Every once in a while, an artist in the electronic dance music community will come along and really stand out. For me, this artist is tyDi. On the surface, at first glance, the music might seem like your standard dance music. But the most outstanding thing about tyDi's work is the fact that he has been consistently working with artists outside of this genre to create this kind of music, namely artists like Chris Carraba (Dashboard Confessional) and Jordan Witzigreuter (The Ready Set). Both of them are Warped Tour acts, bred in the era of Alternative Press and Hot Topic. The fact that these artists work together in harmony is fantastic, producing tracks that make up his most recent studio effort, Redefined.
I recently spoke with tyDi about working on an album like Redefined, what is was like to collaborate with artists like Dashboard Confession, what he'll be bringing to the stage when comes to Ruby Skye in San Francisco next Saturday, and much more.
You’ve had quite an extensive career thus far! You’re four albums deep, and you have a few different EPs and singles. I think that with every album that’s released, an artist grows just a little bit. What would you say that you were able to take away after working on an album like Redefined? What was the process like?
Redefined was definitely based more around songwriting. Back when I started making electronic music, it was very much about making a really cool beat, and sending the beat to a vocalist. The more I got into songwriting, the more I appreciated the whole [process] of sitting down in the room with a group of artists, like I was in a band! I’d get together with the vocalist in the studio. I would play piano, they would play guitar, and we’d write the song first before we even knew what kind of style it would be. We’d have this really cool track. It might just be piano and vocals in the early stages.
I did this for about three years, writing over 300 different songs, working to produce them all into an album. I narrowed it down to 20 from 300. I picked the ones that I felt were the best and described what I wanted to do the most.
I feel like I’d get so overwhelmed if I had to choose from 300 tracks. (laughs)
Yeah, it was hard! A little part of me died each time I had to remove a song. A 20-song album is already a lot. It sounds like overkill, but from 300, it was so hard to narrow it down. I got down to the 20, and I thought, “If I remove anything else, I’m going to be taking away something from the album.” It’s definitely good to write that much music, because you’re able to pick your best work, but it’s also really hard when you have to decide, at the end, which ones aren’t going to make the cut.
This is a project that took three years, and I’m really proud of it.
In regards to Redefined, you worked with Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional) and Jordan Witizigreuter (The Ready Set), two fantastic artists. When you were going about finding vocalists, how did you know they would be the right fit for you?
Yeah! When I was growing up, around 15 or 16-years-old, I would always be listening to that punk-emo era of music. I was listening to bands like The Used, Taking Back Sunday, and Dashboard Confessional. I loved that era. Dashboard was one that really stood out to me. His music is so emotional and powerful.
Years later, when I was in Los Angeles, I was sitting down with my manager. We were brainstorming vocalists for my album, and I think a Dashboard song came on. I just thought, “Oh my god, imagine if I could do a track with Chris! That would just be so cool.” We reached out to him, and it turned out that Chris was actually a fan of my music. It worked out really well!
Jordan [Witzigreuter] of The Ready Set is actually a really close friend of mine. We’ve written a ton of stuff together. But I really loved his voice. He has an amazing, unique kind of style with singing. [“Die This Way”] is one of my favorite songs on the album.
Usually the first thing you’ll hear in a collaboration in this genre is a pop vocalist, because it seems like the most logical fit. I appreciate the fact that you went and did what people wouldn’t expect with the vocalists you chose.
Thank you! It wasn’t my aim to really do something just because no one else had done it. It was just that I loved that music, and that whole era was so close to me. To be able to work with the guys like that was just a dream come true. I was definitely fan-girling a little bit when Chris [Carrabba] was able to write music with me. (laughs)
One of the most impressive things I’ve noticed about you is your social media presence and your ability to connect with your fans in such a special way. How are you able to find that balance between the hectic lifestyle of a musician, writing, playing shows, and maintaining a relationship with old and new fans?
Yeah! It’s really about efficiency, and it’s something that I’ve developed over the 10 to 11 years that I’ve been doing this. Touring definitely takes the most time, because sometimes my tours go all over the world. I’ll go to Asia and do eight different cities in 10 days, and then I’ll head over to America to do a full U.S. tour. There’s so much flying and travel time, and that works with social media. There’s a lot of time where I’m waiting around in airports and I can easily just reply to fans on my phone.
It’s come to the point where I don’t really need to make a conscious effort to always keep close to my fans; it’s simply that I want to! If I’m on tour and I’ve got a couple of hours and I’m reading through tweets, I love replying to people and connecting with them.
I did this cool thing recently where I called 100 different fans from around the world. Some of them were crying; they couldn’t believe it, which was really, like, flattering. Just to connect on a personal level like that with the fans and not just be like “thank you,” but actually talk to them and thank them for their support was amazing. Hearing the emotion in their voices was just amazing.
