I had the pleasure of catching up with Australian DJ/producer tyDi last week in his studio at Universal Records. Born Tyson Illingworth, tyDi has been voted #1 DJ of Australia twice, currently sits at #48 in the DJ Mag Top 100 list, has supported giants of the industry such as Armin Van Buuren on tour, and is the first DJ signed by Rondor/Universal Music Group in 30 years. All by the young age of 25.
First off, congratulations on your recent publishing deal with Rondor/Universal Music Group! As the first DJ they have signed in 30 years, how did your relationship to them come about?
It’s one of those lucky stories. I went in there with my manager, Alex, and played them a lot of my stuff, and they really liked my music, which was cool. There’s a girl named Ashley who works for Universal in A&R, and she really liked my music, so that lead to a publishing deal.
You have an incredibly rigorous 200-250 shows per year tour schedule. How do you maintain focus to produce your music when you practically live on the plane?
I’m writing a lot of music on the plane because I’m living between Australia and the rest of the world. I’m in LA every month, and generally on those 10-12 hour plane flights, I’m writing music. I have a show tonight, and I’m also in the studio today, so somehow I squeeze it all in.
What was the process behind the creation of your new single, “Glow in the Dark” featuring Kerli?
I was really enjoying Kerli’s music, and I think she is a great songwriter, so I wanted to get in the studio with her. When I first met her, we decided to write a track, and we didn’t even go to a studio. We went to her place and were chilling on her living room floor with an electric keyboard. I started playing some chords, and we were bouncing ideas back and forth, and by the end of the night, we had “Glow in the Dark” written.
Then I went back to Australia, produced the song, and turned it into a dance track. Once I wrote the beat and did all the production, I sent it back to Kerli, and she recorded all the stuff that we wrote. Then she sent the vocals back to me, and I put it all together.
What is your methodology in creating your weekly podcast, Global Soundsystem?
I’ve done 3 years of the podcast every single week. I finished episode 158 yesterday. As far as track selection goes, I have a special email account dedicated to people that want to send me music. All the record labels send their artists’ (signed and unsigned) music every week. I sometimes get up to 600 songs per week. Admittedly 95 percent of them are rubbish, but that 5 percent that is awesome is enough to make a radio show.
I mix the radio show, usually on a plane flight, because it takes a few hours for me to mix it together and decide which tracks I want to use. Sometimes I might use songs from the previous week if people really enjoyed them and usually 15 percent of the show is brand new songs. Then I go and record the voiceovers.
You’re universally loved and known for your positive vocals/lyrics and uplifting song energy. How do you stay inspired to stay positive through life’s ups and downs?
How could I not stay positive? I’ve got a pretty fun life. The only times when it’s not positive is during the hangovers. I’m always excited because every day I’m in a new country meeting new people, playing new shows, and it would be surprising if I wasn’t positive about it. The only times that suck are the plane flights and the jet lag. Never getting enough sleep is the only negative thing, but it’s not too negative.
Who are some of the artists that have influenced you along your path?
There are so many! When I was around 15 and 16, I was really into bands — I still am — but a band that I loved was Dashboard Confessional. Chris Carrabba wrote some of my favorite tracks. I remember being in high school listening to that music, and I was a drummer in a rock band at that time, and when I changed to electronic music, I thought maybe I should have stuck with the band thing because I might have gotten a chance to work with guys like Dashboard Confessional. It just so happened that dance music kind of commercialized, and now I have a song with Dashboard.
I remember hearing your track “You Walk Away” for the first time on Armin’s “A State of Trance” back in 2009. How did you get connected with DJs like Armin and Tiesto?
When I was 17, I was signed to Armada, which is Armin’s record label. That happened through Marcus Schultz. He heard my track “Meet Me in Kyoto,” and he loved it and decided to put it on one of his albums. Through that, Armada took an interest, and I asked if I could work with them.
They signed me, so I wrote music for them a lot of the time, and obviously being on Armada was a good introduction to Armin. I played a lot of shows with him around the world. I supported him on a bunch of Australian shows, and DJs always run into each other. As big as Armin is, he’s really easy to get ahold of — I just send a song over to him, and he might play it that week.
How would you say being classically trained and having a musical degree influences the way you create music?
Some people say that music is a talent. I never really felt that it was something I was born with. I had to learn to play drums, and it took me years to learn how to do that. I taught myself how to play piano and write songs, so for me, it was something that I spent a lot of time learning how to do.
I’m still learning new things every day. My music degree taught me about songwriting, and it taught me how to write a classical piece, and it still helps me today. I still use lots of tricks that I learned in university about producing songs. It’s definitely a bit of firepower to have.
Any timeframe on the release of your track with BT, “Catch Me If You Can”?
We actually have two collaborations: “Catch Me If You Can” with vocals by Plumb, and another song called “Tonight” with Jes. Both of them should be coming out in January, but don’t hold me to it because it’s actually up to BT. I texted him the other day and asked him when our songs are coming out, and he said January.
What advice would you give to aspiring producers?
Try to find a point of difference and trust your own style. You’re never going to get anywhere by being another Avicii. There’s only one guy who has made “Levels,” and that track is “Levels.” You can’t make a track that sounds like “Levels” and expect it to be a hit because it’s been done.
I think a lot of producers right now are thinking they are going to make it by copying someone else’s song, but I don’t think it works like that. I think you need to have a point of difference and be unique and make your own mark. Besides that, I think determination and motivation go a long way. Every single day before school and after school, I would be making music, so I’ve always learned that the hard work pays off.
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