Cristian Tyler, many of you may have never heard of her and some of you may have. If you’ve been lucky enough to cop her début album Control Freak back in 2011 then you’re well on your way to discovering an unheard and unnoticed chanteuse with background vocals that will send you soaring to higher heights. Literally higher heights with harmonies that take the mind to another place and a way to give her supporters those mental vacations every now and then.
Under Dru Hill member Jazz’s guidance she was well on her way to stardom with her group mates, Audassy. Unfortunately the spotlight didn’t show as brightly and started to dim for this promising group and they soon found they were back where they started, having to build their reputations over again to continue their dreams. The spark didn’t fully extinguish with the founder of Audassy and she is to come back stronger and more prepared than ever to tackle the unmistakable challenges of the music industry. She has made plans to stay in the game and not let it knock her down again and with her upcoming project, she intends on doing just that.
Gumbumper’s Serenada’sPen has taken the liberty of catching up with the star to share her backdrop on what it means to be Cristian Tyler, starting from her beginnings and where she intends on making her mark as a new woman, with a new light, and new focus.
GB: Hi Cristian, it’s a pleasure to meet you! How are you luv?
CT: I am doing well and I’m excited to finally do this interview with you!
GB: Good, loving your enthusiasm! So let’s begin. I must ask about your Artist name first because it is very recognizable as an everyday name. Is Cristian Tyler your Artist name and/or your real name?
CT: Cristian Tyler is my stage name that was chosen by a poll I conducted lol. I know that sounds crazy but there is a short story I will tell behind that. I was formally known by another stage name “Neiko” for quite some time and once the singing group I was part of disbanded, I underwent a rebirth and decided to change my name; you know, to leave all the past stuff in the past. I threw a few names out there and that one was the biggest hit. My first name is Curisa, so I already had the nickname “Cris”. Extending it to Cristian just came naturally I guess.
GB: Some would just shrivel up and not recover from their set-backs but you found a way to re-invent yourself altogether! You weren’t going down without a fight lol. The name transformation is awesome. So tell us, where are you from?
CT: I was born in Jacksonville, FL. I’m a southern girl. I moved to Baltimore, MD at the age of 6 and pretty much lived my whole entire life there.
GB: ha, Me too! Southern girls for life 🙂 Do you still reside there?
CT: Well, I’m actually in the process of relocating to California in the spring of 2013.
GB: You’re going to love it. So nice out there. I feel a Biggie Smalls jam coming on, I’m going going, back back to Cali Cali! lol. What was it like growing up in your household. Was music the centerfold?
CT: Absolutely not lol. Very few of my family members had any significant talent growing up. I used to sing around the house as a kid and my mom constantly told me I could not sing lol. It wasn’t until she heard me sing in church as I got older where she realized her kid actually had some talent.
GB: This almost sounds like deja vu for real. I swear Rihanna experienced similar with singing so much and so loud that her neighbors would yell for her to stop lol. In her case they didn’t think she could sing. But look where she is now…laughing all the way to the bank just like you’re going to do. Now that we know music didn’t originate from your roots, where did you encounter it firsthand?
CT: Well I grew up in the Apostolic faith, so it was hard to listen to secular music growing up. I found myself connecting with gospel groups that had an R&B flare such as Commissioned and Take 6. I used to stay up late at night studying harmonies, but never quite learned how to put them together at the time.
GB: See that was your way in…combining the two genres. With your new-found “voice” your family started paying closer attention to, do they appreciate your talent enough to support it, or do they want you to pursue another path?
CT: My family has always been some of my biggest supporters. My mom is my hardest critic though. She’s not afraid to tell me what she doesn’t like, but lately she has been blown away by my arranging abilities and knowing how far I have come.
GB: What was the first song you ever heard that made a lasting impression on you?
CT: Hmmmm, that’s a great question. I would have to say Commissioned’s rendition of the Phil Collin’s hit “Another Day in Paradise”. That song gave me chills.
GB: Love that song! Phil Collins and Genesis are Classic 80’s Bombs for real. Nobody can touch their mastery so I’m feeling you on that one. Okay, so take us back to the first time you ever performed or sang in front of an “audience”. What song did you sing and what did it feel like?
CT: Well I can’t remember what that first song was called that I sung in church, but that was my first time singing in front of an audience. I remember feeling nervous but safe because I had my group members up there with me. I had formed a gospel group called “God’s Great Voices”.
GB: You definitely have that leadership vibe. The chill cat in the back running the bizness and making it happen. That’s whats up! For you as an artist, how did you put yourself out there vocally for people to take notice?
