Pop Hitmaker Tyler Shaw Says He’s Proud of His Unique Chinese-Canadian Heritage

Chinese-Canadian Platinum-selling artist, producer and actor Tyler Shaw is becoming quite the performer. He released his hit song “Kiss Goodnight” in 2012, and the melodic track quickly hit Platinum sales. In 2014, Tyler earned a JUNO Award nomination for ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year’ and went on to release certified Gold tracks “House of Cards” and “Wicked,” all from his 2015 debut album Yesterday. From his sophomore album INTUITION, Tyler’s first single “Cautious,” was released in January 2018 and reached Top 10 at Canadian radio. In 2019, the second single, “With You” is certified Platinum by Music Canada and the album earned a JUNO Award nomination for ‘Pop Album of the Year.’ Shaw has opened for massive international artists including Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara, as well as toured with Selena Gomez.

Tyler is continuing his latest trek called The Wanted Tour with a couple dates in November. He performed in Sarnia on Nov. 5 and Guelph on Nov. 7, before heading to the Maritimes.
We had a chat with Tyler to find out a little more of who he is.

It’s almost been a year since you’ve played out here in Southwestern Ontario. What do you remember from shows you’ve played here in Guelph and London?
Both have been fantastic. I’ve also played in Windsor at the casino there, and that was amazing. It’s always, always a good response with the crowd in Southwestern Ontario. I love it. I really do. Everywhere is great, but there’s something in the water down in Southwestern Ontario.

Your rise to fame has pretty much been documented. You started out with the Much Music contests, but I want to know about the Tyler we don’t get to see. How did you really discover music?
Music runs in the blood in my family. My grandparents played music. My great-grandparents were actually one of the few wedding bands out in Saskatchewan back in the day. So it runs in the family, which is great. So it’s definitely in my veins. And the day I picked up a guitar, I taught myself how to play. But the day I picked up my guitar, something magical happened, something sparked in my brain. And things just started rolling. I think, ever since then, it’s just been totally a focus. But like I said, even before picking up the guitar, it’s been living in me for quite some time.

If music runs in your family, your family must not have been that surprised that this is the course you wanted to take?
To be honest, I was actually very headstrong on becoming a professional soccer player. And I was on my way to doing that. And then I got an opportunity with music, and I was like, “You know what? Let’s do it.” I loved both. I played soccer for a long time, but I was playing music for a longer time. And I enjoyed both equally. So they were not surprised, I guess you could say. They were always supportive, which definitely helped. Definitely.

Other Canadian artists such as Alessia Cara, Shawn Mendes and Selena Gomez are very keyed into their songwriting. You do your own writing as well, so songwriting must be important to you as well?
Absolutely. You get a better emotional connection to the songs that you write. If your given a song, you could connect to it on some level, but it doesn’t run as deep as if you were to write it yourself. So that’s why I love to write my own music. It just makes more sense, and it makes you feel better when you’re performing it because you can have a true connection to the lyrics, then to the melody. It’s the feeling that you portray when you’re performing the song.

You have toured with the names that I just mentioned, like Alessia, Shawn, and Selena, there’s definitely camaraderie between you guys, then?
As Canadian artists, we all got to stick together because for a long time, the Canadian industry I believe wasn’t really taken seriously. And so now, we have tons of people coming out. And then everyone’s looking to Canada, Toronto, specifically where the hub is in Canada. We’re hitting all the genres: hip hop, country, and pop, all of them. So having that connection and a relationship with each other is very important as Canadians.

If you could tour with any Canadian musician, of any time period, who would it be?
Ooh, that’s a good question. That’s something I got to think about. I’ve been a huge fan of Marianas Trench for a long time. So I would love to go on the road with them. Yeah, I don’t know. You asked me about who I would want to go on tour with, but what would make sense to go on tour with is another question. Right? I would love to go tour with Michael Bublé, but our music doesn’t quite make sense. You know what I’m saying? So yeah, that’s something I got to think about.

