Tyler ShawDuring his 18 months of COVID-19 precautions, Canadian pop star Tyler Shaw was more active than ever before. The singer-songwriter, who’s known for the hit singles “The Man Who Let Her Go” and “With You”, wrote and recorded his most challenging and musically interesting album, welcomed a new member to his family and started a charity called ArtistsCAN with Fefe Dobson.

Hot on the release of the album, Tyler couldn’t wait to Zoom with 519 to talk about everything that’s been going on in his world.

You have a new album out. This time you self titled it. Why did you do that?
It’s self titled for two reasons. One, I’m the most proud of the work that I’ve come up with. This album is my favorite work yet, my best work yet and I’m extremely proud of it. So that’s why I decided to self title it.

Reason number two, this whole album is the deepest part of me because all these ideas have come from the subconscious. When I get my ideas it’s usually when I’m going from place to place and doing this and doing that. My subconscious is picking up on certain things, whether it’s architecture, or someone I see on the streets or a relationship. I’ve realized that’s where the majority of my ideas come from. That being said, I really do feel like your subconscious is a whole of who you are, because it’s always feeding you stuff. It’s always there and you just start realizing it, right.

So for this album, I took a deep breath in at the start of the pandemic, when I was first starting to get into the writing, had to do some reflecting. In terms of, I won’t be traveling anymore. So where am I gonna get my inspiration from? Well, I had to have a conversation with my subconscious. And I started doing mundane things like just being at home and sipping a cup of tea in the morning and reading a book and then pop there would come an idea, which never really happens, it would always be when I’m traveling. So the fact that it came up with these ideas when I was just sitting and being present, made me realize that my subconscious is always hard at work, trying to figure out some kind of idea.

Is this the first time you’ve truly connected with your subconscious?
I think so. I think because of that break, there was no Go, go, go, go, go. It was like, the analogy or the metaphor of the dust settling and their breathing, being calm for a minute. And I had a really good opportunity, like I said, to just be present. I know that’s so difficult to do nowadays with social media and you needing this, you want this and that. I wouldn’t look at the phone for the longest time in the morning and just be here. Listen, look, feel, taste all the senses. Just get them in that one moment at that one time.

Are you the type of person who trusts that gut feeling?
Yeah, I would say so. My last album was called “Intuition”. So I’m very much into trusting my intuitive feelings, and whatever my gut tells me and I pay attention to the feeling of things a lot.

The other albums each had their own unique sound, their own unique way of telling things, but they were very cohesive within each other. Did you approach this new album the same way trying to keep it cohesive within itself? Because it’s got a different sound than the other albums?
For the most part, totally, I think I’ve realized, the signature in my music is definitely my voice. So in a sense, it doesn’t really matter what music is behind it.

For example, the first single I released off of this new album, it’s called “Remember” and it’s like a full on dance track.

Then I have the second single called “When You’re Home”, which is like a ballad from the 60s. So there’s a lot of diverse there when it comes to the production behind the music. And I’d like to show my range with that and show what I’m able to do with that because the voice is so signature, It allows a lot more freedom with the music to just kind of do what’s best for the song essentially. But when it comes to this album, from track one to track 10 there I would say there is a tight cohesiveness minus the fact that “Remember” is a dance track. There’s not a synth heavy track that’s the standout, I think for me.

The songs have a bit of a sharp production to them, It sounds almost like you didn’t compress them. It’s so dynamically sharp. So it makes the songs feel very lively. And more so than the other albums. So tell me about the production.
Production was super fun to work with. Keep in mind all this stuff was done over Zoom. I don’t think I went into the studio once when it was time to produce things. So that was a challenge in itself. But I recorded probably all the guitars and all the tracks at home.

My good friend, longtime collaborator, producer Alex Pilz did “North Star” and “Sex On The Beach” and a couple other tracks on the album. We have a very good working relationship. So it was basically when it came to him and I working together, I would give him what he needed vocally and guitar wise and he would just do the rest because I trust him.

