There’s a strict “no photos” rule at Soho House, but when Tinashe feels like taking a selfie at the members-only club in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, she does what she damn well pleases. After all, her 2.2 million Instagram followers are chomping at the bit for any update from the singer, whose second album, Joyride, out today, was delayed several times due to disagreements with her record label. “It’s been a journey,” she tells InStyle ahead of the release. “I approach things more purposely now. I’m owning who I am and what I want, and I think that comes through in the music.” Here, more from Tinashe on self-assuredness, social media, and partying with the Jenners.
How did you get your creative juices flowing for this album? I rented a house in the Hollywood Hills last summer and turned it into a studio and full-time creative sanctuary. I brought in producers, writers, musicians, graphic designers, artists … just people that I vibed with. Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, and Diplo all came. I threw Taco Tuesdays where I’d make everyone tacos and we’d record songs. We had crystals everywhere; we were burning sage and candles. I had an easel with a giant canvas set up for everyone to paint on. It was like summer camp. Everything we were doing was focused on honing in on the project and making it amazing. That was a huge turning point.
I read that Rihanna almost took the title track Joyride, featuring Travis Scott. Travis and I always had a good relationship. Then he started dating her and we didn’t talk for a while. He wound up giving my song to her and I was really hurt, but eventually I got it back.
You’ve been pretty vocal about conflicts with your record label. What exactly happened there? There were creative discrepancies, especially in terms of categorization. Either the urban department promotes your song, or the pop department promotes your song. You have to be one or the other, and I’m neither. I’m a pop artist who makes rhythmic and urban material. I don't know why that's hard for people to comprehend, but it is. I’ve never felt like a fit into one particular box. Growing up, I wasn’t raised to identify as black or white or straight or gay or this or that. For me, it's always been a gray area. I thrive on gray areas. Even with fashion—I don’t stick to one particular look. Sometimes I feel super girly; sometimes I feel super street; sometimes I feel super high-fashion. It’s all a melting pot for me, and that’s what makes it fun. It’s important to know who the fuck you are because if you don’t, everyone else will try to tell you who you are.
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How did you get to be so confident? I credit a lot to parents because they always believed in me, before I had any accolades or access. They let me drop out of school and test out early to pursue music, they took me to my auditions when I was a kid, they took out a second mortgage on the house just so I could get my hair done. My parents always went above and beyond—they never questioned or doubted me. That led to a lot confidence in myself, because, if they don’t doubt me, why would I doubt myself? They’re adults!
Dr. Luke previously had a producer credit, but you removed it. What was your experience working with him? Pretty non-controversial, to be honest. I don’t know Ke$ha personally, but I can relate to aspects of her story. She felt like she had no choice in certain situations and felt creative pressures to make certain things. I identify with anyone who feels trapped in their art and doesn't feel like they can make the art they want to make.
Have you ever experienced sexual harassment in the workplace? For the most part, I’ve been pretty lucky. But I’ve definitely worked with some weirdos. One time, when I was 18, I went into the studio by myself and a producer brought in his 10 homies and they were all asking me inappropriate questions, like “Have you ever had a threesome?” “Have you ever had a one-night stand?” I was like, “Sir, I’m trying to write a song. How is this relevant to what we need to do right now?”
You got your start in Vitamin C’s girl group, The Stunners. What did you learn from that? I’m very thankful I was involved because it was my first time touring. We toured with Justin Bieber, which was eye-opening and exciting and inspirational. I got to be on a bus and play for 20,000 people. But there was no creative freedom at all. We were told how to dress, our name was picked out for us, the songs were written for us, the singles were chosen for us. It wasn’t fulfilling. When I was free of that, I was like, “Hallelujah!”
Do you enjoy social media? I fucking hate social media. But it’s part of the business—it’s something I have to do that I don’t want to do. Everyone can comment on your life, and people are mean and negative. You wind up creating all these false perceptions of reality in your mind and comparing yourself to others. When I was 7 years old, I didn’t want to be a Twitter star—I just wanted to sing.
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What’s next for you? I want to start businesses and create things, whether it’s music, production, engineering, choreography, acting, or fashion. Kanye is a great example, because he doesn’t limit himself to just sneakers. He thinks outside the box. I feel like I can do so much shit, and there’s so much left to do. The sky’s the limit.