Is there anything that you can share in terms of what fans can expect with the upcoming episodes of the Global Soundsystem podcast?
With Global Soundsystem, it’s funny. It’s been such a good thing for my DJ career because it’s a show that’s syndicated all around the world. It’s in thirty different countries now, I think. A lot of people that aren’t signed to labels will send me songs to play. Sometimes I get up to a thousand songs a week (you can send tracks to firstname.lastname@example.org). It’s quite a lengthy task to go through it all, but I have somebody who will help me narrow it down to the music that he knows I’m going to like. We’ll narrow a thousand tracks down to about 100. I then go through those 100 tracks personally (which I have to do today) and pick the top 15 that I love. They make it onto the Global Soundsystem show.
It’s great because I get to play songs from artists that people have never heard of before, but they’re such great producers. There’s so many out there. It’s nice to be able to play songs out and have people go, “wait, what was that track?” Rather than just going to Beatport and downloading only from the Top 100. I try to have a really good, eclectic selection, and these tracks definitely influence what I play in my [live] sets.
My sets are all over the place, but in a good way. I don’t stick to just one genre; I go everywhere from techno to house to progressive house, and sometimes I’ll even play break-beat and dubstep-type tracks. I’ll throw in pop music too. My new single, “Tear Me Up” is out now, so I’ve been playing that a lot.
With “Tear Me Up”, when did that track come into the writing process for you?
When I did my Redefined album, I got really lucky with the title track going to number one on dance radio in America. It was just great exposure for me. It took so long for me to do that album. I took a little break after that and created a side project called Wish I Was. It was this really dark, mysterious, moody kind of music. Once I kind of got that out of my system, I wanted to get back into writing that “summertime” pop track. I connected with Nash Overstreet, who was the vocalist on that track. He’s from the band Hot Chelle Rae. They have a lot of amazing hits, and I love that fun vibe that they have. I got into the studio with Nash. I started playing the piano, he played the guitar, and we came up with the track really quickly. The vocals on that track were so fun. It was edgy, and I liked that a lot. We just started to write it like a big summertime anthem, so that’s how I produced it after we recorded the vocals for it. It’s definitely one of the songs that I throw in my set, so I love playing it.
You’ll be playing at Ruby Skye in San Francisco next week on Saturday, November 14 with Starkillers. You touched on this next question just a little while ago when talking about your sets, but what can fans and newcomers expect when you take the stage?
Well, when I say that my set is “all over the place,” I don’t mean that it’s disorderly or anything like that. My [musical] taste is just so eclectic. If you listen to my Redefined album, you’ll see what I mean by that. Some songs are ballads, some are pop, and others are progressive. There’s a lot of diversity in that album, and that’s just because that’s my taste.
I don’t want to be known for a genre more than I want to be known for a style. If I made a ballad, and then made a pop track, I’d want fans to be able to look at either track say, “that’s a tyDi track, and it sounds like a tyDi track,” even though they’re completely different genres.
In my DJ sets, I definitely transition through a few different styles, but on a whole, across the two hours that I play, the audience can still hear that I have a certain sound.
I love playing Ruby Skye. It’s one of my favorite clubs in the entire world. I love how it’s a theater.
Yeah, I was there for the first time a little while ago. It’s a beautiful club. Whether you’re a fan or a DJ, you can’t help but feel something when you walk in.
Yeah! It’s just such a beautiful venue. It’s one of those gigs that I look forward to for weeks. Whenever I find out that I’m playing Ruby Skye, I’m always excited. The Bay Area crowd is amazing too! They’re very in tune with what’s current in dance music. I have fans in San Francisco that have been coming out and supporting me for years now. It’s just one of those gigs that I always look forward to. I love it.
This is the last question I ask to every artist that I interview. It’s broad, but what does music mean to you?
Really, everything. I read a really good quote the other day: “Arts should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.” If you’re in a bad mood, having one of those days, it’s amazing how a song can act like a drug for your mood. Music has to be the only drug that’s good for you. (laughs)
You can listen to a song, and it can make you move your head, and make your arms stand up. You get chills from it. You can feel like you’re taken away to a completely different place. If you pay attention to music in movies, you’ll notice that if there was no music in it, there would almost be no idea of emotion. I mean, there’s the acting and the visuals, but it comes down to the score. You could have a scene in a hallway and there’s really beautiful music playing. If you kept the exact same visual, but you switched to really dark, disturbed, dissonant piano notes, you’re suddenly expecting this character to be involved in a horrible situation. It’s kind of funny how music can change what you’re looking at on the screen. It just goes to show how much our minds react to songs.
I just think it’s amazing how simple vibrations can do that to people. I want to be able to make songs that are going to affect people and have them feel something. Then I can go out and play shows, and have people walk away feeling like they had an experience they will remember.