Freddy Tyler Paul's new single Running On Fumes is out now! We chat to the musician about the release and more.
Image: Molly Morrison
Los-Angeles newcomer Freddy Tyler Paul is making his debut with his single, Running On Fumes. An ode to travel, the song was penned whilst the singer was driving through Utah with his life packed up in a trailer, with the song capturing the essence of a quintessential American road trip. The track is set to appear on the musicians debut album, Missed Connections, and is accompanied by a visual, directed and shot by Tyler Paul and Molly Morrison.
Produced by the musician himself, Missed Connections marks the first solo body of work from the Tyler Paul, having performed evert instrument throughout the record. Consisting of ten original songs, the album was written upon Tyler Paul's arrival in LA, Freddy writing the record over the span of two months in his home studio.
Freddy Tyler Paul is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and photographer. Growing up in Chicago, IL, he got his creative start pursuing filmmaking in high school. His passions quickly shifted into the world of songwriting after starting and leading a popular local band in the Chicago area. Tyler Paul earned a degree in music theory and audio engineering over the course of his college career, allowing himself to produce at a higher caliber on his own without the financial burden of booking studio time. During this time, he honed his skills as a photographer, filmmaker, and music producer developing other artists in the Chicago area.
Tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey...
I’d love to lie and say I was Mozart writing symphonies at 4 years old, but that wasn’t quite my experience. My parents signed me up for piano lessons when I was 4 but I hated it and never practiced. I was honestly too busy playing Nintendo 64 or throwing rocks in my neighbours pool. It wasn’t until I was 9 that I took my first guitar lessons at the raddest little music school called El Rey in Arlington Heights, IL. They would make us all learn parts of 70s, 80s Dad-rock & pop tunes and then make bands out of the other students, ultimately throwing a huge show every couple months for all the parents and families. Those were my first experiences playing in front of hundreds of people. I was a nervous wreck before those shows. I remember playing many songs that were just complete disasters because one kid in the group never practiced his parts at all. I’ll admit I was sometimes that kid. Or one time a kid started crying in the middle of a guitar solo because he forgot the second half of it. Good times. So I was playing these shows all the way until high school until I decided to change it up and take drum lessons for a year. When I entered high school as a freshman I tried out for my high school jazz band as a guitarist. They handed me notation and I realised I was f*cked. Might as well have handed me Mandarin Chinese. I was doing mostly everything musically by ear at this point, and I still do, so that level of sight-reading needed was over my head. So I retreated into my tiny bedroom studio at home and just started recording myself playing all the parts to more dad-rock songs and posting the videos on youtube. They were terrible so please don’t go look for them. Late Junior, early senior-year I started a band with some local high school buddies and we were in a band for 6-ish years. During that time I got a degree in music theory and another in audio engineering. Unfortunately, like all great bands do, we split up, but I owe so much of my development as a songwriter, producer, and performer to those years with those guys. Once the band ended in early 2020, I moved out here, wrote my first solo-album, and here we are.
Congratulations on the release of your debut single, Running On Fumes! Could you tell us a bit about the song and what prompted you to explore the themes present?
Running On Fumes was the first song I finished after moving to Los Angeles in September. I actually wrote the lyrics while driving through middle-of-nowhere Utah towing my life behind me, and I hope to god I never have to drive a 26 foot Uhaul through the Colorado mountains again. I suppose it was during that drive that I realised how important traveling meant to me. Or it wasn’t until then that the exact words came to me. Road tripping is such a quintessential American thing to do, I think we all have memories of driving somewhere new and exciting and I wanted to tap into that, both lyrically and sonically.
You produced the track yourself and played each instrument on the recording. What was that experience like? And what are the advantages of having that complete control over your own music?
It honestly feels very natural. I didn’t really have many close musician friends until later in high school but I was already deep in the world of multi-tracking myself on my Dad’s old laptop on a very cheap recording software. I was only using the god-awful mic on the laptop to record parts until I realised better mics existed. Once I started a band later in high school I started teaching myself more about production and buying more recording equipment so I could produce my band better. I was always the more technical of the group so I took the lead in the engineering department. As a writer though, I was already recording a lot of the parts that I wanted my band to play or work off of, so fleshing out entire song ideas has been something I’ve been up to for a long time. But having that complete control in the studio may seem daunting but It’s very liberating in my experience. I can move forward in any direction and at any pace. I can try stupid ideas without caring if they work or not. And I ultimately get more satisfaction out of the final product knowing I did all of that. I definitely enjoy collaborating with others, and I will continue to do so, but I noticed I just don’t hold back creatively in some departments when I’m writing alone.
