Interview and Photography By Anisha Patil
Effortlessly blending genres through his music, Tyler Ransom is nothing short of a blossoming young Indie artist. Quickly rising in a digital era, Tyler is busy developing his sound as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist producer with a steep background in Jazz, Blues, and Rock & Roll. Tyler is shy yet charming, bringing his Los Angeles skater roots with him to New York where he’s studying Jazz and Literature at Parsons. Heavily influenced by John Mayer, B.B. King, and Bob Dylan, his dreamy soundscape is soulful, while his lyrics are playful and contemplative. His music is reminiscent of the duality of the worlds he grew up in, spending some days at his mom’s in Studio City, exposed to Mac DeMarco’s indie pop; other days were spent at his dad’s, living on a whole other planet behind Supreme on Fairfax, influenced by Tyler the Creator. Since 2018, the 21 year old has already created a professional solo recording debut and has produced an expanding body of work including four singles, two EPs, and a full length album.
Keep scrolling for a conversation with Tyler about his creative process, lessons he’s learned from his students as a music teacher, life at Parsons, and his latest creative inspirations.
MM: Tell me about your earliest experiences with music.
So, when I was in middle school, I was in jazz band and I was very confused because all my friends were listening to Kid Cudi and I was listening to Miles Davis and just really early jazz records. At that time, I had a really big afro and people would call me Jimi Hendrix. I had no idea who that was, so I came home one day and I searched “Jimi Hendrix” and I saw a video of him setting his guitar on fire. The next day, I bought a guitar and then I just remember, basically every summer from middle school to high school, being in my room listening to Jimi Hendrix or different guitar records and transcribing them. Picking up the guitar was one of those things where you pick it up and you’re like, “Okay, so this is what I’m doing for, like, the rest of my the rest of my life.”
MM: Do you remember the first song that you wrote?
First song I wrote… when I was in high school I went by “low tides” because I was embarrassed of people finding the music I wrote. I put a bunch of albums out on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and I think my first song was really awful. But the moment low tides started getting traction was when I started writing about heartbreak.
Yeah, and I got overwhelmed because then people at school were starting to be like, “Hey, you should check out this artist called “low tides”, and it was sort of a Hannah Montana moment where I was like, “Oh, well, yeah. Like, I’ll check it.” I think it hit its peak when people in my English class started talking about low tides and I was like, “I can’t deal with this,” so then I deleted low tides and I lost all my first songs and everything.
MM: When did you start composing?
I started composing in seventh grade- just stuff because I was listening to Miles Davis, so I composed jazz first for the longest time. Then, it was when I start listening to Jimi Hendrix that I got into Bob Dylan, and then I got into poetry and I started writing. Then, yeah, I started songwriting in eighth grade; ninth grade was “low tides”, and I ended that after ninth grade; and then 10th grade and up it was just a progression.
MM: Tell me about your background. Where did you grow up? How did where you grew up and your culture shape you, and by extension, your music?
I was born in Chicago and I lived there up until I was about three or four, and then I moved out to Los Angeles with my family and I grew up in two different households. One [household] was Fairfax and Melrose- I grew up right behind the Supreme store; and then the other house was in the Valley- you know, Mac DeMarco, Studio City vibes. I sort of got two sides of Los Angeles growing up which, I think, influenced the way that I wrote and composed my music because some days I’d spend all day on Fairfax skating and talking to people that were waiting in line for Supreme and understanding streetwear and that whole thing; and then at night, I’d go to the Valley and perform with my band and we’d perform at house shows where people had blue jeans cuffed up all the way to, like, their knees and this town would just be so different. I’d be talking about “808 and Heartbreak” with someone in the Supreme line and then I’d be talking about Mac DeMarco demos at night, so I grew up just experiencing the whole spectrum of what people liked, and was just trying to find a way to connect it all and to sort of be like, you know, an indie king of my own. [laughs]. I don’t know, I was just heavily influenced by a wide variety of people, and I was very blessed to see just how different all these sides were.
MM: Knowing what people like and knowing that range exists, when do you feel like you finally felt comfortable coming into yourself and your music, instead of just being focused on catering to a specific audience?
Basically like when did I start doing things for me and not for other people?
It’s so funny because I feel like I’ve just recently started doing that. Growing up and composing, a lot of really established people went to the high schools I went to at the time- do you know the band “Slow Hollows?”
Yeah, so Austin Feinstein went to my friend’s high school, so everyone was trying to be the next Austin Feinstein. Everyone was trying to copy the Slow Hollow’s sound and, actually, I tried doing that. I would just dissect Slow Hollow’s albums and be like, “Why do people like this? What can I do to be my own Slow Hollows?” and for the longest time, it was like, “Okay, I just have to become Austin Feinstein,” and it was not good.
That’s also very interesting because at the same time, you’re like, “I have to become Jimi Hendrix”.
