It is my firm belief that Tyler Ward never stops smiling. He cleans his kitchen with a smile, dunks guitars into basketball hoops with a smile, stands on top of his car and smiles. It was a wonder women passing by didn’t start swooning at the sight of those sweet pearly whites while we photographed him smashing guitars up and down Sunset Blvd. And while for most of us our facial muscles would start to spasm after that much genuine happiness, for Tyler Ward there is just no way he can contain his genuine excitement about life.
And who can blame the guy? Since his start on YouTube five years ago, Tyler has opened for the likes of The Fray and The Jonas Brothers, gone on numerous European and American tours of his own and started his own production company. But in his biggest news, Tyler recently signed with Sony Germany and will now be juggling his online content in the U.S. while recording tracks in Germany.
But for now, Tyler is just enjoying the chance to finally set up his condo — he has been on tour 8 out of the last 14 months — and immersing himself in the talented YouTube community in L.A. Tyler shared with NMR his misadventures at the Air Force Academy, his musical inspirations and his true passion for helping other musicians.
How did you originally get into music?
Tyler Ward: [sighs] My mom made me play bass in our church. She was like, “Son, you’re going to play bass,” and I was like, “Alright,” and I did. And after that I started really liking music, and I picked up the guitar and learned the guitar and been doing it ever since.
How old were you when you started playing?
I was probably a freshmen in high school. It was kind of later, but I was doing sports before that, a lot of athletics, football.
You originally went to play football in college for the Air Force Academy? That’s a huge change.
Yeah, for the Air Force Academy. It was one of those things. I think everyone was like a senior in high school and is making that decision — I don’t know what to do! I saw everybody, especially in my school because it was really academic, and all these kids were going to like Yale and Harvard, and you’d hear around campus and they’d be like, “Yeah, I’m going to Harvard,” and I’d be like, “Oh my god.” And so I had this offer to play football at the Air Force Academy, and some of my really smart friends were going to the Air Force Academy, and I was like, “Maybe I can get into the Air Force Academy.” I accepted the deal to play football just as a way to tell people I could like go to the Air Force Academy; it was like one of those self confidence things [laughs]. And then I went, and I was like, “Okay this is tough,” and I was always on weekend duty like scrubbing toilets and stuff because I just laughed and smiled too much, and there was too much personality coming out at a time when you were just supposed to be super serious and focused. God bless all those folks, but it wasn’t for me. Got out of that and went to play football at the University of Northern Colorado: Once a bear, always a bear.
When did you start pursuing music?
There is always an itch for me to be able to be a part of music someway, somehow, and when I was actually doing sports and doing that full time — all the time, my gosh — there was always an emptiness. I was like, “I love doing this music thing, but there is something about it that I need to be doing.” I would always like sneak out of football practice and go write a song. I was that guy who joined the choir in college and sang operas in college, and so like some of my football teammates would come and just laugh at me ‘cause I’d have tights on stage. There was something about me where I just needed to do music and follow that wherever it went, and I just made those decisions just to be like, “I’m going to commit. I’m going to do this!” And I’m now working in L.A., and it’s crazy!
When did you decide to go on tour and then jump into the YouTube scene?
I started on YouTube February of 2010, so it’s been just over 2 and a half years. There is a song that was being remade that was called “We Are The World,” and a bunch of celebrities were getting together. That was a really cool idea, and a friend of mine was like, “We should totally do that,” ‘cause I was working with a few different people. Brought all my friends together, we made a remake, put it out the day before this one dropped in February of 2010 with celebrities, and it was like the most searched for video in YouTube history at the time, and mine was like number 2 underneath it, and I was like, “Oh my gosh! That’s interesting.” So I started to just cover a bunch of popular songs thinking as a way to market me as a brand and about a year and a half later started integrating with a lot of original music, and now that’s kind of my focus. When the original stuff came out I was like, “I’m going to tour with this and play some covers here and there,” and kind of went full steam ahead and it worked! I now do music full time. That’s crazy! I still wake up every morning like, “This is real?” Very, very thankful.
How do you describe your musical style?
Anywhere from like hip hop rap — no I’m kidding. My original stuff is like pop rock music, stuff with good melodies and stuff with organic instrumentation. But because I’m a producer and I like working all types of music, I love hip hop, and I love rap stuff, and I love classical stuff. I feel like YouTube is a cool space because you can throw anything and everything out there, and if it works it sticks, but if it doesn’t work it goes away, so people aren’t like pigeon holing you in something. But for me as a brand and as like Tyler Ward, it’s like pop rock music. Just good old, feel good sing-along-driving-in-the-car-putting-on-a-good-tune type music. If that’s a genre.
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What are your musical inspirations?
Yeah, I love the Goo Goo Dolls. They are just really good, really raw, and I love 2Pac. Kind of an interesting combination, but it’s some old school stuff. The newer stuff now, Bruno Mars kills it. I think he’s incredible, and Katy Perry, Taylor Swift. It’s weird, pop melodies. But it’s okay, you know? We all have our things that we love.
You have a good balance on your channel between original tracks and also covers. What draws you to a certain cover, and how do you work to make it your own?
Well if you look at the charts, it’s almost a marketing tool. It’s like, “I wonder if I could do that with an acoustic vibe, or that with more of an up tempo vibe and just being able to scratch that itch of being a producer and taking a song that is already great and making it different than it is. I can like create and feel like a part of that song a little bit more. That’s where I decide and how I decide on the covers or if it’s just a song I really love, and I’m like “oh my gosh I love that song” and it’s like 5 or 6 years old and I’m like okay let’s do it, it’s a great song.