After the release of his latest single, “New Normal,” tyDi sat down with us for an in-depth chat on how he’s adjusted his life and stayed motivated.
Renowned Australian producer, tyDi has amassed quite the following since first emerging on the electronic music scene over a decade ago. His extensive discography includes a wide range of styles from within the dance music realm that has garnered attention from some of the biggest names in the scene. And the diversity of his skills as a musician goes far beyond electronic beats with orchestral elements permeating Collide and his work to score films and shows like Disney on Ice.
Dedicated to his craft, tyDi is an artist who regularly finds himself creating hundreds of tracks to narrow down and finesse for a full release, but this year the pandemic flipped creativity on its head. Nevertheless, he battled bouts of Writer’s Block and drew inspiration during these trying times with a new single, “New Normal.” Working with Bella Renee, he produced a perfect story about life during the pandemic for fans around the world to soak in and find inner peace while listening.
After the release “New Normal,” we got the chance to catch up with tyDi for a chat and jumped at the opportunity. Diving deep into the thematic elements, production process, and how he’s navigated the pandemic to stay motivated, the conversation is one that’s filled with inspiration and an inside look at one of the most brilliant minds in the scene today.
Take a listen to tyDi’s “New Normal” on Spotify below, download or stream the tune on your favorite music platform, and read on for our chat for an in-depth discussion about the track!
Stream tyDi – New Normal on Spotify:
Hey tyDi, thank you so much for talking with us today. So, you wrote your song “New Normal” as a response to the pandemic. What message were you trying to convey with the lyrics?
Yes, so the message, it’s really kind of inception in a way because I prepared all of the music I was going to release this year, and I usually always do that. My fans know that I will write 300 songs. Sometimes I’ll stop at 300 songs and then I’ll narrow down to 10 or 20 and release an album.
So I thought I had this year on lock, then everything went crazy and I started to realize that a lot of the music I’d written last year was just not applicable to what was going on this year. It was written during a different time. Because things change so quickly, I started to get a little bit of writer’s block. And for me, that sucks because my whole life is writing songs and writing music that means the world to me, and to be kind of stuck for words was difficult. I’m a songwriter for Universal Music, so I write songs for other people as well and that was kind of tough.
Usually, when I go into a studio environment, I have an idea of what I want to write about. In this instance, I just was honest. I said to Bella, “Look, I’m not sure what I want to write about. A lot of people are saying fuck 2020, and I agree, but that’s been said, it’s kind of something we’ve all said.” And as I had this conversation, I realized that what I wanted to write about was how hard it is to write a song during this year and not to be complaining too much or anything like that.
So there I was for a while thinking, I have to write something positive and happy to go with this track because it’s a positive feeling track, but it just wasn’t coming. Then, it hit me and I realized, how about I write a song where I tell my fans how I was exactly feeling, it’s probably the most honest song in my career. The main line is that I’ve hated every song I’ve done this year except this one. That is the first line you hear right before it drops, and it’s very unusual to have that because I don’t mean to shut down any of the other songs I’ve made.
So in a way, the song is talking about how hard it is to write a song in quarantine. And then yeah, it’s a song about itself really. And that sounds really simple to explain, it is a song about itself, but I’ve never done that.
I was listening to it like right before this, and it’s really such a relatable song. Normally when you write music do you typically write out the lyrics and then start producing the music? Or do you have the music and then you work on the lyrics with someone to make the song?
Usually, I would say in most cases I write the lyrics first. So I’ll get in the room with someone and I’ll play the piano and I’ll sit down on the floor. In fact, for this track I sat down with Bella and she wasn’t used to this. She’s kind of new, this has actually been her first song to ever come out, so she was ready to go with stuff and I said, “No, let’s just sit down on the floor and talk.” That’s and that’s the approach I always take is like, let’s talk, I’ll ask questions, she’ll ask questions, and eventually, we write it down.
