Tyla interview

Tyla Interview: “I make dance music. When it comes to Amapiano, you have to dance”

Tyla’s emotionally rich music began when she was just 12, penning songs in her diary, which led to writing and singing more seriously as a high schooler. The South African act got her big break in 2019 when her debut song, ‘Getting Late’ with producer Kooldrink went viral, with people raving and dancing to the amapiano song infused with RnB. 

Following the success of her debut song, which currently sits at over 4 million streams on Spotify, the South African singer has released ‘Overdue’, which was featured on Netflix’s hit series “Blood and Water,” and ‘To Last’, which was remixed by DJ Maphorisa. Her latest single, ‘Been Thinking,’ was released on January 27 alongside a sultry dance music video that sees the South African singer exude Main Pop Girl energy.

Ever since, she’s been guided by her intuition, which has her primed to build out her fan base and maximize her reach. She’s focused on the year ahead, performing and crafting her debut studio album, with the same intention from when she began. 

In this interview, 21-year-old South African sensation, Tyla talks about sudden fame, having her song go viral on TikTok and being the one people dance to. Signed to Epic Records through a joint venture with Johannesburg/New York-based Fax Records, and co-managed by We Make Music and Africa Creative Agency, Tyla is poised to achieve international dominance with style, soul, and spirit. 

What’ve you been up to?

I’ve been traveling and making music. I’ve been to Dubai, America, Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. I’ve been to so many different places, working on my project that’s going to be released next year. I’ve been very busy, and also started performing again, which is exciting. Yeah, that’s basically what I’ve been up to.

How has performing been for you?

It has actually been very fun. Initially, I was kind of nervous because I’ve been in the shadows for so long, but once I got into it again, I really loved it. I’m actually performing today again in London. I’m excited for that as well.

What do you do before a performance?

I pray all the time before a performance to calm the nerves a bit and kind of get into the zone. That’s basically what I do, and I don’t do any hectic things before I get on; I usually just pray, and that’s enough.

How did you get into music?

Music has always been part of my life and my family’s life. I have a lot of family members who sing, and play instruments. I feel like I was born into a family that loves music. Every morning, I woke up to music, and on the weekends, we’d clean the house with music. So I fell in love at a very young age, also watching Michael Jackson and Rihanna. My father had their concerts recorded, and we watched them all the time, and I just always loved the performances and knew that was basically what I wanted to do when I was older.

Ever since I was small, I knew that was what I wanted to get into. That’s basically how my passion started. Me actually doing it; I used to record videos and post them on social media, where my manager discovered me. From there, I started recording professionally for the first time with Kooldrink, and we made ‘Getting Laid’, which started everything.

Tyla interview

How was that for you? having your debut single blow up?

Yo, it was crazy! None of us expected it at all; we obviously hoped that it would do well, but what it did was obviously beyond what we ever thought it would do. So we’re just very grateful for everything that’s happening around the song. It was a very special song, so yeah, it’s just been really humbling, this whole process.

What role do dancing and TikTok play with you and your music?

It’s one of the key parts of music because I also love dancing, when I was very young, I started dancing and I feel like it goes hand in hand, especially with the music I make. I make dance music. When it comes to Amapiano, you have to dance, so it’s a huge part of my sound and what I’m creating.

When I was younger, I would always dance. I’d make up dances with my sister to perform, and I would also dance in school. Naturally, I fell in love with making videos, singing, and dancing on the internet. So the fact that I had an audience before releasing the music really helped because releasing music is already scary. The fact that I had supporters helped a lot and really took it further than I thought.

What inspires your approach to music?

I grew up listening to all kinds of music—African music, obviously, and Western music as well. I listened to everything and always felt like I wanted to fuse all these sounds together, keeping it true to myself and African, but also with more of an R&B touch or a pop sound. It’s always like I gravitate toward it, and not many people are doing it, so I feel it’s the perfect blend for me.

How did ‘To Last’ come about?

Years ago, I was in the shower and I was singing to myself—I always sing in the shower, by the way—and I came up with the chorus lyrics, and they really stuck. I wasn’t even thinking melody, but when I said those words, I was like, “Yeah, this hits!” So I recorded it on my phone and kept it there.

Years later, I returned to it while recording music at a camp in South Africa, and it just sat so perfectly on the beat that the song literally flowed out of me. I finished very quickly, and it was the perfect timing because the song is about what a friend was going through at the time, so I was speaking through her in the song. That’s how it came about.

I thought it was a continuation of the story from your first single

A lot of people say that. Maybe it is unconsciously.

How did the remix with DJ Maphorisa come about, and how was that like for you?

It was actually crazy because he really liked the song, and we’d been wanting to work for a while. So I got in with him, he played some other stuff, some exclusives, and we just got into it. We started making the remix, and it came out so great that we knew that it was actually going to be nice. After that session, we even made more bangers that are on the way. It was a very natural and nice experience.

You’ve gone from being underground to working with some of the biggest names in music currently; how does that make you feel?

It’s almost surreal. Every time I’d wake up and be like, “What’s happening?” “Am I in a movie?” “Is this fake?” Literally, it just doesn’t feel real, especially coming from South Africa, where not many of us make it this far. There are not many of us that actually get out of South Africa and get people to hear our music outside of South Africa.

It’s just been very unbelievable, and having this opportunity has been a blessing having this opportunity because it’s like the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m giving it my all, praying every day, and I’m very passionate about everything. So, I’m grateful and hopeful for the future.

You’ve been on tour, and you’ve been performing for a while now. What would you say your favorite memory has been in the last year?

My favorite memory is when we brought people from South Africa to make music. I loved that so much because some had never been to Africa, and some to South Africa. So it was just amazing that we got to bring them back home and let them see the culture, let them see the people, and experience Amapiano from where it originated.

I just loved seeing the way they genuinely loved seeing the culture and the music, and the inspiration that came from it. A lot of them even want to move to South Africa now. That’s like a huge core memory for me. 

That’s great. For people to actually come into your home, experience it, and fall in love with your culture.

Yeah, I feel like it’s really important for them to understand me and where I come from more. It’s just more authentic.

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