The past two years have been a rollercoaster ride for Tryzdin Grubbs, a singing wunderkind from Ohio whose soulful vocals have made him a YouTube sensation and a recording artist. His career is only in its infancy but already he is expressing a voice with purpose.
He’s gone from belting out Adele numbers at home to notching up 3.4 million hits on YouTube with his version of Hello and providing lead vocals for UK band Saint Mars’ upcoming album.
There have been dark moments too: years of sustained bullying that only ended when he opted to be home-schooled. Which leads us to Somewhere Somebody, the first single off Celesteville, Saint Mars’ forthcoming concept album about bullying. The song is a brooding meditation on isolation and loneliness brimming with emotion thanks to Tryzdin’s lead vocals.
The album is based on the true story of a 13-year-old boy’s tragic experiences of being bullied and interestingly Tryzdin’s involvement came long after the theme was established.
Saint Mars’ Marc Darcange initially handpicked Tryzdin to provide vocals on one song on the record after decided he wanted a boy to lend authenticity to the recording.
It wasn’t until Darcange flew to Columbus to record with Tryzdin, then 12, that he learned the youngster had been bullied too. The parallels between the young vocalist and the boy who inspired the album were startling and Tryzdin went on to provide vocals on six tracks on the album.
On recording Somewhere Somebody Tryzdin says: “It was really easy to identify with the song and to sing it with the right emotion and intensity. The lyrics reminded me of myself so much, and of my own experience with bullying.
“Since the song has been released, I’ve received a lot of messages from people telling me how touched they were by the song and how it reflected certain aspects of their lives. This song provides a coping method for those who have suffered bullying.”
Tryzdin admits it was intimidating stepping into the studio with professional musos – Darcange’s bandmates are guitarist Angelo Bruschini (Massive Attack, Blue Aeroplanes) and bassist and keyboardist Jason X (Transposer).
“I felt nervous at the start because I didn’t know what it would be like,” he says. “The first sessions were quite hard for me as I was more used to live performance and singing one song after another. Suddenly I was in an environment where I had to sing the same song part over and over again.
“It was really demanding but it helped me develop my skills. It taught me to humble and disciplined and to persevere.”
The band also adapted the way they worked to accommodate their young collaborator.
Darcange says: “Tryzdin often asked me during a take ‘Is that it? Am I doing good?’. Most of the time, I had to reply ‘No, we need more takes’. It was impossible to make a session last more than 30 to 45 minutes, because he would lose his focus (he was only 12 at that time). So we would take regular breaks and do something totally different, like walking outside or going to the mall. We both enjoyed the experience and this hybrid way of working.
“The thing about Tryzdin is at only 13 he can already sing with an intensity that is out of reach for most adults, including myself. But his talent has some side effects – he gives himself so much to the music and the songs he sings. I can tell by listening to his takes when his voice is tired. He needs to find a proper way of sparing himself and not driving himself too hard all the time.”
This is something Tryzdin acknowledges himself. He says: “I had some serious vocal problems when I was 12. It was really painful to sing. I tend to sing with intensity, so for me every session is a challenge and my voice can get tired easily. I have to know myself, learn to manage my voice and get proper rest between the takes and performance.”
Saint Mars is currently putting the finishing touches on Celesteville, due out later this year. Tryzdin plans to release his first solo EP later this year.