Naya Rivera is best known as sharp-tongued Santana on Fox’s Glee, but there’s a whole new side of the young star emerging. Yesterday, Rivera released the first single “Sorry,” off her debut album (due out in 2014). The poppy track features her real-life rapper boyfriend Big Sean and is a fresh departure from the cover songs she’s usually singing on the TV series. In the accompanying lyric video, Rivera features several nude females becoming a living canvas for her lyrics to dance on. Rolling Stone spoke with Rivera about her new single and debut album, tasteful nudity and her post-Glee career plans.
You just released your first single. How long have you been waiting for this day?
I’ve been waiting for this day ever since I was a little girl. It’s always been my dream to release my own music. I love writing, and I wrote this song, so to see something that I’ve been wanting to do forever come true is amazing. Seeing my solo stuff on iTunes right now is blowing my mind.
You came to stardom with Glee. Does it feel different than that experience?
It does feel different. This is my baby. This is something that I did for me and I really fought hard to have people believe in me and believe in the song, so it definitely feels different.
Why did you choose to collaborate with your boyfriend Big Sean on this?
I just thought his vibe and his swag would really fit this song. I thought he would bring something special to it, and I was right.
Was it easier for you to release this first single knowing that your he was right there with you on the track?
It definitely did. You still get nervous, but he’s my biggest cheerleader. It’s so awesome that he got on it and it’s something that we’ll always have together. That’s pretty cool.
The lyric video for “Sorry” is full of nudity. I don’t know if you realize it, but this thing is going to end up screen grabbed all over the Internet.
Oh, yeah, absolutely! [Laughs]
Did “Blurred Lines” set the tone for this? Nudity in music videos is the trend these days.
I guess it is sort of the trend. Listen, I love that “Blurred Lines” video. I love his “Give It to You” video. I think that Robin [Thicke] is doing really amazing things with his music videos right now, but you have to keep in mind that this is just the lyric video so it’s actually the video before the video. I thought that it was really cool that people are putting out lyric videos and when I started to think about what I wanted to do for this one, I researched a bunch of recent lyric videos and I wanted it to be a production. I wanted to come out in a big way. So I had this idea that, since there’s so much hype and talk about the song being all about these girls and how I’m allegedly calling out all these exes, I thought “Why don’t we get these girls and project the lyrics onto their bodies?” That’s sort of where it started and we turned them into human canvases. I really like the way it came out. I definitely wanted to do something different and really showcase what I like artistically right now.
Between the video and your recent photo shoot with Terry Richardson, do you ever worry about pushing the boundaries a little bit because your audience from Glee is younger?
No, because if I do anything that could be considered boundary pushing, I always want to do it in a tasteful way. Also, at the end of the day, on Glee we’re not trying to fool anybody. [Laughs] Everybody knows that most of the guys are thirty and the girls are twenty-six or twenty-seven, so I think we can get away with doing more adult content.
Your single is very different from what some of your fans from the show might be used to hearing as Santana. Do you worry at all about fans trying to compare your solo career to what you do on Glee?
No, I’m not worried. What I do on the show is sing cover songs, so there’s really no style or genre to Santana. I just want to put out things that I really like and hopefully people like them as much as I do. That’s all you can ask for.
Your debut album is supposed to come out in 2014. Do you have other collaborations planned for the album?
I’m working with some great producers right now. As far as guest spots go, I’ve got a little wish list. It’s just a matter of finding what tracks work best with what people. You can definitely be on the lookout for some really cool collabs.
Are you looking forward to having more time to really attack your recording career and focus on your own music once Glee is over?
I am looking forward to that. Once the show ends, it’s obviously going to be incredibly bittersweet because this is a show that I grew up on and it’s like our little baby. I would be looking forward to touring with the album and maybe getting into some other TV gigs, so we’ll see.