Meet the phenomenal Tyler Russell! Tyler is an author, screenwriter, and music artist who’s out to take the world by storm by letting God use him in a myriad of ways. Very passionate about life and his work for God, Tyler released a Christmas single in 2016, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (find on apple & spotify), and a pop single this August, 2018, Now or Never (read the TBAP review here), written with fellow artist and friend, Zandy Fitzgerald of The New Respects, and took some time to talk to TBAP about it, as well as his story of faith, family, writing, and his take on life in general. Take a look!
Miranda ~ Hello Tyler! Delighted to have you visit TBAP today! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you for having me. I am a west coast boy, born in LA and raised north of Portland, OR. I now live in Nashville, Tennessee. I am one of six children; three of my siblings were adopted from Haiti in 2000. I earned my BFA in Theatre from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN. After college, I began to write a lot as I continued to work for my Mom’s company. She is #1 NYT Bestselling Author, Karen Kingsbury. I have adapted several of her books into screenplays, and I sold my first screenplay last year. It was a Hallmark Christmas Movie called Maggie’s Christmas Miracle. I am also currently working on my first book series, The Baxter Family Children (co-written with my mom). Book One, Best Family Ever, will release in February 2019.
Miranda ~ Is there a special story on how you became a Christian? Would love to hear it!
I was raised in a Christian home to parents who found their own relationship with Jesus in their 20s. We were at church on Sundays and in the Bible throughout the week. I’m really thankful for such amazing parents who knew the importance of teaching us the Truth, and letting us figure it out on our own. My relationship with Christ is very personal. I realized how necessary it was in High School where there were ample opportunities to choose darkness or light. I chose light, which can be lonely at times. But every season since, I have held on to my faith and chased the light. I know I need to be in the Word and prayer every day. And I rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me in all I do. To be filled with the Spirit and be empowered from Him is essential to walking in Holiness in 2018. I simply am no good without Him.
Miranda ~ When did music become a part of your life and, at what point did you decide to go professional?
Tyler: Whether I was making up songs as a kid, or doing theater, or singing in church, music has always been part of my life in some way. I grew up learning piano, and that became a helpful tool as I began to song-write in High School where I also learned guitar. I knew I always wanted to do music in some capacity. And I have had seasons where I pursued it, but the door never opened. I knew it was God saying, “Not yet.” And I always said that I would be patient and wait for the right time. And this feels like the right time. He has orchestrated so much of this and opened doors to work with the right people. So, I am just taking steps forward as He leads.
Miranda ~ In describing the dream that God has laid on your heart, where do you see God taking you?
Tyler: I just want to be used. That has always been my prayer.
I have so many passions and interests, and I hope to be able to do all of them at some point in my life. But most of all, I want to bring glory to Jesus and lead people to Him. I want the things that I make, write, sing, and say to touch people and make them think or feel something. And I want to be a person who brings light into the world. I really want to step out of God’s way and let Him work. My ‘YES’ is on the table for Him. So I will go where He leads and do what He says, and hopefully keep using the gifts He has given me along the way.
Miranda ~ You’re clearly passionate about your faith. What, however, led you to choose mainstream as opposed to Christian?
Tyler: It’s an interesting question, and it’s one that comes up often. It’s also something I ask myself a lot. Now or Never was something that I loved writing and it’s a song that I love to perform. It has this infectious energy to it, it makes you want to dance and smile. It felt like the perfect song to lead out with. I know that there is power in bringing light into the world, especially in such crazy times like we are in now. But Now or Never is one side of me. It’s one thing I want to say. I think that as more music is released, people will see the other sides of me. I write worship songs. I write things about my faith. But I also have songs about my heart, and about my life. Heartbreak, friendship, family, fun… these are all part of anyone’s life. They make up who I am. And these songs come from God. I know there are messages in these songs that need to be heard. So I hope that my music doesn’t just reach one audience, I hope that the message reaches whoever needs it in that moment.
Miranda ~ Now or Never is mainstream but deeply inspirational. What inspired the writing/music/tone? What would you say is your guiding principle when writing a song?
