Tyrell Witherspoon is a jack of many trades, a blogger for homorazzi.com, a dancer on the hit CW show Hellcats, an aspiring author and a musician. Hot on the release of his debut EP, Dance with Me, Tyrell emailed his heart for a Q&A with Blitz & Shitz.
Blitz & Shitz: You’re a blogger, a dancer, an actor and now a musician. Why? What does music mean to you?
Tyrell Witherspoon: Well, I’ve been a musician my entire life. I grew up in a religious family going to church every Sunday, so music has always been in my life, whether it was singing in church or watching my dad’s many bands perform onstage. The acting and dancing only really came after high school, which is what really led to my musical-theatre career in Winnipeg. When it comes to blogging, I have to hand that to my fiancé, Patrick, who has helped me get into that. I never expected to add blogging to my resumé, but at this point, it’s been a great release to talk about things that I love to watch, listen to and the like.
As for what music means to me, that’s a really great question. Music has always been a very instrumental (no pun intended) part of my life. In high school, I went through so many tough times, being from a small town, knowing I was gay but staying in the closet and being teased for being a dancer and what not, so music really helped me. There are songs I hear that really trigger specific moments and memories in my life and with my music; I really want to capture that. I try and write songs that are about those moments that need a soundtrack, because in my life, I always have these moments where I am doing something and think, Oh man, there needs to be music playing right now. I think with every song or EP or album I release, it’ll be a true reflection of specific moments I’ve gone through, and I hope other people can relate to that as well.
B&S: Your website biography also says you’re writing a book. You’re quite ambitious. Does your ambition come from a place of virtue or megalomania?
TW: Ha! I don’t think I have a case of megalomania. I am writing a book because I have so many stories and moments in my life that I want to write down to have forever before my brain becomes too old and forgets them. Do I think that someone else will want to read it? I don’t know, but I am sure that someone has experienced or has come close to experiencing the things I have gone through. If it sells four copies or thousands, I just hope the story can touch someone and make them feel like they aren’t the only ones. My book tells the story of love, loss, which came through the death of my mother, and friendship, which is based on a great friendship I’ve built with three men that I will hold dear to my heart for the rest of my life and mean the world to me. It’s the ultimate bromance.
B&S: Who are your inspirations?
TW: One of my biggest inspirations musically is my dad. Growing up, he was in a few bands and worked so hard at music. He performed at so many summer fairs and festivals and had such a blast doing it. It wasn’t about the fame or the money; it was just about doing it because he loved it. I think that philosophy still rings true with me. While I want to pursue music more full-time than he did, I always think back to how it’s not about the fame or the money… it’s about the music and loving what you do. So when I write a song or do a performance, I always make sure that I love every single moment of it. So that way, it stays true to who I am.
Other inspirations are Britney Spears (obviously, lol) and Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. My live show is really a reflection of those influences, when it comes to big dance breaks and visually stunning shows. Production-wise, my influence really comes from newcomers Dev, The Cataracs and Jessie & the ToyBoys. I love that electronic feel and beat with really powerful lyrics.
B&S: As an openly gay man, do you think it’s important to be an openly gay artist?
TW: I absolutely 100 percent think that as a gay man, that should reflect into my music. If I don’t remain openly gay in music, then I am no longer staying true to who I am. My music is an extension of who I am, not an act or a role I try to play. I know there are other male artists out there who are gay and chose not to make that a part of their music, and that is their decision and I respect them for it.
B&S: There are no gay pop idols who have been out from the beginning and have achieved worldwide mainstream success. Do you think the world is ready for someone to fill that spot? What do you think it’ll take for that to happen?
TW: I think that even though Adam Lambert was never openly out during the show, he was the first to really take a stab at it and say, “Hey, I’m gay, but that doesn’t affect my music for mass consumption.” And I think he did a great job of opening that door for people like myself and Peter Breeze. With more and more people coming out of the closet, like Ricky Martin and country singer Chely Wright, I think gay musicians are becoming less taboo. And the more of us that step up and stay strong, it’ll help set the standard to become the norm.
B&S: Who did you work with on your EP Dance with Me, and can you explain your musical process?
TW: Well, the EP all started with my first single, “Letting Go.” I wrote that song around Christmastime last year and spent about three months perfecting it to really harness what my sound would be to go forward. I wrote the music and the lyrics and essentially produced the track on my own. I took it to a few engineers at a recording studio who helped me out with beefing it up, and I recorded the vocals there as well. I took it all in like a sponge, and it was a great learning experience. For my second single, “In Love,” I worked with another friend of mine who produces music and took my music and lyrics and really turned it into what it is now. “Sixteen,” “Dance with Me” and “Show & Tell” are all self-produced by myself, which is something I hold close to me. It was a huge learning curve and was a ton of work, but I am so glad I did it. It’s a huge accomplishment to say that you built the track from scratch and then recorded your own vocals and then mixed it all together and now it’s on iTunes.
B&S: I’m going to ask you the same question I asked fellow Vancouver performer Peter Breeze: Let’s say iPods weren’t in alphabetic order. Which two artists is Tyrell Witherspoon between, and why?
TW: Ooo. That’s a great question. I think I fall somewhere between the new David Guetta album and one of my influences, Jessie & the ToyBoys. I think that my music has the dance element that comes with the new Guetta album and has the electronic indie feel that Jessie Malakouti brings to her sound.
B&S: We have some similarities! We both write on gay blogs, and we both lived in Winnipeg. What is your favourite and least favourite thing about both?
TW: My favourite part about writing for a blog is being able to write about anything that is on my mind. Freedom of expression is so important, and I realized how important when I started writing. The worst part is that it is a lot of work, and with a large voice comes great responsibility and a lot of criticism. But not everyone is going to love you, and you have to have a little bit of a thick skin to hack it. As for Winnipeg, I love my family and friends back home and those warm, dry prairie summers. I have some of my best memories there involving those two things, so I miss that every now and again. The worst thing about Winnipeg is that damn winter. It’s unbearable. That I do not miss.
B&S: Woody Allen said, “Talent is luck. The most important thing in life is courage.” What gives you the courage to put yourself out there?
TW: This is a great question. I think what gives me courage to continue doing what I am doing is to prove my resilience, if you will. I am a firm believer in going after your dreams and doing what makes you happy. I know there are a lot of kids and teens out there with dreams, and I want to show them that you can do it; you just have to believe in yourself and work really hard. Nothing in my life has ever been handed to me, and I have had to persevere a lot to get here, and I have way more work ahead of me still. I think that I’ve done a good job of surrounding myself with like-minded individuals who also are super goal-oriented and positive thinkers, and that has been really important to me because when you need support, there is always someone there to lift you back up again or vice versa. My family is also so supportive and encouraging, which I am really fortunate to have. They give me the courage every day to continue doing what I do.
B&S: Where can people find your music?
TW: People can listen to my EP on SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/tyrellwitherspoon, and to purchase, it is available on iTunes, amazon.com and Spotify worldwide. You can also check me out on Facebook (facebook.com/tyrellwitherspoonmusic) and at my official website (tyrellwitherspoon.com).
Check out Tyrell’s performance of “Show & Tell” at Oasis: