Keeley Brooks & Nicole Brice
Mar 17, 2023
The Music of Tyler Underwood
Every once in a while, a new artist appears on scene with music so relatable, you can’t help but get lost in nostalgia when listening to his/her/their tunes. Tyler Underwood is one of those artists, and you’re gonna want to stay with us on this one, because this kid is the picture of resilience and perseverance.
Underwood is a singer/songwriter, musician, and producer based out of Florence, Alabama. Born as the youngest of five children, he has lived a rough life, but that has never stopped him from being creative or longing to make music. In fact, his early experiences are what drove him to seek refuge in creating music.
Soulful and melodic with heartfelt lyrics is the best way to describe Tyler’s sound. He has quite an incredible story to tell, and we are thankful he reached out to us so we could stumble upon his talents. His beats are catchy, relaxing, and smooth, and the song lyrics resonate deeply on every level.
With thought-provoking imagery strewn throughout his tunes, Tyler’s exceptional use of words makes for a vivid listening experience. To be quite honest, his music reminds us of Jason Mraz but with an edge. It's that feel-good singer/songwriter material that one puts on in the car to sing to at the top of their lungs. To give you guys a better understanding of who Tyler Underwood is, we threw him some questions recently, so get ready, because he’s got one hell of a story.
MaM: So, Tyler, thanks so much for chatting with us about your life and music. Why don’t you give us a little background on who you are.
TU: I was born in Florence in 1993. I'm the youngest of five. My dad was in prison most of my life, so some of my earliest memories were staying in hotels just to go and visit him on occasion. My mom was a rockstar taking care of five kids on her own. We moved around the [Muscle Shoals area] for a while until I was 12. My mom and brother and I moved to Georgia because my brother had some run ins with the police, so we tried to escape. We rented a room out of someone's house and worked on a farm to pay for the stay and food. It was later found [out] that I wasn't going to school and there was a lot of drug activity going on in the house, so I was taken from my mom and placed in a group home. My brother ended up getting caught and sent back to Alabama. My mother didn't really have a place to stay in Georgia, [so] she moved back to Bama.
After being in the group home for a couple of years, it was almost time for me to go home. My mom finished all paperwork and passed inspection for them to send me home. A couple months later, she passed away due to Emphysema. After her passing, I chose to stay in the group home. I felt like there wasn't nothing [sic] good for me back home. I probably would've dropped out of school or got into drugs. Luckily, I had a loving support group at the Open Door Children's Home, [and] that made me feel … safe enough to live there and see the other guys that lived there as family. It was around this time that I started writing songs and making music. I formed a rap duo with my best friend, and we began working on songs for mixtapes.
MaM: Wow, that’s a lot to deal with at such a young age. We’re glad you found music both as an escape and as a way of connecting to who you are.
TU: Yeah. I went on to graduate high school in 2012 while working at a radio station and a local restaurant, [then] I enrolled in the Atlanta Institute of Music to pursue an associate degree in audio recording and production. … During that time, I was freelancing as an audio engineer and producer, recording rappers and singers in my bedroom, and mixing and mastering their songs. After graduating in 2014, I started my own production company by the name of The Lokkz Music. I would have artists bring me basic structures or ideas of songs and I'd produce full-fleshed songs for them.
After doing that for three years, I became frustrated, because most of the artists I was making songs for weren't pushing their music like they should. I just felt like we made beautiful music that just landed on deaf ears, so I began to focus back on making my own music. After going through a tough breakup, I had nowhere to go and was basically sleeping in my car trying to keep things going. After about a month, I finally bit the bullet and decided to move back to Florence and start over.
I put a pause on most of my music work and got a job serving tables. After going from job to job, place to place, and going through another failed relationship, I finally set my studio back up and started working again. I started recording songs and … learning covers to start doing shows. For the second half of 2020 and all of 2021, I did shows all over the southeast. I went to Key West twice, traveled to Atlanta almost every weekend, and slept in my car just to play shows. At the beginning of 2022, I decided to take a break from shows so I could be home with my dogs and continue to craft songs for my first album. I'm currently working on finishing up that album and releasing content consistently to stay engaged with my fans.
MaM: If you could describe who you are at your core, how would you do that?
TU: At my core, I'm a lover and a curious child that oohs and aahs at all the wonderful things in life. For some, it takes a lot to be happy, but for me, just watching how beautiful a tree is when it sways or hearing how elegant a bird sings is enough for me. I have ambitions, and I'm passionate about my craft and about people leading lives they are truly satisfied with. I've studied a lot of Buddhism and eastern philosophy, and I've learned that life is made up of our perceptions and thoughts. No matter what you are going through, you can always find beauty and peace within.
