By Ariana Bacle
January 29, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST

TLC surprised fans Jan. 19 by launching a Kickstarter to fund their upcoming (and final) album, their first since 2002’s 3D and their first as a duo since since Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes died in 2002. In turn, fans surprised TLC by donating $150,000—the requested amount—within 48 hours of the Kickstarter’s launch. With 16 days left to go, over $255,000 has been raised—and TLC’s comeback is officially on.

Chilli, one-half of TLC, got on the phone with EW to talk about why writing music with a universal message is so important to her and T-Boz, what pop music she’s listening to, and how a 5-year-old inspired them to get back in the studio.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So first of all, your Kickstarter is a crazy success. How does that feel?

CHILLI: Oh, it feels amazing. We are so, so blessed. And the support just keeps on coming. We’re just very thankful for everybody that’s involved and wanting to be a part of this last album with us.

On the Kickstarter page, you talk about how you want to create more timeless music, music that stays relevant. What are examples of timeless music to you?

Every Michael Jackson song is timeless. You know what I mean? Definitely the “Happy” record that Pharrell did, that’s timeless. You’ll be able to play that song 20 years from now on the radio, and you know, it won’t sound dated. That’s what I mean by timeless music. It’s not dated if you can play it any time, any genre. It doesn’t matter. It just, it works.

Why is that so important to you guys, to make music like that?

Well, the longevity in it. When you make music like that with great lyrical content, lyrical content that people can relate to, that kind of stuff lasts forever because it makes people feel good. And that’s another way you have that connection with your fans because they understand and see that you’re human too. You go through problems and have issues with whatever it is, relationships, any kind of relationship. So when you make yourself relatable to people, the connection is a lot better. It’s more authentic.

On that note, are there any current musicians that stand out to you as excelling in the lyrics department?

Definitely Taylor Swift. Maroon 5. Adam Levine, he’s always talking about something relevant. Who else? It’s a few people. Katy Perry definitely always has some, like the “Roar” song. That right there? Yeah, that was amazing. That really was amazing. Those guys, they get it.

There are a lot of artists who continue to be influenced by your music. What’s it like to know that your group has had such an influence on current music, even without making a record in over a decade?

It’s really a blessing. It lets us know that the thing we were doing and our formula that we always feel comfortable sticking with really works. It worked then, and it’s continuing to work now. The fact that people want to hear more from us, it just makes us feel so good to know that we’re on the right track. Because people always want to know, well, would you work with this new person? Always something new, new, new. I mean, we’re totally about reinventing yourself, but you can’t abandon the authenticity of what people love about you. You know, because when you do that, you lose your fans, for real. [Laughs] And that’s something we don’t ever want to do. We want to keep the fans that we have and we want to continue to get more.

What was the moment you and T-Boz decided now is the time to put out new music?

Well, we always thought about it, because the love of the music—I don’t think it will ever leave us. But that moment was after the movie [VH1’s 2013 biopic, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story] came out, and we had this whole new generation of fans requesting new TLC music, some of them I’m talking as young as 5-years-old. Like, that’s crazy! [Laughs]

This little girl had a TLC birthday party for her fifth birthday party. It was the most precious thing I had ever seen. And I had to meet her, and I invited her to our rehearsals and she was the cutest thing ever. I couldn’t believe it. To her, “What About Your Friends,” all those songs are brand new to them. So to them, it’s like, “This is new music!” and they want more of that. So that was the moment. We were like, you know what? Yeah. We need to do this. [Laughs]

My favorite reward on the Kickstarter page is the slumber party option. What will go into the Chilli sleepover? 

Everything is going happen. We’ll watch movies, we’ll have funny talks, pillow fights. Everything that’s fun, that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll play footsies. Well, I’ll play footsies with the guys. We’ll all have on our onesies, that’s required.

Do you and T-Boz decide on the rewards together?

Yeah, we get on the phone and get our creative juices flowing. We also kind of think about what if the people we loved so much or grew up loving and watching when we were younger would have done something like this, what would we have wanted to do with them? We put ourselves in that situation so we can come up with really fun rewards.

This is your first album without Left Eye, so will you be incorporating her into the album somehow?

That goes without saying. That’s our sister. And TLC is still, even though you cannot physically see her, you will always feel her presence and we make sure of it. So that will continue on forever. We always, we just continue to come up with different creative ways to do that, whether it’s guest appearances or some type of image, whatever. We just come up with different things, and that’s exactly what we’re doing for this upcoming tour. We’re coming up with some really fun, different ways to involve her so that our fans can be so excited. Because they love seeing that.

Fans can donate to TLC’s Kickstarter up until Feb. 19. Donate here.

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