For RuPaul’s Drag Race alumna Tatianna, music was always a part of her career plan. The queen, who appeared on season 2 of the show along with season 2 of All Stars, showed fans in the past that she was a capable songstress, especially after All Stars 2 with the release of her club track “The Same Parts.”
Now, Tatianna is ready to show off the full range of her musical talents with T1, her first full-length album. Ranging from similar beat-heavy dance tracks to slowed down, moody R&B ballads, T1 differentiates itself from the countless other albums that have been produced by queens from the show.
Ahead of the release of her new album, Tatianna talked to Billboard about making music that wasn’t exclusive to Drag Race fans, her thoughts on the queens of season 10, and her feud with season 2 winner Tyra Sanchez.
I’m loving the album. What was the process of putting a debut album together after all of the other tours and shows you’ve been booking over the last few years?
We started back in May 2017. We started just kind of recording a few tracks here and there, and then there was a conversation about whether we wanted to do a mini-album, like an EP, or do we want to go all out. And I was like, “Let’s do it all, let’s do a full album.” We would record when we could when I would get back from wherever the hell I was [laughs]. It was cool because I was also writing while I was traveling, so it was a fun process.
I feel like there’s a stereotype of what a Drag Race alum’s album, or even just a drag queen’s album, sounds like, and this seems pretty different from those. Was that something you were consciously thinking about while recording this?
Yes and no. I mean, I have always been someone who’s wanted to release music, or any project really, that I like first and foremost. I love drag music and all of that, but I’ve never really pegged that as “me.” That’s not really my thing to do. I’ve always had songs, like, I had a few singles out back in 2010 and 2011 that were similar in that they were just kind of about me, or about life. And I kind of like that, because then I feel like everyone can connect to it, not just people that are fans of the show, or fans of drag. I kind of like that universal appeal of just writing a song that means something to me, but can also mean something to everyone else. It’s not specific to drag.
I love that. This album is arriving after what was maybe my favorite thing to come out of All Stars 2, which was your song “The Same Parts.” What was it like seeing all these fans latch onto that song once you released it?
I thought it was crazy! Especially because of where that song comes from. I literally wrote that when I was, like, 16 or 17. So, I mean, it was cool that everyone responded so well to it when it was on the show in the spoken-word form that it was. But having everyone love the song so much was even better. That was a really surprising, but very exciting and happy moment for me.
I feel like no one loved that song more than Katya did. Did she ever talk to you about her love for “The Same Parts?”
Well, I already knew that she was obsessed with the concept during filming and thereafter, because we sat on that season and no one knew anything about it. We shot in the summer of 2015, and it didn’t come out until the fall of 2016. So there was a minute there, and she had mentioned…you know, she quotes it as she does, and she had always done that, so I knew that she was a big fan of the performance. And then, when the song came out, she was like, “Is it ok if I perform it?” And I was like, “Girl, do it up!” I didn’t realize that she was going to tour with it in every country and every city possible, though [laughs]. And she did it for a solid year, so that was cool. The best promo for a single was someone like Katya doing it up.
What kind of music were you listening to in order to find inspiration for the album?
During writing, I was listening to a lot of Tinashe, and I was listening to Banks. I was also listening to older things — you know how you get that playlist where you can listen to the same songs that are like 15, 20 years old? So obviously I’m always listening to Britney, but I was getting into Janet and a lot of that kind of realm of pop with an underlying R&B vibe. I love that stuff.
You’ve got two videos out for two of your songs, “Use Me,” and most recently “Try,” which is a spectacle to watch. What was it like shooting that last video for you?
It was so different than the video for “Use Me,” because “Use Me” was just me and the dancers. Doing “Try,” I got to invite all of my friends, like, “Come fill this club up with me.” It was such a teamwork feel that we had going on. But it was cool, we shot it all in one day, which is crazy, with all of that acrobatic stuff that was going on. It was super fun, and it felt encouraging having everyone there, because it was the first time that almost everyone, other than the people who worked on the song with me, had heard the song. It was such an immediate response of like, “Oh, this song is so good!” I was just like, “Oh, good, thank God.”
