Happy APAHM 2022 / Tyler Shaw Interview
Happy APAHM 2022, friends :) This year has been much busier due to work picking back up and also because of some unexpected health issues, so I had to limit the number of people I reached out to and only selected a handful incredible AAPI Musicians to interview. I hope everyone has been having a wonderful, music-filled year thus far and appreciate y'all who have been tagging the @aapimusicians Instagram account and watching our stories!
The interview questions for this year are almost the same as last year's, except that I've shortened the interview a little bit. Without further ado, let's dive into our very first interview of APAHM 2022! While Tyler is Asian Canadian and not Asian American, I figured "AAPI" could be used in a broader "North American" Asian diaspora sense in his case; I found out about our interviewee Tyler through the amazing Taku Hirano (AAPI Musicians' APAHM Class of 2021).
1. What is your name and your profession(s)?
My name is Tyler Shaw and I am a recording artist, songwriter, music producer and actor.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship?
My ethnic background is Half Chinese, 1/4 Polish and 1/4 Ukrainian. I was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry?
My mother (and her side of the family) has always played music, not professionally, but as a pastime and at family gatherings. She is a piano teacher as well. A lot of my family is involved in the arts specifically, including my older brother Matthew who is an actor.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies.
Growing up in Coquitlam, BC as a half Asian kid was confusing. To put it simply, I was not “white enough” for the Caucasians kids, nor was I “Chinese enough” for the Chinese kids. I was stuck in an identity crisis with no one who entirely resembled me or who I could relate to. I had leaned into the White culture because of how I saw my Chinese peers being treated; bullied. At a young age it seemed easier to try to fit in that it did to stand out in any way.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)?
It wasn't until my early 20's where I had taken a trip with my father to Hong Kong, to learn more about my Chinese heritage and culture. I immediately found a piece of me over there that was missing for most of my adolescence and I fell in love with the fashion, the culture, the family traditions and the spirituality, but especially I fell even more in love with the food.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)?
I got into music by picking up a guitar and teaching myself how to play at the age of 13. I played talent shows and open mic nights around where I grew up and kept doing that until I graduated highschool. I applied to the music program at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada, but they rejected me. I pursued university on a soccer scholarship and I decided to take Sociology as a focus of study. I ended up winning a national singing competition and that was really what kick started my career with my first single Kiss Goodnight quickly climbing the radio charts.
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now?
It was the success of winning that singing competition that made me feel like I was good enough to pursue music as a career professionally because the competition was based entirely on fan voting. My family and friends were always and still are unwaveringly supportive and believe in me when I don't believe in myself. (Yes, that still happens!)
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse.
I'm proud of all my work. I find that I'm most proud of what my most recent release is, but when I reflect back on the success of my past projects I'm extremely proud of the work and effort I have put into my career. I've written 99% of my own songs, I've co-produced 2 out of 3 of my albums with a 4th on the way! I’ve grown as a songwriter, as a performer and as an artist by throwing myself into new, challenging situations in the industry. I’ve been really fortunate in recent years to work with some incredible brands and partners and I think one of the coolest moments was working with a telecommunications company for a launch of a new mobile network in Canada that allowed me to become a hologram inside of their flagship store. Both strange and exciting to see yourself as a hologram!
8. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry or in general?
It's hard to say because if I think back on opportunities that my peers (all white individuals) have gotten that I have yet to get, I can't help but think, "Is it because I'm not fully white?" I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when opportunity after opportunity comes and goes, it's hard to avoid thinking that. The only pay off is that it makes you want to prove something, and work harder. I’ve also been asked many times to remove my Chinese given name from marketing and promotional materials because it sends the “wrong message”. That’s always been a point of frustration. There isn’t one distinct “Chinese sound” so I’ve never understood why my actual name would be misleading. I’ve personally found that when I lean into my culture and Chinese heritage through my art that my audience reacts and engages even stronger, in a positive way.
9. 9a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why?
Alex Porat, Eric Nam, Bruno Mars to name a few. Seeing talented AAPI artists makes me so happy and gives me the courage to be myself and be proud of my heritage through life and the music.
9b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general?
I hope that the AAPI music community, and the community in general, can really rally and support one another.
10. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.
Soccer is a big passion of mine. I played it all throughout my childhood into my teens and university. It’s where I spend time when I need a break from music. I love spending time with my family at home and cooking as well. In recent years, I became a big fan and connoisseur, so to speak, of whiskey so whiskey tasting is a hobby of mine.
11. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community?
Explore and show your culture. Don't be afraid to embrace and be proud of it!
Support Tyler online :)
Spotify: Tyler Shaw
Images courtesy of Tyler Shaw & management