How did you arrive at the sonic sounds prevalent on the tracks?
I grew up loving 80s synth-pop artists like Supertramp, Tears for Fears, and Styx. And then In high school synths came back in style with the likes of Foster the People, Walk the Moon, Portugal the Man, so I was always gravitating towards those sounds. Over the years I’ve collected a few really great synths so I work with what I have, which is more than most. I have some incredibly versatile synthesizers and keyboards that have really become the backbone of my music. I have a keyboard, the Nord Electro 5D that I use for all of my organic sounds such as piano, strings, and everything in between. I also have a couple analog synths like my Prophet 6 that offer very analog retro vibes to my tracks, which I love. But when I’m writing, I’m very much in the moment, throwing things at the session and seeing what sticks. I have my studio wired and mic’d up so I can hop from instrument to instrument seamlessly and try different sonic textures quickly. Different songs project different moods, thus necessitate different synths or guitar parts so my creativity needs that accessible workflow. I dial in sounds quickly so I can get to figuring out the parts, which is the fun part, but my instruments have been just as influential for my growth as say my favourite artists.
If Running On Fumes was a piece of visual art, which artwork would it be?
I shot and edited a music video for this song with my girlfriend on a refurbished Super 8 Camera from the late 70s over the course of the last few months. I totally imagined the essence of this song as a home-movie you throw in the VCR to get that rush of nostalgia. I wanted it to look like every road trip you reminisce about with your family or friends. I find the video very much joined at the hip with this song.
What messages do you hope listeners take away from the track?
I’m always reminiscing and romanticising life on the road. Breaking out of the monotony of living in the same 50 mile radius that you were born and raised in is a theme I keep coming back to on other songs as well. I firmly believe that traveling and exposing yourself to different walks of life broadens your view of the world and will actively change your perspective on a lot of important social issues. So I hope this song inspires some to take a little time off of work and cross some borders, especially if they’re young. It’ll only get tougher to do so when you’re older with more responsibilities.
You’ll be releasing your debut album, Missed Connections, later this year. What can we expect from a full-length body of work?
I try to be as truthful in my lyrics as I possibly can because I want my audience to connect with who I am. I’ve also just found writing truthful lyrics to be the easiest for me. So this album is an introduction to who I am as an individual, just as much as I am a musician. Additionally, I really wanted to show my future-audience my range as a musician and writer. I try to make all of my songs very different where I can and I often challenge myself to write on different instruments, using very different synth patches, different drum sounds. It is all very much me since I’m playing everything, but I do really try to push myself and my songs in different directions. I tried to explore many different corners of my genre on this record so I hope there’s a song for everyone, more or less.
Which song from the album are you most excited for listeners to hear and why?
I definitely love ‘Running On Fumes’, it’s chill and catchy and works well as an introduction to my style. However, I have a song called ‘I’ll Be Your Caffeine’ that really showcases my range as a singer. Its starts in a very low vocal register and ends with me belting lines in my highest register, surrounded by a range of choir-like vocals, made up of a hundred or so layers of harmonies to end the song. The beginning verses were very much inspired by Yellow Days, with the ending inspiration by a handful of James Bay songs. I just love stacks of vocals to help make choruses explode. That track drops on March 26th.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording this collection of songs?
As a multi-instrumentalist, I have a lot more avenues to find the spark for a song. If I can’t find anything on guitar one day, I hop on the piano or try and make a drum loop of some sort to inspire myself to play another instrument. Lots of hopping around. I actually wrote a lot of lyrics on this record while I was traveling though. A phrase here and there pops up that I write down, I find an instrument and put a melody and chords to it. More often than not, the instrument I pick up in those moments dictate where the rest of the song heads. So the songs dictate themselves in some way. These days I do usually try and have a lyrical idea before hopping into a full-on songwriting session. I find that developing the vocals earlier on allows me to write the music to fit my voice, rather than getting backed into a corner having the whole song recorded without a lead melody in mind. I hate re-recording parts when i don’t have to. Still, sometimes I just get caught up in a musical idea without vocals even crossing my mind yet.