If something’s cool, like if I say to her, how has your quarantine been this year, she’d say, “Well, you know, it’s been a little bit weird. It’s been baffling. Like we used to, like, shake hands and hug and now we bump elbows with people,” and I immediately wrote that down on paper. So I don’t take the traditional songwriting method in that way, that’s why it is so literal because to say things like we used to shake hands now we bumped elbows is a line that wasn’t thought out. It was something I thought was cool and that’s actually how it is right now.
That’s the approach I always take to writing songs, this one just turned out to be really honest. But to answer your question, yeah, I always do the lyrics and the songwriting first, because I feel like every good song, whether it’s dance, or pop, or completely underground, and it has lyrics to it, you should be able to break it down and play it on guitar or piano to its original, to make a real song.
This song feels like it’s almost a conversation, it’s definitely a unique strategy towards writing music. Do you normally work with your collaborator to write the lyrics or do you ever just have the lyrics and then have them sing it?
Yes, it varies. I’d say almost all of the time, whoever I’m collaborating with has a huge piece to say in the record. When I was touring before COVID hit, I was doing 150 shows a year. There’s a lot of time in the air where you can’t use your phone, you can’t do anything. So, I would write lyrics down on napkins and paper and things like that and bring it into the studio and say, this is what I want to write about.
I would sometimes have the lyrics prepared, but the thing is, you never know how it’s going to go with someone’s voice. Some people have a certain voice where they can get lots of words in and it sings really well. And some people are really good at making one simple phrase super effective by just adding small variations to it.
It varies from singer to singer depending on how or what their style is, I never go into a room expecting I’m going to get the result that I have in my head. It just doesn’t work that way. If I plan everything out, it’s just like a DJ set. If I plan a show out and I play that show to a crowd, there is no guarantee the crowd will react to how I’ve planned it.
I think that’s the way I approach my songwriting as well. You can’t go into the room with somebody that you’ve never met before and expect it to sound how you wrote it on paper or how you heard it in your head. I generally come into the room with a rough idea. This particular track is a perfect example of something that I was really stuck on and there was very little planning involved and it turned out so well.
I was also reading about your musical education. Throughout your career you’ve experimented with different styles of electronic music, do you think having that musical background has helped you when experimenting with these different styles, how has it benefited you?
I got my bachelor’s degree in music and music technology. They focus primarily not just on musical theory, but also on how to produce a track and how to do sound design and make a track sound finished and ready for release. And these things have carried on with me for a long time.
My last album, Collide, I did with Christopher Tin, who’s a two time Grammy Award-winning composer. I think if I had no musical background he wouldn’t have worked with me. He specializes in classical music and I wanted to do an album with a full orchestra, which was quite a big undertaking. Because of my background in music, he took me seriously.
It’s not just a matter of having a meeting and convincing someone, it’s also about proving oneself in the studio. So when we got into the studio and I was able to show my musical ability, that’s very important so the other people in the room take you seriously. That’s my opinion, but I wouldn’t say it’s a prerequisite.
A lot of people have asked me, “Do you need to know music theory to make a good song?” And my answer is no. But does it help? Yes. Music is a universal language. It’s something that you can take into countries all around the world and they don’t have to know English. But that means the better you can speak it or the clearer you can speak it, the more people will understand your message.
So I’m very grateful for the fact that I did study at an early age and that my dad kind of made me do it. When I was young my parents said I had to get a degree. And at that age I was like, no, I just want to be a DJ and I want to produce electronic music. But they kind of said, no, you still have to get a degree and so I picked one degree. That was the hardest program to get into when there are 3000 applicants and only 30 people get accepted.
I didn’t think I was going to get into it, but I did. So I ended up doing a music degree and it’s helped me in ways that I could never have imagined In the past, like writing music for movies and writing music for video games, which I’ve done TV, ads, commercials, Disney on Ice. All of the stuff I do today would never have happened if I didn’t have a solid grounding in the fundamentals of learning music.
I’m actually a music business major, and I had to take theory, piano, and sight-singing as well. They definitely preached that, even in the music business, knowing some about music theory is extremely important to understand what you’re working with.
Yeah. It’s really cool. You have to speak the language at least a little bit. Like even the people on my team that A&R or management who tell me if a song is good or bad. If you have someone that isn’t musically educated at all and they tell you it’s good or bad, it’s hard to take their opinion that seriously. But if they have some background, they can give you honest feedback.
