Quick, name a multi-instrumentalist, lyricist, singer, screenwriter, and occasional actor all before reaching two decades on this planet? Did Arizona native Tyler Scruggs come to mind? No, he isn’t related to the late bluegrass great Earle Scruggs. To be more specific he’s 18 and currently living the Northwest. Coming from Arizona, having lived in Lost Angeles, and now living in Oregon, he’s not sure where he’ll be six months from now.
“I would like to go back to L.A., but the Northwest keeps calling my name.” Scruggs said.
He’s on the rise, and if his current achievements at this age are any sort of indicator, he’ll be well on his way in the entertainment world, be it music or filmmaking. As is relatively common, he was part of a band in high school. Now a solo act, Scruggs, tries to write really personal music. His tunes are self-described as funky, as well as part alt-radio rock like The Killers or Phoenix.
His solid sophomore album effort “Concerns” is a look inside his mind and personality, a sort of peek into his innermost workings. The track titles immediately seem lighthearted and fun, with titles like “Ducks in a Row” and “Daisy”. And listening to some of the tracks you definitely get the sense that he is into writing upbeat songs, with the intro to “Summertime” sounding very similar to a retro 8-bit video game theme. He’s a young artist experimenting and playing with all sorts of different things at his disposal, and it shows.
Scruggs explained “One of the issues I have personally with my music is that the music itself is really diverse, like one track is one genre, but the next track is completely different… which is good, but at the same time it’s hard to market.”. And with lyrics about seizing the day and taking full advantage of your youthfulness and vigor for life and excitement it sounds, he says, like the immensely popular Katy Perry songs that populate the “Top-40 Charts” today, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.
“I love Top-40 radio, I listen to it all day long, I could talk about One Direction all day. I’m serious… it’s a different kind of art. I kind of liken indie music and indie film and the Top-40 is blockbusters. If One Direction is the ‘Iron Man 2’ of music, there’s nothing wrong with liking it.” Scruggs said.
But not all his songs and lyrics are as lighthearted as the first track might suggest they are. There’s the upbeat song about enjoying your summer, but on the same album you get a mariachi influenced track, and you even get a solemn ballad asking for the hand of a certain Maria Tomei in marriage. “It’s really important to diversify and grab ideas. There’s never an artist you can never get ideas from or be inspired by.” he said. “. And in other tracks he slips in homages from Stephen King’s novels.
His more romantic tracks don’t seem to have quite the quality and gravity to them, he’s no Pete Townsend or Brian Wilson, but they’re something that you can sway to. They’re catchy tunes, and people tend to enjoy catchy tunes, right? That is unless you demand something more. Will you find whatever that more is? I’m not sure, but you can definitely look, I’m sure he his. His voice is youthful, obviously, and lends itself quite nicely to his youthful tracks.
“My first record, I was very young, so I usually associate those songs with puppy love songs really. Cute sounding, that was one of the big adjectives when I put it out because I sang about robots.” he said.
Scruggs, however, seeks to get away from that and tries to strike a chord with his listeners by incorporating some very familiar messages, particularly about personal image. Coming from someone as young as him, his lyrics try to get across the sense that he’s been in very much the same place as the countless people that could be experiencing those kinds of insecurities. “A lot of [Concerns] is about growing up and getting into the real world in a sense… ‘Ryan Gosling’ comes to mind that has a clear, absolute message about self-identity”
Scruggs’ interests not only lie in music but in film as well. He spends a dedicated portion of his time screenwriting. He’s also noted that some of his heroes, in film and music share a similarity to their influence and success, but couldn’t quite pin it down.
“I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the glasses because it’s like JJ Abrams, Rivers Cuomo, and Elvis Costello, and they all have the same glasses and they’re all my biggest heroes… and oh my god! Woody Allen, it doesn’t stop! ‘Annie Hall’ is one of the most important movies to me” he said.
He is very much interested into breaking into the world of filmmaking. He’s written, produced, directed, and acted in various shorts and music videos. Screenwriting and songwriting isn’t exactly the same, but there are some similarities and shared characteristics. They both involve the elements of what makes a good story. “I love screenwriting, I love the craft. I love creating characters because I feel characters are the top priority in film. That’s who you connect with… going beyond the three-act structure and figuring out what makes the protagonist so interesting.” he said.
He spends his time writing screenplays between booking and performing shows and between writing and record music. But when talking about script he’s working on and hoping to get produced in the future he said “That’s what I’m working on now. I’m recording here and there, I’m writing songs, but this is taking precedence over that which is interesting as a musician that’s booking shows, and playing shows.”
"Let’s forget music and just talk movies man." he laughed when the interview turned into a conversation that haplessly moved from screenwriting to music without warning. As much fun as he is to talk to however, what was supposed to be last a half-hour, at most, turned into a 2-hour long event. I can’t quite remember what came between the beginning and end of the interview, or the beginning if I’m to be honest. But I do remember that he came off as a young guy that’s hungry for adventure. To go out there and to experience what he can, while he can, and to encourage others to do it as well (for the most part). I’m not sure, messages and calls to action can be muddled and misinterpreted.
Amidst all the talk of touching on trying to connect to people through music and talking about film, Tyler Scruggs took a moment to reflect on where he is now which echo what so many people, both on college campuses and communities everywhere.
“I’ve never been handed so much freedom in my life. I’m at this point in my life where I can just hop in my car and go anywhere for as long as I want and come home or not come home. It’s very liberating but at the same time very arresting.” he said.