It was actually really cool to collaborate with a bunch of other producers as well for this album some being in the UK, Sam Merrifield, a female producer Charlie McCLean, who did one of my favorite tracks the album called “Say Nothing”. Just seeing how they work really inspires me and that’s how I learned the best is seeing how other producers work because maybe there’s tips and tricks that they use that I can implement within my own productions. Whether that’s working on myself or other artists. It was just really cool to be a part of.

TS-BeLikeYou album cover-minIf I was to pick a song off the new album, and put it on to “Intuition”, I think I would choose “I See You” because it sounds like it fits on that album. Is it an older song that you held back?
That’s so crazy. Yeah, it is. It definitely is an older song. I wrote that one on my first writing trip for the new album in December of 2019. So I just got off The Wanted Tour, that ended in Vancouver and I just went south into L.A. and that was the first session ever for this next project. We held on to it and I’ve written over 80 songs for this album. So you could really see how that might have gotten lost in the shuffle of things, but once it resurfaced, we were like holy shit. Why are we not using this, let’s go. So really happy it resurfaced and everything happens for a reason.

Remixes and re-recording special mixes of songs, they’re always interesting, and you have three of them for “When You’re Home”. Each one makes the song sound very different. What is your take on the three different versions and what’s the closest to the way you wrote it?
The closest to the way I wrote it would be the piano string version. It was written on piano. This is the fastest session I’ve ever had was written in 45 minutes. All on piano and that was the way I envisioned everything.

Jon Levine took it into a new world with the production that he did, which is the single that’s out no, which I love. I love that he took it away from the piano and put the guitar bass instrument into it. Breathe it some new life, which is incredible.

My personal favorite would have to be the string version because that’s how it was written. Then you have the Dzeko DJ Remix, which is just like if you’re ready to get down, throw that on and you’ll be good to go.

You’re not afraid of having those moments like with the first single “Remember” and then that mix, so you’re not afraid of the dance thing. And in fact, when we see you in concert, there’s a lot of energy going on there. Is there this hardcore guy who wants to create heavy dance music in there somewhere?
I don’t know if I’d want to create the dance music. Like long term, I think I’ll always want to be a part of it in some way, whether that’s being featured on a track or writing for others. I wanted to try it out with “Remember”, and I’m glad I did. But in terms of where my heart falls, with the music, it’s more along the lines of “North Star” and “Worst for Me”.

I grew up listening to like punk rock music, and a little bit of metal and rock and roll. So I feel like that is a part of me, and I really want to explore that more when it comes to the new music. Olivia Rodrigo, she’s got a “Good 4 u”, which is basically like, a Blink 182, Paramore song, you know what I mean? So it’s coming back, and I’m happy that it is.

When I caught you on the last tour in London, I noticed a little bit of that rocker on stage, because you had the mic out, you were really getting into it like it’s a cool rock show. I wasn’t ready for that. I was surprised, and it was one of those moments where I felt, Wow, that’s really cool. So you put that into your show, obviously.
Yes, I do and some things I needed to be pulled out to me because I remember starting, I was hiding behind the acoustic guitar a lot. When you look back at footage, you can really tell that I was most comfortable with the acoustic guitar.

So once it was taken away from me, I kind of felt lost. But then, I started thinking about all the songs and how I used to just do the most random ridiculous movements in my bedroom, listening to these bands and kind of tapped into that and just feel the music and the music will guide you to where you’re supposed to do and move here to do that. You don’t need to over think the process. Just let it go. Let the music do what music’s supposed to do.

You mentioned earlier about how the pandemic affected the writing and the production of this album. Is there a defining pandemic song on the album that you would think that if you look back in 10 years ago, yeah, that was the pandemic.
Well for me, the entire album is because I wrote it over Zoom during the pandemic. “I See You” was not written during the pandemic, “When Your Home” wildly enough was not written during the pandemic. That was just before everything got shut down. I was in the UK and pretty sure the day or the day after I came back is when the Junos got cancelled, and the NHL got cancelled and everything just shut down.

