BWW Interview: Tyler Conroy Talks TYLER CONROY'S VERY BROADWAY BAE CHRISTMAS at Feinstein's/54 Below
Get out your ugly sweaters, and get ready to kick off the holiday season with a night full of Christmas classics and musical theatre magic.
After a sold out show last year, Tyler Conroy will once again be bringing his "Broadway Baes" to the Feinstein's/54 Below stage on December 1st, for "Tyler Conroy's Very Broadway Bae Christmas." This year's installment will feature your favorite holiday songs along with a special "RENT" themed twist, and as always, Conroy's upbeat and dynamic energy to spread some serious Christmas cheer.
After a busy year of performing and planning, Tyler Conroy chatted with Broadwayworld about his upcoming show, finally releasing his own music and the pressures of being a regular performer at one of the city's top cabaret venues.
First of all, congrats on your new album! The last time I spoke with you, you had recently taped your performance and were trying to get it published. How does it feel to finally have your music out there in such a permanent way?
Thank you! I feel like I've turned a page and can go forward now with what I want to do. This chapter of my life is out there for people to listen to, finally, like I've been holding onto these songs, some of them, for years, just because I wanted to wait till I felt like the time was right to release these songs, and I was like you know what? If I don't do it now I'm never gonna do it, because these stories are becoming irrelevant to my life as I'm experiencing so many new things. I needed to release this so that I could start to talk about this current chapter of my life.
On the album you include the interludes of dialogue between songs, and you described it on twitter as a "podcast style" album, can you elaborate on what that means to you?
I just love connecting to music when an artist lets you in and takes you on the journey with them. Those are the kind of live shows I've always loved, and that's why I love Taylor Swift concerts, because that's what she did from such an early age. Her concerts became almost like a broadway show, because she would talk about what headspace she was at when she wrote the song, or what moment in her life the song was about. I think that's what people relate to, and that's why I relate to her. So that's what I wanted to do, and that's kind of how my shows are in general. I didn't want to put the album out and have it just be the songs, because that wasn't me. I like to kind of explain "This is why I wrote it," or "This is what its about," or "This is about that dumb boy that didn't get the hint that I had a huge crush on them." And I wanted to say, "If anybody else feels that, here's a song for you."
That actually did remind me a lot of Taylor Swift. I know you look up to her a great deal, how much has she influenced you as both a songwriter and a performer?
She is like my playbook, my bible, when it comes to performance art. There's performance art when you have a script and are becoming a character, but then there's performance art when it's your story, and things that you wrote from your life. And if you want the audience to connect with the way you felt when you were writing the song, or the way you feel when you perform that song, you kind of have to get them in that moment with you. I think Taylor Swift has always successfully done that when she performs live, and that is such a cool thing. I always admired her for it, and I always thought, "If I ever get the chance to perform or make art, that's exactly how I want to do it."
What kind of effect do you hope to have on people with your music?
What I think is really cool, is that in my performances, and on this album, I talk a lot about being a gay man. I have some people that will ask "Why do you always talk about being gay? People know you're gay." And I'm like yeah, but maybe that boy in the midwest who is stumbling across my album has no idea who I am, is closeted and has no idea what he's feeling, will listen to this and think "Oh my god, it's okay to expressively talk about crushing on boys. It's okay to express yourself in whatever way makes you happy, as long as as its not putting anybody else at risk or in danger." I just want people feeling like they can do whatever they want to do. Like Cady Heron said, "The limit does not exist." If you have something you love to do, a lot of the times we're too scared to do it because were so passionate about it that we don't want to mess it up, because as human beings we have a tendency to be perfectionists. For me, I know that it's not gonna be the best thing I'll ever do, and I know that the next thing I do will always be better, but it's just this lesson of "forward is forward." Don't compare your journey to anybody else's. I just want people to feel instilled with some sort of energy that makes them feel like they can do things that make them happy.
Between your album and all of these performances, you've accomplished so much. I feel as though every goal you set always gets seen through to the end. Are there times when you've not gotten the things that you want? How do you move on from there?
Something that really terrifies me, is that sometimes when I have these great ideas, these greats songs I want to write, and videos I want to make, I just don't do it. It comes to a point where it's been so long since I thought of it, that I really can't physically do it because the moment has passed. There was a music video that I made to a Taylor Swift song back in 2016, that I've never released because I've just never edited the footage together, and now it's been so long that if I were to post it, it would just feel weird. I get disappointed in myself, but I also know that it forces me to remember that the next time I get a great idea, to just do it. Things that you don't do haunt you, I feel like, more than the things you actually do and succeed with. So I've been trying to actually follow through with the promises I make to myself.
