Todrick Hall Talks New Album, Collaborating With Taylor Swift and Starting a New Dance Craze
It might be time for “The Dougie” to step aside: Todrick Hall is trying to get a new dance trend to catch on. The YouTube sensation recently teamed up with Cheetos to write a track and choreograph a matching dance to promote the brand’s iconic snacks. “The dance is called ‘The Curl’ and it’s a whole lot of fun,” he tells Billboard. “I have many followers who love to dance and do choreography, so I’m challenging them all to make videos and upload the videos with the hashtag, #DoTheCurl,” he says, eager to get a new movement started.
Singing about cheese puffs is just one of the many things on the 32-year-old performer’s 2018 agenda. He’s in the midst of wrapping up a stint on Broadway in Chicago, and reveals that he will soon be recording the follow-up to 2016’s Straight Outta Oz. Hall’s latest endeavor, Hall American, will be released in March, and then he’ll head out on the road to perform the album live.
Billboard caught up with Hall to hear about his “more mature” sound and what we can expect from his latest musical undertaking. He also teased some big collaborations on this upcoming endeavor, told us the best advice he’s received from BFF Taylor Swift, and revealed that a “Taydrick” collaboration will “absolutely happen” at some point down the line.
How did “The Curl” come about?
Cheetos reached out to me and said, “Would you be interested in doing something like this?” They had seen my videos go viral online with dancing and choreographing, so I was like, “Absolutely. It would be really awesome.” We decided to do this song and teach people this dance move and they were like, “We would just love for you to make the dance move up.” My friends and I got into the studio, we came up with this move and we thought it was really funny. I’m hoping the dance will totally catch on -- I think it has the potential to do that. Everybody loved “Teach Me How to Dougie.” It was such a huge movement and this his dance is just as fun.
Are you having fun on Broadway in Chicago?
It’s so much fun. I’m getting to play such an iconic character in such a classic musical. It’s a very different role for me. I usually play drag queens or eccentric roles or character-acting type of characters that are over the top and falling all over the place -- or the comedic relief of the show. This is a very serious, straightforward intimidating lawyer, so it’s a stretch for me, but I feel like I’ve grown so much as an actor from this experience.
When can we expect new music from you?
I finish Chicago on January 14th and then I fly to LA to start recording my second album, which will be called Hall American. Then I head on tour March 28th. After that, I really want to start focusing on creating projects, whether that’s for Broadway, for television, or film or writing a book, something like that. I just want to be doing things where I am creating, but not just for my YouTube channel.
What can fans expect from Hall American?
It’s an original story and a visual album, so they can expect a full story told through music -- but music that is a little bit more current. It’s very politically charged, and a very beautiful story about love. I’m still currently writing it, but the overall feeling by the time we finish should be uplifting and inspirational. Hopefully it will change people’s minds and point of view, because that’s what it’s created to do, to challenge things that you think that you know or the life that you think that you live or the experiences that you have had.
A lot of the songs that people really liked were the more urban, hip-hop songs from my last album. And so I’m leaning more towards that right now. But because I’m still such a musical theater person, I think that still comes through in my music. I don’t want to completely abandon that part of my love for music and that part of the storytelling, because I think it really helps fully develop the characters, tell the story, and make it not boring. This material is going to be more mature in general. The overall language and the musically is at an elevated level from where I was two years ago when I wrote Straight Outta Oz.
Straight Outta Oz was really popular for its visual concept. Is this project going to be in that same vein?
This has a completely different aesthetic and it’s very stylized, not just with the music, but the way it’s shot -- the way people are going to be acting, the way their wardrobe is stylized, the way their hair is styled, the way that they move. I’m trying to create an entire world that people have not seen before so I’m trying to give people a very specific type of body language that they use and a very specific way that they interact with one another.
Are you collaborating with anyone on this album?
I am, but I’m keeping it a huge secret because A) I am just the biggest secret keeper ever and B) Because you never know with this industry if people are going to come through or not. I’ll believe that the people who have said they are going to collab with me will collab with me when they show up on set, and not a moment before. I am not signed to a label; I reach out to all of these people through personal relationships that I have with them, on social media. I’m always grateful that they come and volunteer their time to work with me. We’ll see what happens with this one but I have some really cool prospects and people that I love and have been a huge fan of for a long time who have expressed strong interest in doing it.
You are very close with Taylor Swift and danced in her “Look What You Made Me Do” video. Are you open to doing something bigger with her?
I think that anybody on the planet who would not be open to collaborating with Taylor Swift would not be a very smart artist. She’s such a sweet person, such a genius writer and also just a genius businesswoman. I would love to collaborate with her. And I think it will happen. We collaborated on her video but artist to artist I think will happen one day but I want it to be the right thing, the right time. Who knows what album it will be or what project it will be, but I definitely don’t think this is the end for “Taydrick,” which is what I call our ship name. I think doing a song with her would be really awesome, but maybe predictable. I think maybe doing something that’s out of the box would be more fun for both of us.
She is a really cool chick and our friendship is so important to me. She’s been friends with me for times when some of my friends who have been my friend since I was in high school have not. I think to me, especially in this industry, that is worth more than gold. I’m single; I’m not in a relationship so my friends are my relationship. I just want to make sure that Taylor and I stay friends for a long time because I really value who she is as a human being.
Has she ever given you any really good advice about your career that has really stuck with you?
When she got done with her last album, before she made this album, she was like “I just want to have life experiences and write about those things.” And I think that’s the reason why her music is always so successful and always seems so real and true and authentic, because she writes everything. People sometime ask me “how does she feel about this? How does she feel about that?” and I think that everything that she feels can be taken from her album; that’s why she puts it out. That is her life experience, her pain, her joy, her happiness, Everything that she feels, she writes it in her lyrics and her melodies. She also told me that she doesn’t try to outdo herself; she just follows each zig with a zag. So I took that little tidbit from her.
When will Hall American be out?
We’ll be doing this album live starting March 28th, so it will be coming out the first two weeks of March. I’ve already been writing and recording songs and I’m loving how they are sounding. I’m getting positive feedback and I’m feeling like I’m going in the right direction.