Reaching for Silver Linings: A Conversation with Tydi

TyDi
Australian-turned-LA based producer and songwriter Tydi, along with newcomer Bella Renee, turn an otherwise gloomy reality into a playful, humorous, and fun bedroom dance track with their single, “New Normal.”

by guest writer Matthew Gose

Stream: “New Normal” – tyDi, Bella Renee




I hope that when things go back to normal, we don’t lose our sense of gratitude for those simple things.

We know. We get it. Our days are flooded with uncertainty. These times are challenging. Take heart, though, as we’re all in this together. But so help us, if we hear the word unprecedented again, our computers will take a trip out the window.

Instead of yet another needless reminder of the gray clouds blanketing 2020, how about a glimpse at the silver lining? That’s exactly what songwriter and producer Tydi presents in his latest single “‘New Normal’,” featuring Bella Renee.

New Normal - tyDi

New Normal – tyDi

The track is the latest in the nearly 15-year career of Tydi (pronounced Tidy), whose previous work includes several full-length albums, TV and film scoring, and even Disney on Ice. The song is also the debut track for up-coming vocalist and songwriter Bella Renee, whose voice provides an inviting, simple, and pure counterpoint to a year marked by bitterness.

A bright, thin guitar skips out a simple rhythm. Renee’s voice gently glides in, illustrating in a sweet, Taylor Swift-reminiscent tone, pictures of a bizarre Mirror Dimension landscape. Comfortable familiarities crossfade into new attitudes and behaviors. A breathy, reverb-ladened wave synth underwrites the peaks of the guitar rhythm, emulating a pair of lungs gently respiring in attempts to subdue a pulsating heartbeat.

While the rhythmic elements convey a skipping, light-hearted demeanor, the melody expresses a slight melancholy. In the chorus, Renee’s voice bellows “I’m lost, but I’m trying,” conjuring a familiar reaching for the optimism we may never fully grasp.

The third element in this emotive cocktail is the snide humor residing in the lyrics. Lines like “was the name of a beer, now the name of a year,” contextualized by the other elements, perfectly encapsulate the emotional “shrug emoji” the world has collectively expressed over the past several months. Is it dumb? Is it profound? Yes!

The track simultaneously presents sincere self-expression and a tongue-in-cheek remark on the utter ridiculousness of this cultural moment.

Tydi brilliantly refits standard dance music motifs for the pajama-laden contexts in which listeners will encounter this track. Not in a sprawling nightclub or an electric music festival, but in their living rooms. Instead of monumental builds, the melody simply floats toward a more natural tension. Instead of an arrythmia-inducing drop, the track simply echoes into a brief quiet before skipping into the chorus.

The track is brief, coming in just under three minutes, and ends with a quiet decrescendo. Moreover, the track seems to perfectly loop back into itself which, whether by design or not, serves once again as a perfect, playful nod to our current Groundhog Day reality.

A sweet, sincere track, Tydi and Renee’s “‘New Normal’,” is the perfect addition to your “Living Room Dance Party,” playlist.

Atwood Magazine had the privilege to connect with Tydi virtually for an interview to discuss the new single as well as life in general for an artist under lockdown.

I’m learning to recognize if someone’s actually happy or sad just by their eyes.



A CONVERSATION WITH TYDI

New Normal - tyDi

Atwood Magazine: Thanks so much for taking the time to connect and talk. To start things off -- I think the question of the year is what are you binging these days under lockdown? TV, music, junk food?

Tydi: When lockdown first started, I bought all this food. I kind of went crazy like a lot of people did. So I bought all this food that was meant to last a while, and I went through it all within the first month of it. So the first part of lockdown was probably the least healthy version of myself.

Now I’m actually surprisingly working on a lot more stuff. Besides doing electronic music, which I’ve got Tydi and I also have my alias Wish I Was, I’m also working on a lot of kids’ shows — animated stuff.  A lot of the film productions that I do are in a holding pattern right now. So, I’ve been getting a lot of gigs doing music for animated things.

