Interview: Tiara Thomas’ ‘Bad Influences’ Inspired Her New Album

Tiara Thomas has a Serena Williams-like focus in the ’05 Australian Open when it comes to the “Popular” singer’s mindset for the arrival of her debut album Bad Influence.

Although there’s no release date set in stone, the 25-year-old is steadily carving her name on the list of rising singers to pay attention to. Following the 2013 release of her Dear Sallie Mae EP, the Indiana-native’s’ moniker was pinned on the musical map. Thomas showcased her songwriting technique and unique vocals as an appetizer for fans before her main dish of melodies is served.

In an exclusive interview with VIBE, Thomas speaks candidly about her freshman album’s details including the upcoming producers she worked with plus Rico Love, creating the storyboard for her Set If Off inspired video “One Night,” and what she hopes fans will gain from Bad Influence.

VIBE: Your forthcoming debut album is named Bad Influence. How did you come up with the title?
Tiara Thomas: I came up with the title Bad Influence based off of a couple different things, one being the influence of “Bad,” my first successful song, and also I have a song on the album called “Bad Influence” and it’s basically talking about a girl that’s messing with a guy where she shouldn’t be. I think everybody has a bad influence in their life or has had a bad influence. Someone that was bad for them or you could’ve been bad for somebody or something was a bad influence on you. I talk about sex a lot or dysfunctional relationships, or it doesn’t have to be dysfunctional like drugs and stuff and those are all things that could be a bad influence, but when you think about it sometimes a bad influence is something that inspires you. It makes you write good music so I think a lot of my music on the album falls within that realm so that’s why I decided to call it Bad Influence.

What sound are you going for with this album?
It’s a sexy album. It’s got bright moments to it. It’s not an R&B album and it’s not a Hip-Hop album and it’s not a Pop album. I mixed a lot of different elements within the music of those three genres.

What are some of your bad influences?
Smoking, not cigarettes but smoking weed, that’s a bad influence. There’s been a couple of people throughout my life or between college and now that were a bad influence. Someone you don’t want to stop messing with or I could’ve been a bad influence on someone else, like maybe I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t super mature because I’m only 25, and turning up, partying, stuff like that.

Any features that we can expect to be revealed in the future?
Right now we have one feature that I can say and I have a song called “Ten” with Rico Love on it. It’s one of my favorite songs right now from the album and it’s produced by one of my new favorite producers. His name is Swag and you’ll probably hear more from him, but he’s dope. He did a few songs on my album as well. We’re working on some other stuff as well.

What was the atmosphere like in the studio, this being you first album? Were you a perfectionist or made sure everything fell into place?
I did some work out in L.A. and I did some work here in New York, but for most of my album, a big portion of my album I was in Miami in my house. We had a little studio setup in my house and my engineer would come through everyday and we would just work all day. He would blast tracks throughout the house. I would just write music and I really liked working like that. Just doing stuff on my own time and I’m in my own vibe, it’s not like a pressure of being in the studio because sometimes you go in the studio and you have to make something. I did a lot of the stuff from my house and it was fun.

What was it like working with Rico Love on “One Night?” I know you two collaborated around the time of your Dear Sallie Mae EP?
Dear Sallie Mae EP was a collection of songs I did while I was in college and back then I didn’t have the means to make the music on a bigger scale. When I signed my deal I was able to do that and me and Rico just did my Dear Sallie Mae EP because we wanted to get that music out there. Now working on my album it’s all different music. We got in the studio for about a week, and we did “One Night.” It came really naturally. Every time we get in the studio it’s real natural, it’s like nothing is forced. He’s got good energy, he’s got really good ideas. We did “One Night” and we worked on a couple of other songs on the album. For the most part I wrote most of my album, a good 85% of my album.

Let’s talk about your video “One Night.” What was the inspiration behind the video? It’s a bit reminiscent of Set It Off.
Actually I based my concept off of that movie because that’s my favorite movie so I came up with a bunch of ideas that we submitted to different directors and they wrote treatments. We ended up going with the treatment by The ENDS. They directed the video and it turned out really dope.

When writing music, where do you gather your inspiration from? From personal experiences or friends and families’ experiences?
Sometimes as a writer or just as somebody who writes books some of it’s true, some of it’s kind of true, and then it’s just exaggerated. When I write my music I try to find inspiration from everything. “Bad” came out maybe a year and a half ago and I took a year to just go off and grow as a person and experience different things because I grew up in Indiana and that’s where I always was up until I graduated from college. I really needed to get out and learn more about myself as an artist and as a person, just experience more things. I write a lot of my stuff based off of experiences that I’ve had, but I also write music based off of experiences that people feel in general. Stuff that people feel but they just don’t say it so I get a lot of inspiration from other girls and other situations but I try to make my music as true as possible. It’s like my story but like I said I’m a writer so it could be exaggerated or something happened in that actual instance but in the song I want to flip the script and be like I want to make it happen like this instead. It’s really music, you can do whatever you want to do with it and I fully take advantage of that.

Who are your greatest musical influences?
I love Lauryn Hill and I like all of the 90s girls. I like TLC, and back when I taught myself to play guitar one of my main inspirations was India.Arie. Her tone is crazy and Brandy’s tone is crazy too. I love those T-Boz, Jazmine Sullivan deep tone, she can sing her ass off. I take an element from different types of singers. I like how real and raw Lauryn was, I like India.Arie’s voice. I like how fun TLC was and just how carefree they were. Left Eye, super quirky cool girls. Aaliyah was sexy, but wasn’t trying too hard, it was real chill and laid back so I took different inspirations about different artists and applied it myself.

What do you want your fans to gain from the album?
I hope they understand it, where I’m coming from because you everyday know how you feel, but somebody that doesn’t know you might not know that you might be trying to portray that to them but maybe they don’t get it in the same way that you’re trying to portray it. I just really hope my fans understand what I’m trying to do here as far as being honest and being real. I hope that it’s inspiring and it motivates them and makes them feel like me feeling that way or thinking that way wasn’t that bad after all because she just said it.