If there was one song, I’d have to say “Say Nothing” would be like, Oh, I remember this. Just because it’s such a beautiful song and that’s probably one of my favorites on the record.

Writing is still important part of your overall process. Not a lot of performers put so much into writing. They’ll let other people write or take over. But writing for you is fundamentally everything I think, is that correct?
If you have a good song, what else do you really need? If the foundation is there, you have something to show people, you have something to sell is a business, you have something to say, you just have this song that’s just good, this is great. Then everything else kind of falls into place. If you don’t have a good song, then there’s not much there. There’s no substance.

It’s not only, let’s get this song out there to help other people to inspire other people. It’s an outlet for me, if I go through a terrible day or if I have the best day ever, I can put that into music. I can put that energy into music. And then that could help other people go through the same kind of thing with helping them accentuate their feelings, whether it’s sadness or happiness or whatever it may be. So writing has always been important. I started writing even before I even did covers. I started writing very early.

Excitingly, you welcomed a new one to your family this year, how has that really changed your life?
Oh my gosh, complete 180, she has been an angel. Honestly, she makes everything just perfect. And if I were to kind of turn it back into the music side, I always say since the moment we found out that we were having a baby, this whole kind of, I call it a paradigm shift, in my mind, just went like this. And it opened up my mind to just everything, it’s always been on my mind, like I want to be better, you know, I want to do better, I want to make the world a better place. But when you have someone to do it for like your child, it intensified, it’s like, I want the world to be a better place for her. I want to be a better version of myself for her.

When it comes to songwriting, I surprise myself sometimes with different lyrics or different melodies, or we can have a concept and the way, like, let’s say, this person falls in love with this person, the way you get there within the story. I feel like I’ve never thought this way before. Let’s go take this route, instead of just doing I fall in love. It’s like, I fall in love through a waterfall or something like that, something more imagery and a little bit more tasteful and mature content. She inspires me every day, looking into her eyes is just a whole universe that is unexplainable. I hope one day she can tell me the secrets of the universe.

Nothing beats that experience you’re at right now. Is there a song on the new album, especially for her yet? Or is that still to come?
That is still to come. I have written a bunch of songs for her. But they’re not going to be on the album. Most likely the next project will be a handful for her.

In many ways, Intuition felt like it was an album for your wife.
Yeah, there were tons of songs on there for her definitely, “With You”, “To the Man Who Let Her Go”. I’m forgetting the track listing now, even honestly, like even “The Wall”, it’s a negative song, but, it’s real life. I don’t believe any relationship is 100% perfect. So yeah, there were a lot of songs on there for her. I released it in 2018. We got married in 2018. So, I think the inspiration behind that is obvious.

Tyler Shaw four is all Everly.

(Laughter) Yeah

Tyler Shaw WYH portrait 2Six of the songs from this album have already been released as singles. So at this point, more than half the album has already been heard and released. What are some of the surprises that are left for fans to hear when the rest of it comes out?
I’m so excited for the next half. What can they be excited about just the new music honestly, the new stories that I’m about to tell.

One of the songs on there called “Worse for Me”, when I was recording the vocals I got teary eyed just because of the story and the dynamics and the message of the song, it’s incredible.

“Heaven”, which just takes you to this different place, but keeps you here. Again, the dynamic of that one is just it’s very interesting. One of my favorite songs lyrically. Lots to look forward to honestly, it’s a lot of fun to listen to front to back.

I mentioned “The Man Who Let Her Go”, I often wonder, does the man you wrote the song about, know about the song?
You and me both. (Laughter) I’m not sure. I have a feeling – Maybe he does. I’ve never asked him and I don’t plan to. It was great for him to be, inspiration for that one.

