It’s a small miracle that this interview happened at all. Ryan Hemsworth and Tinashe are both extremely busy people—Ryan’s Secret Songs collective is taking off, while Tinashe is about to drop her second studio album, Joyride, and set off on an accompanying world tour.
But these two go back—Ryan has produced for Tinashe, Tinashe has guested on Hemsworth’s solo work—so when they did get on the phone last month, it wasn’t an introduction.
Hey this is Ryan, is this Tinashe?
Hey! How’s it going?
Hey, good, how are you?
Great, how’ve you been? I don’t know why I keep saying that, but I keep saying it.
I’m good, I’m just in Toronto right now, kind of hanging out at home, working on stuff, staying busy.
Same, except I’m in LA. I heard it’s like, freezing.
Do you have an actual place of your own, or are you still at your parents’, like I last read?
Nope, I still live at home!
That’s cool, is it still comfortable there?
It’s super comfortable, cozy wozy.
I guess it’s saving a bit of money and everything as well.
Yeah, it’s cool. I like being able to come back and it’s super easy, and I just spend time with my brothers and everything else. Just spending time around the family is nice. I enjoy it.
Yeah, you have two younger brothers?
Cool, how old are they?
They’re… 18? Or no, wait, 19? And 16. So one is in college, one’s in high school. But they’ve all been home for the holidays. So we’ve been hanging out, watching movies, playing video games, playing board games…
Board games? What do you play?
Clue, or Taboo, sometimes we play card games, but I’m not good at card games.
What’s your preference? What’s your favorite board game?
I like Taboo. It’s my personal fave.
I don’t think I’ve ever played that one.
It’s like charades sort of, but you have to guess as many as you possibly can before the time runs out. They give you a word and you have to act it out, and then the other teammates have to guess what it is. You try to do it as quickly as possible, though, so you shout everything out. It’s pretty fun.
You’ve been playing video games you said?
What have you been playing? Sorry to nerd out, but I’m just curious.
No, it’s all good. We’ve been playing Mortal Kombat a lot. We’ve been playing Guitar Hero lately. We’ve been doing a lot Left for Dead. There’s an array. Zombies.
That’s sweet. Okay, I won’t talk any more about video games. I can get right into it, and I won’t take up that much of your time. Thanks for agreeing to do it, actually. Appreciate it.
Yeah, no thanks for having me, I guess. Or yeah, interviewing me. It’s really cool.
It’s cool for me because I guess I don’t do interviews, but it was kind of a cool idea. So, I guess since I’ve known you, and your music, you’ve been with Sony/RCA pretty much the past three, four years, right?
Yeah, since 2012.
Some of the other people I met with, for example, wanted me to explain myself. They didn’t really get it. And that’s kind of frustrating as an artist.
I guess I’m curious, because when I was following you, you definitely had a few mixtapes out for a while. Was there a certain point where you were like, “I need to sign now?” Were there a bunch of people reaching out? Was Sony really the first one that hit you up?
Yeah. I actually signed after the first mixtape. I actually put out most of my stuff after being signed. But yeah, when I put out the first mixtape, that was initially when the buzz started growing and different labels were talking about me, and I was taking different meetings with different people and whatnot. Sony was the one, to me, who understood where I was coming from as an artist.
They weren’t going to mold me into a particular direction, they understood what I was already doing, so that was what drew me to them, and intrigued me about them. Some of the other people I met with, for example, wanted me to explain myself. They didn’t really get it. And that’s kind of frustrating as an artist.
For sure, especially if they’re reaching out to work with you. They should try to get it already.
Right, it’s like, you know you should form your own point of view, but people want it to be spelled out for them.
Yeah, and I think I was following your stuff for a bit and I think it was through Derek and those guys who really put me on, and they just seem like they really get it also from—not just straight up from the singer angle, but also the producer relationship, and… just everything that kind of puts together an album and a project.
Yeah! They respected the DIY aspect of what I was doing, which was really important to me, because you can’t really rely on other people to do things for you, so that was really cool, to have people acknowledge it and support that. I didn’t really ever have that before.
When you’re in the studio, do you have certain types of people you like to have in the room, or do you prefer to be alone with the engineer?
I pretty much keep it as minimal as possible. I’m not the type of person that brings friends to the studio, really. Every once in a while, but it depends on the vibe. With some producers, sometimes it’s more of a chill vibe, and there are more people around. With others, it’s different. With some people, I’d rather just have them send me beats and do it in my home studio, so it’s kind of situational based on the producer. But for the most part, I kind of prefer to be more alone in that process.
Maybe that goes back to how you started, the more DIY way, and just recording in your room and stuff.
It’s my comfort zone.
Yeah, I get that for sure. Do you have a certain place or time, when you’re writing, that you find yourself hit with inspiration a lot, or is it just random?
It’s kind of depending on where I was in my life, like for a lot of it, it was things I was going through at certain times, and what I was feeling emotionally then, but now, I’m going through a lot of really totally different kind of experiences. Now I’m touring a lot, touring the world… just not being at home and I’m meeting tons of people at a time. Now my inspiration is coming from a different place I think, so it’s just kind of interesting. Sometimes I try to draw back to where I was mentally, but it’s always easier to write in the perspective that I’m at.
