It starts hailing in Toronto. Snow pellets bounce off the giant engine-red tour bus that conspicuously sits parked beside the large venue Bryson Tiller will perform at later to a sold-out crowd, who already begin to line-up four hours before doors even officially open for his much-anticipated debut. When I walk up the bus steps, I'm greeted by Bryson's security, his team of best friends, who shake my hand, and eventually the 23-year-old Louisville singer who's wearing the same burgundy hoodie he wore in his Instagram picture the day prior to announce his arrival in the city.
R&B's current breakout star is tired yet comfortable, soft-spoken yet clear and pensive yet direct in the few free minutes before sound-check, (before the screaming, smartphone flashes and Snapchat videos take over.) We lean into our leather seats to make the most of them, in a camera-free zone and brief limbo, as he answers honestly and laughs often, while covering ample ground - momentary ground as Bryson will soon head out to another city tomorrow and then to Europe to close out his sold-out Trapsoul tour, celebrating the project that changed it all and catapulted the Kentucky singer to the top of modern alt-R&B's watch-list.
It's interesting to hear him speak candidly and intriguing how he processes his fame when most of Bryson's image to date has been controlled through his lyrics, sparse social media posts and the fake Twitter accounts that exist merely to propel his contemporary Romeo aesthetic. But by the way he fidgets with his phone, speaks about his daughter and acknowledges the things he needs to change, it's clear Bryson Tiller is more humble than he's gotten credit for.
It seems like your first major tour is going exceptionally well. What's been the standout moment so far?
When I did the Connecticut show, it was the biggest crowd I've ever performed in front of, like five thousand people. So as soon as I walked out on stage, I remember just singing the songs and I was just looking at everybody. There were so many people with their phones out and I was like, "Woah, all these people are here to see me." That's so crazy.
I read that the major difference in your life now in comparison to pre-fame Tiller is that people never really payed you much mind or attention before and now everyone wants a piece. And now you're focused on learning to be on stage and learning to be yourself in front of all these people. What has that process been like for you and how do you feel it changing you professionally?
I'm less shy now. I used to be super, super shy and now I'm a little less shy going on stage. I go into this alter ego and just go up there and be a different person. Still myself, but the person that nobody ever gets to see except for my best friend.
What is your definition of a successful show?
For me, when everybody is moving and singing the songs and really just looking like they're having a good time, not on Snapchat the whole fucking time.
Besides things like press and sound-checks and all the work related preparation, do you have any pre-show rituals?
Not really but we pray before every show, which is really the only ritual we need.
How is the new music coming along?
It's coming along great. I haven't gotten the opportunity to work on much, but I've been writing a lot of stuff, like little ideas here and there. I'm just excited to get back into the studio. When the tour ends, that's the very first thing I'm going to do.
What do you picture for yourself this year? All the recent conversation with you is the discussion about you not signing with Drake and choosing RCA instead and through your career, we've been able to see your instincts bring you to this spot here. So what are your instincts telling you now that you've reached this point in your career?
Lately, my instincts have been telling me to stay focused or all this stuff is going to be gone, for real. Sometimes I look up in the mirror and I'll just realize that I'm not doing anything and I'm like, you know what, I need to get more focused. I need to get more hands on with all my creative stuff and just start caring more about everything rather than letting someone else do it. It's hard. This is my first time doing this type of thing, ever. I didn't think I would be doing it this soon. So, some artists don't get to go on tour right away. So it's hard trying to balance all of this and being a father too and coming back to this stuff every day. Every day, I wake up and there's something to do for the whole day.
But you're figuring it out.
I'm figuring it out.
What has been the biggest lesson that you've learned from this touring experience?
The biggest lesson I learned is that whenever I go out on stage, that no matter what, I need to just bring it. Sometimes, I'll see the way the crowd is acting, and some crowds are not moving at all, they're on Snapchat the whole time and you'll start to see it on my face and I won't care. But I had a talk with my friends and my team and everyone was like, I need to just go hard the whole time.
And I know that your main goal is longevity at this point. Trapsoul was your breakout project and now you're focused on keeping that momentum. How do you plan to do that? And what does longevity mean to you personally?
I feel like Jay Z can just drop an album whenever he feels like it. Obviously he worked to get to that point, but now his legacy gives him the opportunity to just do that at any moment. Obviously it's going to be fire. For me, writing songs is going to be one of the ways that I can do that. I'm just going to keep writing songs. Even if I don't end up being an artist down the road, I can always write for people. I feel like that will add to my longevity.
When you speak about your writing, and in particular, what you hope for your debut album, you talk about how you want it to be honest. In your opinion, what is the perfect medium between being 100% honest when it comes to your personal life and being 100% relatable? Where do you think the sweet spot is?
The crazy thing is, I realized that the more honest I've been, the more relatable I've been. I didn't used to be that honest in all my old music. I would kind of say what I felt people wanted to hear and good topics that I thought people wanted to hear, like "nobody ever made a song about this, or meeting a cougar," or something like that. But I've never been in that situation so why would I even write a song about it? Versus now, if I made a song about that, it would be completely different, you know what I mean? I'd be honest about it and I would have more stuff to talk about. That makes me more relatable.
Switching gears, last week Kanye went on another rant where he went at the people who run his fake Kanye accounts for not being Mark Twain enough and that instantly reminded me of you, considering your fake accounts run Twitter at the moment with over 650 thousand collective followers. So I was going through some of them this morning and I wanted to ask you just how 'Bryson Tiller' these tweets really are.
The first is, "If I argue with you, I care. I'm not about to argue with someone I don't give a fuck about."
You know what's funny, I know the person who's tweeting all those tweets and he's corny as hell. He's so corny. He's a scrawny dude. A scrawny, corny nerd behind a computer. I don't know. To answer the question, yeah. It's true. I would never tweet that though, but it's true. That's so corny, bro. I would never. But it's real, I guess.
Another one is "I'm humble but you're fucking with the wrong one if you fuck with me."
He basically just took my lyrics and put it into a tweet. I'm a very humble person. I feel like a lot of people try and make me out to not be, especially with those fake accounts, they don't help at all, because people read them and are like, "Why is he talking like that? Who does he think he is?" I'm like, that's not even me. Or, they'll hear something like, I don't do video interviews and they ask, "Who does he think he is? He's not Kanye." And I know, I'm me. It's just weird when people try and come at me the wrong way and try and treat me like I'm not equal to them.
Trapsoul really set the precident for how things are rolling right now and you're obviously learning so much from it so how do you hope to change things and the type of narrative surrounding you with your new music?
I don't know, man. With the next project, I more-so want to talk about the stuff that's happened after this project, to be honest. A lot of stuff has happened. I'm dealing with family problems, relationaship issues, of course, fake friends. All this stuff.