Bryson Tiller Talks Sophomore Album 'True to Self': 'You Gotta Let Your Favorite Artist Grow & Be Great'

Bryson Tiller
Courtesy of RCA Records

Bryson Tiller

“I’ve been ready to get the music to the fans as soon as possible, so why not?,” says Bryson Tiller over the phone several days after the R&B singer pulled the trigger to release his debut album, True to Self (RCA Records), nearly a month ahead of its original June 23 release.

It’s a move that paid off. The album is headed for a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 albums chart, potentially besting Tiller’s previous effort, Trapsoul (which peaked at No. 8 on the same list in January 2016). The 19-track offering continues the romantic entanglement of its predecessor, following the 24-year-old as he grapples with the realities of love in the life stage of sub-tweets and friends with benefits. Oft bleak, it’s a lonely place.

For the Kentucky native, the album was cathartic and helped him get over a real-life breakup. While taking a break at the gym, he spoke to Billboard about bringing on the heartbreak.

What are you doing at the gym?

Trying to get fit and get healthy. I do weights -- I hate cardio. I just got a trainer. I feel like when I was [working out] by myself, I never did it. I needed a trainer who would say, “You need to be here by this time.”

Is getting in shape part of your upcoming tour?

Well, the cardio, for sure, is something I do for tour. But like I said, I haven’t been doing cardio, which I need to. [I work out] just for myself, really. So I could feel better. Confident.

Tell me why did you decided to release True to Self almost a month early. 

I can’t take the credit for that. It was just my manager; it was his plan [to] drop it a month early. I’ve been ready to get the music to the fans as soon as possible, so why not?

Did you know it was going to be released early in advance or was it a last-minute snap decision?

We planned it for a while. I actually forgot it was coming out early. Then they told me [last] week like, “Yo! You know it comes out this Friday?”

That’s when you knew you had to go to the gym and stop eating carbs!

[Laughs] Yeah.

How have you changed since Trapsoul?

I talk to people now. Even when people come to my shows -- celebrities or people who work in the industry -- I’m more talkative rather than being so shy and to myself.

You seem reserved in your personal life. Are you outspoken there too?

For sure. I see my family members a lot more. Everything that’s happened to me is a blessing to my life. I’m in the gym more. Eating better. This year, I’m drinking green smoothies. Two years ago, if you had passed me a green smoothie, I’d be like, “Get that outta my face!”

How much of your new album was inspired by real life?

Probably 100 percent of it.

Is it therapeutic for you?

For sure. Sometimes I get into a situation -- I'd be so upset like I just need to go to the studio and release the energy. Just being able to hear it back helps me.

Why did you decide to use actual voicemail recordings on True to Self? You did a bit of that on Trapsoul as well.

I feel like it was chapter two. Kinda like the same situation almost.

Correct me if I’m wrong: Is the voice recording of the girl on “Rain (Interlude)” the same as Trapsoul’s “Overtime”?


Without putting your personal business out there, would it be accurate to say that True to Self is a continuation of the relationship we heard on Trapsoul?

Yeah. That’s the story.

I understand. You collaborated with Canadian producers Boi-1da, Wondagurl and T-Minus on this project. Did you go to Toronto to record?

Boi-1da is a really good friend of mine. I was in Toronto doing a show. Boi-1da came backstage and we was chopping it up, actually talking about nerd stuff like Dragon Ball Z and Mario Kart, video games and anime.

I can totally see him talking about that.

I love Boi-1da and he just started sending me beats. He was like, “Yo, would you ever do this type of song?” and I was like, “Nah.” Then he sent me this one beat. I listened to it and loved it. And that that song became “Run Me Dry.” I usually make breakup songs and I was tired of making breakup songs. I wanna make something like I’m getting over a breakup, so it was like the perfect song.

Do you feel like you’ve finally worked through your breakup?

I worked through it. Like, now I feel like I wanna make, not necessarily upbeat pop music, [but] less about breakups and doing somebody wrong. Being cheated on and cheating. You know what I’m saying? Just making music about how a woman makes me feel.

People attribute you to a breakup, emo vibe. Do you wonder if there’s going to be backlash when you’re happy?

I think about that all the time. I don’t know. I just think fans gotta let their favorite artist grow. Just stick it out with them. I always use the example of The Weeknd. He used to make dark, mysterious music that was excellent. The Trilogy; everybody loved it. Now, he’s Starboy. There may be fans that are upset about that but he’s Starboy now. You gotta let your favorite artist grow and be great.