one day.
You did mention Tomorrowland and Star Wars. Are there any other movies you're a big fan of?
Yeah, I love sci-fi movies.
I noticed, you also put comic books and Japanese anime references in your music.
I like anime but one of my favorite animes and one of the most popular animes out there, Dragon Ball Z. That's the one that I watch the most. I don't watch all the crazy stuff like Bleach, One Piece.
Why do you choose to put those references in there?
It's just my life. I don't know what else to talk about. I can't say gun references and stuff. All that crazy stuff. So I try to put my life into it. What I do, what I like.
Outside of music do you have any other interests?
I actually want to start a TV show. I want to do a cartoon on Adult Swim. I'm actually going to try to make that happen.
That'd be dope.
Yeah, it's going to be sick.
What do you want it to be about?
I don't know yet. I want it to be a comedy/action. Like Family Guy meets Dragon Ball Z.
Like The Boondocks?
Boondocks is that. But I want it to be better than The Boondocks. No shade.
How is life in Kentucky different from all of these big cities that you'll be hitting to perform?
Not as fast-paced. That's for sure. Culture is a lot different. I feel like a lot of people are stuck in 2004 it seems. But, it's crazy. Like if you ever watch a Lil' Flip video and look at all the people and the way they're dressed, that's what I see when I go back.
And what are some things you will miss about home now that you'll be on the road performing?
Yeah, my daughter. And just being familiar with all the streets.
Not really. Not a big food guy. I mean, I love food, don't get me wrong. I am a burger connoisseur though. But I'm not one of those people that just tries all these different kinds of food.
What's next for you?
Doing this tour this fall. I'm excited for that because this is going to be my first tour ever. I actually recently performed for the first time. I opened up for Travi$ Scott in L.A. And that was crazy. He puts on a show for real.
Do you plan on releasing any visuals for any other songs?
Yes, definitely. I'm going to listen to the project and just see with what I want to go with next. Or see what the fans want to do.
What would you say is the inspiration for T R A P S O U L and the inspiration for your next album?
A lot of the songs on T R A P S O U L gives you different feelings. A different emotion. Like they're not all the same emotion. I didn't want it to be all the same emotion. Like I can't make a project that just has me talking about love on every song. Like I have to talk about something else. Like the come up or something. You know what I mean. But the next project, I want to have features on it for sure, different from this one. Because this one I didn't have any features on it. But the next project, I want to have a lot of features on it.
Have you thought of some new things you want to talk about in the next project?
I'm just going to live life and see where it takes me. And just go experience new things and just make music.
Listen to Bryson Tiller's "Right My Wrongs"
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