Amapiano can only be described as a force that is snowballing with time. As the movement gains more speed, weight and global recognition - it clears the way for artists like Tyla to stand tall on the international stage. And that is exactly what she is doing. Since her 2019 debut single, Getting Late, the South African songstress has amassed a following for both her music and personality - boasting over 1.6 million followers on TikTok alone. Although Tyla is still in the early stages of her career, she continues to add notches to her belt and rack up achievements: featuring on Blood & Water's soundtrack, working with the legendary DJ Maphorisa on the To Last remix to then performing with Scorpion Kings on their London tour date to name a few. It’s only natural to be intrigued by the singer’s intense and explosive rise to fame.
After swapping pleasantries and making sure her ‘London starter pack’ visit was complete with Nandos and questionable weather, we fell into conversation over travel and finding fans in every corner of the world.
You said in a previous interview that making Getting Late led to you leaving South Africa for the first time, is there anywhere you’ve been where you were surprised by the reception?
I’m shocked I have fans in some places I can’t even pronounce! (laughs) I always ask ‘how do you know me?’ Especially on TikTok. People comment where they are from and it’s literally so crazy.
It’s nice that you’re able to reach your fans through social media with so many followers. Was that always part of the plan, or is that just you being you?
It was never planned. I remember being young and stealing my father’s phone to post because we were not allowed social media. So I would make secret accounts to post everything because I genuinely enjoy it. I started gaining traction and then it made it easier to release for the first time.
You’re right, people went crazy for the Getting Late snippets! What made you choose that as the debut track?
I feel like when we made it we knew. I remember the last year of school, every weekend me, my best friend and my manager would be making music or taking pictures and we’d try all different genres of music. And one day we said ‘let’s make an Amapiano song’ because it was what was happening and what we were listening to at the time. So we did it, made it and from then we just knew it was going to be the first song.
We’ve heard your Amapiano sound but you said you played around with different genres. What were some of the other sounds and will we be hearing them as time goes on?
You’ll definitely be hearing them. I enjoy fusing different sounds together - like R&B but with some elements of Amapiano. Pop with Amapiano or Afrobeats. I feel like I’m just trying out everything but my upcoming album, you’ll hear the differences and the influences in every song but also hear how cohesive it is at the same time.
How did your relationship with Kooldrink come about?
He reached out to my manager through email but he found me on Instagram. And I didn’t answer! Because I thought ‘who is this man emailing me?!’ But I did answer eventually and he said to come through with your parents, which I did and I recorded for the first time so that’s how I met him. Since then, we have been working every weekend, trying out new stuff.
It’s cool that you went with your parents.
Definitely! I wasn’t going to go alone!
Have they always been very supportive of you pursuing music?
They’ve always wanted this to be a side thing. Because they never knew it would be as big as it could be. Usually, there’s a low chance of people really making it with music - especially coming from South Africa. There aren’t many artists from there that make it as big as I want to make it. So they were trying to shelter me a bit, saying to do it on the side but also study just in case. So it took a while for me to convince them that I wanted to do this full time. But when I did and I started getting into it they were 100% in.
You mentioned how a lot of influence comes from your parents, not just for music but encouragement and support. What was the turning point for them when they realised you wanted to do this?
I feel like they could see how passionate I was. I remember when you finish school you get a certificate at the end and I didn’t go to the ceremony to collect it. (laughs) I told my mum I’m not fetching it. It’s still there at the school actually. I said I’m not getting it and I’m actually going to do music! They tried convincing me and convincing me and with African parents it’s already difficult because they think you have to go to school and if you don’t? Hey, your life is over! So I just had to go for it and they couldn’t say much after that because I was already in.
What was it like performing at Scorpion Kings?
First of all, I love performing. I love it so much. First time in London, first time at Printworks - the venue is crazy! It was a sold out show. It was very exciting and my heart was racing. I couldn’t wait to get on. It was nerve racking but it was also an adrenaline rush. I enjoyed seeing all the people that love Amapiano and loads of African people there enjoying the music.
What’s it like dealing with the pressure to release music? Especially when fans are constantly asking for more music and longer songs?
It’s frustrating because even me, I want to release. We have like over 80 songs. Obviously we narrowed it down but if we have that many, why can’t we just press play? But it has to go through the label, there’s a whole process so it’s a bit frustrating because that creates pressure and people’s eyes get wider, you know? Like, why are you taking so long?! I’m just happy it’s finally time.
And how do you deal with that pressure? It's one thing I’ve always wondered when it comes to artists. What’s something to help you unwind and destress?
Honestly, when I feel a lot of pressure one thing I like to do is just be alone. And chill on TikTok and try not to think. Or being at my family house just to get away from all of it. Or I just play my music. And sing to myself or perform to myself in front of the mirror because I’m like, ‘yo, this stuff is actually good’. (laughs)
Tell me more about this album…
I’m releasing the first track in January (Been Thinking). It’s crazy, I’m so excited. We already have the video and everything so I want to release it right now! And the album is early next year. And some singles in between. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been working on it for over a year. The whole of last year was filled with travelling and collaborating with people making music. I went to Dubai, Nigeria, America, Tanzania, Kenya. So many different places. And I worked with a lot of people. Lojay, Tricky Stewart, P Prime, Ayra Starr and more. It’s going to be great.
If you could sum up the album, or even the process of making it, in three words - what would they be? No Pressure.
Hmmmm. Fresh, versatile and vibe. It’s a vibe.
Listen to Tyla's new single Been Thinking, out now on all streaming platforms.