We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Tyler Alexis a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Tyler, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Did you always know you wanted to pursue a creative or artistic career? When did you first know?
I grew up singing and dreaming of doing that for a living. However, growing up in LA, I actually fought being in music for a while, not wanting to be seen akin to one of those thousands of starry eyed people coming to LA to “make it big,” often ending up barely making ends meet, homeless, or moving back home. However, I learned quickly that I really didn’t have a choice. Music is so deeply intertwined with who I am, without it I’m depressed, angsty, and frustrated about everything.
In college I decided to give it a proper go, cause I could always default to any regular job, and I knew that I would regret not trying when I was young. However, it was still many years before I actually committed to being a professional musician. I guess, in the back of my head I still believe in the “you had to be discovered” narrative that had been the reality for decades prior. So, I was pretty passive about the whole thing for a while. Of course, I was still writing and performing here and there, but I never really knew how to move past that. I stayed stuck in this catch 22 cycle and I didn’t know how to break out of it.
I was 25 or 26, working 2-3 jobs to pay rent to stay in LA for my “music career,” when I finally got fed up with my narrative. I realized I couldn’t keep making the excuse to stay here and pay this horrendous rent, but not actually be making any progress in music. I talked to a musician friend, explaining what I was going through, and she was shocked because she had no idea that I was pursuing a career in music. I think that was my biggest wake up call. I realized if people didn’t even know that I was pursuing music professionally, why would they think of me for hiring or anything else. I knew I needed to be the first person people thought of when they thought music, but how…
I thought about the same catch 22 cycle I had been going through, but this time I put my foot down. What I was doing, was not working. I needed to do something different. So instead of cycling through, I started messaging every friend I had that was even the tiniest bit associated with music and started asking questions. I did research and started reaching out to venues. To my surprise, doors started opening left and right, and I never looked back. The more I learned and the more I did, the more confirmation I felt. The angst, depression, and frustration, went away. I no longer felt out of control of my life. I was doing something and I was doing it for me.
That still resonates with me. I have learned so much since those initial first steps in my journey, but I never stop loving what I do. I get tired, take breaks, but I never have any doubt about what I want. I just keep growing and exploring. I still have much more to learn, and I can’t wait.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
Well you know how I started, but if you had talked to that young woman back then, she would have never dreamed where she would be today. Since those days, I have not only expanded my knowledge of music, but I have delved head first into the world of virtual design and experiences.
During the pandemic, I was looking for a way to stand out among the thousands of singer/songwriters who had taken to social media to livestream. I wanted something different, and honestly more interesting, and one day it just clicked in my mind. Instead of just livestreaming music, I wanted to create a place for people to escape isolation for a night. I wanted to focus not only on the music, but the experience. That’s when I started creating my virtual events. I taught myself how to use a green screen and OBS (thank you YouTube!). I learned how to light a set and various other things. I wanted it to be more interactive, so I created recipes that people could do at home.
My first event was a virtual campout. I missed camping so much and I already had a bunch of supplies, so it was a perfect launching point. We made smores and I played next to a computer screen that had a 10hr loop of a fireplace that I had found on YouTube. It was cute, but oh the nightmare it was trying to put it together in just a few weeks. I was pulling 12-16 hour days for two weeks straight, while living out of a hotel with the worst wi-fi, because my house had flooded. It was quite the experience, but everyone had a great time and it built the foundation for the next events.
Soon after this, I started streaming on Twitch. I had been streaming on Facebook and Instagram, but Twitch was a whole new world, but now it’s the only streaming service I use. I love how quirky it is and the people on there are incredibly supportive.
I even got into web design and merch design the past few years and I’ve been having a blast with that. I’m even now offering these services for other people.
Of course, I am a musician at the core of my being, so I still perform. Aside from Twitch, I play private parties, wineries and breweries, and in concert venues. I’ve even been known to play a gig or two for city events. I am constantly growing and perfecting my art and I feel grateful that I have the opportunity to do so.
So, if I were to sum everything up, I write/sing/perform music, create virtual experiences, stream, design websites and merch, and so much more. What makes me stand apart is my creativity that spans far outside just my music. I am proud of everything that I have accomplished, especially in spite of dealing with chronic pain and my ADHD. I am proud of how strong I have been and how much my mind has flourished as I’ve allowed it out of the cage I tried to keep it in for so long.