I’m still finding myself really busy. I guess the hardest balance is just trying to have a sense of normality.

As a music producer, we work from home – you’ll wake up, have a shower, then walk into a different room and start working in the studio. But now that everything’s closed, it’s a little weird. I can’t go out and do anything besides write music. So it’s been tough to find discipline on one hand, to keep writing, which is kind of what “‘New Normal’” is about.

I can relate, as someone in a creative field, being used to a degree of isolation, but have you recognized a difference between choosing isolation and having isolation thrust upon you? Are there times during the week for you where you notice the isolation more?

Tydi: Totally — we used to have at least the weekends to look forward to. ‘Cool, it’s Friday! I’m looking forward to getting less email.’  And maybe you’d get to go do something.  But really, on the weekend now I’m starting to find, and I think everyone can kind of say the same, that the days are all just blurry. It’s very strange. ‘Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?”  So weird!

So what are some things that have been helping you cope with those feelings and isolation in general?

Tydi: I would say writing music. It sounds generic, but my fans know I’m very personal with my song writing. I’m not the kind of person to just make a track or a beat and send it to someone and say, ‘Hey, put a hook on this.’

I very much like to play a role in writing the stories.

Everything I write is about something, usually. It’s very rare that I write fiction. ‘New Normal’ is a song about how hard it is to write a song during quarantine. In the lyrics it says, “I give up to jam to more Billie Eilish.” So I’ve been listening to a lot of other people’s productions and just trying to find inspiration.

But, coping with it…. ha ha … I think I’ve lost my mind! I’m not sure I am coping with it! Definitely, venting through music is a good. Doing virtual writing sessions has been interesting. I used to take it for granted to be able to just call someone and have them in the studio and sit down and talk about a song and write lyrics like that.

Whereas now, having people on zoom is a regular thing. We’ll have one computer set up for the vocalist and we’ll be talking to each other about lyrics and sharing a Google doc. That’s my sense of keeping in touch with people, I think. As well, just having conversations like this keeps me a little sane too. Just to be on and talking to other people

TyDi © 2020

TyDi © 2020

You’re known in part for the unique, intimate connection you have with your fans. In what ways have those connections been impacted and have you been able find ways to maintain those connections?

Tydi: The first thing I lost, that every touring artist lost, is the ability to play shows. That is the number one way to connect with fans. When I play shows, I very much read the room. I look people in the eyes, see how they’re reacting to the music. Doing meet-and-greets and talking to fans. So with that physical aspect gone, it’s been a big pivot in how I engage with fans.

I’m going more into the digital realm – Twitter, Facebook.  I try to make sure if I see a fan who’s written a really genuine comment, to reply to them in detail.  I have more time to do that now as well.  These are all things I would have usually done. I try to keep in touch with my fans by my social media. But I’m doing it more and more right now.

I haven’t got too much into the world of live streaming. I know a lot of DJs out there doing live streaming. I did one so far that was four hours long just to see what it was like, and it was super fun. I got to DJ and basically play whatever I wanted because there was no dance floor. But also it is very strange to just look at a camera and act like you’re performing to a club when really you’re performing to no one…

Right. I’m sure those floating emojis only do so much.

Tydi: Yeah, exactly! And, I mean, some of my friends who do these live streams all the time have gotten very used to that. They love treating the chatroom like it’s a dance floor, which is cool. But, to me, it was odd because I’m very, very interactive with my fans. I gauge how the vibe is going for the crowd and then select music from that. Nothing I do live is planned.

I'd read in an interview that you do something like 150 shows a year. So you're used to a pretty heavy tour schedule. What has it been like to adjust with this sudden halt?

Tydi: Yeah, definitely with the more recent tours – a hundred shows in a year or more. Some of the crazy tours were 90 cities in Europe and Asia. Because of the distance, they weren’t like bus tours. It would be – getting off a plane, landing in a city, get a hotel room,  get ready for the show, play till 4:00 AM, and probably try to get two hours of sleep in.

