Street performing is a way of life for Tyler Faraday, who makes his living busking in Europe. He spoke to LINE HILTON about the joys of singing in the street.
Spanish singer-songwriter Tyler Faraday is on a mission: to spend a year on the road, earning his keep through street performing. He’s eight months into his busking adventure and has thus far gigged in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Germany, albeit with a short interlude to compete in Portugal’s version of The Voice.
Ironically Faraday initially saw himself as a guitarist; for years he only sang in private as he was self-conscious about his high-pitched voice. This all changed when he found the courage to sing at a jam session one night and the audience was wowed by his distinctive vocals.
Intent on becoming a singer-songwriter, Faraday worked as an engineer by day and gigged in his spare time until he saved enough money to pack in his day job. After studying jazz singing, he bought a van and embarked on a year-long street performing road-trip.
When did you start street performing?
About eight years ago when I moved to Lisbon. It took me a couple of months to figure it all out, but I learnt to love it. The energy on the streets is amazing. When people stop to listen to you, it’s because they choose to, not because they’re in a restaurant eating or a bar drinking. It’s a beautiful experience. My best performing experiences have been on the street.
How do you gauge what repertoire works?
The most important thing is to sing songs that you love. If you don’t connect with the song, people will pick up on that. It’s also best to choose famous songs – new hits or classics, that you change in some way.
Are there any downsides?
You’re limited as to where you can play without getting fined. The hardest part is managing the space with other artists. Sometimes it gets aggressive.
What are your street performing tips?
Firstly, invest in some good equipment. If your sound is bad, and your mic and speakers are poor quality, it’s going to turn people off. It’s better to play without any amplification than to play with bad equipment. It’s not kind on the ears.
Secondly, play with heart. Don’t just play for tourists. Some people who are working the streets treat it purely as a business. They have a structure, they are organised, but there is no creativity. When you put too much focus on the money, it loses the essence, the magic.
How has busking helped you as a performer?
Street performing is intense training. When you play with a band, you rehearse a lot and know what’s going to happen. When you play on the streets, anything can happen. You also experience more rejection. You might play for 20 minutes and no one stops. It’s humbling. Then again you might keep playing and 20 minutes later 60 people are watching you and filming you. It’s empowering. Some people have preconceptions about street performing – that people playing music in the streets are not really musicians – but if your relationship with music is healthy and you go there with love, people will appreciate it. They will give you beautiful feedback.
Why is your voice so high?
I think it’s because when I was a kid my mum always sang when she was cooking and cleaning at home. Her high-pitched singing was my main point of reference for voice.
When I was younger, I felt like my voice sounded too feminine and wasn’t good enough. But now I love voices where you’re not sure if it’s a man or a woman singing, artists like Prince and Adam Levine. I have a powerful female side, that I accept and like. Females were a big influence in my life and I’m thankful for that.
You appeared on The Voice Portugal and made it to the third round. How did you find the experience?
I’m proud of my participation with the programme. They let me use my own arrangements and play my guitar. Everything that happened was what I was expected. Television is about characters not music. There’s nothing wrong with appearing on those shows just don’t take it too personally.
What are your goals?
I want to experience one year performing and living in the van and experience all the seasons. In the summer it’s easy, but in the winter it’s hard. It gets cold at night. I’m also going to record an EP with new harmonies inspired by what I learnt at jazz school.