For close to a decade, fans have known Tiffany as the bubbly vocalist of K-pop phenoms Girls' Generation. But come last month, the 26-year-old California native surpassed all expectations with her official solo debut, delivering a slew of sophisticated singles like "I Just Wanna Dance" and "Heartbreak Hotel." The starlet went all-out with the promotion, dropping a full EP that boasted collaborations with stars on both hemispheres, an English remix of her single, and she topped it all off with her first solo concert.
Just after finishing the concert, Tiffany hopped on the phone with Fuse to reflect on her first solo moves and predict what's coming next for a rare and refreshingly candid conversation.
FUSE: Hello Tiffany! How are you doing?
Tiffany: It's been a whirlwind. [Laughs] I have just finished promotions, officially. It's been a long seven weeks and I'm still hanging in there. But it feels good!
Your voice sounds a little hoarse. Are you a little under the weather?
I'm kind of exhausted and my throat's has been a little strained since performing, but I'm good! They said I only need two days and I'm going to stay home for the next days.
You've definitely earned a nice break. I'm really impressed with everything for "I Just Wanna Dance" and "Heartbreak Hotel." I wasn't expecting this vibe-y, moody feel from you. How did you you land on this?
I choose my music based on what I was feeling or going through before production all the time. Originally, I was supposed to put the album out in the fall of 2015, but the company still had this bubbly... they expected what everybody else expected. When they brought a bunch of tracks together, I was like, "Oh, no, I want something much more chill." They were like, "Chill? We don't know what chill is..." And we had a long process of meetings, deciding what it's going to look and sound like, and "I Just Wanna Dance" came up. The lyrics, the sound, it was everything I wanted to say. Most girls my age, when they are stressed or want to kind of get away, they dance the night away. I think it should be everybody's theme song.
You're making me a little concerned! Were you stressed during these times?
I mean, I think we're always going through things but we never get to really express it. Throughout the Girls' Generation promotion and music, it was always about "You can do it!," "Practice makes perfect!," but when you're getting older, heading over into your late twenties, it's not about being perfect. It's about being okay with not being okay, and I think that's a cool message to send to my fans or a new group of fans that: I'm human and I'm fine. I get to express that through music.
“I think that's a cool message to send: I'm human and I'm fine.”
How important is it to show these different sides of yourself as an artist as you get older?
Girls' Generation has a very specific sound and look, and that's what I love about Girls' Generation and being a part of the group. But breaking in [as] a solo artist is definitely finding out what your music is going to be about and what the message is. I mean, Taeyeon had a solo album and I'm the second person to release a solo album. I think each girl has a different story, a different perspective, and this is me at that time. I think it's just the beginning. I can't wait to share happy Tiffany or sad Tiffany or wanting-to-party Tiffany. This is only the beginning.
Speaking of your other members, I want to get into couple tracks with you. Can you talk about working
with Sooyoung on "What Do I Do"?
I wrote "What Do I Do" in English and I asked my company to have a Korean lyricist put the Korean lyrics together because I'm still not that great with writing in Korean. Sooyoung had already heard the song a while back and I said, "Hey, I'm asking for lyrics and I'll turn your lyrics in." But it goes through this really long, anonymous, we-don't-know-who-wrote-this voting system, and it happened to end up with Sooyoung! I was like, "Okay, this is perfect because no one's going to know what I sound like better [than her]!" She really focused on what Korean word or lyric was going to be on each note. I think the fans were most happy with that one, and I was super happy that I could give a Girls' Generation-made song to the fans.
You know Girls Aloud?
Yeah! I had no idea she wrote the song until I finished up the song and got the credits to it. I told the company, "Do you know who this is?!" And they're like, "Oh, yeah, yeah…" and I'm like, "Why am I the only freaking out and having a fan girl moment?!" Is it because I'm in a girl band too? But the song was my favorite on this whole album. I originally even considered taking this as my title track. I fell in love with it in the first five seconds, and I told the company, "You guys should reconsider that this is title-worthy." It's always been my second track to promote on shows. I hope I can work with her again! I love the song. It's so sophisticated and it's everything I wanted.
And you've always been one to have a heavy hand in the creative and fashion aspects for Girls' Generation. Did you work on this too? I love the visuals.
Originally, I was a bit more hands-on and involved in the artwork and visuals. But this time, I gave them a reference and said, "Hey, I really just want to do focus on the music and you guys can put this together." I worked with a new stylist, I worked with a new photographer, new director, [and] my art team was different. I wanted this to be completely different from the Girls' Generation chapter of my life.
And we got to talk more about "Heartbreak Hotel"…
"Heartbreak Hotel" is the project that I specifically put together. "Heartbreak Hotel" was originally supposed to be on the album and it was kind of the prequel to "I Just Wanna Dance." When I got the songs lined up together, I thought, "Oh, this is perfect. Most girls go through heartbreak and then they start dancing the night away," so it was a fun story to tell.
It's rare to have a new single release on the date of your show in Korea... I've always wanted to put out an album and tour it. That's what we've been doing in Japan and most albums in the U.S. are like this as well, put out two singles, the album, then tour. And I was lucky enough to ask my company, "Can I put this album out, put the single out, then have a show?" and they were like, "Oh, that's really new. That's a good idea." I was putting "Heartbreak Hotel" together with a completely new team. It was a bit difficult at first—I was like, "Oh no, this actor's not going to be available! This director is available!"—but in the end it worked out so well.
“I will get there, one way or another.”
And looking at the bigger picture, what's the ultimate goal for you and your solo career?
My ultimate goal is definitely the American music industry. I realized while putting this solo album together that the sound, the look, everything I'm doing, it does cater much more to the American music scene than your original "K-pop" look or sound. If I could, I definitely want to release all the songs in English. It's just so much easier for me and it comes much more naturally.
How are you going make that dream a reality?
I mean, I'm still in Korea and I know how much it took for Girls' Generation to chart there. Then for me to chart as a solo artist, I was freaking out. I was like, "Is this real? I can't believe this happening!" I was our first time running pre-orders on iTunes, I really wanted to see what we could do and the response was amazing.
But I'm taking it a step at a time. I think it's a totally different market to study and I do want to pursue it. I feel like I'm going to need a strong team. But I will get there, one way or another. I'm glad it's still about the music for me after so many years. And the fans really respond and feel that through what I'm making. I put my soul into this, and I think that really transcends through what I've been doing.
I saw you've been making some networking moves recently. You snapped pictures with Diplo the other day. Is that part of your plan?
What's cool is that social media has definitely become so much more than posting or promoting yourself, and I've been able to connect with a bunch of people out in the U.S. as well. I think it's a matter of timing. I'm glad I got to show what I think I should be doing and that I have a sense of direction. But I do want to collaborate with a producer that really, really wants to create something and that is going to be big factor.
It's all a secret! I like to keep things under wraps until they're officially confirmed.
Looking ahead, you're coming to American soon for KCON Los Angeles with Girls' Generation-TTS. Does that mean a TTS comeback in the works? Or new Girls' Generation music?
We're always talking about it—we're planning based on the schedules. Everybody's doing their solo work right now. I'm finishing up, but obviously all the other members that are acting, for example, they're in separate productions. We're kind of just waiting on the schedule.
With TTS, I'm glad KCON is bringing us together. We've been talking about it, but the company really, really wants to push for it as well and that feels really good. And they're like, "So, when should we do TTS?," and hopefully the summer will bring good news.