Tyler Shaw is not your average pop star. Having grown up in Coquitlam, British Columbia, the 22 year old won the “MuchMusic Coca-Cola Covers Contest 2012” organized by the Canadian music cable channel Much. He was one of 13,000 who applied. He writes his own songs and plays multiple instruments. Oh yeah, and he can sing!
We caught up with Tyler on the day of his headlining show at Montreal’s Corona Theatre to talk about his debut album “Yesterday” and how music and family affected his career.
Montreal Rocks – What’s the first music you remembering hearing as a kid?
Tyler Shaw – I was in the car when I was three or four and Backstreet Boys was playing on the radio and I was jamming and lip synching along with the words and my brother, who’s three years older than me says “You’re singing Backstreet Boys!? What a loser!”
MR – Did you have a lot of music playing in the house when you were growing up?
TS – When I was growing up I took piano lessons – my mom played piano a lot – there was always a piano in the house so whenever I got bored I’d just go and press keys or whatever but it wasn’t really until my brother joined the school band and was playing saxophone and I started to think that’s pretty cool. But then he moved to the drums and that caught my attention. I thought drums were cool and everyone wants to be the cool kid in school so when I went into Grade 6 I joined the school band and played drums and after that I’d just teach myself different instruments from drums to guitar, piano and so on.
MR – So at this point in your life what instruments can you play?
TS – Drums, piano, guitar, bass…. I’ve always wanted to try the fiddle or violin. My great grandfather played the violin and the organ so that’s something I’d love to learn… that and trumpet, just like weird instruments.
MR – What instruments do you play when you perform live?
TS – Right now just guitar and keys but as the show progresses I might jump on the drum kit and showcase what I can do on there.
MR – So your family obviously has a very musical history but you didn’t think about a career in music until quite late on.
TS – No, it was just a hobby and a way to escape the real world but it was always in the back of my mind that maybe this could happen. But it wasn’t until I won the contest in 2012 that I thought this was definitely an option. Let’s see where it can go.
Friends and family were supportive and their positive attitude was definitely a huge help, and when I first started out I was very bad! I was awful but it was their support that made me keep going, singing in the shower, singing every day. The vocal chords are a muscle so I guess my voice strengthened.
MR – So before taking music seriously what did you want to do?
TS – I was actually working towards a professional soccer career. I got a soccer scholarship to the University Of Prince Edward Island and I was their goal keeper for a year but then I won the contest and decided to try music.
MR – Do you remember the moment when you thought you wanted to take music more seriously?
TS – It was probably when I got into the top 15 of the contest, something clicked in my brain. And then when I ended up winning the whole thing it was immediately 110% let’s do this!
MR – Tell me about your song writing process.
TS – It all depends on the day. Sometimes I might be having a conversation with someone and a word stands out in the conversation. My song Dizzy from the album, that was a conversation between me and a buddy talking about carnival rides and how they make me dizzy. That was exactly what I said… “I hate carnival rides cos they make me dizzy” and I took that thought into the session the next day and we wrote the song around the title.
Other days it could be a piano riff that we come up with. House Of Cards started with piano. It depends on the day, what mood you wake up in, what interactions you have with people that day.
MR – Do you tend to have the melody in your head as you’re writing lyrics?
TS – Yes and no. We usually try to find the melody first and the write lyrics but other times I’ll have some lyrics ready and I’ll try to find the melody to fit. Put it all in a blender and hopefully it’s a good music smoothie.
MR – There are a lot of different styles on the album. Does that variety reflect your personal taste?
TS – I think so. I listen to everything, depending on the mood I’m in. In the gym I might listen to rap or rock but I also love jazz. And pop is a easy, fun thing to listen to. So I think all that has an effect on what I create but at the same time I kinda want to show that I’m versatile and show I can create. The whole sound of the album reflects my “Yesterday” and everything that’s happened up until this point in time has affected what it sounds like.
MR – You mentioned you listen to rock, jazz and hip hop. What album do you love that might surprise your fans?
TS – Kendrick Lamar – not his newest album, but the one before that and I really like that album. That’s like my go-to in the gym or chilling. I can listen to that doing almost anything. For rock, my go-to is Sum 41 “All Killer No Filler”. It’s been around forever but I still go back to it.
MR – How are things going outside of Canada? Where do your priorities lie internationally?
TS – The only signs I get are from social media and the fans tweeting me or instagramming me. I have a few in England and the Philippines and Brazil. There seem to be little sparks everywhere in the world, which is a good sign. I think this year will definitely be a push into different territories. I’ve released a lot of songs in Canada now and they’ve all done pretty well so I think it’s time to explore and see what else is out there.
MR – I’ve seen a little acting from you in videos. Is that an avenue you might explore further?
TS – Absolutely! Why not? My older brother is actually involved in acting. He’s going to Italy in four days to do Shakespeare. It him that got me into the music and now the acting.
MR – Is there an artist whose career you’d like to emulate?
TS – I’ve heard it a few times about me being a male Taylor Swift. Not a bad thing a all! That’s on the artist front. She’s very personable, she’s amazing on social media and she’s very talented. But there’s also Ryan Tedder, the lead singer from OneRepublic. He’s a phenomenal writer, he’s written for a bunch of artists like Adele, Alicia Keys, Selena Gomez… Having that as something in my career as a writer, not just a performer, is definitely something I see myself doing.
MR – So tonight you’re at the Corona. What can people expect?
TS – Fun. My shows are more like a hang-out session rather than come and see Tyler Shaw play music. I’ll talk with the audience, have one-on-one conversations, but at the same time you’ll also hear some pretty awesome music too.
MR – Do you play any covers? Songs people don’t expect?
TS – Yep. There are a few that people won’t expect like “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains Of Wayne.
MR – So, it’s the beginning of a new year. What would you like to happen before the year ends?
TS – I guess just exploring other territories. Maybe going over to Europe and Asia. I’m half Asian so that’d be fantastic to go over there. And trying to write the best songs possible.
Tyler Shaw’s new single “Wicked” is out now, taken from his debut album “Yesterday”.
Interview & photos – Steve Gerrard