Do you find yourself sometimes more productive? I find that when I’m making music, if it’s after 1 a.m., I make the best stuff. I don’t know if you have a same day or night-time for writing.
Yeah, I think I probably do better at night. I try to be able to write at all times, but yah, I’m definitely more of a night person than a morning person, which I think most music people are. Probably after dusk; not necessarily late night… when the sun goes down. But on a rainy day? I’m really good on rainy days.
Yeah, it has to be melodramatic out the window so you can get inspiration.
So with Aquarius you said that it took a few years in the process of writing and recording and everything. With Joyride, I guess it was probably a lot less time that you had to prepare between projects?
Yeah, it took me a year to write Joyride.
How did you find that process different? Was it more stressful or were you able to kind of find motivation?
I think it eliminated a lot of the wasted time, wasted sessions that happened with the first album. Not to say like totally wasted, but songs that weren’t going to end up going to be a part of the project. I think when I was doing the first album, and working with a lot of people for the first time, not only are you just getting to know each other, and getting to know each other’s styles, but people weren’t totally familiar with me and who I was as an artist.
A lot of times when you’re collaborating with these big producers, you kind of have to “try out,” in a way. They want you to sing on their shitty songs, then give you their crappy beats, and you kind of have to prove yourself to get to the point where… I don’t think anyone’s going to try to work for you. So, I think with this second album, I didn’t have to do any of that kind of stuff, so I just went straight to the people that I already knew I had chemistry with and wanted to work with.
For this one, you’ve got a lot of amazing people, like Max Martin, which I’m definitely really curious about. Did you get to spend much time with him or was it more of a long distance collaboration?
He has a studio in L.A., which is really nice, and so I spend a lot of time there. I guess it was this summer… yeah, just writing a lot of songs, and there was a really cool vibe in that house. There’s crystals everywhere and there’s all sorts of producers, all sorts of writers and everyone’s just making cool music, so it’s really a fun experience.
A lot of times when you’re collaborating with these big producers, you kind of have to “try out,” in a way, they want you to sing on their shitty songs, then give you their crappy beats, and you kind of have to prove yourself
Do you know if that was where they’ve been for the past 20 or so years? I’m curious if it was also where Britney Spears made all that stuff.
I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ve been there that long. But it’s a really cool complex. I think they’ve been there for a while, but I don’t think they’ve been there since the beginning.
I’m curious about studio stuff. Björk said in an interview that in her career, whenever she’s worked on projects, if a guy says something or does something, she has to do it five times or say it five times before she gets any kind of recognition for it—just as a female artist. Have you had similar trouble with that?
Yeah. I think I’ve definitely had that experience. I think a lot of times, when you’re a young woman, you get put into particular boxes and especially in the music industry, it’s extremely male-dominated, from a production standpoint… really every angle of the music industry is very much male-dominated. So it’s very interesting, and it’s a lot harder to make it as a female artist for a lot of reasons. It does sometimes take a toll on me, because you feel like you don’t get the same type of recognition that you would like, that maybe male “peers” do. But I don’t think that that is a new phenomenon.
No, not at all. Just from your experience—I guess you’ve been making music for a long time—have you seen a bit of a change, or do you feel like there’s still very much that challenge every day?
I feel like there is a change in people’s perception, like the open-mindedness is there, but there’s still just this incredible numbers game. It’s really just lopsided. And that’s still a problem. So I just try to encourage a lot of women to get involved in the creation of music and the music industry in general. I just think it’s important.
I’m sure you’ve been asked a million times with your previous tours with Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry and I don’t want to ask the same thing as a lot of people have asked, but have you personally taken much from those tours that you may be able to put into your next tour?
Yeah, I think one thing that I really loved about Katy’s tour is obviously the production value. It was extremely high, and it’s really amazing. I definitely want to do whatever I can to just step up the production value in little ways at my show, whether they’d be costume changes, or the lighting, or the set design… I think all of those things go into making a show really incredible and that’s obviously something I’d like to have on a smaller scale.
As far as Nicki Minaj, I think she has a really great way of talking to the crowd, just confident and this way that everyone wants to listen to her, and everyone just participating at her show, and I just think that’s really amazing, that she has the crowds so engaged. That’s what I liked about her show.
Have you reached out to anybody to help with set design and production value for your tour?
Not yet, we still haven’t fully started, actually, developing the Joyride tour show yet. We’re just in the beginning processes of just planning it all out, trying to get the music together. We’ll see what happens.
Do you have any kind of vision for how the show will play out at all, or even just moods of the night or anything?
Yeah, I obviously want it to be reflective of the new album, and have a new feel, and I definitely just want it to be a journey, so I’m excited about it. Should be good, I can’t wait to get on the road.
Is your family going to try and join you?