CT: After I decided to sing secular music, I thought the best way to get out there would be to form another singing group and try to make some noise. Once I did that, we became pretty popular locally.
GB: Exciting, so lets dwell on that for a moment. Enlighten our readers about this group you formed?
CT: I was part of a 4 member female group called Audassy. We had a few members come and go, but I was the founding member and the second member I recruited stayed with me until the very end. We settled with the final 4 members by the year 2000 and made a big industry run. We became popular around Baltimore, MD and eventually caught the attention of Jazz (member of the Baltimore native group Dru Hill). He took us under his camp and transformed our sound. He literally had us sounding like a female version of them lol. I loved it, and during that time we traveled quite a bit, recorded quite a bit, and mingled with a lot of celebrities, and eventually landed a record deal on the table. We even became requested by Lil Kim herself to open up for her in Pennsylvania, as well as opening up for Case. During that time I didn’t have a clue of how to arrange so I was known just as the writer of the group. I wrote 95% of our material that we recorded. I always wanted to get into vocal producing but couldn’t quite figure out how to do it at the time. I then decided to study Jazz’s techniques and learn the Dru Hill/Jodeci way of creating harmonies. Unfortunately, we could not sustain like as semi-professional recording artists and therefore we began to fall apart due to the pressures that came along with it. We broke up in 2001 and everyone pursued other musical ventures.
GB: All within a nutshell that’s what really happened. It seems like a faint memory at the start of the millennium 2000-2001. Remembering Case for sure because he left the scene ages ago. Kim had her heyday back then too. Are you a songwriter?
CT: Yes! I am a songwriter first and foremost. I wrote my entire first album which debuted on iTunes in 2011 titled “Control Freak”. I also wrote the entire mixtape “The Tyler Effect” with the exception of 2 songs I co-wrote and the remake of “Human” by the Human League.
GB: What topics or subjects do you usually cover in your songs?
CT: I try to cover an array of subject titles. Things I’ve experienced personally and things I’ve seen. I used to write male bashing songs a lot when I first started out but quickly found a happier avenue to explore lol.
GB: What female hasn’t had a moment where the male species didn’t touch a nerve lol. My list of resemblances for you are Janet Jackson, Toni Braxton, Brandy, Ciara, Slim from 112, and harmony similar to New Edition in certain ways. What Artists have listeners compared you to?
CT: I’ve heard Brandy and Aaliyah so many times I can’t even count. In the beginning before I enhanced my arranging abilities I was compared to Aaliyah more because of my soft tone. Now more than ever I get Brandy because of my harmonies and melodies.
GB: Oh yea?!? Brandy is dope. Which past or present artists are you inspired by?
CT: Tank, Frank Ocean, R. Kelly, Babyface, and Brandy hands down!! Everyone who knows me personally knows that I’m slightly obsessed with her lol. I study her like a student study’s a book. I think you can hear her influence the most in my music. She is a vocal genius and she’s very underrated. If you listen closely as well you can hear my Dru Hill influences as well with some of my arrangements.
GB: Have you sung background for any Artists or featured on albums?
CT: I have sung background vocals on quite a few local artists, up and coming artists projects, and projects put out by Tony Sway and a few artists that he has put me on with.
GB: Yea Tony is Kool. He’s the reason why we’re connected too 😉 Describe what your “dream performance” would be like if you had it all your way.
CT: I would be in the Madison Square Garden performing with Brandy. I would perform most of my mixtape and Control Freak album songs and wear the most outrageous outfits lol. I am a super liberal person so the sky is the limit.
GB: I couldn’t have said it better! BTW your remake of Trey Songz ‘One For Me’ is the ish. What is it about this song that you wanted to re-make it? Are you a fan?
CT: Wow wow wow, I had no idea you heard some of my earlier work on that first mixtape! That’s awesome, but I can barely listen to that stuff now because I still didn’t know how to arrange at the time. I was just winging it lol. But to answer your question, I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of his, I just really loved that song and felt inspired to use it.
GB: Instant gratification. We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t listen to our guests 😉 Besides we would be missing out on something great and the world needs to know about the best music out here. Which Artists would you love to do a duet or collab with?
CT: OMG I feel like a creeper because all of my answers will echo Brandy lol. She is first and foremost on my list of people to work with in the near future. Other than that, I would love to work with Frank Ocean and Tank.
GB: haha! I doubt you’re anywhere close to ‘creepy’. You get a free pass for being an Artist. What does your fan base mostly consist of?
CT: I would say a healthy mixture of all. I was surprised to see that I had a pretty decent following of older supporters. That is a blessing and I love everyone who supports my cause. I definitely have a big homosexual following because of my sexual orientation.