Yeah, it was really overwhelming just trying to figure out not even who I am but I was like, “What artists am I going to copy?” It was during quarantine where I really sat down and properly looked at the art I made and what I wanted to do, and I was like, “Oh, I need to pivot”. I’m also an introvert so I thrived in quarantine, but having all that time alone inside, I really looked inwards and I found the music I wanted to make. It was really scary being that honest with myself.
I feel like it really does take getting to a point where you can just be really radically self honest before you know what type of art you want to make for yourself.
Yeah, I didn’t even realize that until I started being honest in my songwriting and I was really hesitant about putting them out; they’re the songs that people resonate with the most and I was like, “Whoa, so as long as I’m staying authentic…”- I realized that’s the most reward thing.
MM: What are some places in New York that remind you of home?
Rockaway Beach reminds me a lot of home. I went there probably every other day in the summer, just surfed and wrote a lot more than I’d like to admit, probably; the waves are really beautiful. Also, even here, one of my friend’s and I- we would just go to Tompkins Square Park a lot.
MM: You’re currently in the process of studying music and literature at Parsons. Tell me about the area that you live in and what you’ve learned during this time. Also, give me the rundown on what this era has been like for the last two years.
This era has been really crazy for me, especially because I’ve never gone to art school or anything. At the institution I was at prior, the jazz program had about five kids total, and no one really looked at the music program as something serious. Coming here where art is the main thing, where everyone is doing their own thing, it was really intimidating for me at first because I was like, “Oh my god, I’m not busy every day of the week like everyone else.”
Is that what music school is like? Outside every day of the week?
Sort of. The first year and a half, I was sort of like, “Oh my god, what am I doing?”, and I just had to jump off the deep end. I just started playing guitar with anyone that wanted to play guitar and I started befriending every single person in my program- just establishing myself as like, “Okay, I’m Tyler, the quiet guitarist”, and I started playing more and more shows, and through all those experiences, I began to figure out, “Okay, so this person hired me because they liked the way I play this specific song.”, and I was like, “Okay, so maybe my niche is like this,” and I just started figuring out who I was, artistically, which is something I’ve never properly given myself the time to do. It’s been very intimidating but it’s been like, “Alright, sink or swim.”
MM: What do you feel like New York as a city has taught you? Outside of music.
People resonate with authenticity, which is what we said earlier, but I think whenever I tell people I’m from LA, they’re like, “Oh…” because LA seems to have a reputation (or the people that come from LA to here) they have a reputation of being rather inauthentic. The friend groups that I’ve become a part of where we’ve grown together a lot, artistically- I realized the one thing we all have in common is how authentic and true we are with the art that we put out and the moment we have someone that’s maybe in our circle or someone that we know through mutuals and they make something that rather portrays them in a false setting, we see how if they’re rather inauthentic, it lowers the quality of art. We’ve seen that the more honest we are with ourselves and what we put out, the more happy we are and the more rewarding it is. I think New York has taught me, in a big way, that authenticity matters.
MM: Which artists inspire you?
Growing up, it was Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, guitarist like those that really paved the way, and they do still inspire me, but as of late, it’s been artists like Frank Ocean, Aphex Twin, a band called “Whitney” from Chicago, and just, it’s really basic, but Tyler the Creator because of how authentic he is with his work.
That’s very Fairfax of you to say.
[Laughs] Yeah, and then I love singer songwriters- Rachel Bobbitt, this guitarist
Justice Der, they’re all just really empowering for me to listen to, and they further inspired me to be authentic with my work.
MM: Who have you been listening to recently and which artists are in your top five favorites?
Recently? This is hard.
Pull up your Spotify right now.
No, I can’t! Okay, fine. So as I said, the guitarist Justice Der- I’ve been listening to him a lot, he’s one of my favorites. I remember, I came across his music right before I went to college and I was like, “Whoa, he’s combining Frank Ocean and jazz.”, and if you ever go on my Youtube, you can see that it’s heavily inspired by him- I be doing guitar loops. One of my favorite bands, Whitney, just put out an album, so I’m excited to listen to that. That’s two out of three left… There’s another band that I really like right now called “Mid-Air Thief”, they just create really beautiful music that I’m a fan of. Oh, I just came from New Jersey; there’s a record store there and they had a bunch of bootleg Frank Ocean vinyl, which I loved, so that night I listened to Nostalgia Ultra again. I’ve been listening to a lot of early Frank Ocean, which has been super cool. And then Blood Orange- I’ve been listening to a lot of Dev Hynes right now because I’ve revisited his compositions for “Palo Alto”; that’s been on repeat as of now. Big fall vibes. I think that’s five… that was so hard for me!
MM: Why do you love jazz and indie music? What do you gravitate towards with these genres?