Then I’d have to catch a flight and just zigzag all across the continent for a whole month playing a show every night. That was wild.

It’s interesting because when you get to the end of it tour like that, I’d say three quarters of the way through, I’m like, ‘Oh, I just want to go home and sleep!’ But now I’m really angsty to play shows.

So it goes to show, you know, It’s a balance. Now I want to get out there!

After such an intense touring schedule like that is there something of a silver lining to this season of forced respite? Have you been able to enjoy at all simply getting to pause and breathe?

Tydi: Yeah, yeah. That’s a really good point. When this quarantine thing first happened, there was all these kind of panicked emotions in me about how to stay relevant. ‘Should I be releasing more music? Should I be doing these live streams?’

But now as it’s progressed in nearly a full year, I’ve started to realize my fans aren’t going anywhere. They’re also locked in and when shows are going up again, they’ll still be there. So I’ve started to not be as hard on myself about it, and not worry too much about staying relevant, just putting music out when I feel it. I think I’m starting to feel the sense of, ‘Okay. It’s alright if I don’t check Twitter every day. I’ll be ok.

I’ve started to not be as hard on myself too much about staying relevant, just putting music out when I feel it.

It’s interesting hearing you now talk about this overarching theme of initial discomfort and uncertainty and eventually adjusting to this season that we’re in – and those themes are all present in the track ‘A New Normal.’ What does it feel like to be putting out new music in this season?

Tydi: So the people who follow me know that I tend to work towards an album. Last year before I knew any of this was going to happen, I’d written probably 30 songs, which I planned to narrow down –  already thinking, ‘Okay, in 2020, I’m going to have an album by the end of the year.’

I felt so ahead of it because I’d already written the music, and I try to make sure that I don’t just rush songs. I try to make them very carefully.

Then when everything started to happen, the topics that I’d written about didn’t feel relevant – some songs being love songs or just even relationship songs. Now, there’s just so much more going on. It didn’t feel right to put out the songs that I’d written then. So what I ended up doing is writing brand new songs that speak to what’s happening.

So with ‘New Normal’ I sat down with Bella. We were talking about what to write about, and there’s this song, I don’t know if I can swear here, but there is a song called ‘Fuck 2020.’ We really loved it — it’s great track. And, as a solo artist I’m envious of it because I was saying to Bella, “It’s so obvious! Everyone’s saying that this year, I wish I could write about that, but that’s been done!”

Then in conversation we were just saying, ‘Yeah it’s really hard to know what to write about.’ So I said, ‘Let’s write about that! Let’s write about how hard it is to write a song.’

It’s very ‘Inception.’ The song speaks about itself. In the chorus it says ,”Hating every song I’ve done this year except this one.” I think that’s a fun thing about this track, it’s talking about itself. It’s quite an artist thing to do. One minute you hate your song, then you love your song, and back and forth. And, of course, just for anyone else that I’ve worked with this year — I don’t actually hate every other song I’ve put out this year, but the lyric just felt cool to write. No one’s ever sure about the stuff they put out. It’s a track that’s meant to be light-hearted. It’s an in-the-moment track.

So even though you may not ‘hate every track you’ve done this year,’ is there something special for you about this particular track that stands out from others you’ve produced?

Tydi: Definitely. The second you first hear the track, it’s talking about, ‘Used to hug, but now I bump elbows.’ It’s just straight up talking about the situation right now.

That’s a real thing.  I have a small bubble of friends that we’re all comfortable hanging around with because we’re kind of isolated together. But we still go around now and say, ‘Is it ok to handshake? Or are we still… Hey… what’s up man…’ And then we bump elbows. It’s kind of fun to write about those little things.

The lyrics definitely capture everything that we’re seeing unfold – wearing masks instead of smiling. The song as a whole balances a very chipper tone with a bit of melancholy and even some humor as well. How did you put together the emotional blend in this track that really reflects the complexity of emotions we’re all experiencing right now? Sort of a collective WTF-Shrug-Emoji?