GB: That’s Great to have a wide variety that supports you. It’s better than no one at all for sure. Share with us one of the most thrilling or wild experiences behind the scenes 😉
CT: lol ok two things I will share that comes to mind right off hand. A behind the scenes thing that goes on behind all of my shows be it solo or when I was in my singing group, is my stage fright. It didn’t matter how many times I performed the same songs. I would still be terrified once I arrived at the venue. I would literally throw up before each show lol. Gross I know, but so true. It became a ritual and a sign of good luck for us. The one time I did not puke was the only show that wasn’t our best. As far as touring, those were the best times. My most memorable experience was performing at an outside venue in PA with the group. After the performance, we had to run back to our truck because the fans in the audience started chasing us for autographs! Our bodyguards had to pick some of us up and run lol. We performed a lot in PA as well as Baltimore so we were a household name there.
GB: What can possibly be said behind this?!? Amazing experience. But even more interesting, ‘stage fright’. So name another one of your fears as an Artist.
CT: Well besides the natural stage fright, it was just the “not knowing”. Not knowing how the crowd would perceive me or us, not knowing if they would like my/our songs. Those types of fears never go away when you’re a local artist.
GB: Here’s a unique one for ya. What name would you give your style of music and what would you call your followers?
CT: Great Question! I actually call my music ‘The Tyler Effect’. That’s where the idea of the mixtape title came from. I am very close with a popular producer in Baltimore and he told me that my arranging abilities are unheard of these days, so I said jokingly “yeah that’s the Tyler effect”. We looked at each other and realized I was on to something. I often do renditions of industry artist songs with me doing backgrounds on them. I call it being “Tyler Effected” lol. I did one for Drake’s Trust Issues and Beyonce’s I Miss U. I am releasing a new one soon as well with a special artist. I dove into the alternative world with the choice of this song so I’m excited about that. My followers would be called “Team Tyler”.
GB: What do you hope to achieve with your mixtape The Tyler Effect that is different than your other work?
CT: Thanks for asking this! I wanted to step my arranging up to the next level. Pushing sounds that I may have never been comfortable with before. I also think that I grew stronger vocally as far as my leads, so I wanted to display that as well. I basically wanted to solidify my place as a solid vocal arranger to be contended with.
GB: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
CT: I would describe it as a mental escape. I don’t have a powerhouse voice so if you’re looking for that Beyonce or Jennifer Hudson jolt then I wouldn’t be your first choice lol. I tend to slide in on those rough days where you just want to lay in bed all day or zone out in the car. My harmonies take the mind to another place I believe. I like to give my supporters those mental vacations every now and then.
GB: What setbacks do you experience in trying to reach your goals?
CT: The biggest setback is my sexuality. I often struggled with how to look and who to be as an artist because once the camera’s were off, Cris was somebody totally different. Most of it are internal issues that I deal with, not anything anyone has said about me in the media. I think once I figure out my complete comfort level with my approach to music and marrying that with my personal life I will be able to achieve everything my heart desires.
GB: Very Good. Many will surely relate to your struggles and we appreciate you sharing. I’m curious to know have you experienced animosity from your fellow Artists or contemporaries?
CT: Not ever since I went solo. I have nothing but respect for all the other local female artists and they have the same for me. However, when I was in my group, we often found our way in the mouths of other female groups lol. Hey it comes with the territory.
GB: Very true. Cattiness at its best. Moving past all that, in your own words how do you define “success”?
CT: Simple: Doing what you set out to achieve and being completely happy during the process.
GB: What is the difference between you as a performing music Artist and your everyday self?
CT: A big difference. In my personal life I am very outgoing and a little bit flashy. When I’m “Cristian Tyler” I am the opposite. I am very quiet, humble, and hate the spotlight lol.
GB: Woah! Extreme role reversal “flipped” lol. Did you play any instruments growing up?
CT: Yep, I was a beast on the alto and soprano saxophone, and I was pretty darn good at playing the drums. I played the sax in the concert band in middle school and I played the drums and soprano sax for the jazz band. The boys hated me because a girl upstaged them all lol.
GB: Real niceee! Jazz is a nice addition. We would love to hear you jazz out for us sometime. Which part of the process do you love the most: writing, singing in the studio, forming the song with the music, or performing live?
CT: My most favorite thing is the recording process. I keep people in awe because of my technique. I’m just like Jay-Z. I never write anything down. I just go in and freestyle all of the lyrics and arrangements as I go along. I never cease to amaze myself with the finished product.