It was also Salvadora’s first time being on a track, and it was her first time shooting a video, so it was cool watching her get to go through everything. She’s so fun, I love her. She performs all of the time in D.C. and I’ve known her for years, so it was really cool to get to work with her on that one.
Earlier this year there was some drama involving you, Tyra Sanchez and DragCon. Tyra posted a video of her seemingly threatening you and Phi Phi if you went to DragCon, which ultimately resulted in her being banned from DragCon. What was your experience like being in the middle of all that?
When it comes to the DragCon situation, I didn’t understand, and I still don’t quite have an understanding, of how I was involved? [Laughs] You know, me and Tyra, after everything that happened last year when she claimed Morgan McMichaels was dead, she put my phone number out on the Internet, and we were very publicly going at each other; we blocked each other on everything. We don’t have each other’s phone numbers, we were blocked on social media, so I hadn’t talked to her in like, months. Someone DM’d me on Twitter and said, “Tyra’s threatened you if you go to DragCon.” I was like, “What?” So I ask my followers to send me the video, because I couldn’t see it, and so I finally saw it and said, “Okay, whatever. I’m not doing anything about this.” And then I had a conversation with Phi Phi, who she had also threatened, and she was like, “I don’t think that she should be able to go.” And I just said, “I respect whatever it is that you feel comfortable with.” So when I heard that she was banned, I was like, “Well, I can’t say that’s a bad thing.”
I was honestly more bothered that in this day and age, with all of the horrible shit that’s going down, and all of these people threatening to do things who end up following through with them, it just felt like it was in the poorest of taste to threaten people. She’s smart about it, though. She never said, “I’m gonna blow it up,” she just drew a picture by warning everyone not to go. I just thought that was in such poor taste, with things like Manchester that have happened. Stuff like that actually happens, so I really thought that was awful. You can threaten to beat me up all you want to, that’s cool, I’m just going to laugh about it. But the majority of people that go to DragCon are kids. You know? Like, 13-year-olds and even younger than that! They’re the ones that want to go and do this, and when they see stuff like that, they get scared. Because they’ve also seen what’s going on in the world. So I just thought that was the worst part of it.
I’ve seen you tweeting your thoughts throughout season 10, so I wanted to know what some of your favorite moments are so far, and who you would say is your favorite of the girls?
Oh yeah, I watch every season, I love it. I’m liking a lot of the girls, which is super good. I’m a big Cracker fan. I love Monét X Change, I think she’s hilarious. Who else am I living for? Eureka is really turning it! I think she’s in a different headspace than maybe she was on her first season, because this season she just seems a lot lighter. Not that I didn’t enjoy her before, but I really enjoy her interviews. She does make me laugh out loud. I also really liked Blair! She was awesome, and also now she’s a D.C. girl, she’s moved into my neck of the woods, so that’s fun. We’ve got some mutual friends now. I barely ever get to see her, but hopefully this summer I’ll be able to see her more. So yeah, I’m really liking this season. I’m also really liking the challenges, I thought the Cher challenge especially was great. I’m usually not a fan of acting challenges, I think that they can sometimes be cringey, but the acting challenges have been pretty good, too. Like, Breastworld was actually very entertaining to watch, both the finished product and them actually making it.
So what’s next? Are you planning a tour with the album, more music, videos?
I definitely plan on releasing more music videos from the album. I always hate it when someone drops an album and they only put out, like, two visuals, you know what I mean? Remember when they would drop, like, five? I feel like I’ve worked so hard and so long on this project that I don’t just want to move on to the next. So I want to definitely do one, if not two more music videos. I definitely want to tour; we’re currently in conversations of how we’re going to go about that, because if I do tour with this, I want to put on a pop show. Like, I want dancers, I want to live my whole popstar reality. I want a wind machine [laughs]. So I really want to try and put something together like that.