They’ll come for some of it. I don’t know if they’ll come for all of it. But my mom really wants to come to Japan, and Australia, I think. She wants to go to Asia. And my brothers want to come to some of those shows this summer. They were selling my merch in the UK, and we were selling way more when they were selling it, so I have to get them to sell it again. [Laughs]
Even the biggest shows I’ve played, when I have family in attendance, it makes me so much more nervous.
Yeah? I like it, and I know that it’s going to be a chill night.
Will that be your first time in Australia?
No, I played there last year, too. I’m excited to go back.
Did you get much time to do anything there?
Anything fun? Not really. We went to the kangaroo park, which was pretty cool, got to pet some kangaroos. We went to the beach one day. We didn’t really get to see much. It was one of those tours where we went to every city in a week, so it was a lot.
Yeah, I’ve been to Australia a few times and it’s super fun if you actually get a bit of downtime, but I understand that. So there’s Team Tinashe and all the millions of accounts that I’ve found, and been followed by just after producing a couple things for you. It’s massive! Was there a certain time that you noticed these accounts and everyone following you like that, or was it just a slow build for you?
I think it’s something that I’ve been working towards for so long that it was hard to notice a crazy progression. I’ve had my Twitter since, what, 2008? And I’ve had Instagram for a few years too. Just all social media networks, whether it’s YouTube… I was putting up videos years ago and building and building and building, and just it started to accumulate. I don’t know when I really noticed it starting.
I’ve had “fans” for a long time, but it wasn’t the same kind of numbers that it is now. I don’t know. When you’re in it, it’s always hard to notice it.
It’s funny, it’s just one of those things that I feel like every label or whatever would love to try and manufacture, but that’s the kind of thing that you really can’t. It’s there or it isn’t.
I know you’ve done acting in the past. Is that something you feel like you’d ever go back to sometime in the future in your career?
Yeah, I want to. I want to do interesting roles, challenging roles… I would love to be involved in acting in the future, but I just want to solidify my music career before I take months out of the year to focus on acting.
Would you be interested in film or TV? Or are you up for whatever?
I think more film than TV.
I imagine that Drake will definitely pull that out eventually, because he was kind of amazing in Degrassi.
Yeah! I always wonder about that—if he’ll ever pop up in a movie or something.
I feel like our generation hasn’t had that Tupac in movies and stuff, like we haven’t really had the musicians come out yet.
It could be you!
Oh, true! Actually he was amazing in Crash and stuff.
He was really good in that movie.
Yeah, I guess besides acting and stuff, have you ever had any other art forms that you’ve been interested in getting into, like designing, or anything?
Yeah, I mean I try to just do whatever I can. I just like to create. I love to make something out of nothing. So directing is something I’d really like to do, obviously. I’ve directed a lot of my own videos and I’ve directed videos for other people.
I want to get more involved in my art, to be able to showcase my paintings more. I paint, and it would be really cool to get more involved with that. Fashion, obviously getting more involved with that… have a brand, and try to expand the brand, and develop it from just merch to something that’s more of a lifestyle line. So I just want to do a lot of things in the future. Sky’s the limit.
With painting, you’ve been doing that for a while?
Yeah, I’ve been painting my whole life, really, just creatively.
That’s awesome. Where do you find inspiration for painting?
A lot through nature. I paint a lot of natural things. A lot of trees, flowers, water, the sky, things like that. Or I do a lot of abstract art. I don’t really like to paint objects, per se. I just like to create nature or just, emotion.
Yeah, I’ve been wanting to try that for a while. I think that’d be really good, especially after a tour or something like that, it could really relax you.
Yeah, definitely, it’s really fun.
You should do a Joyride board game.
Yeah! [Laughs] I could!
You could have that. [Laughs] Are there any women that you’re following that you think should get more attention?
I really love The Internet. They were probably my favorite band this year. Syd is awesome. The band is really dope. I hope they get more public recognition. I think they got a lot of recognition this year, but I would like it just to be more.
Have you followed Cam & China from LA?
I have not. I need to check them out.
Yeah, you should for sure. They’re… I don’t know why they’re so not talked about. But they have a track with Mustard and I think they’re two sisters in high school right now.
Cam & China? Alright, I’ll look ‘em up.
Yeah, I think you’d like that. They’re amazing.
Last question: I was going through your Instagram, and I saw some dogs, and I was curious whose dogs they are.
My dogs. Those are my family dogs—Jazz and Jackson. I’ve had Jazz since she was like, 12. Jackson was like, four or five, he’s an inu and she’s a lab/shepherd mix.
So you’ve kind of grown up with dogs pretty much all your life?
Yeah, I mean we’ve had Jazz since I was maybe like nine or 10 years old? Before that, we had a cat for a few years. But we always had the dog.
Yeah, I always grew up with dogs, and I actually I’ve been living away from home for four, five years, and I just got a cat this year, and it’s like the best thing that’s happened to me.
Yeah, I love pets.
I think dogs are just good for your character as well.
Yes! It’s a good spirit, it’s a good energy in the house to have. Somebody who’s always happy or confident or bright, it’s nice.
Alright, well that’s pretty much that’s all we wanted to get out. I think leaving on dogs is a good way to end.
Yeah, definitely! Thanks Ryan. It was good talking to you!