Of all your songs, that’s the one that hit me the most. It’s such a great statement to make, and it’s moving forward in such a positive light.
Absolutely, absolutely. Just on being positive, it’s cliché as it sounds, like life’s too short. If there’s anything, don’t be so negative about it, and just try to find the positive in everything and the chemical reactions that goes down when you’re getting all stressed out and negative. It’s not worth it.

At the peak of everything a couple years ago, you’re touring, you’re helping charities, and you’re doing all kinds of things. The pandemic has had to have affected all of that. Have you been keeping active with any charity work, during the pandemic?
I actually started my own initiative called ArtistsCAN. That was all stemmed from a conversation I was having with my manager, about COVID-19. when it was hitting hard. And that was around the time Bill Withers passed away. And obviously, he’s got his hit “Lean on Me”. What a message that song has to offer, especially going through something like COVID-19.

So I created this artist initiative, charity called ArtistsCAN with myself, my manager, Danny Reiner and Fefe Dobson, and Dan Cantor. We all came together and reached out to our contacts and decided to get as many Canadian icons as possible on a cover of Lean on me. When we released the song 100% of the proceeds are going to go straight to a Canadian Red Cross. I don’t even know the number right now, but it’s got over a few million plays and streams and listens.

It’s incredible to see that support come through, because when I was doing a stream of interviews back then, the beautiful thing about having a song go straight to charity is that it’ll never stop. As long as the song is repeatedly listened to, or watched, all those proceeds, all those earnings, go straight to help those who need it.

Being so involved with the Red Cross, the whole medical aspect, and the whole hospitalization aspect of COVID-19 probably really affected you.
Yeah, my wife worked at a hospital during the pandemic, she’s on mat leave now obviously, but hearing a lot of the stuff that would go on in the hospital and just so awful, it was really did take a toll on her mentally which obviously affected me knowing what was going on there. It made every sense to try to help out as best as I could.

There was a point where I felt helpless because like, Okay, I’m going to what am I going to do? Like, how can I help during the I was in a writing periods, I wasn’t releasing any new music. So I did feel helpless but with conversations I had with Danny, Fefe and Dan, we came together and decided to make a difference, which I’m super happy about.

Will there be other stuff that this charity does in the future?
That is the goal. We have yet to decide on where we actually want to take this thing, whether every initiative is going to be global or if it’s going to be national. We’re just not sure we haven’t had the opportunity to talk too much in depth.

I got a project out, Fefe has a project coming out, so Life goes on obviously, but it is on the back of our minds and it is something that is important and we want to be part of still.

It’s been about two years since fans last saw you live. Is there a tour in the works?
There is a tour in the works for 2022. Nothing on this side of the year 2021, but for 2022, I do plan on going on a national tour plus maybe some international travel as well. So yeah, there’s a tour in the works.

Speaking of international, this reminded me of something – the first time we ever talked, we talked a lot about your heritage. Is there ever a desire to visit China with the music?
Absolutely, with or without the music, I’ve only been to Hong Kong once with my father back in 2015, 2016, somewhere around there. Loved it, absolutely loved it there. Lots of history, lots of family history, but lots of history on its own right. Lots of inspiration to find in that beautiful, beautiful city, and with the music.

I would love to go there, it just makes sense, I am half Chinese. I wish I kept up with Chinese school. But as a kid, you know, you want to hang out with your friends on the weekend.

The cool thing about the Asian countries is they don’t mind English songs.
This is true.

I saw a concert in Vancouver with X Japan and it was 98% Japanese. There was about a quarter of the audience that was just English white guys, and we were just digging this show. It made me kind of look at it from the other aspect where Okay, now I understand why they can appreciate English music because I can appreciate their music.
Very true. That’s a very good outlook on that. Maybe I’ll go catch an international show once they start coming back. That’s very cool.

Go to TylerShawMusic.com to check out tour dates, music and more.

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