There are many lessons to be learned when artists take their show on the road and for The Word Alive front man Tyler “Telle” Smith and percussionist Luke Holland, it has been an education that cannot be taught in a classroom. Together with Tony Pizzuti (guitar/vocals), Zach Hansen (guitar/vocals), and Daniel Shapiro (bass/vocals) they have traveled the world, thrilling audiences with their own brand of genre-defying music.
No label necessary. The Word Alive’s Facebook page lists their music classification as “all genres”. It is the perfect way to describe a band that embraces influences from every category of music. Too often, genre labels serve to pigeonhole artists and limit the creative process. Smith explains, “Once you label a band, and you tell yourself, or everyone tells a band this is what you are, that band is going to feel stuck. It’s going to feel stagnant after a while, because no one wants to do the same thing over, and over, and over again.” Smith delivers vocals encompassing every emotion imaginable in an enthralling blend of styles, proving that genre labelling does not apply. Since The Word Alive embraces music in its entirety, the sound we hear is always fresh, exciting, and relatable.
Nature vs. Nuture. As compelling and complex as a Bartok composition, Holland is, hands down, one of the top drummers in music today. He has distinguished himself for his creative fills, perfect timing, and faultless technique. While Holland is quick to point out that there are drummers with more time and experience than he has, he admits that watching them pushes him to be better and learn more. Holland believes that for him, being a good drummer is a combination of ability and lots of practice. “I was lucky enough to have natural rhythm, my dad was also a drummer, so I was blessed with a natural [proclivity]. But a lot of it is skill too. You hone your craft; I’ve been drumming for eleven or twelve years now.” And it does not end there. Holland continues to discover new and exciting ways that drums do more than keep the beat.
Let it go. During a festival show, Smith found a new way to consider the live performance from the late Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence, who told him, “Every show is a chance to let go of something you’ve been holding on to. You could have the worst day and sometimes, getting on stage, just one show can change your day.” Smith took the advice to heart and found that the approach allows him to be a better frontman for The Word Alive. He says, “I’m not just singing the songs. It’s more than that. It’s like I’m remembering what I was thinking about when I wrote those songs. I’m thinking about the effect those songs have had on my life, or if everything still applies.” By remembering the experience and feelings that went into the song at its inception, Smith is able to share his passion with the audience.
Always do your best. Just like a carpenter cannot build a house without a hammer, a vocalist cannot perform without a voice. Smith received invaluable insight from Shawn Milke of Alesana, who said, “Whether you are at one hundred percent, or seventy percent, or fifty percent, always give one hundred percent of what you have and it will always be enough.” By using what you have instead of worrying over what is missing, Smith is able to focus on the moment and give each audience everything he has.
You are the solution. Smith enjoys a close connection with his fans because he was ‘that kid’ in the audience too. He remembers vividly how difficult growing up can be and how music can smooth the rough edges for young fans. However, Smith has also realized that many of the issues we face come from within ourselves. In the song “Play the Victim”, Smith says “You’re the one who always falls apart/The one who plays the victim/Working on your latest tragedy/When you should want to fix it.” Smith warns that many people get caught up in something that can bring them down, when they could use that to their advantage to learn from it, to grow from it, help someone else, or to be successful in life. He says, “One thing I learned, not that long ago, was that I could sit there. I could sulk and feel sorry for myself. I could feel bad about things, or I can be like, okay, the only person at the end of the day that’s going to get me out of this is me. So, the longer I wait, the only person that’s hurting is me.” Often it takes less time to solve the problem than ruminate over your misfortune, and the best place to start is with your own mindset.
On the road again. The Word Alive is a nonstop touring band. This year, they will be able to spend Thanksgiving at home for the second time in seven years. Another lesson from the road was knowing that they had to take a break now and then to maximize their energy when they are on tour. Smith announced, “Next year we are going to hit it hard again, but we are going to focus on expanding more.” The Word Alive will be playing with different artists, in new venues, and countries that will reach more fans than ever. Signed to Fearless Records, they continue to write new music, on the road and off, and fans can look forward to seeing them early next year.