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Tyla Says Her Grammy Win Is 'Such a Big Moment' for South Africa as She Releases Debut Album (Exclusive)

Having earned a top-10 hit and a Grammy at just 22 years old, the South African singer humbly tells PEOPLE she's "still working toward making it" in music

<p>Jeremy Soma</p> Tyla

Jeremy Soma

Tyla

At just 22 years old, Tyla already has a top-10 hit and a Grammy win under her belt.

The South African singer has experienced a meteoric rise to stardom since her song "Water" became a massive hit around the globe last year and introduced many U.S. listeners to the groovy amapiano genre from her native country.

One month after winning her first Grammy — and becoming the youngest-ever African artist to do so — Tyla released her debut self-titled album on Friday via Fax and Epic Records.

Related: Tyla, Singer of Viral Hit 'Water,' Says Her DMs Are 'Always Active': What to Know About the South African Star (Exclusive)

The 14-track project features collaborations with hitmakers like Tems, Becky G and Gunna as well as club-ready beats that expand on the vibes of "Water" and experimentation that proves she's no one-trick pony.

PEOPLE caught up with Tyla about making the album, finding a community of fellow African entertainers and her Grammys week experience — which included run-ins with Cher and Nancy Pelosi.

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<p>Getty Images</p> Tyla at the Grammys in Los Angeles in February 2024

Getty Images

Tyla at the Grammys in Los Angeles in February 2024

Last time you spoke to PEOPLE was before the Grammy nominations came out, and then you won best African music performance for “Water.” How did that moment feel?

Surreal. Hearing my name, being able to get on that stage and say a whole speech was crazy, especially considering my age and how early I am in my career. I didn't expect that honestly, but I'm just so grateful that it happened. It's history. It's such a big moment for home. I couldn’t be happier, really.

You were also one of many celebrities at the iconic Clive Davis party before the ceremony. What was the Grammys week experience like for you? Did you run into anyone who left you starstruck?

I met Cher at the Clive Davis party, and I was like, "What the heck?" I was literally in so much shock. I love her. She's always been an inspo. Her fashion is so cool, so meeting her was honestly the highlight of the Grammy week prior to the evening. It was a really fun time. I'm going to remember it forever and ever and ever. I can't wait to even tell my kids, that's how much of a good time I had.

<p>Johnny Nunez/Getty</p> Tyla and Nancy Pelosi in Los Angeles in February 2024

Johnny Nunez/Getty

Tyla and Nancy Pelosi in Los Angeles in February 2024

There’s also a photo of you and Nancy Pelosi together at that party. How did you two meet, and did you know who she was?

I had no idea. I didn’t know who she was, honestly, but I think she may have known because she asked to take a picture with me, so I was like, "OK, cool.” She held my hand, and I was like, "Are you sure we should hold hands?” Because I didn't know. I was kind of feeling a bit tight, but she was like, "Hold my hand, hold my hand." It was cute.

With a top-10 hit and a Grammy now under your belt, have you had a moment of feeling like you’ve truly made it?

I mean, even though I have accomplished a lot, I'm still at that point where I feel like I'm still working toward making it. I don't know what ‘making it’ looks like, but a moment that I feel like the shift happened was definitely when my song entered the [Billboard] Hot 100. Also, when I was on a plane and heard it playing on a plane, I was like, "No way. They only play hits on a plane, so this must mean something."

Did the success of “Water” create any pressure as you made this album?

Naturally. I mean, I'm human. I'm going to see comments, I'm going to feel some type of way, but honestly, I have a strong team. We are very focused, and we know our direction, and it didn't really change regardless of what changed around us. We're just making good music, and we're pushing the sound.

<p>Todd Williamson</p> Tyla and Becky G in Los Angeles in February 2024

Todd Williamson

Tyla and Becky G in Los Angeles in February 2024

The album features collaborations with Tems, Becky G and Gunna among others. How did you link up with these artists?

Honestly, each feature happened naturally in its own time. With Tems, a few days before sending through the album, she sent the song, and I loved it. We ended up working on it quickly, so we could include it in the album. With Becky G, I was in studio mixing the album, and she was next door. I ended up calling her over and played it for her. She loved it, and she recorded on it. With Gunna, I had the song “Jump.” It was kind of different to what I'm used to doing, so it was a cool detour, but I felt like it needed a rapper on it to really take it there. I first thought of Gunna because, I mean, Gunna is talented, and he's also shown interest in African culture and the music, so it only made sense.

You spoke in an interview last year about dreaming of working with Gunna. How does it feel to work with artists you’ve looked up to?

It's crazy. It took a while for me to realize that these people know me, but I get reminded every time I tell my family because they literally look at me like, "You're literally joking, like, stop." When I see their reaction, I get reminded, like, "Yeah, this is actually happening.” It's a really good feeling.

How does your family react to watching you have this moment?

They love it. They always calling me screaming, crying. I'm very close with my family and my siblings. My parents, they came to America for the first time to attend the Grammys. They watched the performances. I'm happy they get to experience it with me.

<p>Frazer Harrison/Getty</p> Tyla in Los Angeles in November 2023

Frazer Harrison/Getty

Tyla in Los Angeles in November 2023

Who in the industry has given you the best advice?

Trevor Noah gave me a lot of advice that I really can take. Him being from South Africa, he came from where I came from, and he's made such a big name for himself. I look up to that. The whole of South Africa does, so just hearing him speak is something that I really value.

Between Trevor Noah, Tems and others, you’ve gotten the chance to connect with people who come from a similar background. Is that type of community something you look for in the industry?

Yeah, I love community, and just feeling like you have a family in the industry that has the same goals, like, trying to push the same narrative, especially me and Tems being African girls. It's just nice to have these people in your circle.

You've said your DMs are popping with other artists hitting you up to collaborate, but I can only imagine people are also approaching you romantically. How has your dating life changed since finding success?

It was very dry, before and after. I'm telling you.

You’ve accomplished so much at such a young age. What milestones do you still want to achieve?

So many. Number-one album, number-one songs, huge Tyla shows, traveling. I really want to perform more in Asia. There's just so much that I want to do. I'm so young, and I'm excited that I have so many years to just keep ticking things off and adding things to the list.

<p>Jeremy Soma</p> Tyla

Jeremy Soma

Tyla

Related: Tyla Cancels 2024 Tour and Reveals She's Been 'Suffering with an Injury That Has Tragically Worsened'

Fans recently learned they’ll have to wait a little longer for the debut tour, but how do you envision the concerts that will come from this album? What do you want to do on stage?

We already started planning everything. Obviously, what happened unfortunately happened, but the plans were there. We were giving them an experience, not just a show, which I love. We always try to do things that are different and more interesting, or things that I feel people would want to see. That's definitely going to be a part of the planning when we do get back to working on the tour. We have so many ideas, and it's just going to be amazing.

Are there any other artists or tours that inspire you when you’re thinking about building a live show?

Beyoncé. I always love just watching her shows. The way she performs, the way she sings, the way she dances and interacts with the crowd.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I honestly do not want to even think that far right now. I'm really focused on tomorrow, I'm focused on the next month. I want to just hone in and focus on right now, but obviously, years from now, bigger stages, performing left, right and center. Award shows, music videos, more albums. I just see it getting greater and greater and greater as the years go by.

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