When did you start working on this project?
I started working on this album in 2019, a month or two before the pandemic hit. I put a pause on it so my sister and I could promote Ungodly Hour, but in between I was in my bedroom creating at night. I’d be making my own beats and working on songs and ideas for this project that I knew would come, I just didn’t know when.
How has going solo changed your creative process?
When my sister and I create, we don’t try to dim the other’s light, so the creative process for me has been exactly the same. Now it’s just me in my bedroom. But it was a little scary in the beginning, because [I was used to] having Halle be there to ask, “Is this sounding good?” Having her sign of approval meant so much to me. Now I have to be my own voice and be proud and confident in what I bring to the table.
Do you feel more pressure to succeed?
I don’t feel pressure when it comes to awards and accolades — I feel pressure with making myself proud and making sure that I’m saying and singing the things that I want to say and sing. I’m not going to lie [and say] that it doesn’t go through my mind, like, “I hope people like this sound from me, because it’s different from what me and my sister do together.” Other than that, as long as I’m walking in my light and my purpose, I’m OK.
Why now for a solo debut?
My sister went to London to film her movie [the upcoming live-action version of The Little Mermaid] for seven or eight months, and it was so hard being without her. That is when I started creating my project. I found my confidence — like, “OK, you can do this now.” I always have my sister’s support, and she will always have mine, no matter what we do together or individually.
What's your biggest goal with this album?
Of course, I wanna get some hits with this project. That’s always a fun thing. But I just wanna have fun and let people get to see the real me.
As you reinvent your sound and style, which you've showed off on your solo Instagram account this year, do you feel that that's more of the real you?
The funny thing is, I haven’t changed at all. Even though my sister and I [launched] our different Instagrams and you saw us as individuals, a lot of that content was [already] on my finsta for my friends and family. I’m a pretty sexual being and I feel confident in who I am and in the skin I’m in. I think it’s so beautiful when humans appreciate their bodies because that’s what carries us through in the world and it’s not a nasty or gross thing. I just turned 23 this year, I’m not a teenager, I’m not a little kid anymore and I’m really happy that people are seeing that. It definitely wasn’t forced. It wasn’t anything new. The real me was always there, people are just now seeing me 360.
Why is it important that you write and produce your own work?
I feel completely empowered to be a woman today and be confident with that. There are so many incredible female producers, I’m not the only one and there were so many before me. It’s just we don’t get the time that we deserve. I hope people seeing me produce only inspires other young women who are fearless in doing that and are okay stepping in the room with men and being confident in who they are and not letting people’s underestimation of us hold us back.
You’re currently on the set of Jane. Do you want to expand your acting career now that you’re going solo?
Absolutely. I definitely see myself branching out into more acting roles. It’s another way to express myself like how I do through music and I can’t wait to take on more serious roles so people can really see that I actually love acting and I take it seriously. For this movie Jane, I’m so happy to be playing alongside Madelaine [Petsch]. She’s so talented and she’s become my really good friend here on set. I play this character called Izzy. We’re high school girls in this film. It’s about how social media can kind of take over your life and make you do things you never thought you would.
Speaking of social media, how do you find balance and handle the negativity that comes with it?
If I’m honest, I’m human so its kind of hard to ignore. What I try to do if I see some things about me, because if you’re looking at your social media, whether it’s Twitter or Instagram and even if you’re not trying to read the comments, something will pop up and you’ll see people’s opinions of you. I gotta be honest, sometimes my feelings get hurt. Then other times, I kind of laugh it off because it just reminds me that I’m doing something right. If I wasn’t doing something right, no one would really have my name in their mouth. But because they are, it means I’m on the right path. It’s stupid to think you can please everybody, so no matter what I do or what anyone else does, no one will 1,000% agree with it. So as long as I keep the mindset that as long as I’m proud of myself and I’m walking in my path and in my light, then I know I’m okay.
You and your sister were signed by Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment for your label and management. Do you want to follow in her footsteps?
It would be a dream to be able to have certain accolades that she has and go to some of the places that she has been and create a long-standing career with such longevity. I admire that, and it inspires me every day. That’s my greatest dream, but I also want to do it in my way with my voice and how I want to say it. Any time people want to compare, that puts a huge smile on my face, because that’s the biggest compliment anyone can give me. I have always been inspired by her, ever since I was a little girl. I’m happy and I’m grateful — and I hope to make my name shine in my own way.
What do you hope to inspire with this album?
That when people look at me, they look at themselves and they’re like, “I can be myself completely and unapologetically, no matter what the world says.” No matter if people are saying I’m doing too much, it’s OK, because that’s who I am. I’m not forcing it or being anyone different. If I listened to what people said or what they told me and if I dumbed it down, that’s when I’m not being myself.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 2021, issue of Billboard.