Every week we feature a notable rising artist on the verge of success. Meet this week’s artist in residence, SoCal local and fellow Leo, Lyonn. We had a chance to talk to the funny and charming Tyler Gelrud and go On The Record with questions that let us view alternative culture from the eyes of the musician.
"Music started to become a necessary part of my day rather than just fun background noise"- via Ribbit TV
He started writing songs in high school as an emotional outlet for his creativity and passion. He went on to play in the Anaheim band Cue The City, before the band parted ways in 2012.
Tyler then took a year off music, before a trip to Europe deeply inspired him and rejuvenated him to continue his art. His latest project is entitled Lyonn, derived mostly from the French city and partly with his obsession with Leo DiCaprio. His acoustic sound is strongly influenced from the music of early Coldplay, Passenger, Bjork, Paper Route, and most recently Ed Sheeran and “the sound of Ryan Gosling being handsome.”
His debut EP, Knivsta, gets it’s name from the Swedish city he found so charming and entrancing. It explores his emotions and the power music has on his life. The EP really is effective in creating honest music that truly is a pleasure to hear. In a recent interview, Tyler has said the he “hopes people can listen to my stuff and form their own stories, read the lyrics and place themselves inside of it and fill in the gaps so it relates to them.”
The 3 song EP is a perfect combination of thoughtful, genius lyrics, infectious dreamy vocals, and the incredible power of an acoustic guitar. Silver Screen Love starts it all off with a whispering love song that penetrates the soul. Bastille Day is a powerful narrative tune about his important journey through Europe and the joy that it is to be young and free. The EP winds down with Iceberg, where Tyler captured what it would feel like to be on the sinking Titanic and spending your final moments with your true love. It’s simple, but so beautiful, powerful and heartbreaking.
What are your fondest musical memories?
Well my favorite show I played outside of this solo project was back in 2010 I believe. The band I was in at the time played the headline slot at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney. It was incredible. I had just seen Angels and Airwaves a month prior on that exact stage, and to think I was standing on the same spot of a band that meant so much to me at the time was really special. Other than that the fact that I am answering these questions in Tennessee in route to Kentucky for a radio station interview is unreal. Music is taking me places I never could have imagined, so I’m enjoying the ride.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
I’m really into all types of stuff, but the slower music has my heart. I have also been playing Cole Porter, Dean Martin, Sinatra, that kind of feel. The really romantic stuff. It’s incredible.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
I just finished recording the guitar and vocals for my second EP! Now it’s on to the post production stage, I like this part. The EP should be out end of March/ early April. My move to Montreal comes March 5 too. I’ll be there a few months playing music!
What is your dream collaboration and why?
I wanna work with Utada Hikaru so badly. Her voice is incredible. Ideally, I would want to collaborate with her next Kingdom Hearts song. So nerdy of me, but that would be a dream come true! My favorite (and only) video game I play mixed with Disney and Utada!
What is your writing process like? How do you create your music? What subjects/experiences do you draw inspiration from?
My writing process is pretty unique from what I have seen from other songwriters I know. A lot of times people have a hook and they build a song around it, it’s a very pop formula and it works well. I have tried that before dozens of times, but anytime I try to force write a song or pick a topic and write on it, the song ends up being horrific. My songs sort of possess me and they write themselves as strange as that sounds. A lot of times I will be hit with an entire song or a chorus and the rest of the song just comes out lyrically and melodically. I never pick a subject to start with, I think just life experiences in general end up being songs. Nights that I love will spark something in me a few days later and a song will come from that. For example, I had a great night in San Diego at the end of last year, the whole feeling of the night, the group of friends, the girl I was with, they all lead me to write Dancing Machine the next morning. The night was fresh in my head and I was still on cloud nine, and out of nowhere melody and lyrics hit me, in the shower. I can never force write music, it has to be something personal and relatable to my life. Helps keep my music honest for sure.
You are part of the new generation of artists that uses free music to create a following and to spread your art. You have said, “nobody buys music anymore. If 99 cents is going to hold back from listening to my music, then I will give it away for free. It is that simple, I want people to hear my music.” That being said, how do you think social media/music streaming services impacts the rising musician?
I think social media and streaming is the ONLY way artists can get wide recognition without a label or industry insiders help. I have no attachments to a label, manager, agent, etc but my music is being featured in documentaries in Italy, radio stations in France, magazines in Sweden, and so on which is ONLY possible because my music is on streaming sites and because I spend a lot of time promoting Lyonn on social media. I can sit in the states behind my iPhone and post to the world, it is absolutely incredible and immensely helpful. If you are a new artist please post your music on any site that will take it. Give it away for free, let people get to know you behind your music by using Twitter and other social media sites. It is not only a blast to communicate with fans and watch your music go international, but it will propel your career! It’s a win win.