We’re going to go back to songwriting. What do you remember from that very first song you ever wrote?
Oh, man. Yeah. I was about thirteen or fourteen years old, and I had a crush on this girl named Tara. And I wrote a song called The Tara Song. And I’ll leave that as it is because it wasn’t very good. But it’s all part of the journey. So it happened.

Did she get to hear it?
I don’t remember if she did or not. I’m not sure.

What song would you say is the one you’re most proud of?
Ooh, that’s a tough question because every song is important. You write every song in the moment that you’re feeling, and you feel very proud that you’ve written a song about what you want to talk about in that moment. Probably my favorite song on my new album, Intuition, is Overthink. I think it’s just very powerful lyrically and melodically. And it just … it makes me feel so good. So I’d have to say Overthink then.

I want to talk about your heritage for a moment. I love that you have your name written in Chinese on a lot of things. What inspired you to do that?
So when I was younger, my parents, they got split up. And it wasn’t until pretty recently, like four or five years ago, that I finally had a strong connection with my father. And my father is the one who grew up in Hong Kong. So growing up, I didn’t really get to experience that culture too, too much. So over the past four or five years, I’ve learned and experienced this culture. And it’s a part of me that I knew was there, but I just didn’t really understand it. And I took a trip to Hong Kong with my father. And he showed me everything: where he grew up, where my great-grandparents on his side were buried, and just going through the whole family history on that side. And that really inspired me to have the artwork reflect this part of me now. Because it is a part of me, and it will always be a part of me. So I wanted to have that.

So do you put any of the Chinese into your songs?
It doesn’t really reflect too much in the music. It’s just more the artwork. And I want to express myself in my fashion sense, and basically just letting people know that yes, I am a Chinese Canadian.

There aren’t many Chinese Canadian performers out there. Do you think you’ve broken down that barrier, being in the spotlight?
Oh, absolutely. And I think now, more than ever, Chinese Canadians, Chinese Americans, or just half Asians, or Asians, in general, have broken into some sort of bigger scene you could say. There’s an actor from Toronto who’s going to be a Marvel superhero. We’re no longer the nerd, or the guy that gets killed off first on a horror film. We’re the superhero. We’re the main character, the sex symbol. It’s very refreshing to have that. I’m very proud of the culture.

What part of being Chinese do you love the best?
The detail and attention to how much family means to us. It really runs deep. I know every culture has their family-orientated cultures, and norms, and stuff like that. But it runs very deep in Chinese culture. That and the food, of course. Who doesn’t like a Chinese takeout? And I’m not talking Chinese-Canadian takeout. I’m talking Chinese takeout, you know?

What part of being Canadian do you love the best?
I love our diversity and our multiculturalism, honestly, and of course, our politeness. It’s amazing to live in, especially in Toronto, where you can walk down one street and experience Greek town. And then on the other side of the city, not too far, there’s Chinatown, and little India, and little Italy. It’s just incredible to see. So I’m super, super happy to live in a country where that’s accepted.

I love that you’re very proud and were not afraid to share your wedding with fans. So are you still a proud husband?
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. 100%. My wife is the absolute best, and I love her to death. We’re just over a year married now. And we’re going strong, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her.

Has she inspired any songs lately?
100%, yeah. From my second single, With You, to the most recent one, To the Man Who let Her Go. She’s been the inspiration on both and many others on the album as well. There’s a song called The Wall, which kind of explains the tension that sometimes is between relationships. So of course, no relationship is perfect. So I don’t have sad songs, but difficulties within relationships, songs about that, and ballads.

I love that you’re also acting. Is that something you enjoy more, or is it on equal par with singing, music?
I really love acting, but right now I’m just focused on The Wanted Tour. And that’s kind of where my head’s at right now. Maybe when I have some downtime, I’ll maybe go into a movie or two or some TV show. I’d love to continue acting. I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever done besides music. I definitely want to continue to explore that world.

When I look at your pictures or videos, my mind automatically goes to a Chinese version of Dean Cain, which is awesome because he was Superman. You would be an incredible Superman. So are you a superhero?
I will take that. Yeah, I could definitely be a Superman. Sign me up right now. Let’s do it. Yeah, I’m in. Let’s go.