Tyra grew up with her mom, dad, and sister in Petersburg, Virginia. As children, I spent countless hours in Tyra’s backyard, not only because she was a great friend, but she also was the only kid that had a paved basketball court in her backyard! Tyra and I have known each other for a long time. What I admired about Tyra as a kid, and still do today, is that Tyra has always been exceptionally talented in multiple areas and she has never been afraid to be herself. Before Universal Records and Warner Bros were calling, Ty’s father was managing the singing group comprised of her, her sister, and friend. Tyra began dominating talent shows at the age of 11 and never looked back.
We connected for lunch in Atlanta at a local spot called The Real Chow Baby. We embraced with a dap and warm hug. It’d been years! We spent the first half hour catching up on family and bringing each other up to date on past and current projects. It was funny that neither one of us had forgotten our 4th grade teacher Mrs. Marshall at Walnut Hill Elem. As 28 year olds, there aren’t many friends you can go back 20 years with. #Nostalgic. Our custom built entreés arrived at the table. Tyra says “So lets get down to this #ShineHard Conversation…”
What’s your Passion?
When did you know music was your Passion?
Tyra: I was nine years old. 4th grade writing class with Mrs. Marshall. I wrote my first song. I told my parents I was going to start a music career and I’m not sure if they believed me. But soon after I started doing Talent Shows and as soon as I stepped on stage I knew this was it. I was in Love.
Who did you look up to as a kid?
Tyra: Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, TLC. I’m a Performer.
So are the Talent Shows where your entertainer journey began?
Tyra: Yes! I did them all! Any time I had opportunity to perform I took it. Anywhere in the city I would sign up to do it. It got to the point where they wouldn’t let me compete in shows anymore because I kept winning. They were calling me to perform as a special guest.
What was your most memorable moment of your career?
Tyra: September, 2004. The day I signed. Was probably the best day of my life. At the time I was 19 working at Blockbuster. I was working towards a goal. The only real goal I had at that time and I finally achieved that goal! It was a family affair and I had my attorney with me. It got emotional *laughs*
So who would you say discovered you?
Tyra: I attribute a lot of why I got signed to DJ Lonnie B. He saw me performing at the special guest at a high school talent show. After that they start playing one of my records on the radio. Him and Danja Mouf sent me a few tracks. I had already written Country Boys. They sent it off to the labels.
So once you were signed where did you go from there?
Tyra: I went on tour with Destiny’s Child. For real, meeting Beyonce might have to be my most memorable experience *Laughs*. Yeah, that was like the biggest moment ever. We were in route to Houston. Made small talk. Bey didn’t really say much, Michelle and Kelly did allllll the talking.
Is the music industry as cutthroat as people say it is?
Tyra: At 19 I was young and a bit naive. I thought, you know, I would just sing the songs, make it big, and make all this money. That wasn’t the case at all. I didn’t know there were so many wolves within the industry. I got taken advantage of because I wasn’t protected by the right people. It’s so vital to have a good team around you.
That’s 100! What’s been the biggest adversity in your career thus far?
Tyra: I got caught up doing what I was told to do. I’m thinking, “These guys have done it before.” Not saying they didn’t have my best interest at heart, they just had their own interests ahead of mine. I’ve been openly gay since I was 16, so I knew there was gonna be some changes. I knew that there was no artists out there that were openly gay. Even at a young age I knew it was taboo to be gay.
It was to the point where they had me walking around Beverly Center mall with a purse, trying to get me used to wearing it. It was very uncomfortable. It was a very depressive phase. This was about 2005. I was afraid to go outside and someone recognize me and say, “Oh she’s gay!”
Everyone has a breaking point. How did you respond to all this??
Tyra: As I got older I got more comfortable with myself and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I can’t be somebody that I’m not. I won’t pretend anymore. I ended up telling my label, “Listen, I’m Gay, and I’m sure you already knew this,” because I had never told them upfront.
Creatively we weren’t seeing eye to eye. They wanted me to do a different style of music. Trendy pop records. I love those records, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I got out of my paperwork in 2012. They didn’t want to let me go. They were offering me tracks, studio time, checks. They offered me everything except the direction I wanted to go. But me, I’m just not willing to do anything for money.
I took a stand in what I believed in and suffered from it financially. But it’s for the better because i’m an independent artist and my fans are amazing.
Dope. That support is a motivator and a blessing. So whats the next project we can look forward to?
Tyra: I’m releasing a project this year called “Show me something Amazing.” What that means is that whenever we’re facing adversity we always look for someone or something to believe in. Something that will “Show us something Amazing.” That faith that things will turn out right. Going to be a very positive project. I’m more concerned with getting my story out there. The world is changing, I’m interested in inspiring someone who looks like me. The “You can do this too!”
So what advice do you have for the up and coming artists in the music industry?
Tyra: Never let anybody try to change you, Stick to your guns, and don’t let people tell you what you can’t do.
What is the #1 factor behind all your success?
Tyra: Persistence. I learned that if you commit yourself to something you can make it happen. I’ve never been so passionate about one thing in my life. Performing is the one thing I’ve dreamt about since I was younger and never deviated away from it. I feel like God put me here for a reason. Its to be on stage, to spread my message, and to make people feel good. I’m ready to take it to the next level. I’m thinking about signing another deal soon. But whoever I sign with they have to know that I’m gonna be myself. TyraB.
Johnny: All we can do is be who we are. Love you Ty. Shine On. #ShineHard