It’s definitely a beneficial knowledge I don’t think many people realize they should possess. You mentioned you worked with Disney on Ice and various commercials, so in that production is it the same as when you’re writing like albums or singles? Or do you have a whole different thought process?
It’s very different. Yeah. So when I go in to write for myself, it’s a lot more of “Okay, I’m gonna have fun. I’m going to experiment. I’m going to enjoy myself.” I’m in the music world because I wanted to create in a space where it didn’t feel like a job. I can honestly tell you every day I am grateful that I get to write music for a living and I have all these people telling me that my songs helped them and moved them. That is incredible and it’s even more incredible because I know I did it out of fun… not because I had to.
Now when it comes to TV commercials and things such as Disney and making music for films, I still get to have fun. I still have a few restraints but in a good way. I’ll be given a director’s opinion or a brief with a particular visual and they tell me, okay we need you to make it feel moody but melancholy at the same time and also the end it needs a dark twist. So that does put some borders on what I can do, but it also does teach me discipline as well, it means that I can’t just go into the room and just make whatever I want.
I’m following guidelines and I have to meet them. So in a way that’s really helpful and it kind of is symbiotic with what I do as a producer for my own music. Because, well again, it’s following a brief or a certain set of rules which does allow me to be creative within those rules and in a way that challenges me and makes me a better musician overall, I like to think.
So through your music, and I’d assume through other projects, you really enjoy connecting with your fans. How are you vocalize that through your music?
Yeah, so I connect with my fans I think more through my music than I do on social media. I am pretty active on social media, I do tweet a lot, but often my tweets have nothing to do with music. Sometimes they do. But mostly it’s just venting or random thoughts. Facebook, I don’t use too much and I’m still learning Tik Tok, but I don’t really know if that’s my game, because like… I can’t dance. But I find the way my true fans know me and truly know my personality is by actually having my albums.
These days, we live in a world where people listen to a single or they’ll jump from track to track, but all of my albums have a story to them and all of my lyrics are real. I sit down and I really write a story that I care about.
When it comes to an album or record, there’s a story that flows through the entire album from one track to the end, and that is a story that will resonate with a lot of my fans. I think that’s the best way for me to communicate with them. And I think it’s kind of fun to watch my fans try to break down what I was talking about or what I meant. I’ll pull that back to why I think New Normal is so cool is because I think if you’re not a TyDi fan, or if you don’t know my music, you can immediately understand what the song is about.
In the past, a lot of my tracks have had secret messages in them or they’ve been about a personal experience that other people put their own meaning to, which I think is beautiful. It’s like when people talk about the end of a movie and someone says I hate it or someone says I like it. No one’s right or wrong. It’s a subjective opinion. I like that with “New Normal.” There’s a sense of objectivity to it. There’s a sense where everybody can listen to it and immediately know what I’m talking about because I’m just venting on that track.
Obviously this pandemic has been crazy, what have you been doing to keep yourself physically and mentally motivated? Have you taken up any new hobbies?
Being locked in during this pandemic when I’m a very creative person keeps my mind always running. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and I want to write it down. I’ve just been more experimental.
Also, because I can’t play in clubs and festivals and I’ve decided to make music that is purely for listening. There’s a very big difference between making a track knowing that you’ve got to play it out to a crowd, and then making a song knowing that people will just be listening to it in their homes.
That’s kind of been cool for me in a way because I’ve been able to write music thinking, oh, it doesn’t need to draw, or it doesn’t need to have a huge buildup. This is not there to make everyone put their hands in the air or have them go crazy when it drops. I’ve been able to make music which gets a lot more personal.
Besides that, I miss going to the movie theater. That’s one of my favorite things to do. I miss going out and going to the beach. I’m from Australia, I miss the ocean and things like that. But it’s definitely made me a little more introverted. I feel like I write from my heart even more than I used to, which is wild. I never thought that would even be a possibility.