As far as my personal brand? You can recognize me as the one with all the sunflowers! Sunflowers hold my core values; stand tall and always look towards the sun. My brand is not to ignore that there are storms, but to do your best to get through them and keep moving forward.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
At the beginning of 2021, I woke up one day with a stiff neck that quickly developed into debilitating pain over the course of the next week. That pain never went away and is something I still deal with daily. I was already struggling with trying to overcome my ADHD daily, in order to pursue my career. When chronic pain got thrown into the mix, I all but flatlined. I struggled a lot with my mental health after that, My self image and happiness were deeply rooted in my ability to be productive, and productivity was no longer possible because I was constantly stuck playing this horrible game of “what is going to keep me from doing things today?” I felt like I was on this three-way teeter-totter between my ADHD, mental health, and chronic pain. If it wasn’t one thing, it was the other.
Arguably my biggest struggle, was not being able to play music. As most musicians will understand, your lifeblood is your ability to play, perform, or write music. I couldn’t sit up longer than a few minutes, let alone with a guitar or piano. This was devastating. The thing I normally would turn to when I was struggling, was impossible for me to do. I was stuck in bed unable to do anything. Not to mention that music was my primary source of income at that point and I could no longer perform live or stream without being in significant pain. I was forced to take a break from everything, and watched as every project I had been working on, fell by the wayside.
My mental health took a huge hit and became deeply intertwined with my physical health. The first few weeks were annoying, but as the pain lasted month after month, it began to be harder and harder to ignore the voice in my head freaking out that this was permanent. Everything that I had been working towards, my future and my dream career, were unattainable if I stayed in my current state. I could barely survive driving 20 mins, how was I going to tour? Even when I pushed to stream, I would be down for the count the next few days. I eventually stopped trying to take any gigs, because it would take upwards of a week for me to recover back to my new “normal.” This was devastating.
My new “normal” was horrible. Luckily we were still on the tail end of a pandemic so people still weren’t going out for a while, but at some point they started to. I would get invited out and would have to decline over and over again because half the time I wasn’t even going to handle the drive there, let alone have to be upright for however much time and the drive back. Everything in my life began to revolve around my chronic pain. I couldn’t go anywhere unless I was sure there would be moments for me to sneak off and lay down. Most of the time that wasn’t an option, so most of the time I stayed home. After a while, I even developed a sort of PTSD about going out and even something as seemingly simple as going to a concert with a friend, would cause me to have multiple anxiety attacks before leaving (To be fair, I was in significant pain for most of that concert so it wasn’t unjustified).
Anyway, you are probably starting to understand what my current mental state was. Oh, and no one tells you how exhausting chronic pain is. Like, even when you take something and feel better, you’re too tired to do anything. Like I said, it was a never ending teeter totter.
I fell into depression.
I was doing everything I could physically to try to get better (physical therapy, epsom salt baths, resting, ice, heat, meds, etc) and was just not overcoming it. It became this horrible weight on my brain, which was constantly trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me and why nothing was working. On top of that, the doctor that I had at the time, continuously wrote off my symptoms as normal neck pain that happens from working at a desk and refused to give me an mri. I eventually switched doctors and that made an incredible difference. However, I still have no idea what is actually wrong with me.
So, back to the question of what illustrates my resilience. Well, as you can imagine, when your dream and future are all of a sudden taken away from you, it’s difficult to cope. I started going to therapy, but around the 9th or 10th month of all of this, I had hit my lowest. Even though I had made a decent amount of progress, I was still so far from the life I used to love and I was convinced I was never going to be able to have that back. Those who know me, know that I try incredibly hard to have a positive state of mind, but life without the future that I had imagined, wanted, and worked for, just didn’t seem worth living in.
Yet, at the back of my mind, I kept thinking about all of the things I still wanted to do. All of the creative ideas that I still hadn’t had a chance to create. I didn’t feel like I could just give up on those. Also, I had built this incredible community, on and off stream, that was so patient and understanding during the whole process… To be honest, many of them are what kept me going on the darker days. They encouraged me to take care of myself, even when I felt so incredibly guilty about having to cancel another stream.
At some point during one of my moping stages, my therapist turned to me and asked “how would you live tomorrow if you woke up with no pain?” I don’t know what about that sentence did it for me, but it just clicked. I think it may have also come around a time when I was finally starting to accept that this was my new reality. It may have also come around the time when I realized that there were famous musicians who were also actively coping with chronic pain (Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga to name a few) I realized I was just going to have to figure out how I was going to make this career happen. There was no other option for me. I refused to let this thing stop me from at least trying.