Tydi: Well, something that I’ve wanted to mention, you brought up the line in the song, ‘Wearing masks, but I know that you’re smiling,’ that actually came from an experience I had at this restaurant that I live next to, a Mexican restaurant. And, there’s a lady, the general manager. Obviously, all the staff wear masks, and because everyone’s wearing masks, I’m learning to recognize if someone’s actually happy or sad just by their eyes.

And I remember I said to my buddy, ‘She seems genuinely happy and excited to see me because she’s smiling with her eyes.’ So that’s where that line came from. If anyone was curious about how I get my lyrics. It’s these little things – the elbow bumps, the masks line is an interesting one. When we see people now, we have to find new ways of gauging emotions.

But you’re right, the song is a bit melancholy. It’s trying to be a happy song, but there’s some lyrics in there that suggest the polar opposite. ‘I don’t like anything I’ve done, but I do like this track.’ It’s great. It’s very uncertain of itself in a way. That’s a good thing about it. And a great pick up on the track, where you notice that it does have a sense of uncertainty to it.

Obviously you're known for these incredible dance tracks. What place does a dance track have or what place do you hope it might have in this current situation?

Tydi: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I heard that people are dancing in their living rooms to it. So I certainly hope that’s true.

But, in saying that, when you take away the nightclubs and the festivals, the actual crowds, it’s given me a chance to write music that doesn’t necessarily have to be a dance song. So even ‘New Normal’ is kind of half acoustic, half dance.

I released some songs prior this year, one in particular called ‘Start Again,’ a track I did very early in the year with a country singer. And that was more positioned to be, ‘We wish this year could start again.’ But that track doesn’t have a dance drop at all. It’s very much acoustic. So a silver lining is that I’m getting to put out songs that don’t necessarily have to have a drop or huge build up

Again with ‘New Normal,’ The cool thing — in most electronic songs, you’d have a drum fill building up to the drop. But this one doesn’t do that. You just hear Bella’s voice go, “except this one,” and it just goes snap into the dance beat. So I removed the need to have this anticipation or this buildup to a drop because there are no clubs to play it in, so you really don’t need one.

It sort of creates these more subtle, emotional drops.

Tydi: Yeah! Exactly.

We're living in sort of a Groundhog Day reality, and as I was listening to the track – two things stood out to me. The track is brief, under three minutes, and the ending of the song loops right back into the beginning almost seamlessly. Had you put any thought into keeping it short and having it so easily loop back on itself, or did it just luck out that way?

Tydi: So, when I made the actual track, we started with the lyrics.

We started with the guitar, but when I did think of that drop, it just felt nice to keep going around. There’s a reason why usually in normal song structure you’d have the first drop be half as long – the first instrumental section. Then the second, you might bring the lyrics back in or the chorus, but I liked the positive feeling of the beat just going on and on. So I didn’t bring the lyrics back in the end.

So it’s kind of an A, B, A, B structure in the sense that it goes lyrics, instrumental, lyrics, instrumental. And you’re right, you could just kind of loop it ’round and it would still feel natural in that way. I was just so stoked on that feeling you get from that instrumental section that I had left it pretty raw, only a few changes and some high hats come in and the little pauses here and there, but it’s not trying to be something that it’s not right.

TyDi © 2020

TyDi © 2020

It’s been said that the mark of a great song is that you could play it on piano or an acoustic guitar, and this song definitely has the quality, which is not typical of dance songs. Is that something that you thought of in crafting this song?

Tydi: It’s interesting you mentioned it really well talking about that campfire thing. I’m all about melody in songwriting. With my songs, if I can’t break them down, if they can’t just be played on piano solo, I don’t usually think they’re done yet.

We’re talking about songs with lyrics, of course. It’s a bit different If I do a pure instrumental track, which is rare for me because I love lyrics. But, yeah, I want all of my music to be something you could just play on the piano or a guitar. They turn out that way because that’s how I start them. I sit down on the piano over here and start playing out of melody and start coming up with lyrics before I even work out what the production style is.

