Writing about your life is never an easy thing to do. Especially when you get to those extremely emotional parts that are either going to make people uncomfortable, or it’ll make them feel as close as they can to you. When it comes to the words written for Tyson Motsenbocker’s latest Letters to Lost Loves, they can only bring you closer to this singer-songwriter. We talked a bit about the album, where he calls home, his touching new single, “In Your Name,” and more.
Kendra: When it comes to music scenes, where does your heart lay – San Diego or Washington?
Tyson Motsenbocker: A few years ago a friend of mine in the music business in California told me, “Tyson, you live in San Diego but you play music with people from Washington and you play there more often and you know those bands and those people better, we want you to be from San Diego.” So the next day I went and bought a Padres hat. “I’m from here now,” I told him.
I think growing up in Washington, I identify culturally with the people there. The way people go about making art in Washington makes more sense to me. In my experience people in Washington State are trying to make things that are new and beautiful and interesting. People in California seem to be trying to “make it” first, which in my experience means a lot of copy pasting. There are tons and tons of exceptions in both cases, but I think the definition of success is apparent in both worlds. Now, I’ve lived in San Diego longer than I’ve lived in any city. It’s unequivocally my home and a place I feel loyal to. I think I want to be present in San Diego, and put my heart there too.
Kendra: Keeping with the music and matters of the heart, “In Your Name” is quite the powerful song. Were you ever worried that performing a song such as on a tour night after night would get to you, or is it healing to perform this one?
Tyson: It’s a hard song to sing. I knew it would be. It’s not healing really – except that I think I can see other people being healed by it, or at least justified in the realization that they aren’t alone. For a while I was opening with that song, which was a pretty Hail Mary of a move. I have found that audiences mimic the behavior of the person on stage, most notably, if I am comfortable then the whole room feels comfortable. I tried it out with this song, if I am open and vulnerable, will the people in the room drop their guards? I found that they almost always do, and that part is healing, that people don’t really want to hurt each other, and don’t like it when people are hurting.
Kendra: You noted it didn’t take long for you to pen that one. Have you written a song as fast since?
Tyson: I can’t say I have.
Kendra: Did you pour as much of your personal life into the rest of your albums Letters to Lost Loves?
Tyson: I have always been an autobiographical lyricist. I think that in the past some of the things I’ve written were very clearly written for myself and the people directly involved in the thing I was singing about. When my mom got sick for instance, I wrote a record called Until it Lands, which is painfully specific. I think with this record I was trying to reach outward from my own experience, instead of inward. Maybe that’s the difference.
Kendra: Are you playing any shows as the year wraps up?
Tyson: I just finished one of my favorite tours ever called the West Coast Ghost tour. I’ll probably be laying pretty low for the fall working on some new music.
Kendra: Instead of a letter, if you had to make a mixtape for your lost loves – what five songs would have to be on it?
Tyson: Great question. Five songs? Right at this moment probably these:
Helios – “Halving the Compass”
Dawes – “Less than Five Miles Away”
Leon Bridges – “River”
Willie Nelson – “The Maker”
Pedro the Lion – “Backwoods Nation“