Now, onto your upcoming Christmas show, which is now your second one at 54 Below! Does the excitement over getting to perform at this venue ever wear off?
No. Every single time I step into that venue, and into that room specifically, I have this moment where I'm kind of like "You're in this room. You used to sit in your bedroom and binge-watch YouTube videos of Ben Frankhauser, Matt Doyle, and Bonnie Milligan, and now you are in this room, and in the league." I have to remind myself that I am here, and here for a reason. I still get nervous as heck every time, because it feels like you just have this one moment, and this one shot to show something you've been working on for weeks. To me, that feeling never gets old, and I'm never not humbled, scared and completely honored to be in that room. Especially when I'm doing shows with other people. It's been funny lately, because I've been doing a lot of shows with actual people on Broadway, or in the business, and they come up to me in the green room and ask what show I'm in. And I'm just like "Um, I actually do all of Yankee Candle's online marketing!" It's been so interesting, and so humbling that they've kind of accepted me as this white-collar worker who also does shows at 54 Below.
What do you like about doing a Christmas show, rather than just a typical one? Is there an extra level of magic that comes from Christmas in the city?
It is everything you said. It is doing a Christmas show, in New York City, which is like the Christmas capital with Rockefeller and the ice rink, and just the feeling and the lights. And it's doing it at an iconic venue like Feinstein's/54 Below, with my dad and the band, and my friends onstage with me doing my most favorite thing, which is singing Christmas songs to spread Christmas cheer. It's just the most beautiful thing; the Christmas season is so warm, and welcoming, and good for your heart. The fact that I get to do all of this in New York City during the Christmas season, literally kicking it off at 54 Below, makes me feel like Buddy the Elf when he's running through that turnstyle. I'm so excited, and truly humbled and honored to do it.
What can we expect from this installment of your "Very Broadway Bae Christmas?
One of the things I'm excited about for this show, is that I felt like an underrated Christmas musical is RENT, because some of the plot takes place during the Christmas season. I also know that not everybody enjoys Christmas music for seventy-five minutes, so I decided to kind of have this be a little "Rentmas" show. So it's going to be half Christmas songs and half songs from RENT. I'm also going to throw in a couple of my original songs, which will be fun, and make them kind of Christmas-y. It's gonna be this combination of musical theatre, Christmas and two of my originals thrown in there. The RENT stuff I'm really excited for. That was kind of the first musical that got me into Broadway; I heard "Seasons of Love" at a concert once, and I was like "What is this song?" I went to see it in movie theaters and was like "Wait, these are things? Singing in movies are a thing?" It was the first show that really, as a teenager, got me excited for what musical theatre was, and it's one of my favorite musicals of all time. So that aspect is going to be really fun.
Is there an amount of pressure that comes with doing similar shows repeatedly, to come up with new ideas and concepts each time, to make sure it stays fresh?
You don't even understand the amount of stress I have from the pressure I feel from this show. I have had to do a lot of heavy breathing, and a lot of long runs through Central Park just to clear my head. It's all self-pressure, because I want to make sure that every time I do this show, I'm not repeating myself too much, and I'm doing something innovative. I'm pushing myself, and challenging myself to do something outside of my comfort zone or outside the box, because I think 54 Below is such a cool venue to just do what you want to do, and to push the envelope. It's where you can take on something as iconic as RENT, throw it into a Christmas concert and make it into storyline. So yeah, it's so much stress, but it's self-stress and self-pressure, because I want to make sure that I'm continually pushing myself as a creator and artist to keep trying new things, which is important.
What are you most excited for this holiday season?
I mean, Santacon is one of my favorite days of the year. It's basically the Christmas version of Halloween, and Halloween is one of my top three favorite days of the year. I've already started watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas music and burning my Christmas Yankee Candles. I'm just excited that this show has kind of made me start the holiday season early. I just really love this time of year. I love the warmth, the food, the friends and the people coming together. Everybody is literally just holly jolly, and wants to spread holiday cheer and be around other positive people, and those are my kind of people.
For tickets and more information visit https://54below.com/events/tyler-conroys-broadway-bae-christmas-2/. Stream Tyler's album on spotify at https://spoti.fi/2Rk7DRo.