That’s a very important statement to my sound. A lot of people have said to me, ‘What is your genre?’ And it’s very hard question to answer because some people could say I do house music or I do trance music. To me it’s all over the place because I write the song first.

And then depending on the song, the lyrics, the melody, I decide what production it needs.

Your career spans so broadly, you’ve worked with, Disney, you're doing some animated projects. I'm curious, especially now, if there's a preference to producing those bigger tracks or producing these more personal tracks?

Tydi: I wouldn’t say there’s a preference more than, it’s a state of state of mind.

For example, I got this opportunity this week that I can’t tell you which company it is. I’m scoring music for a cartoon. And I had to text my manager and say, ‘I won’t do any dance music this week, and I probably wouldn’t be on email that much, cause I’m focusing on this cartoon.

It’s about separation. It’s impossible for me to go right at a Disney piece or do a score for a drama and then in the same day, go and do a pop song. You have to approach each day with what the project is. Just before this interview the kind of music I was doing is kind of reggae meets orchestral. So that’s a brief look at what I’m working on for this project.

So going from that into dance music is… I think some people can switch that quickly, but to me, I like to put away a section of time so that I’m giving all of my attention to one project before starting on another one.

When I was working for Disney on ice, those pieces had something like 80 instruments. So I would be having to write for these violin lines and counter melodies, and then the brass, and then I might have a lunch break. Then I come back in and go, ‘Oh shit. What was that? What was I doing again?’

It’s very easy to lose track when a piece of music that has so much complexity to it. So I need to separate my time so that I’m in the right mentality for each project.

You’ve mentioned that your songs are very personal and story-driven. This track has such a specific timestamp. Have considered what sort of legacy or longevity a song like this might take on in the future? It’s a bit of a diary entry or a journal entry in this point in time that I doubt any of us will forget, and yet may not want to remember. “]

Tydi: That’s a great question. When I wrote the song, I knew that I had to get it out quickly because, who knows how long we’d be here. So that goes back to what I said at the start.  Last year I had written all these tracks that just weren’t applicable. When I wrote ‘New Normal,’ it is like a diary entry in a way.

It’s definitely timestamped. It’s something certainly that I hope people look back on fondly as things get better, ‘Remember that time I was stuck in my house and Tydi’s song caught my attention.’ I hope that’s the case, that people look back on the song in a good way.

But it has got me thinking about writing songs more as diary entries. Instead of planning out what songs I’m going to do in three or four months, to write a song and then release it three weeks later. And then I can look back on my catalog and sort of have a journal of what I was going through in that season of my life.

So not only has this season generated this one track, but at least for now it sounds like it’s impacted your creative approach in general.

Tydi: Yeah, absolutely. I have another track coming in two weeks called “Way Too Loud.” I haven’t really announced it yet to my fans, but it’s about another very relevant topic. It’s about how loud the media is right now. It doesn’t have a political viewpoint, but it’s about, you turn on the TV and everything is so noisy. It’s just some guy yelling about his opinion. There’s just so much chaos. I don’t know.

It’s got me thinking a lot when you were talking about diary entry songs. You made a really good point because ‘New Normal’ started that. Writing about exactly this moment. Now the next track that I have coming out is also exactly about this year. But we can talk about that once that track is done!

Yes – we’ll talk about that track in our next interview! Back to ‘New Normal,’ obviously what stands out the most is how Bella Renee delivers just an incredible vocal performance. What prompted you to work with her?

Tydi: So my manager, Jason, manages Bella, and I’d never met Bella before, nor had I worked with her.

He said, ‘Hey, wondered if you’d be interested in hearing some music by Bella. She’s super young and up and coming and she hadn’t put anything out.’ And he said that she will happen to be in LA at this time.