I don’t want to badmouth jazz or anything, but I loved jazz for so long and then coming to jazz school where I’m forced to look at it through a box of sorts, I could see how a lot of jazz artists would rather drop out of art school or don’t feel as inspired because that wave has hit me a few times. It’s hard, but what I love the most about jazz is just how much space there is, how flowy it is. You have the space to do what you want and it’s a freedom that I don’t think normal language has, it’s like a language of its own. And Indie music? I love how it incorporates, sometimes, the most heart wrenching lyrics or the coolest guitar chords- like all of Tame Impala, all of “Currents” man. That’s insane to me because their music is really sad, and that’s the beauty of any music- the best of both worlds.
MM: What are some key elements that are at the forefront of your mind when you are making music? What does your process with that usually look like?
One of the questions I get asked the most is, “do the lyrics come first or does the song?”, and I wish I had an answer. I’m sort of always writing my notes, I’ve just got a bunch of notebooks scribbled with the weirdest phrases but at the forefront versus authentic, I always try and figure out what I want to say and I just play what I feel. I don’t really think of lyrics, I think of elements and colors that I want to incorporate, and it all sort of just flows together naturally while staying authentic; I sort of just create a world within the song. I always try to figure out what I’m trying to say and then I go for that. Like, I went to Costa Rica this summer and I took a bunch of photos of the nature and dark green, and I was like, “I want to create music that complements these colors in the sky,” so I just have a bunch of photos of the jungles in Costa Rica in front of my desk and I’ve just been writing to that.
MM: What do you hope to achieve through your music?
Growing up, I never really felt attached to things. School was weird, math was weird, but the one thing that I connected with throughout my entire adolescence, and even now, is just songwriting/poetry and the guitar. Those are the two things that have made sense for me for the longest time, so I want to continue being authentic. I want to inspire those that are maybe like me where they sort of feel disconnected from those around them or they don’t really know where they stand and sort of just live in a state of, not even gray, but in a state of dark green.
MM: What song have you made that you’re the most proud of?
The song “Think of Her”. That was the first song I wrote when I moved to New York and everything on that track was produced, composed, and arranged in my dorm room. I think “Think of Her” marks the start of me finally being honest and all of the spark that New York City gave me. I spent the first week in my dorm room writing and trying to get it all right, and it’s one of my most requested songs whenever I perform for people. People always love it. I’m just really happy, I’m really proud of that one.
MM: Three goals on your creative bucket list.
I want to score an animation film, that’d be super cool. I don’t know what type, but I know I want it to be animation… maybe that’s the Dev Hynes in me. I want to make, not even an album, but an experience. I want to write a screenplay and have it go in conjunction with music. One last thing on my checklist: I just want to collaborate with more people. I have a lot of friends that I met through the internet that have really inspired me. There’s this producer I know -BBN Z- and he’s in Canada; he creates beautiful beats. I have a friend, Katie Tupper, and she has a beautiful voice; I’d love to collaborate with her. Even Justice Der- I’d love to create a guitar piece, that’d be a beautiful moment. Those are just three people that I’d love to maybe work with in the future as I hone my skills more.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice that you have for artists?
People are gonna attack you for trying. I remember the main reason I did low tides was because I didn’t want people to judge me to be like, “Tyler makes music,” because then, low and behold, when I started releasing music with my name on it, people at first were like, “Why? Why? Why do you sing like this?” and I was really doubting myself. But if you really are passionate about it, that’s sort of all you need. At the end of the day, you’re your biggest cheerleader. Why would you put art out that you don’t like? If you love it, and you can get behind it, people will resonate with it. Make sure that it’s what you want to say, not what someone else wants you to say.
MM: When you’re in a creative rut, what pulls you out of it?
Oh, God, I wish I had an answer for this- actually do I? Um, I just take a break. I learned the best thing to do is just to find the other hobbies and passions. That’s why I spent so much time this summer at the beach. I barely touched the guitar. I was surfing and, really, the whole time I was in total bliss.
MM: What is most of your poetry about? What do you write on?
Myself, internal things, things I see and connecting them in my personal life so a lot of reflection as well. It was really hard at first getting into it, but once you remove like just your self judgment, it’s really like a free flowing type thing. Yeah, that’s what poetry has given me.
MM: Okay, the last question. You teach guitar lessons to all ages, right?
Yeah, I do that, that’s true. That’s something I do.
How has teaching made you better artist? What have you learned through the process of teaching?
I hate that I keep referring that I go to school for music, but I teach all these young kids and middle aged kids. The one common thing I see with all my students is that they’re just having fun. At the peak of my teaching, it was maybe, like, four kids a day. I was super unhappy with guitar and I just wasn’t having fun, and I would see all my students, and they’d be like, “Oh, I can’t believe I just did this!” They’d just be so hyper, I’d have to lower the volume on Zoom or in person, I’d have to be like, “Hey, like, quiet down. That’s crazy.”, but they just loved, loved playing guitar and some of that love was lost on me because I was just so hammered down from school… But they’ve taught me a lot that I don’t even think they realize, you know? They helped me further define my love for music, which is something that I thought was super internal but, you know, maybe it’s external as well now.