Tyler Sloan has never liked any of the jobs he’s had.
“As far as outside jobs, I've never found something that wasn't completely miserable,” Sloan said.
That’s because his dream is to one day make music his job, and anything that comes in the way of that dream becoming a reality is a problem.
The dream started with a $50 guitar, a gift from his grandfather. Sloan was a fan of music as long as he can remember, but once armed with the instrument that would change his life, he took action, teaching himself how to play guitar and how to sing.
Then Sloan taught himself how to write music, writing his first song around age 15. Over 10 years and 300 songs later, he hasn’t looked back.
“I've just written compulsively over the years and it almost feels like you have some kind of responsibility,” Sloan said. “When you feel like, 'maybe I could write a song right now,' you almost feel like you have to or else it'll go away and that's what's kind of driven me over the years. Whenever I feel a little bit of inspiration it's kind of like the planets line up, like 'this is my chance.'
Having learned to play guitar, sing and write songs in short order, next Sloan had to learn how to combine those talents into an on-stage performance. There he faced his biggest obstacle yet: stagefright.
“When I was young, I was afraid to get in the front of the class or do anything like that, so that was a hurdle too,” Sloan said. “I decided just to play as much as I could on stage until I wasn't nervous anymore.”
Throwing himself directly into the fire, Sloan became a regular at The Crimson Moon during their weekly open mic nights to help overcome that fear and practice performing on stage.
“Tyler is a very talented guy and one of my favorite performers at the regular open mic nights at The Crimson Moon,” Jacob Elliott, who hosts The Crimson Moon open mic nights, stated. “He always puts on a great show and entertains the crowd with both covers and original material.”
Sloan takes pride in his simple approach to performing, facing the crowd with nothing to hide behind except his guitar and his musical talent.
“Doing it with just an acoustic guitar is a little more rewarding when it pays off like that, when people want you to come play and they want you to come back,” he said. “I always liked the guys that could just do it like that, they didn't need anything to hide behind. That's the route I wanted to go, I wanted to get good at that because I feel like you can always add something but you can't always take it away.”
Sloan slowly became more and more comfortable on stage in front of the crowds. Then he made a decision that would impact the way he thought about music forever.
After playing down the idea for weeks every time someone brought it up, Sloan was at a party when one of his friends talked him into auditioning for American Idol.
“This guy told me at the party, 'hey it's like tomorrow, dog. You got to go down there.' And I was a little drunk and I was like 'O.K. I'm going to do it,'” he said.
The next day, Sloan took his $50 guitar to the auditions and waited his turn. Next thing he knew, the Murrayville native was on a plane for the first time in his life, headed for Hollywood.
"I think that played into my progression because before then, I didn't think I could sing, and after that I had to take myself seriously as a singer,” he said. “Because a lot of those auditions were a cappella, I couldn't play my guitar."
Not only did his Golden Ticket change the way he felt about himself as a musician, but his time on the show also revealed that the music industry was real and could be a profitable way of life.
"There is money there, I believe that,” Sloan said. “I think that one day I might be able to make some money doing it, so I'm going to keep trying."
With the new mindset, Sloan doubled-down on his dream and continued working toward making it a reality. This meant more self-teaching.
“I learned how to record out of necessity,” he said. “I was literally recording on a Rockband mic, like the video game, and it sounded like crap, right out of the gate that I had to mix it well, I had to write a good song or else it was going to sound terrible. I learned how to mix and produce out of necessity. I'm proud of that.”
Sloan produced his first album Sea Meets Shore in 2018 from his bedroom, helping him realize that his dream of getting his music out into the world, despite his humble beginnings, was very obtainable.
“I got so caught up at the beginning thinking I needed a record label or I needed management or something, but I was doing it right all along: just make music,” he said. “If you can figure out how to do it yourself, you don't owe anyone any money. You get to keep all the money. It's just more rewarding, if you can just carve a path by yourself, then nobody can tell you no. Nobody can stop you, you just do what you want.”
Now, Sloan is doing just that. Last month, he released his first live album, Live from Southern Fried Vinyl, where he played a show from a Cleveland record store. Both his albums are available on Spotify. He hopes to have two more albums out by the end of this year.
Sloan has also graduated from doing just open mic shows to now occasionally headlining at The Crimson Moon.
“Growing up, it would've been crazy to have a headliner at Crimson [Moon] for me,” he said. “I don't feel like they just give those away. My young self would be very proud of me at this point. When you kind of work your way up and you see all the steps, it doesn't feel like a sudden arrival. If I can just take a second to look back, it's very cool to be able to play somewhere like Crimson. I kind of got over my stage fright on this stage at open mics.”
Sloan says that getting the opportunity to come back and play a headlining set on the stage in his hometown that gave him his start is a special experience.
“It gives you that perspective of how far you've come,” he said. “If you come back to a place you've played a lot and you remember playing shows that were terrible, you remember playing shows where you were so nervous that you couldn't get through the show, forgetting lyrics and stuff, that doesn't happen to me anymore because I've done it so many times. Coming back to a familiar stage and feeling like you did pretty well, I think it's special in that way, to feel like you've come a little further than the last time you played it.”
And while he’s already come a long way, Sloan has no interest in stopping now. It’s just about finding the next step.
“It's been nice, I'm going to keep pushing,” he said. “I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be. I've come to the place now where I feel like I can write a song and I feel like I'm getting to where I can record it now, at home, the way I want, on a competitive level, which is hard to do, especially when you're broke. I feel like I'm now at the step of I just need to get some exposure. I'm able to write the songs, I'm able to record them and release them. I just need to find creative ways, because I don't have much money, to get people to listen. If I could just play for crowds and people like the music and I can pay my bills, that's the dream.”
Tyler Sloan has never liked any of the jobs he’s had.