So my first question was “Have you been Covid tested?” And she said, “Yeah, I just got tested.” So it turned out that we could work in the studio. And I was really itching for an in-person studio write.

So Bella was just sort of there at the right place and the right time and she had the voice. And we came up with a story together and it just fell into place.

I’m still adjusting to this new world of virtual writing and it’s a little different, so working with Bella and hearing her sing in the room was super inspiring and it’s a big reason why the track turned out that good.

To what extent was Bella involved in developing the track?

Tydi: She’s new to the songwriting world. So I kind of tried to shake things up a little bit for her.

I know that she’s a great songwriter. She showed me some of the songs she’d written herself and they’re fantastic. But I wanted to see how she’d go with writing the way I do.

I said, ‘Okay, before we touch any instruments or production, let’s all sit on the floor in a circle and, talk about what quarantine’s been like.’

I sat down and said, ‘How has it been for you? Okay. So, what’s it like, you know? Do you miss your family?’ And we asked a lot of questions.

She hadn’t realized that I was doing that as a song writing method. I think she thought I was just trying to get to know her, but what I was doing was getting conversation out of her and vice versa.

And then I said, ‘Okay, great. Grab a pen and paper, and we’re going to start writing down what we’ve been talking about.’ I saw just at first this really weirded-out look, and then she fell straight into it and she was super adaptive.

And that’s how lines like bumping elbows came about. And when I sat down, when I was telling her about how people were lost, so it’s really hard, but they’re smiling, she said to me, that’s actually really cool. So, yeah, she’s very collaborative. She’s very easygoing and has some brilliant ideas.

This track is a big breakthrough for her, correct? It will be her first Spotify track? How does that feel to be part of these seminal steps for an up and coming artist? “]

Tydi: Oh, it’s always exciting. One of the big reasons as to why I wanted to get that track released quickly is because I wanted to have her first record be with me! It’s really fun to know that the first time she’s going to be heard by people will be on one of my records

I’m honored! I’m very blessed to have that!

So often you work with a new vocalist and even if I’m working with writers who are new to the scene they’ve usually got some acoustic songs out there or something out on the internet. but it, , I have no one  their souls out there yet.

But with Bella, she has no songs out there. So that was a great opportunity for me to say, ‘Well, let’s make this one your first and let’s make it count!’

We'll wrap up here. My last question is, as you think about this idea of ‘New Normal,’ As easy as it might be to just say ‘Fuck 2020,’ is there anything you hope to preserve from this season and carry forward into this ‘New Normal?’

Tydi: I think gratitude. Something that I find my partner and I talk about a lot is – just as much as we get angry at the year, or frustrated or upset, we are always reminding ourselves, we’re lucky we have a roof over our head.

Things are really simple, that we’re lucky. We can order lunch today and have an awesome salad show up. And when life is crazier and I’m on tour and on and off planes and in nice hotels, I’m sure you could look back on interviews I’ve done where I talk about how lonely it is. It’s hell sometimes. It’s not always this glamorous thing.

You’re in front of a crowd for two hours, but the rest of you was sitting on a plane, then you land somewhere and just be sitting in a car. You’re waiting. And all of those things I guess, I may have complained about now, I’m seeing as a huge blessing. [laughs] Of course right now it would be cool to get on a plane! But I hope that when things go back to normal that we don’t lose our sense of gratitude for those simple things.

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Matt Gose loves stories, great songs, driving windows-down along the coastal highways of North County San Diego, and his incredible wife, Alexandra. In 2011, he graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a BA in Literature and currently works in San Diego County as a freelance writer and substitute teacher. When he’s not writing, he’s playing his guitar named sunny, reading, spending time outdoors, or otherwise on the lookout for adventure. His favorite author in Ken Kesey. His favorite song is “You Still Believe in Me,” by The Beach Boys. His favorite movie is Almost Famous (duh). And his favorite food is tacos de lengua. Catch him on Twitter @thegosewriter, Instagram @gosewriter, and on the web at www.gosewriter.com

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