POSTED ON APRIL 20, 2011:
What Comes Naturally
Tulsa pop movement continues with Ty Mayfield's latest album
Back in early May, I took a look at the young pop movement that has been underway in Tulsa over the past year. While acts like Zeke Duhon, Apollo and Chase Stites are all simmering to the top and more established acts like Stars Go Dim continue to show its younger peers how things are done, we've got even more pop percolating in the background.
One such artist is Ty Mayfield, a Tulsa native and graduate of Metro Christian Academy who has been spending his more recent time in Texas studying music business and furthering his aspiring career as a singer/songwriter.
About a year ago Mayfield released his debut EP, The Curveball, with a show at Cain's Ballroom. Even with a release party at the prestigious honky-tonk, Mayfield continued to fly under the radar as a talent in development.
The disc itself was good, if a bit uneven, indicative of his youth and debut status. A mix of piano pop, rock and ballad material, the five-track disc showed much potential, but a lack of distinct focus. Nearly a year later, Mayfield is back with a follow up and what he considers his proper full length debut, Give Me a Second.
With this release, Mayfield seems to have found his stride. All of the elements are still there, but the overall package is more cohesive and direct. I got a preview of the majority of the disc, but lead single "19 to 2" is a perfect example of what to expect from the disc: soulful piano pop with a rock 'n' roll backbone.
Now 20, Mayfield has been immersed in music the vast majority of his young life. After starting on drums when he was only six and going though his pop-punk and screamo phases as an early teen, he picked up piano his freshman year of high school and his focus changed.
"At that point I kind of said 'I'll pass on the screamo,' and started writing my own songs," Mayfield said.
The big shift came as the musician finally had an instrument he could use to pair words and melody. Amazingly, however, the process didn't come from piano lessons and music theory, but natural intuition.
"With piano, I was self taught," he said. "I was just able to feel out what I was doing and find chord progressions and melodies and stuff. Now that I'm in college studying music business, I get to add music classes to go with it and I'm starting to understand what I'm doing."
Along with music business and theory classes, Mayfield also took a couple semesters of piano lessons, which has changed his approach to the instrument.
"I had to relearn how to play piano," he said, "because I'd never had lessons or learned to read music, so I had to relearn proper technique and how I should play."
Although Mayfield had to relearn technique, that didn't mean he had to unlearn and relearn the compositional process. If anything, it's only given the musician a better understanding of what he's doing and more to draw from.
Ty One On. With Give Me a Second, Ty Mayfield seems to have found his stride. All of the elements are still there, but the overall package is more cohesive and direct. The big shift came as the musician finally had an instrument he could use to pair words and melody.
Composition and arranging have always come naturally to Mayfield, who admitted that even while drumming for a band in junior high and high school, he had a hand in arranging. Even if he couldn't explain things in technical terms, he knew where the separate parts should be and how to structure the songs, oftentimes directing the band during rehearsals as the band wrote or learned new songs.
"I always listened to a lot of music, so when I started playing piano, I thought 'Hey, maybe I can put words and music together with this,'" he remembered. "Playing just made me want to write and sing my own songs."
When asked how the songwriting process works for him, Mayfield admitted that it varies by song. "For '19 to 2,' it started with a verse," he said. "'Give Me a Second' started with a verse and pre-chorus and "Only One" began with the line 'Baby, can't you see' and I thought I've got write something to go with that."
Despite his young age, Mayfield is already well ahead of many of his peers in the songwriting field, but that all comes with practice.
"Like all songwriters, you start out not that great. I think I got through that phase pretty early, though, because I wrote a lot of mediocre songs in high school," he admitted. "It worked for me, though, because I had both things driving me. If something came into my head, I had to write it and get it out. On the other hand, I also wanted to write so I could learn the process and practice and get better at it."
That perspective and level head has undoubtedly helped Mayfield as he has quickly progressed in his writing, even over the past year. Give Me A Minute not only incorporates songwriting influences like Gavin DeGraw and Dave Barnes, but also the pop/rock elements of Rocket Summer and Hanson and touches of the soul of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Not surprisingly, Hanson has become a strong influence in recent years.
"My favorite part is how they (Hanson) incorporate horns and instrumentation but don't overdo anything," he said. "The arrangements feel bare, but all the essentials are there."
On a whole, Mayfield's influences and taste in music run the gamut, from the aforementioned Gavin DeGraw to Ryan Tedder to Michael Buble. Perhaps that's all the better, however, and what gives Mayfield's pop tunes a surprising maturity and well-rounded feel, even though he's only now truly launching his career.
Ty Mayfield's Give Me a Minute was released digitally on April 19 via iTunes and Amazon MP3 and is being supported by a handful of CD release shows where you can get a physical copy of the disc as Mayfield begins the touring process to support his latest project. Being a Tulsa native, Mayfield couldn't kick things off without a hometown show, so the T-Town release party will be this Friday night, April 22 at Bob's (Cain's second stage). Zeke Duhon and Ryan Burton will open the show at 8pm and keep the overall pop movement theme in tact as pair of impressive young songwriters in their own right. Tickets are still available for $10 in advance or $12 at the door.
Even though it may seem at first glance that the local music scene is slowing down, don't kid yourself -- it isn't. This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon and if you're going to get the most out of the shows we've got playing around town, you've got to pace yourself. So if this week seems relatively calm, use it to loosen up, because next week is another uphill climb with a ton of high profile shows and Norman Music Fest for those ready to make the drive for a killer Oklahoma music showcase. That's next week, though. Here are the highlights to get you through until then.
•Thursday, April 21 -- The two biggest shows are on opposite ends of the spectrum. First up, Umphrey's McGee settles in at Cain's Ballroom with Montu opening for the jam band and improv set. Meanwhile, Christian music fans will want to catch top tier worship/rock act David Crowder Band at The Underground/First Baptist with opener Worsham. Other notable gigs include Moai Broadcast for small scale show at Soundpony, William Fitzsimmons with Slow Runner at The Marquee and Wolves with FM Pilots and Arliss Moon at Junkie Live.
•Friday, April 22 -- Of course, there's the Ty Mayfield CD release at Cain's/Bob's to get you started, but you can also catch Brother Gruesome and Chrome Pony at Soundpony, Alex & the Anders at Mercury Lounge, or Jenny Labow at Duke's in Bixby. The classic rock set, however, will head out to The Joint for George Thorogood & the Destroyers.
•Saturday, April 23 -- The Colony is always a safe bet and Travis Fite all but guarantees a night of great tunes when he settles in. Saturday is also punk rock night at Reverb with The Infected, Decomposed, Streetlight Hero, The Senators and The Fetts. If you're looking for something really different and off the hook, though, Deadman Flats brings its bluegrass/thrash-rock hybrid to Mercury Lounge for one heck of a party.
•Monday, April 25 -- The work week kicks off with a couple of interesting shows. Current pop phenomenon Ke$ha finally brings her "Get Sleazy Tour" to town with a show that was postponed, then moved from Cain's Ballroom to Brady Theater and still sold out in short order. The same evening, Beau Jennings and Ryan Lindsey preview some of their new solo material with a fundraiser/benefit show at The Church, with all proceeds and donations funding Jennings' pending film project, dubbed The Verdigris.
•Tuesday, April 26 -- Cain's Ballroom hosts Stereo Skyline with openers Swimming with Dolphins and Since Forever.
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