Tyler Sjöström is a multi-instrumentalist attempting to play such tools as; guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano, glockenspiel, harmonium–all of which he had the pleasure of tracking in the studio for his latest album. Content from his music comes in general from life experience, observations of duplicitous lifestyles, and the desire to live in a tree.
We caught up with Tyler and chatted about duelling banjos, the BEST album in the world and making honey, here's how we got on....
Please introduce yourself and your music in one sentence....
My name is Tyler Sjostrom and I would describe my music as being wrought by the love of the wild and the pursuit of truth, spun as cognitive word vomit with the frills of folk.
OK so ‘What We Say We Are’ is out now, sell it to the audience and readers of musicmuso, scream it out loud and tell us WHY we should buy it?
'What We Say We Are' is an album that is enveloped in my life's experience. From my travels and work in East Africa to my delightful walk-abouts with roos in Western Australia, it spans a great length and boasts quite a bit of rawness. I'm really proud of the instrumental arrangements and overall performance by my musical mates featured on the album, and mine own. It is dynamic, catchy, fun, and holds true to who I am and my style of music.
‘Red River’ is based on the river of Kentucky, when writing this exceptional tune, what was the plan or was it a shot of pure inspiration, what is it about this place?
'Red River' is, in general, about the Red River Gorge out of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Eastern Kentucky. I lived in Kentucky for a year, which allowed me to enjoy the extraordinary outdoors the state had to offer. Specifically, the inspiration came from a night out, camping in the heart of the Gorge, which happened to fall on the night of a super moon, where the moon finds itself the closest to the Earth in its elliptical journey around our home. It's brilliance shone overhead as my crew and I lay in our hammocks that night, surrounded by a magnificent fog that filled the canyons below. It was a sight I'll never forget.
How and when did you decide that you wanted to be in a band/performer?
I have been writing for the last four years and performing for about two. Making an album was a bucket list item I never took seriously until my friends encouraged me to pursue a Kickstarter project to fund a studio album. It was wildly successful and whilst in the thick of it, I felt that I ought to really take this seriously, if not for me then for my friends that pushed me to do so.
You play Banjo, have you ever had a duelling banjo contest?
I haven't dueled, per se, but I have battled. A gruesome affair I prefer not to speak about.
Tyler, you play many different instruments, which one have you yet to master?
Well, as a singer-songwriter I joke around about how I'm able to pretend to play a lot of instruments and 'mastering' is a thing for the guitarists, pianists, and so on. I'd say I'm most comfortable on the guitar, then piano, then banjo, then uke, and everything else falls into a mediocrity of sorts. I love getting my hands on a new instrument. My latest is a harmonium, which is featured on the album. It's basically a hand-pump organ.
In your opinion, what is the BEST album/record ever released?
I am a huge fan of Sigur Ros, so I'd probably have to say their untitled album or 'Takk.'
Listening to your album, I feel influences from the likes of British band Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale, especially the American band The Lumineers, what do you feel these guys have done for Folk rock? & How has Folk changed over the years and who would you recommend the readers to listen out for?
I get Mumford & Sons a lot and the other two not as much. It would be remiss of me to say I don't take any influence from Mumford. I think they have a lot of fun and make music that people like and can take meaning from. I think Folk has to stem from life experience and a genuine message, which is hard to evaluate. Our world is so connected now, and thus the original folk music of a people group or particular region is no longer unique in that they are influenced by outside forces. It's an evolution that has its positives and negatives, of course. I would love to dive further into my ancestral history and glean a better understanding of which traditional music and art was created from them. I am half Swedish, a quarter Czech, and a quarter British. As a person who knows my ancestry, it would be silly not to understand where I came from and what influenced the people from which I came.
Have you toured the UK yet? If so what was your experience like, if not, why not?
I haven't toured the UK, but would love to! I am still attempting to get a better foothold here at home before I venture elsewhere. But I would jump at the opportunity for sure!
Is it true you are a bee keeper? How did this come about? is it true or have I fallen for your sarcasm?
I am a beekeeper. I started beekeeping after helping my good friend start his first hive. From then on you could say I was stung... or a better analogy for being smitten. Bees are amazing little creatures and their honey is delicious and extremely healthy for you.
‘Straight Bourbon Whiskey’ is a well written and played track, what was the story behind this being made and written?
Straight Bourbon Whiskey came partially from my time in Lexington, Kentucky & partially from my extreme bouts with alcohol. Written in Lexington, in my home sentimentally named the “Bourbon Burrow,” it derives from an early realisation that spirits allowed for a more confident character. Alcohol proved beneficial in the social context as a tool for an easy, if not crude, flowing conversation, fabricated courage & at times, an unrestrained, genuine humility.
Now, do you suffer hangovers and what are you remedies for this? Obviously we don’t condone too much alcohol!
I do suffer a hangover every once in a great while. I attempt to drink big glass of water and take a few pain killers before I hit the hay. Does the trick if I'm able to remember.
Is there something you would like to tell each of the band members that you haven’t told them before?
I don't have a band, per se, but I do have a few fellas that I play with often. I'd probably tell them to practice my music more. They're good at making mistakes look like genius improvisations.
Tell us about the first gig you ever went to?
As a child the first show I recall ever seeing was at the Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago. It was Raffi, the famous singer-songwriter whose exploits include children songs lie “Baby Beluga” and “Down By The Bay.”
Where did you record your album and what made you choose that studio?
We recorded at two studios. The one we spent most of our time at was in Aurora, IL called Backthird Studios. It’s a nice little studio. We chose it because we had full access to it for an entire month. Because the album was on a budget, that was a huge benefit. Then, all the vocals were tracked at Groovemaster Studios in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. It has this beautiful view of the city from it’s top floor studio, and is just a wonderful space to be inspired.
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
This is a hard one. Indiana Jones? The introspective Konstantin "Kostya" Dmitrievich Levin, of Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’? Or perhaps Ransom of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogies?
Do you think we can ever live in a world where a chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned?
Unfortunately, no. But I think that one must still live with the hope that such a reality may one day be, despite the fact it won’t. We must dream, live the dream, and help others dream.
Prior to releasing Tyler back into the wild, we thought we'd throw a few quickfire questions his way and see how he got on....
Coffee or Tea?
Coke or Pepsi?
Drum machine or the real deal?
Mac or PC?
Taco or Burger?
CD or Vinyl?
Chicago or Kentucky?
Car or Motorbike?
Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson?
Cash is king
Acoustic or electric?
Shower or Bath?
Tattoos or Piercings?
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?
God or Google?
We'd like to thank Tyler for taking part in our feature, we wish him every success for the future and look forward to seeing him on UK turf in the future.
His album, 'What We Say We Are' was released September 30th, you can buy it either digitally or via CD HERE