This a wild time. It’s definitely a time to take up new hobbies or become more well rounded in the hobbies you are already passionate about. I’ve also actually learned about new musicians through a lot of these livestreams as well, and you did one on Facebook. How do you feel virtual shows impact your creativity, as opposed to touring and being on the road?
Yes, I’ve only done one livestream. I promised myself that when this started and everyone was doing livestreams that I wasn’t going to because I’m a little bit old school with the way I DJ. I need a crowd, I don’t really plan my shows, I’m the kind of guy that if you put me on stage and the crowds having fun I’ll play for five hours or more, I’ll keep going. And I never plan that out.
I was chatting to my friend Dave Dresden, from Gabriel & Dresden, about this and he’s really into it, he loves it. He said it’s kind of liberating because you can claim it’s for everyone. For me, I understand that it is really cool. And maybe I haven’t done it enough because I’m spending much more time in the studio producing tracks.
But that one time that I did that four or five-hour set, was very weird, to be honest. It was very weird to look into a camera and just play to nobody and have no one in the room. But it is nice to see in the chat room what people are writing and commenting about it. But there’s no way to gauge the audience’s physical response.
So I do miss that, but it was fun. It’s definitely fun to do. And I spent more time worrying about how well I was mixing than I was when you play to a live crowd. If you make a mistake, it’s not really that big of a deal as long as the tracks are good and if you’re a reasonably good DJ. I found myself just making sure transitions were good and that I was playing songs that I enjoy.
But yeah, to answer your question, it’s a whole different thing. It’s probably not for me, I’ll do a couple I think, I think I might do a few more depending on how long this goes for. I’m really looking forward to the day where I can be back on stage because I feel like reading the room and playing to a crowd and seeing how they react is my specialty.
I know it’s hard to gauge at this moment due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, but do you have anything planned for the rest of 2020 looking into 2021?
Yeah, so lots of new news music. I mentioned earlier that last year, I made tons of new music for this year, which I haven’t released. So there’s gonna be plenty of new tracks. Also, I don’t know if you know this, but I have a side alias called Wish I Was. So if you go on Spotify, that’s also me. It’s a different genre of music, more indie electronic, and I have a lot of tracks under that alias that I’m putting out.
But towards the end of this year, I am probably going to put some more stuff out that doesn’t have vocals on it, because I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to open up eventually, enough to where I can play to crowds again. So writing songs like normal and where I’m writing about the current moment is important to me, but you’ll see a lot of collaborations with really cool artists coming out towards the end of the year and also some more clubby tracks are being prepared for when I get back on the road.
That being said, do you have any advice for your fans on staying connected and motivated? Because obviously, we are kind of alone and isolated for the most part.
Well, it depends on what they’re doing. But I think the most important thing right now is if you’re the creative type, to not let the world bring you down, to make sure that you’re focusing on the things you enjoy and spreading love. I know that sounds really lame and tacky but I think now is more important than ever to tell the people around you that you care about them that you love them and also to connect with people that you wouldn’t usually connect with.
I’m seeing a lot of generosity and also just overall kindness in the music industry right now because artists are all locked in this together. You know, if you ever watch any sci-fi films like when aliens attack the world, the whole world unite against aliens and in a way right now I think is the time when everyone should be working together as a team and trying to battle this out together rather than be divisive.
If you’re a creative person, I’d say focus on your passions. If you’re not a creative person, but you’re missing things that you usually do outside of quarantine, now’s the time to call your friends and family and see what they’re up to and just reconnect with people on a personal human level. Right?
I think now’s the time to realize we’re all human, you know, nobody’s any more special than anyone else, and no one can play shows so egos are erased. It’s time to realize we’re all just in this together.
I can tell you New Normal is a perfect example of writing about how I lost motivation. So I am not the world’s best at saying it’s easy to be motivated, but we definitely have to try. The best way is to justify it, fight harder, challenge yourself, and maybe take up new things. Try things you’ve never would have tried before using this as an opportunity to change to do the things you wouldn’t usually do. See what you’re capable of!
Those are all the questions I had for you and again, thank you so much for hopping on here and talking with me, it’s been lovely.
It was an absolute pleasure. Hope to see you at a show soon.