GB: Loving the Bravado! Confidence to the max 😉 AND just to add to the competition girl, Lil’ Wayne does the same thing. Inn competition with Jay-Z he equally doesn’t write a single bar down. Which in my opinion amps up the ante. Okay now we’re going to turn the tables a bit and I’m going to get a lil’ tough for a moment. How are you any different from Artists who are acclaimed Stars or Divas, like your music idol Brandy or even Toni Braxton. How do you stack up to these greats and expect to be just as big as them?
CT: I think that I can provide sustainability because I am well rounded. I won’t sing forever and I definitely know at some point I will not release projects anymore. Therefore, I am putting myself in a position to stay relevant through other ventures such as my writing and possibly creating new sounds for future newcomers. I think I’m driving in a lane that was tailored just for me. I don’t try to do anything else that’s unlike me just to keep up with other artists.
GB: Good Call. So with doors that have and will close in your face (just keeping it on the up), music execs that look the other way, and promises that fall short, what is your driving force to continue performing?
CT: Simply my gift. God gave it to me for a reason, so who am I to spit back in His face and say I don’t want to use it or keep going…
GB: I’m not sure if you watch “star search” or talent competition shows such as America’s Got Talent, The Voice, X-Factor, America’s Next Best Dance Crew, or So You Think You Can Dance but if you do or have thoughts on it, how do you feel about individuals seeking their success through these platforms for awareness rather than spending time developing a following on their own?
CT: While I don’t agree with the tactics behind these shows, I won’t knock them. They are just not my thing personally. I believe in the old fashioned ways of getting discovered. Good old fashion beating down doors and sending out projects!
GB: From your viewpoint what is it about the music industry many of us on the “outside” do not understand?
CT: Uh HARMONIES! For goodness sake that is a sacred gift and ability to be able to arrange and I think the average person doesn’t appreciate it. That’s why I love Brandy. She takes the time to perfect her background vocals, which is what I pay attention to the most. I usually don’t connect with lead vocals because anybody can belt out a great verse. The key is how can this artist put the entire song together as a whole.
GB: I feel like we hit a “gold mine” with you 😉 Do you have a particular routine you follow to amp up your creativity or does it come to you when you least expect it?
CT: It usually comes to me when I least expect it. Just last night I was eating waffles then it hit me. I instantly got inspired to record the song that’s releasing next lol.
GB: Yum! Waffles…you’re about to start sumthin’ up in hea girl! Let me get back to this before I go off track lol. What have you achieved so far on your journey?
CT: I’ve achieved musical growth and have developed the respect of other artists. I have also met some inspiring people along the way.
GB: What music do you listen to? Is it different or similar to the music you create?
CT: I actually listen to alot of alternative music. I love love love Savage Garden, Sarah McLaughlin, The Fray, and Katy Perry.
GB: I’m loving this! Eclectic all the way and nothing to be expected since many would believe R&B is your niche. If you can give aspiring music artists any advice or important tips to get them through the door without experiencing the added stress what can you tell them?
CT: Be Yourself. Sometimes you are asked to conform to a certain style whether it is musically or physically. You can bend a little to get to where you need to be but don’t break yourself to get there. I learned that the hard way and now it seems as if I have to start over trying to re-invent myself.
GB: What “saying” or mantra touches you and keeps you focused when everything is upside down around you?
CT: “You can’t steal my joy because you didn’t give it to me”
GB: Absolutely love it. For anyone who has never heard of you what can you tell them about yourself?
CT: I would tell them to just listen to my music. It says a lot about me and what I’m all about. I would tell them that I’m just pure in regards to music. No gimmicks, no games, just MUSIC.
GB: How can fans and newbies learning about you for the first time keep in touch with you?
CT: Well I’m horrible with Twitter so I can say my Facebook page right now until my website is up and running. Youtube is a great way as well. My channel is youtube.com/cristiantyler.
GB: And to wrap up, For anyone who wants to book you for a show or an event what is the protocol for making it happen?
CT: Usually my email (email@example.com) or Facebook. I haven’t done shows a lot because I’m doing a lot of writing and hook singing right now. That’s my focus. At this point I release music just to stay relevant. My passion is creating music for other people right now.
GB: Awesome! Thank you Cristian this has been so much fun and we have learned a ton about you and your music objective. For anyone out here who don’t know what’s happenin’, they will know, now that you set the record straight. We will update our Readers as soon as we know about your site’s grand opening 🙂 Much Success to you and your endeavors and don’t be a stranger. Meet back up with us again. Much Love.
Check out “THE TYLER EFFECT” from Cristian’s Hot New Hip Hop mixtape: