Today we shine our Spotlight – Justine Tyrell. This dynamic artist is on the heels of releasing her newest single Warning Signs from the While You Were Sleeping EP. We talk with Justine about how she got started in music and more so check it out now!
Starting a music career in 2020, do you think it has complicated or posed an advantage to your career?
It definitely felt like a bit of an advantage, despite the challenges. It forced me to slow down and make time for the creative work that I’ve really wanted to do. The time to shut out the world, and the daily hustle and bustle. It gave me time to think, to write, and to put my energy into developing a solid plan. There’s also been amazing grant support for artists, such as FACTOR and Alberta Foundation for the Arts – and mentorships like the RBC Launchpad Music Entrepreneurship Program. The help and guidance from those organization was huge, in helping me kick start my plans.
What’s your thoughts on the industry in today’s climate?
I think there’s a need for realness, connection and authenticity more than ever. It has been an isolating and challenging year for us all and I think that the industry is positioned in a place to help people feel connected to each other and each other’s stories again. I also feel like artists have had to become more adaptable and agile than ever – especially with such an emphasis on everything being online.
You said that Amy Winehouse was one of your biggest inspirations. If you could play her one of your songs and tell her one thing what would it be and why?
I think it would be ‘War’, because she would understand. A lot of her songs come from pain, loving through darkness, and releasing what she struggled with into her music. I relate to that. I would tell her that she’s helped teach so many people – including myself – on how to turn pain into song, and leverage what’s unique about them. Or maybe, I would just say ‘thank you.’
You have written music for film. What is the difference between that and writing for yourself?
The biggest thing is writing for TV and film usually means keeping more closely to a central theme, purpose, or goal in mind going into it. I find writing for myself, I doesn’t really have limits. I have an easier time writing for myself, because it’s easier to not over-think. Writing for TV or film has this really satisfying feeling though, when you step back and feel like you created the complimenting or finishing touches to a story. It feels pretty surreal. There’s a part of me that dreams up these cinematic concepts in my head, and I’ve always imagined writing music for a James Bond film, or really dramatic moodier scenes. I love diving in that world when I can.
What films and programs have you written for? What are your favorites?
I’ve pitched for everything from commercials, Netflix series, and movies – but I’d say the coolest thing I landed was a major motion picture called, El Chicano. I was invited in on that project, and it felt really neat to know the movie and soundtrack were everywhere, including theaters across the country.
What do you do when you hit a creative rut?
Honestly, I’m still working on how to navigate creative or emotional ruts. Usually watching a movie is a really good break for my brain, and then I come back feeling more imaginative – but I’m working on changing my state through taking a break to go for a walk, getting some fresh air – things like that.
What can you tell us about your recently released EP? Themes, inspiration, writing process, upcoming music videos?
It explores the bitter and sweet sides of love, and ranges from moody, darker tones, to upbeat, vibey summer songs. The key theme is learning how to be self-reliant and self-empowered, while discovering what it’s like to learn lessons in love and trusting others. We wrote all of these songs during quarantine, and the process involved sending ideas back and forth via voice note, racing to the studio to build ideas out with the guys. Most of this record was written and recorded in the evening hours –which felt very true to my nocturnal nature. The upcoming visuals will be shot with a local crew, and (covid pending) – be reflective of the type of summer we’ve all been waiting to have.
You mentioned NYC is a huge musical inspiration would you ever consider living there?
Augh yes, I’m obsessed. I could definitely picture myself living there part-time, but I would love to also still build and grow as much as I can within the Calgary scene too. We have so much going on that I’d love to still feel like I’m connected and helping foster that as well.
Your new song “Warning Signs” has been described as a summer hit. Do you agree with this statement?
Of course. This song sonically is meant to feel like a bit of a mental escape to somewhere else, a bit of an oasis for our minds. We were really intentional in trying to craft something that can be enjoyed in the summer – and give that hot, summer feeling.
At Hidden Beats we tell stories. What’s the story/feeling you are trying to tell with this song?
