Last year, former Vernon resident Tyler Skyy set out to break a record. The hip hop artist (born Devan Head) wrote, recorded and released a song every week for 56 weeks as part of his SkyLifeSunday project.
What started on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 culminated with a one-year anniversary song and accompanying video released through iTunes, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013.
“That was the first time I had a song on iTunes for sale,” said Skyy, who is now based in Vancouver. “My girlfriend got a celebratory cake made and we had our team at our house to celebrate the big milestone.”
Skyy, who started his hip hop leanings while a student at W.L. Seaton Secondary School in Vernon, has seen such success with his project, he is releasing a new song every week in 2014.
“The hard work is definitely paying off. I just hope to see more improvement this year and a lot more opportunities open up,” he said.
Part of a movement called SkyLife, Skyy, who used to be known as DHead while in Vernon, has put out a variety of songs, a few music videos, and a free album called Safe Travels.
He has also travelled to an isolated community in Manitoba to host a youth event and perform some of his weekly songs for the kids there.
“All of the songs are available for download through my Bandcamp website, and they’re all viewable on my YouTube page,” he said. “It’s been a lot of very hard work, but it’s definitely been worth it.”
Now 20, Skyy was born with a congenital heart defect known as pulmonary artresia and tetralogy of fallow in Prince George. Flown to Vancouver when he was only days old, he underwent four heart surgeries before he was 13.
He and his family lived in the small town of Houston, located in the Central Interior between Burns Lake and Smithers, before coming to Vernon in 2008.
“My dad also has a heart condition, which primarily fuelled our move to Vernon for the better air quality and to be closer to family,” said Skyy. “A lot of my family lives in the Vernon/Kelowna area, so we were back and forth visiting quite a bit before we actually moved to Vernon.”
Skyy’s dad, Arnie Head, is well known as a coach with Greater Vernon Minor Hockey, while his little sister, Samantha Head, is a member of the B.C. under 16 female hockey team.
Skyy wrote his first song after his family’s house was broken into when he was 15. He wrote it over the instrumental from Young Jeezy’s By the Way.
“I was obsessed with that song and for whatever reason I just decided to turn to poetry to vent,” he said. “After that first song, I realized I loved to write and slowly got more and more into it.”
His first recording was using the voice notes option on his BlackBerry.
“I waited till I was home alone and played an instrumental through my computer speakers then rapped into the phone microphone,” he laughed. “It was terrible, but my friends told me it was awesome and I should keep going. If it wasn’t for them, I would have just looked at it as a hobby.”
After that, Skyy, with the help of a friend, installed recording software on his computer and used a rock band microphone to record.
“It was still not the best music, but it was a lot of fun. As everything progressed, I slowly upgraded my gear and got better and better at writing, recording, and mixing,” he said.
Besides finding an audience, one of the hardest things Skyy encountered when he was starting out was coming up with a handle.
“I needed something to go by, so I went with my first initial and my last name (hence DHead). I knew I needed to change it, I just had no idea what to change it to,” he said. “The name Tyler Skyy came after I moved to Vancouver to further pursue my career. I realized I needed something more industry friendly, so to speak.”
The name, he says, has a lot of meaning behind it.
“A few months after I first started making music, myself and a close friend, Tyler, were trying to think of a name for the movement that was behind the music. After tossing ideas back and forth for a little while we came up with SkyLife. When I was trying to think of a new name to go by, I thought of that moment. I felt it was only right to pay homage to him, along with representing our movement.”
The extra “y” came to represent the partnership.
Although he tips his cap to Vernon and all his friends and supporters here for helping him get started, Skyy is also glad to be a part of the hip hop community in Vancouver.
He shares some of those humble beginnings with fellow Seaton alumnus, SonReal (Aaron Hoffman), the Vernon-raised hip hop artist now based in Vancouver who has seen his success soar the past two years with a current tour with Down with Webster, regular rotation on MuchMusic, and a Juno nod last year.
“I got into SonReal’s music when I was in Grade 12 at Seaton,” said Skyy. “I didn’t actually know until after it happened, but apparently the first time he performed was on the same stage as myself, at Seaton. I performed a song with an old friend of mine for the talent show. I’m not too sure what Aaron did for his first time, but when I found out, I thought that was pretty cool.
“The hip hop scene in Vancouver is awesome. It’s so tight knit, almost everybody rides for everybody. Vernon is similar. I mean there are cliques, or styles that artists stick to, but for the most part everyone supports everyone.”
Skyy now works with artists around Canada and the U.S. and has been featured on some artist’s tracks overseas. He has also started a music group called Cloud Bound Entertainment, which represents some Vancouver artists and producers including one from Missouri and another from Florida. His other group, Block Royal, features artists based all over the world.
“My favourite part of this career is meeting so many talented people and having the chance to work with them,” he said.
Besides his many music projects, Skyy also finds time for philanthropic pursuits, notably one that is close to his heart.
He is currently helping Vancouver’s Ronald McDonald House raise money for a new home to house more families whose children are in hospital.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I can benefit people in need through music,” he said. “This year, I want to expand my fan base as much as I can, along with continue improving myself as an artist and learning as much as I can about the industry, while spreading a positive message.”
For more on Tyler Skyy and SkyLifeSunday, visit www.tylerskyy.com.