- Wed, 2005-03-02 16:01
Much-touted 22 year old London born singer/songwriter Tyler James, who scooped the coveted T4 One To Watch 2005 award at the Smash Hits Poll Winners party, follows his recent special guest slot on Amy Winehouse’s sell-out UK tour with the release on March 7th of his new Island single Foolish.
I Like Music caught up with Tyler in February a few days before he helped kick off Natasha Bedingfield’s tour in Dublin.
“I Like Music because… it’s the one thing that makes sense to me more than anything else.” Tyler James
ILM: You and Amy Winehouse have been mates since you were 13 and currently share a house. And you’ve just toured with her – how brilliant is it that you’re both doing so well?
Tyler: I’m off on tour with Natasha Bedingfield, and that’ll be very different to the tour I’ve done with Amy. I also toured with Musiq Soulchild, and I didn’t get to see him much, but with Amy we’re friends so we hang out. Generally when you go on tour as a support act, generally the main act has their tour bus, but when I go with Amy I can sleep on the tour bus a few nights if I want to. And, because she’s my friend I know her band really well, and she knows my band really well. A guy in my band was one of the first people to teach Amy to play the guitar, so we get to have a really good laugh, like going away with your mates on holiday. So we get to go on stage every night, have a wicked time and then go out with our friends. But touring with Natasha will be different to that, but it’ll still be great. It starts Sunday in Dublin, and then in Northern England and then we finish up with two nights at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in March.
ILM: Foolish is out on March 7th, followed by your debut album, tell me a bit about Foolish and it’s whole vibe.
Tyler: It’s a funky energetic upbeat track, and it’s basically about how when you fall in love with somebody you become temporarily insane, become a complete fool for the person. You lose your bearings and your instincts, so that’s what it’s about.
ILM: Which track from the Unlikely Lad did you have the most fun laying down and which is your fave to play live?
Tyler: Foolish, because it is such an energetic track and there’s a lot of live instruments on it. When I’ve got my band around me that’s when I’m happiest. And a track called Gone Are The Days. It’s a ballad, but I recorded in LA. I had a great time while I was over there; I made friends with people who came to the studio, and it’s a really important and probably the most personal track on the album. The best one to play live is Foolish because it’s so upbeat and energetic. When you’re on stage you do it last, so you have that sense of relief you’ve got through the whole set and you have one more song to really give it some.
ILM: Tell me something you’ve not told anyone else about your forthcoming debut album, The Unlikely Lad.
Tyler: I’ll tell you this, but I won’t say what… there will be one track on the album that I don’t want on the album.
ILM: You’re music’s been described as a refreshing spin on nu-jazz, sophisticated urban pop… what’s your own description of your music?
Tyler: It’s a real singer/songwriter’s style of music. My music isn’t just beat-driven or track-driven, it’s all based around songs. All my songs, whether it’s the piano or the guitar, it’s all about the chords and the melodies. I think that’s the best way to describe it, because there are so many different genres. There’s some ballad, ska, funk, soul and pop on my album, but they are all my songs about me and my personal experiences in life, as a solo artist. So it’s a real songwriters album, written from direct experience.
ILM: How did you end up working with Commissioner Gordon, Track & Field?
Tyler: Track & Field, I met them a couple of years ago in LA. I was writing there and I met them, really wanted to work with them and at the time the Nelly Furtado album was absolutely massive. And I loved that album and what they did with it. They’re great producers, both with what they do sonically, but Jarvis is an artist too, so he’s very musical. So when I got my record deal I literally begged the record company to let me work with Track & Field, and they happened to be over in London and we had a two day trial in the basement of Island Records, so we started a few ideas and they said they’d work with me. So, I got to go over to LA and work with them.
The Commissioner Gordon thing didn’t happen in the end, because we didn’t have the time to go over there, but he’s got a relationship with Amy and he’s an amazing producer, so I’d love to get to work with him on the second album, we just didn’t have the time.
ILM: How long have you been working with Mushtaq? He rocked for Mis-teeq and Blur too.
Tyler: I’ve worked with Mush for a couple of years. In England, with the kind of music that I want to do, there’s not a huge amount of producers to choose from. Mushtaq is a great all-round producer and he was also signed to Mercury. In fact, all the producers I’ve worked with have been artists themselves at some point. I heard his album that he did as an artist, and I liked what he did because it crossed so many genres of music, but it was all held together by his lyric and vocal delivery. So I built up a relationship with Mush and worked with him before I signed my deal.
ILM: You write on your own and with Matthew, Blair and Mushtaq. Please describe the Tyler James process of songwriting and making music?
Tyler: There’s no particular way, but one thing I always do if I’m writing a song, I have to write all my own lyrics and the melody myself, but will let others work on the music with me. Some songwriters will say "you write the verse and I’ll write the chorus," but I can’t work like that. I have to have a continuous train of though throughout the song. I can’t do that disjointed thing so it’s really manufactured. And the great thing with Matt and Blair is that they give you your space and support me with the chords underneath it. I’m not a great musician, my strength is in songwriting. I’ll get a melody in my head, think of a lyric, or Blair will play some chords on a piano and I’ll come up with something. It was quite hard writing with Amy. When you’re friends with someone and then in a professional environment it can be hard. We’re friends but we’re slightly different creatively, and we’re both strong minded and had to compromise. I’m used to writing all my songs myself and she’s used to writing all her songs herself, so it took a long time.
ILM: Best thing about London? Worst thing?
Tyler: The best thing about London. It’s my favourite place. We’ve got everything here, there’s loads of cool clubs and pubs and always something to do. But the worst thing about London is the weather. If it was sunny all year round in London, everyone would move here. In the summer there’s such a good vibe in London, people having a pint with their lunch, and everyone’s happy and in the winter everyone is depressed. Summer in London is absolutely brilliant.
ILM: How did you get your Sylvia Young scholarship? Who else was there then that we’ll have heard of?
Tyler: There were a lot of people, like Lee from Blue, Jon from S Club, Amy, and lots of people in soaps. I’m proud of all the people who’ve been successful, although I didn’t want to go into a boy band. I’ve done it my own way, but that’s why it’s taken longer.
ILM: Have you met any of your idols?
Tyler: Other than the producers I’ve got to work with I got to spend a week writing with Rod Templeton who wrote the script for Thriller and Rock With You. We didn’t work together but I learned so much from him. And it was a turning point and made me realize what I needed to do, to go more into myself to create an album I’d be happy with.
ILM: Your family must be proud. Do they come to see you much?
Tyler: My little sister came to see me at Smash Hits, and my mum, dad and friends came to see me at Brixton and Shepherds Bush. It’s good to have people there that you know. And, by the end of the tour I’m usually exhausted so it’s great to end in your home town, and when your mum’s in the audience and hasn’t seen you perform for the last few months, you want to make them proud and you get an adrenalin rush.
ILM: What is in your iPod player right now?
Tyler: Loads, but I’m listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill at the moment. I’m always getting back into that album. But I’ve also got myself in my ipod, but that’s just because I have to listen to all the different edits as we’re doing the master right now.
ILM: What is your favourite song that makes you chill out/makes you simply HAVE to dance?
Tyler: To chill out to: Eric Benet or anything really soulful, like Musiq Soulchild. To make me dance: Right now it’s Mario Let Me Love You. That song literally makes me want to grab a girl and just dance and pretend we’re in love for four minutes. I love that song, that is my favourite song in the whole entire world right now.
Tyler's single Foolish hits the shops on March 7th, followed by his debut album, The Unlikely Lad.