How It All Started: Fairlane Talks Upbringing and Emergence Into the Electronic Music Scene
"Fairlane was a very spur of the moment thing."
"Fairlane was a very spur of the moment thing."
Canadian electronic producer Fairlane has been musical for most of his life.
At a very young age, his parents had him enrolled in piano classes, where he first got a taste of music and performing. Unfortunately, it was a bitter memory, as Fairlane recalls making a minor mistake during a piano recital when he was 10 years old.
"I vowed to never perform music again," he tells EDM.com.
Eventually, Fairlane got over that mishap and went on to play in a band. However, there was one small problem: he did not know how to read sheet music. "I’ve always learned everything by ear," he explained. "I had the same problem with piano. I would just practice and memorize it and so I froze up when I went to read music because I was unable to read the music."
As time went on, Fairlane learned how to play the guitar and that's been his main instrument for a while—that and piano, all playing by ear. "Sheet music makes sense to me, but I find it tells you what to do and I don’t like being told what to do," he laughs.
Fairlane caught up with EDM.com to talk about his emergence into the EDM scene and the lessons he's learned along the way, both personally and professionally.
EDM.com: How did you get your start in the music industry?
I started out playing in bands. That was my first introduction to performing and playing shows. I’ve always been a perfectionist when it comes to music though. I had a very hard time when I was in that band setting because I never thought we were ready [to perform]. When we would register for the battle of the bands, or if a local artist wanted to take us on tour, I was always like, "No, we are not ready yet. We need more practice." Then my bandmates got a little fed up and said, "Okay, you can go and do your own thing." So that’s what I did. I went on to University and I got a job as a DJ on the weekends. That was my first introduction to electronic music and seeing what DJing was like and it noodled from there.
Right after I graduated, I wasn’t able to get a job because the economy in Calgary wasn’t so good. I had a degree in Economics and Finance and I couldn’t use it, so I moved to Vancouver and started a DJ duo with a friend of mine. He was well connected in the city there so he was able to get us local gigs. Then, it just progressed from there. Music’s always been something that I’ve loved, I never imagined it as a career path, so it certainly came as a surprise.
In 2015, Monstercat hosted a mix contest, and my friend was working there as A&R at the time and he told me that I should enter. I knew some of the Monstercat staff and I didn’t want there to be any nepotism or bias and so I created a completely anonymous alias: Buttons. My friend was wearing a button-up shirt at the time and so I was like, "Okay, I’ll be Buttons."
When they went to reach out to my email they were like, "Hey you’ve won the contest, where are you and we will send you your winnings." I then responded and said, "Hey it’s actually Tyler, that’s so cool that I’ve won!" He then said, "Wow, I was actually hoping that it would be somebody that I knew or could trust because I am actually looking to hire a FT staff member to help me with the radio show." That’s how I got my job at Monstercat and I worked with them for almost three years.
It’s always tough when you’re trying to release music through labels with friends or however it comes about because you don’t want there to be that perception from the public that you somehow cheated your way into a position that other people might want or that other people might deserve more than you. Thats always been my mindset.
I haven’t released a record with [Monstercat] until this year, despite having known them for the last five years. They’ve expressed interest but I said, "Truly, I want it to be organic, I want you guys to hear the demo and wholeheartedly as a team, collectively agree that this demo is worth signing and go from there." Not because "Tyler is our friend" or "We’ve known him and we will throw him a bone." I like to pride myself on remaining integral.
EDM.com: Can you tell us about your Fairlane alias? How did it come about?
Fairlane was a very spur of the moment thing. I am good friends with Vanic—who is also based out of Vancouver—and he was doing a small Western Canada run where he was playing Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, and then Vancouver and Victoria. As I was going through a tough time in my life, he asked if I wanted to come with him and his friends on his tour stint and just work remotely with Monstercat.
When I got to the first venue he was like, "Surprise, you’re going to open for me… I hope you brought your USB sticks." At that time I didn’t have a DJ project or anything and so he said, "Okay, you’ve got 10 minutes to figure one out before they announce you on stage." We were brainstorming ideas and eventually I was like, "Well I grew up on Fairlane Avenue, what if I just did Fairlane?"
EDM.com: Take us back to when you released your first original song, “Uncover You.” What was that like?
It was overwhelming because I had spent so much time up until then helping other people with their releases. I just had to help get the song to the finish line and then once it was out I was no longer concerned about it. Whereas, when this one came out everything fell on to me. It was a totally different side of the music industry that I hadn’t seen before.
I was so so happy with how well it rolled out and the fanbase that reached out afterwards was so authentic and they still support me to this day. I've got my day ones.
EDM.com: What advice would you give to yourself back then, knowing what you know now?
Read over contracts. Nothing bad has happened, but there has been some deal points where my royalty statements were less than I expected it to be because they would come back saying, "Oh, well you agreed to a vocal fee of X." You’re just so green and so eager in the beginning to just get the song out that you don’t realize what cost comes out.
Enjoy the process. I was in such a hurry to compare myself to other people and to try to prove something to myself and others. I really feel that I should have just slowed down and enjoyed where I was at. I see that with so many young artists now, like Moore Kismet, I love to see how grateful and excited they are. I wish I allowed myself to enjoy that part more.
EDM.com: Your music is often infused with raw emotion and beautiful messages. Have you always been such an open person?
I’d say I had to grow into it. In my late teens and early twenties I was definitely not the same person. I was a lot more closed off and that would cause a lot of issues because I wouldn’t communicate very well—whether with my friends or my partners at the time. I’ve really changed in that sense because I like to create that openness and dialogue.
It’s just a point of transparency and I found that when people don’t open up enough they unintentionally create issues. Tension can get created when there is a lack of communication and distancing. The world is just so much easier when you’re able to communicate and explain where you are coming from. That’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing through music and now that’s translated into my personal relationships as well.
EDM.com: This past year and a half has been tough on everyone. What were you doing to keep motivated and inspired?
I detached quite a bit for the first while. I was out in Germany for a three week vacation—it was meant to be—and then I just started dating my now girlfriend. We were in a small town in the south of Germany, right near the boarder of France. I had allowed the world to slow down. That breather really allowed me to take a step back and reassess where I was going with my project and what I wanted to do with it.
The break resulted in great things, like reaching out to SLANDER with a demo which turned into “Hurts Sometimes,” then another COVID project with William Black. All of these things came from giving my mind a break and taking a step back. Realizing that there’s nothing you can do, you’re not going to change the world by getting angry. It was an important time to get my mind right and reassess.
EDM.com: How was your return to the stage? Can you walk us through the emotions?
I was terrified. Just because it had been a year and a half since I had been on stage. To come back to a sold-out Pallidium show as well with ARMNHRM was huge. I’d never even seen the room before, and I don’t think I quite grasped what it was going to be like.
I was also now switching over to a complete live set. I connected with Trevor from Said The Sky and asked him how he controls his live gigs so that you can play piano and drums and have it all be very autonomous. He walked me through the way he built his Ableton set—I did a very similar thing. I ditched the CDJs and began doing everything in Ableton, playing a lot more guitar, more drums and working on implementing keys. I felt so in tune.
From there, Fairlane went on to play shows in Denver, Minneapolis, and Las Vegas for Insomniac's inaugural Lost In Dreams Festival, among others. "So much for the 10-year-old-kid that swore he would never play again," his dad teased. "You've certainly gone the other way."
You can catch Fairlane at one of his upcoming shows below.
Dec 3 - San Francisco - Dreamworld Charity Music Festival
Dec 4 - Vancouver - Celebrities with Mitis
Dec 11 - Minneapolis - The Armory with ILLENIUM