My mindset changed after that. Instead of thinking of what I couldn’t do, I started to think of what I could do to fill in the gaps where I needed. What would my future look like as a touring artist if I still had this chronic pain. Maybe it meant having someone else play guitar for me so I didn’t have to worry about the strap digging into my shoulder. Maybe it meant saving more money to have more rest time in between shows. Maybe it meant having someone else drive so that I could lay down between shows. I needed to reimagine a new way to have my career.
It’s been far from smooth sailing, but my direction has never wavered. I honestly feel stronger and more deeply rooted in my resolve, because even though I was facing what seemed to be impossible odds, I continued to move forward the entire time. And still do, one step at a time.
How did you build your audience on social media?
A slow build is a strong build. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and seeing how others are doing, but they are not you. I am a firm believer in building slow because it allows you to build a truly authentic and niche audience that will be more in it for the long haul. It’s also important for you. During your journey, you are going to learn more about yourself and be able to define who you are and what you want. You’ll have time to discover your brand and time to learn how to handle smaller situations before they’re bigger situations. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the slow grow. Build your brand, focus on your craft, learn the skills you need. The audience will come without you even realizing and one day you’ll look up and they’ll be there. Build your foundation well and solid, and you will be able to have a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling career.
As far as actual advice, figure out who you are and you will figure out your brand. I struggled with figuring out my brand for years and then one day it just clicked that it was me. I was my brand. I just needed to embrace it.
Once you’ve figured out your brand, start going on social media and observing. Figure out how you are going to infuse your branding within social media. It will likely be different on different platforms. While you’re doing that, start following and connecting with others who are doing similar things that are within your brand, and also start connecting with their audience. Don’t be sleazy about it, though, and DO NOT DM people you do not know asking them to do things for you. Instead, become a part of the community and they will start to notice you. Next time you’re looking at the posts of someone you’re following, notice the incredible gap between likes and comments. If you comment, you immediately stand out from the crowd.
If you do reach out, reach out with an offer that is beneficial to them, not just you. In this industry, people can smell you being fake or manipulative from a mile away. Just be genuine. And for the love of all that is good in this world, do NOT ask people to check out your profile or your art or music or whatever. If they are interested, they will look on their own. I block every random stranger who sends me messages like that. It’s just rude and disrespectful of that person’s time. Rule of thumb, “Do not ask without first giving.” Whether it be your time, interaction, help, or whatever. You have to put in the energy first. And do so for a while. And don’t have expectations. It’s great if people feel connected enough to you that they want to help, but they don’t owe you anything.
On top of all of this, and your bare minimum is, your content needs to be good. Good quality. Good concepts. Good. However that looks for you, because everyone’s process is different. Whether it be your art or your art process, let it show bits of you to the world. Authenticity is key. Humans connect with humans; be human.
One final way that is so obvious it probably doesn’t need to be said, is that bringing your art out into the world can bring people into your social media space. Whether it’s a gig or gallery or whatever else, make it easy for people to find you. That means all of your handles matching (as close as you can), your socials being large and visible, or even having ways for people to take your info with them (business cards or similar). I HIGHLY recommend QR codes. This makes it so easy for people to find you and takes away concerns of misspelling your name or losing your card. Mention your social media at your gigs; hard ask or subtle hints at it, whatever’s your jam. Networking in person will be a major source of your audience.
Oh, and make sure that your socials are cleaned up and show your branding. They’re your first (or second) impression, make it count.
Building an audience is not easy. You have to work for it. It’s years of making connections, learning new things, and it will often feel like you’re not moving forward (That’s why it’s important to focus on your craft and not on the numbers.) But it will be rewarding in the long run, if you put in the work.
- Website: https://TylerAlexisMusic.com
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/tyleralexismusic
- Facebook: https://facebook.com/tyleralexismusic
- Linkedin: https://linkedin.com/in/tyleralexismusic
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tyler_Alexis_
- Youtube: https://youtube.com/tyleralexis
- Other: https://twitch.tv/tyleralexismusic
Performance shot #1: Tom Krich Performance shot #2: Aaron Matthew Kaiser The rest are screenshots or pictures taken by me.