A Star on the RiseMay 01, 2022 ● By Diann Nichols
Grace Tyler is anything but a typical college student.
At an age when most young adults are just beginning to think about a career, she is well on her way to achieving her dream of being a country music star.
“I always knew I wanted to do it,” Tyler, who graduated in 2019 from Frisco’s Wakeland High School, said. “I just always have known that this is what I was meant to do and what I was supposed to do.”
Following graduation, she made the move to Nashville, the capital of country music. Relocating there served two purposes: Tyler has been able to pursue her music career and further her education. The music business major attends classes at Belmont University while also honing her craft.
Initially, 21-year-old Tyler said she wanted to have a more typical college experience at a large university with a great football team. But her talent agent, who is based in Nashville, persuaded her to consider Belmont, which is known internationally for its music business program.
In the music industry, where carving out a career can be highly competitive, Tyler said her agent advised, “’If this is what you want to do, the best chance you have is getting to (Nashville) as quick as possible and working your butt off as soon as possible and making those connections and meeting those people.’ Once I came to visit, I was just sold. I knew this was where I needed to be.“
Although Tyler doesn’t come from a family of musicians, she said there was always music in her home while she was growing up. “I think that's where I started to learn my love for music.”
During her childhood in Frisco, she recalled, “There used to be a place in town called the Varsity Club. On Tuesday nights, they would do kids' karaoke. Every Tuesday night, we'd go there, and my parents were like, ‘You're actually decent and you're actually singing on key. It's not painful to listen to you.’“
Recognizing her talent, Tyler’s parents suggested she take voice lessons. Nevertheless, she insists, “It was always my decision that I wanted to do music. They were my biggest supporters and fans. When I started doing gigs at around 14, my dad learned how to use a sound system because he wanted to be a part of it but wasn't musically inclined. So he learned to run sound for me.”
A few years after she began voice lessons, Tyler took up guitar. According to Dusty Mattsson, her former guitar instructor, she was a natural. “She actually learned to pick up a song within the first couple of lessons,” he said – something that doesn’t typically happen for most music students. “She was playing guitar pretty much within the first month.”
Mattsson, who is now a production manager with Louisiana-based artist management and promotions company RNC Entertainment, is currently touring with rap artist and entertainer Snoop Dogg. Mattsson recalled that Tyler would tell him which song she wanted to learn to play and by the end of a lesson, she would be ready to perform it at her next show.
At age 16, Tyler auditioned for a spot on the hit series American Idol. Unfortunately, “I didn’t make it too far” in the show’s process, but she said, “It was a cool experience and I'm glad I did it. But I'm also glad I didn't make it very far because I was 16 and I still had so much growing to do.”
Part of that growth included playing sports. Like many kids her age, Tyler played soccer and ran track while attending school in Frisco. Although she didn’t know many musicians here, she did know that she wanted to perform music. “That made me different from everybody else. I think American Idol was one of the first times where I was surrounded by a bunch of people who all wanted to do the same thing as me and all had the same dream as me. It was really eye opening and so I learned to work hard.”
Some of that work is in the form of songwriting. Living in Nashville has given Tyler the opportunity to collaborate with several noted songwriters, including singer-songwriter Lee Brice, who scored a hit with his tune Drinking Class. He is producing Tyler’s next two songs.
“When we were in the studio together, we were talking and he said, ‘The cool thing about you, Grace, is when you hear your voice, it's hard to compare you to anybody else. You are your own category, you're in your own box.’ That was such a huge compliment to come from him,” she said of working with Brice.
When it comes to songwriting, she said, “Some days you have all the inspiration in the world and you knock a song out. And some days the words aren't working.”
Penning tunes can be “a very vulnerable thing. One of the biggest things I've learned over the past few years is that I sometimes need to step out of the song and look at it from a different perspective. But there are times when I need to be vulnerable and to expose my heart a little, which can be scary and isn't always fun, but that's how you get good songs. You have to be vulnerable. You have to dig deep. If it's not into your own emotions, then it’s the emotions of somebody else or the life of somebody else.”
Growing up in Texas listening to country music greats, including George Strait, helped Tyler create a sound that she describes as a mix of Miranda Lambert with a Maren Morris vibe and a bit of Carrie Underwood and Faith Hill thrown in.
Despite her current Tennessee address, Tyler said her heart will always be in Texas. “I try to come back as often as I can. I love to try and book shows back home because it gives me an excuse to come back.” She is scheduled to perform June 4 at the Craft Brew & Cue event at Little Elm Park.
Being in Nashville, Tyler said, “You kind of get sucked into the music world and forget how truly blessed you are to be doing this and inspiration can kind of runs dry sometimes. So being able to go back home is like a recharge for the soul.”
Diann Nichols is a freelance writer, a music lover, an armchair traveler and an amateur photographer who never tires of learning something new.