As far as Brisbane success stories go, they don’t come much bigger than tyDi.
The superstar DJ (born Tyson Illingworth) has made a name for himself on the world stage with his first two albums, Look Closer and Shooting Stars (the latter of which topped charts in Australia, Canada, Finland and the UK). Once a fixture of Brisbane’s scene, he’s been based in Los Angeles since the start of the year.
“It was a very sudden move,” he explains. “I left all of my friends and family behind and made the decision to move to LA in the space of a few weeks. It was pretty quick. It took a while to adjust to the lifestyle of living here. It’s good, though. I just flew back today from a show, and when I got back to LA it felt like home. So it’s becoming more homely, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss Australia. I’m super pumped to go back there and tour.
“I’ve thought about [moving back to Brisbane], but I only just got to LA, so it’s way too early to tell. I mean, who knows what’s going to happen in the future, but right now my tour schedule is crazy. Last weekend I played Taiwan and China. I arrived back in LA on the Tuesday, and then I had a Wednesday show in Canada, a Thursday show in Rochester and a Friday show in Washington, DC.
“Saturday I had the day off, and then last night I was out of town again for a show in Minneapolis. So the tour schedule is crazy while I’m in the States! It’s not possible to tour like that in Australia — you’ve got five or six major markets and then that’s it. After that, you just play the same five cities over and over again and risk oversaturating them.
“But when I collapse from exhaustion, I might consider moving back to Australia!”
You’d expect an act as popular as tyDi to have spawned a slew of imitators in Brisbane, but if they’re out there, the man himself hasn’t seen them.
“It’d be egotistical of me to think that I’ve influenced other acts back in Australia,” he laughs. “It’d be nice to think that, but I don’t know for sure. I’m definitely hearing a lot of talent from Australia, guys like Rufus and Flume are doing incredible work. Really beautiful music, great songwriting and great production. But there’s this wave of s**t music coming from Australia as well. It’s dubbed ‘the Melbourne bounce’, and it’s just extremely dumb music, but it’s huge in Australia, and it’s getting big around the world.
“I’m not taking away from that,” he adds. “People are embracing it because it’s fun. But the problem with it, to me, is that it’s so mainstream that these new kids are coming along without any songwriting ability or any production ability or any kind of talent, and they’re just getting access to software and making really basic songs, and they think that’s all there is to it.
“I’d like to think there are better songwriters out there, and we should inspire people in Australia to be writing music that has a verse, a chorus, a bridge, live string quartets, all the kind of stuff that has a bit of musicality to it. I’m not saying that musicality’s not there, but I’m not hearing enough of it from Australia right now.”
When he lived here, tyDi was twice voted Australia’s top DJ in a popular national poll; he also came in as high as 48 in the global DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll. Today, however, he doesn’t believe these types of polls actually mean anything.
“On the surface, it probably looks really hypocritical for me to say that,” he admits, “because it was only a few years ago that I was campaigning myself to win those polls. I can’t deny that it was a great feeling to be called the number one DJ in Australia, or the number 48 DJ in the world, but it struck me when I looked at the results – I was ranked number 48 in the world and there were guys like Daft Punk below me. That doesn’t add up! That isn’t right!
“It just got to the point where it was less about how popular you really are, and more about how hard you can campaign. I was the same. I was doing that. I was putting out ads, I was begging my fans to vote, and then it just struck me one day, like, ‘This is dumb, I want people to like my music for what I write and what I create, not because of a number in a poll that’s going to change a year later anyway’.
“And it’s quite obvious why these DJ polls exist, if you think about it. A company starts a poll because they want every artist out there promoting their brand. It’s a very genius system. They’ve got every DJ in the world scamming everybody to get votes, therefore promoting their brand. It’s one of those things that does more for the people that run the poll than anyone else.
“Looking back, I don’t know if I really ever was the number one DJ in Australia, or the number 48 DJ in the world. It was great to be ranked highly in those polls, but there were artists around who were certainly more popular than me that didn’t beat me, and that’s purely because I went harder in campaigning.”
tyDi’s third album, ‘Redefined’, is on the way shortly. With the new album come high expectations, a comprehensive Australian homecoming tour, and even a pair of custom tyDi x SOL REPUBLIC headphones (the DJ is one of the company’s ‘Saviours of Sound’ ambassadors). You can win tickets to one of tyDi’s shows and a pair of SOL REPUBLIC headphones here.
“It’s been a natural evolution,” tyDi says of the album. “Moving to LA put me in a spot where I had a lot more connections and hook-ups with people to work with. Every single song on this album, I’ve collaborated or written with a big band or a songwriter. They’re all collabs. Some of these bands are huge bands that play on the Warped tour and sell out shows around America, like Dashboard Confessional, who I was listening to when I was 16. They were an inspiration for me, and now they’re on my album, and I don’t think I’d have opportunities like that if I hadn’t moved to America.”
tyDi plays The Family (8 McLachlan St, Fortitude Valley) on Friday 1 August. Redefined will be released on Tuesday 30 September.