Your trip to Europe has inspired you in many ways, from your solo-act name to your title of your debut EP. How has Europe inspired you to create your amazingly unique,complex and infectious sound? How is the European music scene different from here in the States?
It’s hard to explain how Europe inspired me. It’s one of those things I can talk about and tell people, but they just smile and nod. It was just a special summer, something bigger than I ever could have imagined. I went through every range of emotion out there, I learned so much about the world and myself. I fell in love every single day with a new city, a new song, a new girl. So much consumed me, and when I came home I was just full of new feelings and memories that I needed to express, so I started writing music again, the first time since I had left the last band I was in a year prior. I had never felt so inspired or aware of life. It changed me wholeheartedly for the better in my opinion. I really don’t know how to answer this question the best way… I wish I could just hook up my thoughts to this computer and let the answer pour out! I will never be able to fully answer this whole question to my liking so I am stopping myself now.
The music scene in Europe is amazing! Every city we hit offered something new. Insanely open minded and so artistic. Art in all forms is extremely encouraged and celebrated in Europe. That made it easy for me to discover new music and it filled me with a whole new love for it as well. They like all genres so much and I think that’s how we differ from them. America loves Top 40 and the majority sticks to that. Europe supports it all, if they didn’t we wouldn’t have 90% of the amazing artists we have today! Disclaimer I’m not talking down on America, we have an amazing music scene as well with pronominal bands and artists, I just think the mainstream pop machine is wrecking this place.
We have seen a lot of Swedish groups emerge and gain a lot of success here in the States, from Icona Pop, to NO NO NO, to the Royal Concept. What is it about Sweden that creates and inspires good indie/alternative music? How has that inspired you to create Knivsta?
Out of all the countries I visited, I personally believe Sweden is the most tolerant. That country is doing something right politically, socially, and musically. The amount of encouragement and love they place in art is unreal and absolutely wonderful. The bands you named are incredible, and you hardly even scrapped the surface. Their electronic music scene is the best in my opinion, they put out some incredible DJs and producers. Of course as you mentioned the indie scene is golden as well. I only spent 8 days in Sweden, a couple of those in Knivsta, but I must say it is absolutely breathtaking. The scenery and citizens are all perfect 10s. It’s frustrating almost, I couldn’t understand why everyone was so attractive…
Back to the question, I just know from the friends I have there that the children in Sweden are raised with a lot of support and encouragement to do whatever they love doing. Society doesn’t beat them down into shitty 9-5, they are the happiest country in the world (maybe 2nd behind Denmark, it changes year to year) and there’s a reason why. I want to get back to Sweden more than anything, I hope my music does well there because touring up through Scandinavia would be pure perfection. That country just really got to me and my music and my heart are forever grateful.
I’ve read that you are a big film buff. This has been a big year for indie/alternative music in major movie soundtracks, from Arcade Fire and Karen O on the Her soundtrack, to the star-studded list in Dallas Buyers Club. What are your opinions on this year’s Oscars nominations? What role do you think music plays in film?
I think 2013 was an incredible year for film. It came out of nowhere too! Films have been lacking the past few years and I was pleased with the nominations. I was living in the movie theater October onward watching all the Oscar contenders. I’m biased though, whatever Leonardo DiCaprio does I will want to win. He’s never won an Oscar and that’s the worst thing, it gives me a stomach ache!
Jokes aside, I really do enjoy his work, and Scorsese! I’m excited for the Oscars because this is the first time in a while people are genuinely not sure who will win the awards, there were just so many incredible films in 2013! I think music makes or breaks a film honestly. The score and music in a movie acts as a character. Think about those golden films and classics, especially Disney, the music sets the tone. I am a huge fan of orchestrated movie scores, but it makes me happy to see indie bands setting the soundtrack too. Not even in indie movies anymore either! The Twilight and Hunger Games movies give so many artists the opportunity to be heard on an enormous scale. It’s wonderful. The music is so good in movies sometimes you hardly realize it’s there, your mind is just lost and wrapped up in the film, and little do you know the music is the reason you’re being carried through the film! Music and film go hand in hand and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Scoring a soundtrack or writing just a single song for a movie would be a dream come true.