It was really about recognizing the red flags that we sometimes see in people, but choosing to ignore them – or see what we want to see. This was inspired by some of my own dating disasters – one of which ended in realizing the guy I was seeing was also seeing my friend in a different city. We realized over drinks one night, and at the time, it felt like a scene from a movie. The rest is really just inspired by that ‘face palm’ feeling of, “damn – really should have trusted my gut on that one.”
Who did you collaborate with for this new EP
My co-collaborators and producers of the project were Matthew Zoeteman and Timothonius – both based in Calgary. Those two are next level amazing. Then I reached out to my insanely talented friend, Jocelyn Alice, whom is one of the best writers and singers I’ve witnessed, to help bring ‘You’ll Miss Me’ to life. She co-wrote, and vocal produced that song, start to finish.
What is your average day in the studio like?
It usually starts by going through ‘song starters’. These are loops, chords, thoughts that we’ve scribbled down, or voice notes of random inspiration that struck us. A lot of times if we are feeling more spontaneous, we will jam some ideas live – Timothonius hits the keys, we cycle through sounds and textures with Matt, and pursue something when we have that ‘Ah Ha’ moment. We build and write in the room and usually have, ‘studio dinner’ at some point, that we order in or make.
How many instruments do you play? Do you have a favorite and do you perform any of your own instrumentals on your songs?
Drums, piano and bit of bass guitar (and a terrible brief stint with recorder and flute – sounded awful.) I will say this – I don’t play any of them super well, but I’d definitely say piano would be my favorite and most intuitive. The odd time I’ll bust out a piano song live, but I leave it to the pros in the studio.
How has growing up in Calgary influenced your music? Which one of your songs is the most Calgary infused?
I think that the collaborative, intimate nature to our scene has shaped how I work in some ways. We’re a big city with a touch of a small-town vibe, and that has given me a lot of opportunity to explore the more intimate side of what we do, and really see how it sits with listeners and peers – without feeling a pressure to sound a certain way, or fit into a certain mold. Radar reminds me of the intimate, stripped down shows that we would play at our local venues out here – which will always be special to me.
Are you partial to big audiences or small audiences? How does each one impact your on-stage energy?
That’s a good question. I’m more scared of small audiences, than I am large ones. When I can see everyone’s eyes locked in, and facial expressions – it’s more nerve wracking. With that said, I love it – and feel more connected to the people and experience. Big audiences are a blast, and give me so much adrenaline. I feel weirdly less nervous, because I can’t look into each person’s eyes.
Your promotional photos are amazing. Did they capture the vision you had? Are you comfortable in front of the camera?
Thank you! I definitely feel like they do. I love doing mood boards, and trying to visually map out what’s in my brain before every shoot. Working with incredible photographers and videographers is the secret sauce for sure. As far as am I comfortable in front of the camera – not entirely. I’m more comfortable in front of a camera when I can just sing, or talk, or exist. I still feel really awkward when I’m just posing for pictures.
How do your supporters inspire you? Your family, friends and fans.
There are days when I don’t see myself the way they do. I think we probably all have those days – and sometimes they build me up, without even realizing they do it. Everyone who listens to my music, writes me to talk about their day, or how a song impacted them, makes me feel so connected and even more inspired. I’m also lucky to have a crew who are achieving amazing things in their fields, and we all try to encourage and motivate each other to all be at the top of our respective games. My family and close circle do so much to support and encourage me behind the scenes – they’re the best!
What does being a Canadian R&B singer mean to you? Do you feel these labels are integrate into your identity?
Canadian artists have been killing the game. It makes me feel proud to step into an area, and help showcase what we’re about. I think R&B music specifically, is only starting to get the attention it deserves here. It feels true to me to try to continue to push that, as much as I can.
Lastly, who is your favorite Canadian artist?
It’s between Drake and Daniel Caesar.
Spotlight – Justine Tyrell is a wrap! Thanks to Justine for taking the time to chat with us
Check out Warning Signs out now!
Keep up with Justine right here
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