How do you find it differs writing and recording in a band environment vs solo where you’re completely in charge of the process and outcome?
Decisions happen much quicker. I was in a band where we would get in screaming arguments occasionally about guitar parts or the necessity of song sections. Every musician has their tastes and opinions rightfully so, but band politics and egos can slow down progress and frankly, I don’t like slowing down. So I found out quickly that when I was writing and recording myself I didn’t exactly find myself getting in many arguments with anyone! Maybe someday when I finally snap you’ll walk in on me in the studio yelling at my other personalities in the mirror, but so far that day hasn’t come. But It helps too that I’m very committal with my musical ideas. I’ve noticed that my first ideas are usually the best and that keeps me moving through songs. I also try and avoid revising as much as I can, I have too many other things to be doing than going back and changing everything I did yesterday. ‘Fixing it in the mix’ is something you shouldn’t live by, but I often do.
Did you encounter any challenges whilst creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic, or did it allow you the time and space to immerse yourself within this musical project?
Oh I went full immersion. Honestly, I was doing that pre-pandemic as well, this was just a lonelier version. The pandemic no doubt hindered collaboration between me and the other artists I was producing but we still worked through projects from a distance, chatting over the phone or email. Sending tracks back and forth. It’s that quarantine-life though that allowed me to focus on my own work for the first time in a long time. Everything I was writing beforehand I knew was going to be funnelled into my band and dissected by other musicians, so this was a much needed change of pace and priority.
The current pandemic has obviously put a halt to touring and performing live, what are your touring plans post pandemic? If any, what can people expect from one of your live shows?
I’m focused very much on building out my digital presence at the moment with music, photos, and video releases, but performing and touring is very much in my thoughts and something I’ll love to do when the time comes. I’m planning to perform solo on stage for a little while though. I’m a big fan of Your Smith or Tash Sultana who perform solo-stage shows often in their own way, but would love to have large backing band in the future. I think changing between instruments for different songs while still singing would be interesting from an audience point of view. So I’ll try that out with most likely a pre-programmed set list with space in the production for me to fill with my voice and whatever instrument’s in my hand, similar to FKJ I suppose. That man is a God though so maybe not that similar! But I’m also currently developing a series of video assets to play in sync behind the stage setup. All very much a work in progress though.
Portugal. The Man, Tame Impala, James Bay, Tears for Fears, The Beatles
Sir Paul McCartney obvi.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
I would say Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man. That album came out right around when I started my first band in 2013, a time where I was trying to write as many songs as I could for us to play, so those songs were essentially song-models for me to work off of.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Moody, Dynamic, Breezy
A musical release you’re most looking forward to in 2021?
I’m not entirely sure if she has a date for anything but whatever Maggie Rogers drops next is going to be amazing.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
I would love to do a horror film. Making ominous noises on my synths all day sounds like a dream.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Billy Ray Cyrus
The best/most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
I played this show at a decently-sized venue called Durty Nellies in Palatine, IL with my old band. We sold the place out, nailed every song, and I felt like I was hitting notes like Robert Plant. After our encore my bassist jumped off stage to do some crowd surfing and nearly broke his neck. After the show my band and I went back to our little 2-bedroom frat-house that we all lived in and the word got out that we were throwing an after-party. Almost 200 people showed up that I didn’t know. It was insanity. I remember walking in on a couple ladies having intimate relations in my room and I made them go wash my sheets in the middle of the party.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Greatest Hits of Queen
Best concert you have been to?
Tame Impala at the Riviera in Chicago.
Last concert you went to?
My own at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago. Other than me I have no idea, sadly.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Guilty music pleasure?
New Maroon 5.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Grouplove. Saw them at Bonnaroo and got kicked multiple times from crowd-surfers. So much energy at their shows I love it.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Paul McCartney. How many people got into playing music because of The Beatles? He’s the reason I did.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Keep writing songs but make sure they don’t suck.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I recorded at my first studio in Chicago. Seeing all the vintage gear and being allowed to twist knobs and push faders made me feel like a spaceman. So I guess I just want to keep playing Spaceship.