MaM: True dat! What a great outlook. So, you're both an artist and a producer. Tell us about that, and which came first.
TU: I pretty much started doing both at the same time. When I was a kid, I would sing along to Elvis’s songs and 90’s / early 2000’s R&B. When I was 12, I started writing poetry and rap verses over Tupac’s songs. I soon fell in love with writing. I started learning guitar and piano at the age of 14 and by 15, I decided I wanted to be a rapper/producer and started learning as much as I [could] from books I found or that were given to me.
The first song I ever made [was recorded] on an old Yamaha keyboard that allowed up to five tracks of recording. I would play the full length of each part of the song because it didn't have the capability to loop. I then played the beat and recorded it with the microphone on my MP3 player, [then] I connected my MP3 player to my computer and transferred the recording of the beat. I remember I had this crappy headset with a microphone on it. I used that to record the vocals and then went into Adobe Audition and lined the vocals up with the beat. And that was how I made my first song.
As an artist, I see myself as someone that just likes to bring ideas to life. I've always had a creative mind. I've just always been on the search for tools that let me manifest that into reality. As a producer, it's pretty much the same. I'll take ideas that are merely skeletons and create a whole village out of it.
MaM: Have you always had musical talent?
TU: I haven't really always had musical talent. I learned [that] through passion and curiosity. But I've always loved music. It's always been at the forefront of everything for me. Even as a four- or five-year-old kid, I was drawn to music for some reason. I was always watching music videos or listening to what my siblings and parents were listening to.
MaM: What made you slide into producing as well?
TU: I've just always been a DIY type of person. So, naturally I just wanted to involve myself with every step of the process of making music.
MaM: What instruments do you play? And tell us about your singing/rapping. From where does your sound originate?
TU: I mostly play piano and guitar. I can also work my way around a sampler and drum machine. I'm pretty well versed in engineering, [and] I love working on analog consoles and getting my hands on actual gear, but most of the engineering work I do is in the box, meaning I mainly just use digital plug-ins that emulate real-life gear.
MaM: Who would you cite as your influences?
TU: Musically, my influences have always been Tupac, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, John Mayer, Bon Iver, and just a bunch of random bands and artists that my family grew up listening to.
MaM: Do you have any albums or singles currently out or coming out soon?
TU: I am currently working on my first album, but instead of releasing it all at once, I'm releasing one song at a time like how TV shows release an episode at a time. I plan on having some type of visual representation for each song as well.
MaM: Right on. Did you have any singles drop in 2022?
TU: ‘Right Thing’ released last year. It’s about being in a place out of comfort but not happiness … realizing you’re not happy in that place, but it’s just easier to stay. So, it’s about that and making the decision to let it go and move on. Because that’s the right thing to do.
MaM: Have you released anything this year?
TU: [Earlier this year], I released ‘Pranayama.’ It’s about learning to breathe—truly breathe—and just accept events in your life. Whether they are positive or negative depends on your perception of them. You can find positive in negative and vice versa. Learning healthy ways to deal with hardships is very important. It’s so easy to fall into the deep end, but if you take some time to learn techniques, such as meditation and pranayama (Sanskrit for breathwork), you end up growing into a strong and peaceful being that doesn’t easily get defeated by its demons.
MaM: Are these songs on the same album?
TU: At this moment, both songs are singles in their own space but will eventually be a part of an album. The details on that will be revealed later.
MaM: Any live shows?
TU: I don't currently have any live shows booked, but I am working on getting a band together to tour for the album.
MaM: What's the overall message in your music for people?
TU: To me, music has always been therapy. When I go through things, I always turn to music to [guide] me. It started as just listening but then grew into writing music as therapy. So, I aim for my music to be a voice for those that feel like they don't have one, a shoulder to lean on, and a message to inspire. My music is relatable and very personal. I try to be very transparent in my lyrics. I also talk about things that could possibly help others lead better lives, mindsets to use as tools to make it through this rough experience of life.
And there you have it, people. This kid is a fighter who has some talent and a clear vision of what he wants and where he’s headed with his music. We highly recommend checking out his carefully constructed beats full of premium quality instrumentals and heartfelt song lyrics. Before you know it, they’ll snag hold of you and have you listening on repeat while you do whatever it is you do with your time. Visit Tyler’s Linktr.ee for more music, videos, and links to his social media.
*photos and video provided by the artist