The Northern Point: An Interview With Indie Artist Tyler Gunn
By Eli Duncan-High
Tyler Gunn is an indie artist from Toronto who fuses psychedelic rock and grunge to make a new and groundbreaking sound and has the talent, character, and drive to become one of the most prominent musicians in the music industry. If you’re a fan of indie and alternative rock with soft guitars and poetic lyrics then Tyler Gunn combines all of that into one beautiful piece of art. I was fortunate enough to schedule an interview with Tyler Gunn and I had a lot of fun learning more about his music, influences, and himself.
Eli: “In your music I hear a fusion of psychedelic-indie rock but with lyrics that have connections with grunge. Who are your biggest influences?”
Tyler: “I’ve always gravitated towards 90s alternative rock, but it actually started with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was around 14 years old when I first started playing guitar, my good friend showed me Dani California. He skipped right to the guitar solo and played it for me. I didn’t really have any knowledge of rock music and it was super foreign to me. I just remembered listening and going wow, this is what I want to do, this is it.
The first 2 years of me getting into rock it was just the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then Nirvana, Radiohead, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains came into the fold. The 90s alternative scene is definitely the home of my influences. I like a lot of 70s stuff too, Pink Floyd and The Beatles.”
Eli: “In the song Sunset Still the lyric “When you let go I finally found myself” resonates with me. How did you come up with that lyric?”
Tyler: “I never really talked about this, but the whole project Mood Swings 2 which that song is off of is kind of like a concept EP. If you listen to the lyrics from start to finish it follows a story. Sunset Still is the biggest part in that story and describes a very specific situation. It was about a relationship that never really got to become what you knew it could’ve been. [It’s} this recurring theme that a lot of people deal with where it’s not necessarily the relationship that went really amazing and failed, but more so the relationship never got to flourish – like a flower that never got to bloom in the first place. To me, that is the emotional core of the song. It was a situation where you thought it was going to be one way and you and the other person both, in your hearts, believed it could have been that way but then when reality sets in, it ends up being really different.
What’s actually funny though, and is important to note, is that I wrote this song before that situation unfolded. There’s a few songs on Mood Swings 2 that follow this same theme where I wrote the song before the situation happened, so I basically told the future of the relationship through the writing process. It brings up this great question of like, did I make that happen by writing this song? Or did some part of me know that this was going to end up this way?”
Eli: “One of the things I really appreciate about your music is its poetry. What influenced your lyricism?”
Tyler: “That is a very flattering question because I do put a lot into my lyrics. I think that’s an aspect of my music that gets overlooked – so thank you for noticing that. To answer that question, it’s a few different things. I think my whole life, ever since I was a child, I’ve just been curious about the world and I have this idea that very sensitive people are the ones who have the potential to be creative – because you feel very deeply and evoke something in you that needs to be expressed. I’ve always been very inquisitive, very interested and very curious but also very sensitive. A lot of the inspiration for my lyrics also comes from a lot of the artists I listen to, and as I was starting out as a songwriter, I started to notice the difference between most music that you hear and certain specific artists. Where like, there’s something about their melodies that make them so different and unique.
For example, Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse, Jeff Buckley, and Anthony Kiedis – are some of my biggest influences, and something that links them all is that they all have very beautiful and intricate melodies. And the reason they have beautiful and intricate melodies is because they have beautiful and intricate lyrics. So I realized for me to get to that next level, I’m going to start doing what they’re doing. Cause they’re not just songwriters they’re poets, and so I started reading poetry. I’ve read Gwendolyn Brooks, Silvia Plath, Robert Frost, Leonard Cohen, and a few others. So just reading poetry and understanding the relationship between the words themselves, letting that sit inside of me, and then translating that into lyrics.
Eli: “I want to follow that up with this because I remember when I first learned about you I found a video of you in a studio with a picture of Jim Morrison (lead singer of The Doors) in the background. Jim Morrison is known for his poetry and he wanted to be remembered as a poet. Has Jim Morrison’s poetry or lyricism influenced you in any way?”
Tyler: “I think everything about Jim Morrison has influenced me. It’s very hard to not be influenced by Jim Morrison. It’s one thing to be a performer on stage, but his whole life was the performance. I think that’s one thing where whether you agree with the decisions he made, you can admire that he wasn’t just performing on the stage. His life was the performance and I think any performer can look at that, not just the performance itself but also the poetry and art of it. I love Jim Morrison and I think it’s hard to not be inspired by him.
