TJ Stafford, photo courtesy artist

Los Angeles singer TJ Stafford on Thursday released his new single "The World's Gonna Love Me," and he's kicking off a new chapter with the electric new track.

But it wasn't all easy, despite the playful imagery of the accompanying video and the associated artwork for the forthcoming album, titled Nipple Whisk. Yes, indeed. 

"It came out of a really tough season, mentally and psychologically," says Stafford, speaking with Variance from Los Angeles ahead of the song's release. "The whole impetus of the album was, Man, life is hard and heavy, but it's also ridiculous and fun and it all exists at the same time. And there's not a lot of black and whites. So this was kind of the perfect mix of that. This really kind of heavy story, but also beautiful and ridiculous at the same time.

The video, directed by Tony Woo Joun, brings to life the lyrics as Stafford and a mix of other characters are seen looking into the camera, insisting: "The world's gonna love me / Before I die / Maybe they’ll love me / Before I die." The clip starts off with a whisper but it quickly builds to an almost Broadway-like finish, with the full cast coming together in a choreographed celebration.

"Shooting it was a blast. It was a blast to make," says Stafford of the video's creation. "Especially that dancing, because I am not a dancer. But it's like one of those early 2000's teen movies. There's always like some dance scene where everybody happens to know all the choreography, and it just happens."

The song served as somewhat of a pep talk for the singer, who says that despite the necessity of "self-promotion" that comes with being an artist in the TikTok age, it doesn't come naturally. And that lingering idea was his launch pad.

"You need people to love your work, but you don't want to pander, to kind of sell your soul to get people to like you," he says. "And from there, that's where it branched off into like, 'What would this be from other people's perspective?'"

Stafford says the challenge continued further as exemplified with his new promo images, which see the singer stripping down (literally), in one instance with just a large book between his legs and in another with a naked woman (his wife, Caitlin) laying across his lap.

Photo courtesy artist

"It's really about finding that stuff that still feels like me," he says of the incredibly intimate shots. "So it's taking pictures that are completely stripped and really raw and saying like, 'Here I am.' But not posting every day, not posting selfies and stories and random TikTok dance videos. Somehow finding myself in all that noise."

Stafford has learned over the years how to sort what feels like himself as an artist and what feels like the opposite, or perhaps a separate project, such as The Rigs, the duo of which he is one-half alongside his wife.

"I kind of knew it was for this project," he says. "But every once in a while, something will come up and it's more of a vibe that feels a little more Americana or something, and it's like, 'This feels more Rigs' or if I think Caitlin's voice would be good for it, I'll kind of push it to The Rigs. But most of this stuff, I went in with the mentality that I knew it was gonna be for my project."

Stafford says part of the reason he knew this new material was for what would ultimately become his new record was because it was so personal, songs reflective of his struggle with depression and finding his way to the other side of "some very dark times."

"I tend to go from one extreme to the other, where at one time it's super dark and then everything's great and I can take over the world," he explains. "With this album, it was a little more nuanced. Because life is still hard and even though you made it out of one dark chapter, you look at some of the shit going on in the world, and it feels like an alternate timeline. I think this album is somewhat reflective of that. It's ridiculous and melodic, and somehow this balance of heavy and light."■