Originally published by Heart Eyes Magazine.
If you haven’t spent significant time in Lynchburg, VA you probably haven’t heard of Great Health. But you will soon if Tyler James keeps his current trajectory.
Full-time graphic designer and Great Health headman Tyler James is a man of many talents and many creative outlets. When he’s not channeling his creative energy into design work, he’s creating music with image-heavy lyrics and emo-indie melodies that will draw you in.
I had the opportunity to speak with Tyler regarding Great Health’s newest single “Lazarus” and the future of his music career.
HEM: Great Health is fairly new, considering your first single was released in 2017. How did the band form? What’s your backstory?
TJ: The band formed in early 2017 as I started playing with musicians around the area of Lynchburg. It led to our first few solo and full band shows (shout out to the Dino Den and Conbon’s Garage!), which was able to eventually lead to a string of bar shows and Lynchstock.
HEM: Congratulations on the success you’ve experienced with “Lazarus”! Let’s talk about that song a bit.. What initially inspired the song?
TJ: Thank you so much! So I’ve had the lyrics to Lazarus for forever, like since high-school forever. My band in high school struggled a lot in our local music scene because we couldn’t really climb or get shows at places we wanted to play. The song is essentially about being upset at how cliquey that scene was. It really carried over well to my music project now, but the lyrics are more passively about doing everything to follow your dreams.
HEM: Your lyrics are quite poetic and fit the emo-indie genre really well. Can you explain how you identify with the lyrics and what you hope listeners will get out of “Lazarus”?
TJ: Yeah! I definitely try to write lyrics in a way that is mysterious, but also pushes emotion. I try to use hyperbole when writing lyrics, or heavily exaggerated meanings to induce emotion. I connect with lyrics like these because everyone gets upset when things don’t work out for them, and I hope listeners can connect with that too. I wrote the last verse about a week before we went into the studio and I think it sums up my meaning for the song. “Here’s to hoping this goes better than before everything else I’ve authored.” Everyone wants to succeed, which is really what this song is about.
HEM: “Lazarus” is the first release from a new EP coming up. When can we expect the full release? Any hints on a name?
TJ: The drop for the full EP will be in late January! We will be releasing our next single, “Seatbelt” before then too. To be honest I am not sure what I am naming it yet or I would definitely tell you haha. The EP will probably end up being named Great Health.
HEM: In 2017 you released “Stitches” which has a bit of a different sound compared to “Lazarus”. How would you describe your growth as a band since that first release?
TJ: I would definitely pin the growth as the widening of my music taste. When “Stitches” was released I absolutely loved pop-punk, lived for it! But now I am finding myself listening more and more to indie, folk, and singer-songwriters. I feel like the emo songwriting still shines through, but with a much more expanded instrumentation.
HEM: Both “Stitches” and “Lazarus” use biblical imagery in unexpected ways. What is the significance of this in your songwriting?
TJ: I grew up in a very Christian household, which also makes for some great imagery. There is two different people named Lazarus in the Bible, and I remember the story of Lazarus laying outside the rich man’s gate resonating with me in a powerful way. I’m using this situation as an extreme exaggeration when compared to my own.
HEM: You’re starting out in Lynchburg, Virginia. Not quite a music hub, but I know that it’s growing. How has this environment affected your ability to gain a following?
TJ: I love Lynchburg’s music scene. It’s so welcoming. This environment cultivates a very positive place for musicians to get their music out there. People are so willing to promote shows, or buy merch even if they don’t know you. It started with my friends coming to shows (they had to right?), and then word spreading through creating music and playing more venues. The hard part is getting your music expanded beyond Lynchburg, which I’ve been trying to do as much as possible with online promotion.
HEM: How have other musicians in the area been an encouragement to you as you find your place in the industry?
TJ: Blake Gederburg and Nick Sheetz from Speakertree have given so much support with advice, photography, and even booking nationally known artists to our small town. Nathan Wyatt and Peter Paine recorded the demos that would eventually become the EP. And especially all of the coffee shops, bars, and school-wide events that allow musicians to play and host shows. I really find all the work these people and places put in really make playing music in Lynchburg rewarding.
HEM: Although Lynchburg is not considered a music hub, it is fairly saturated with indie bands. How do you set yourself apart from the others?
TJ: For me, everything comes down to good songwriting. I work my hardest on lyrics and progressions and melodies. I hope that people find what I create to be quality and resonating enough to enjoy. I do my best to create music that I enjoy.
HEM: What do you do when you’re not making music? Is Great Health a side hustle?
TJ: When I’m not making music I love to read, design, or be very cheap and go to the dollar theater. Graphic Design is my career and I love doing that too. Open to looking for cheap new hobbies.
HEM: What is your next move as a band? What can we expect from you in the future?
TJ: The next move is always uncertain! We are dropping our full EP in January, and then are extremely excited to open up for Foxing in early February (tickets on sale now!!). I recently moved to Brooklyn, NY and plan on getting invested in the music scene here. I definitely want to keep pushing Great Health up here as hard as I can.
With his passion for music and his creative instincts, Tyler James and Great Health have incredible potential. I look forward to hearing how the move from Virginia to New York changes Tyler personally and musically. I have a feeling he will be even more inspired and energized. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see him tour with the greats someday.