Creativity and passion are what guided Tyler Cain from a young age to pursue his career in music; one that is still climbing towards its apex after credits on multiple GRAMMY-nominated Albums of the Year.
It can be easy for producers early in their careers to assume landing the opportunities that Tyler did comes down purely to blind, dumb luck. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When Tyler talks about his work on nominated projects, luck has nothing to do with it; it comes down to being more comfortable, both in the studio and with where you’re at in your journey. For the former, Tyler trusts in his reliable KRK V-Series 8 studio monitors to provide comfort with his mixing and his creative process in the studio. But when it comes to feeling comfortable with where he’s at in his journey, well that’s something he battles with every day.
We had a chance to sit down with Tyler and talk about his journey as a producer, advice he has for producers looking to break into the industry, and the benefits of knowing and trusting your gear through and through.
By the end of this interview, you’ll know the answers to some of the questions facing up-and-coming producers and help you avoid many pitfalls that prevent producers from making their best music possible.
Tell Me About Your Background And Your Story And What Led Your Work To Be Nominated For So Many GRAMMYs
When I turned 18, I moved to Nashville which I had always viewed as this sort of magical place. My dream was to get on a tour bus and be in a band and travel around the country. That was always the dream that I had in my mind.
After spending some years in Nashville, I got my foot in the door of the industry by being a guitar player. It got me in the room with producers, artists, and other professionals who needed me to play guitar for their records.
So, it was the guitar that was the vehicle for my career early on, playing all different styles of music for different people.
It was through this that I started falling in love with the process of songwriting and music production. After a while, it got to a point where the guitar was just one color in my musical palette – another piece to the larger picture of the entire production side of my music career. I still love touring, but my passion kind of shifted into songwriting and production because there are a million different ways to produce a song, and that passion for learning the craft of songwriting and the craft of production got me into these different rooms.
Most of these accolades just came from friendships though. Being a producer and a guitar player for so long and being different musical situations, organically led to a lot of the work that I’ve done so far.
What Do Some People Who Dream Of Winning A GRAMMY Get Completely Wrong About The Process?
I think it’s important to be easy on yourself.
A lot of this is trial and error and it’s easy to be hard on yourself when you’re not immediately getting the results you want. We all have this ideal vision of what we want. We put a lot of ourselves into what we do and the music we create, and we all want our songs to be hits or go viral but that doesn’t always happen.
I think the biggest mistake is simply not being present and enjoying the process. If you are focused too much on the end goal and not enjoying the process you can burn yourself out. Music is a long game and you really need to be aware of your mental health. You need to watch your creativity and guard your magic.
Scroll to Continue
It’s easy, especially here in Nashville, to compare yourself to your peers. You watch your friends who are killing it but you need to watch out for comparing yourself to that and having it kill your momentum and creativity.
It’s important to just take it day by day. I struggle with this myself a lot too; I think all creatives do. I think a lot of it comes down to being inspired by competition and not being intimidated by it. It’s also important to stay open-minded and be inspired by all types of music.
Just last year I worked on reggae music and it was the first record in that style of music that I had gotten a call to work on. Never in a million years would I have assumed I would get a call to work on a reggae record. But that record was nominated as the Best Reggae Album of the Year. It was one of those things where I just decided that I was going to show up and be a student of the genre and see what I could confidently bring to the situation, and the universe kind of just brought me to where I belong…
Why Is It Important Not To Pigeonhole Yourself As A Producer And Make Music In As Many Genres As You Have?
I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t claim to be an expert in any specific genre. I have a hard time putting myself into any box. I consider myself a student of all music; I love everything from country and folk to EDM, and hip-hop. There’s stuff you can learn from all of it.
The common thread throughout my early career was the guitar. It was the value that I could provide in a lot of situations. Being a guitarist in a hip-hop session is way different than say, a country song where you play the entire song and control the narrative of the track through a single take. It all comes down to having situational awareness about what music you’re making and the people you’re making it with. I’ve walked into hip-hop sessions where I play a single lick on my guitar and that five seconds of music turns into the backbone of the entire track.
It is all about having situational awareness and adapting to what you want or what you’re working on at the time.
What Have You Learned Through Producing One Genre That’s Opened Up Creative Doors In Another?
It’s incredibly important to know how things sound and knowing how to use your gear. This is probably the single most important thing you can do; knowing your room and your gear is that important.
I have my KRK monitors here that I love and I trust them through and through. This level of comfort with your gear is a game-changer because when you have artists come into your studio, you need to be comfortable if you want good things to come out of that session. You need to be aware of this because music and creativity are more than just the notes you’re playing. Knowing your equipment like I know my KRK’s is incredibly important.
You bring your energy into the room with you and you need to be sure you’re in control of that; you want to be positive and creative.
Make sure that you’re someone people want in the room and that you’re providing value when you’re there whatever that value may be.
What Is The Hardest Genre Of Music To Produce?
If it’s too hard, I don’t do it…
I’ve decided that if it’s too hard, I will only chase it down if I really believe in the song or the idea. But if it’s too hard and I’m beating my head against the wall I’ll walk away from it.
What Is The Easiest Genre To Produce?
I would be lying if I said music was that easy.
But when it comes to the commercial music that you hear on the radio, there are certain production components that people are used to hearing. Once you study music for as long as I have, you realize there is a blueprint for certain styles. I’ve been in Nashville for so long, twenty years at this point, that these blueprints are ingrained in my brain. The real fun is incorporating elements of different genres together and always continuing to search for something new.