Eli: “You have a great sense of fashion. What is the process when you choose an outfit and are there any clothing brands you recommend?”
Tyler: “Full disclosure I have to give a lot of credit to my friend Joshua who has an amazing sense of fashion and has opened my world when it comes to what you can do with clothing. I’ve learned from him but I’m still in the learning process of what kind of clothes fit my body and what style I’m trying to convey, so that’s still a work in progress. All of my fashion sense I would give credit to him. I can’t think of any clothing brands right now however, I really do love thrifting and I love not knowing what you’re going to find and not thinking of it at the level of “brand” but rather what weird things can I mix and match. To me that’s what fashion is about. One thing I’ve
been trying to do is bring in more color. I’m done with the whole white and all black thing. I want to wear outfits that are interesting.
I’ve asked myself what the point of fashion is and I think the answer is different for everyone, and I’ve realized now that I think my whole life I’ve always felt different, like the black sheep. I’ve never felt like that was reflected in what I was wearing. So I guess the answer is finding a way to express how I feel on the inside, on the outside.”
Eli: “You’re gaining more followers and recognition. Are you going to start opening or headlining shows soon?”
Tyler: “I was actually trying to get an opening spot for one my favorite bands, Blonde Redhead, but they already had an opener. Right now we are still putting the band together – which is me and the drummer you saw in the video (the video with the Jim Morrison poster). When we find a bassist and maybe a second guitarist we really want to put on a show downtown. All the songs that I’ve recorded were in my room but I haven’t gotten the chance to explore those live, so I’m excited to finish up the band and to put on some shows.”
Eli: “When I saw your pictures on Instagram, some of the photos reminded me of the blurry distorted photos of early Soundgarden. Did you draw inspiration from these Soundgarden photos?”
Tyler: “It’s so interesting that you say that because it wasn’t intentional. Joshua who, on top of my styling, is also in charge of my creative direction. So most of, if not all, of the photos you see he is responsible for. He is also into the same pocket of culture but is also more of a multimedia guy. I’m sure there’s this osmosis of inspiration and I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and said this is what we are going to do and try to make it look a certain way. However, now that you put them next to each other, I can definitely see the influence. I think the greatest way to be inspired is to not know that’s what inspired you.
Eli: “I also feel like the pictures you and Joshua make also show a different side of your music, a more chaotic and distorted version. You can make somber and sad songs but also chaotic songs as well. Especially in songs like Lost and Confused with the use of heavy distortion in the guitar and I believe those pictures show that other side of your music as well.”
Tyler: There is actually thinking behind that and that part is intentional, in the sense that I’ve always wanted to create a range of music. If you notice, with bands like Metallica they’ve got these big acoustic ballads, and they’ve also got these really hard and heavy songs. I’ve always wanted a range like that. I’ve never wanted to have one sound. As humans, we feel different each day. I want to make music that you can listen to when you’re sad, when you’re angry, or when you’re feeling hopeful. I’ve always wanted to evoke a broad range of feelings that’s expressed through all the art I create.
Eli: Your new single, A Million Miles, has gained some popularity. However, I want to focus on another song that I think is just as good, which is Careless. How did this song come about?
Tyler: Careless was the first song written for Mood Swings 2, years before I even decided to make a concept album. I’m not really sure what it was about at the time. I had a story to tell and a bunch of songs written already. It didn’t have a concrete meaning until Mood Swings 2 came together. Eventually it all made sense though.
Eli: “Is Tyler Gunn your real name or is it a stage name?”
Tyler: “My moms maiden name is Gunn and my legal last name is different. I always thought Tyler Gunn sounds way more like an artist name than my actual legal name. I was struggling to come up with a name and I’m like, “Tyler Gunn” that works.”
Eli: “Can we expect any new EPs or studio albums soon? What’s in the works for Tyler Gunn?”
Tyler: “I got some singles brewing and I really want to make another project but I’m kind of growing the grassroots foundation of my whole career. In the next 8 months you could expect some new singles. No album in the works yet but, I have like 4 different album concepts in my mind, and I’m just waiting for the pieces to fall together and discovering my own sound. I’m not married to one sonic palette, I’m gonna try many and hopefully create more music as soon as possible. I plan on doing this my whole life, so if I’m ever on a hiatus just know I’ll be back because music is why I’m here.”