Tyler: Now or Never was written with my friend of over ten years, Zandy Fitzgerald. She is in the group, The New Respects, whose debut album, Before the Sun Goes Down (read the TBAP review here) was released the same day as Now or Never – Go get it. It’s amazing! She and I got together for a writing session and, after discussing how often songwriters write sad, heavy songs, we decided to go for something fun, something we would listen to on a road trip, and a song that we would want to dance to. Something that made you want to roll your windows down and just have a good time. We both rely heavily on our faith, and we understand the importance of knowing that tomorrow may not be there. It isn’t promised. All we have is today. So, we liked the idea of choosing joy and committing to live in the moment. And within an hour or so, most of the song was finished. Then I took it to the incredibly talented Eric Arjes. He produced this track and helped bring it to life. He really is a genius. He understood my vision and helped make it even better.
Miranda ~ Since you’re just starting out in the music business, how would you describe navigating it so far? Is it anything like you thought it would be? How is it different than what you thought?
Tyler: I have learned a lot about the music business throughout the last few years. Something I am learning is that you have to know what you want. You have to know what you want to say. No one can make that decision for you. And if someone does, it will not ring true. And you will come across as being disingenuous. You have to know what you want, and as a Christian, you have to know where God is calling you. Too many opinions may sway you one way or the other. But if God said it, then you move. So much goes into music these days. Not only do you need to put in the work, writing, working on an instrument, vocal lessons. You need to find the right producers or musicians to play on the track. There is social media and marketing the song. And then, once it’s been released, you need to brace for the feedback which really requires thick skin. The music business is all about being authentic, strong, courageous, and knowing how to market yourself. It’s not done without putting in some very hard work, especially as an independent artist.
Miranda ~ Who are the people who’ve inspired you the most professionally and generally in life?
Tyler: My parents definitely inspire me personally. They have such strong faith and have used their platforms and vocations as ways to glorify Christ. They teach me a lot about joy and humility every day. They teach me what it means to be selfless and serve others. They are a huge inspiration to me and make me want to be better all the time. Musically or professionally, I would say in one way or another, whether from a place of songwriting, marketing, resilience, life story, or passion for Jesus, some of the inspirational people for me are (in no particular order) Pastor Steven Furtick (From Elevation Church) and Michael Todd (From Transformation Church). I listen to these Pastors’ podcasts regularly. Musically, I am inspired by so many artists, but I like Need-To-Breathe, Carole King, Ben Rector, Jeremy Camp, Taylor Swift, John Mayer, Phil Wickham. The Worship Director at my church, Dwan Hill, is an amazing songwriter, musician, and man of God. He raises the bar for me in so many ways and displays what it means to be someone who is thriving and working in the music industry without compromise. He puts ministry and family first. Period. He sets himself apart. And that is hugely inspirational.
Miranda ~ What are you most grateful for at this moment and generally?
I am so grateful for my family. Family can be tough sometimes. There are ups and downs and seasons where people go off and do their own thing. But at the end of the day, family is family. And we only get one chance with our family. So, I am grateful to have mine. I am so thankful for my health. I am thankful for Jesus in my life, and the friendship and Sonship I have with Him. I am so blessed to have the freedom where I live to be able to worship Him freely and study the Bible. And I am grateful for exciting adventures ahead and the countless songs I have yet to record and release. I hope this is just the beginning.
Miranda ~ Since you’ve already launched onto the music scene, what advice would you offer someone who believes they’ve been called by God into mainstream music and are just starting out?
Tyler: Don’t compromise. You may feel called to mainstream music, but that doesn’t mean that you have to change who you are. Your songs can be about your life, but let your heart be about Christ! Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Stay in the Word. Surround yourself with people who will sharpen you, call you out when you do wrong, and then call you up and encourage you to be better. Be strong and courageous. Step out of the boat and just go for it! Be willing to shift and move as God leads. His plan is better than ours!
THIS or THAT (The Fun Qs!)
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Gym or Outdoor? Outdoor
Sneakers or Boots? Boots
Running or Walking? Running
Cereal or Fruit? Cereal. Always!
Music or Books?
TV or Magazine? TV
Summer or Spring?
Rain or Snow?
Blazer or Leather Jacket? Leather Jacket
About Tyler Russell
Tyler has spent most of his life performing, writing, and singing. He grew up doing theater and acting and began songwriting in high school. He went on to study worship at Liberty University where he toured in a gospel choir. He then moved to Nashville to pursue music and finish his degree, earning his BFA in theater from Lipscomb University. He has toured the country singing and leading worship, sharing the stage with artists like Jeremy Camp, Mandisa, Tremaine Hawkins, and Michael W. Smith. Along with music, Tyler is also a screenwriter and novelist. He is currently working on recording and releasing original music and his debut single, Now or Never, is available now! You can visit Tyler on Twitter at @TyRuss107! Ephesians 3:20