BRYSON TILLER is a prime example of perseverance.
In 2014, the Louisville native premiered debut single, Don’t, on Soundcloud. It was taken from his first mixtape Killer Instinct Vol. 1, released three years prior, and spoke of a man’s promise to do right by a woman.
The smooth and sultry R&B track with a hint of trap was made by Bryson “in my living room” and had both music insiders and fans alike streaming it in their droves.
Don’t accumulated four million streams in the first six months, and eventually went on to gain over 35 million.
The following year, he released the hit song commercially. The album Trap Soul followed. And the rest, they say, is history.
Don’t peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and its accompanying video, received over 170 million views on YouTube.
Then came the record label offers.
He turned down a record deal from “big brother” Drake at OVO and instead opted to sign with RCA, reasoning that RCA would help him establish a long-lasting personal brand.
By his own admission, the response was “indescribable”.
“I definitely dreamed about it but at the time I was just a kid making music,” he told The Young Empire.
And for that ‘kid’, his hard work was applauded on a worldwide stage, when he won two gongs at the 2016 BET Awards for Best Male R&B/Pop Artist and Best New Artist.
Do awards help to validate his work?
“Somewhat,” he replies. “I honestly just make music because it’s what I love so even if I didn’t win anything, I’m satisfied and honoured that I was even nominated.”
He adds: “I just really put my all into that song. It just really proved that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”
And his words are retrospective.
Bryson was forced to sleep in his car before finding fame, an experience he says made him “appreciate the smaller things”.
“[It makes you] realise you can always do worse than what you’re doing,” he says.
It’s also apt to note here that Bryson borrowed $600 from friends to buy equipment and record Don’t.
Following the release of the hit song, he tweeted: ““8 months ago @iWorkTheHardest [Smitty] and @ContactSwad3 [Stephon] gave me 600 dollars to buy studio equipment and I made ‘Don’t.’ life is so crazy.”
For the singer, who lists Jazmine Sullivan as his musical inspiration, his advice to anyone who lands success or fame is to remember who they are without the plaudits from external forces.
“Don’t let the fame get to your head,” he stresses. “Stay true to your morals and values and you definitely have to be tough out here.”
The 22-year-old credits his grandmother, who raised him, with helping keep him grounded and believes having an anchor or mentor to help you navigate success is important.
“I grew up with my grandmother so she definitely inspired me a lot. A mentor is important; it gives you an idea of how you should aim to live your life.”
Musical accomplishments aside, Bryson was “honoured” with the key to Louisville by the city’s Mayor, Greg Fischer, last year and March 12 was subsequently became ‘Bryson Tiller Day’.
“I was amazed. I was honoured,” Bryson says of the tribute. “It means a lot. That’s my hometown so it holds a special place in my heart.”
But there’s one thing that validates him over everything else and that’s his daughter, two-year-old Harley, who features predominantly on the singer’s Instagram page.
Asked if she understands what it is he does, Bryson replies: “She knows yeah but she doesn’t understand completely.”
Would he be supportive if she decided to venture into music?
“I’d be happy,” he says. “Just knowing that she wants to follow after me makes me happy and the fact that she would even know what it is she wants to do definitely lets me know I’m raising her right.”
On his future in music and beyond, Bryson says a quote from 2014 film Fault In Our Stars, perfectly sums it up.
“I think it goes, ‘My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.’ Corny, right?” he laughs.
“I definitely always try to put my thoughts into my music but sometimes I can’t even think straight or put it into words.”
And his advice to his younger self and those wanting to forge a career in music follow in the same vein.
“Stay true to yourself and stick to your dreams,” he says.
WORDS: Dionne Grant