KUTX Artist of the Month is powered by PNC Bank
by Jeff McCord
Austin’s Tyler Murray, who records under the moniker Jedi512, has been making his own music for years [at first as Jedi53], steadily adding to his song catalog, with several videos accompanying his audio tracks, as well. So why, with this library of material, was last July’s Summer Jam the first time he ever performed on stage?
“I was doing rap battles and stuff in high school,” Tyler recalls. “I was a really big fan of Eminem; I could recite any Eminem album back and forth, because I really liked the battle rap culture. It was about being in that world of lyricism, you know what I mean? Back then I was nerd about putting big old words together and trying to be as slick as possible. I remember recording on my girlfriend’s computer and playing the radio next to it, reciting battle rap bars to beats and trying to make it work that way. I always had that passion. I just didn’t have the money to record anything.”
Tyler speaks to me over the phone, a bit nervously at first, spilling out his words as if someone is going to take them away from him. Soon he relaxes, but his flow continues, to the point where minutes go by without me asking a question.
Tyler recalls the first actual song he wrote, in Okinawa Japan, while stationed in the Marines.
“My first check I got in boot camp, I bought my laptop that I still have now. Right before I left, I actually bought it in North Carolina and then there was Garage Band at the time. They didn’t have Auto-Tune programs, but I was really addicted to Kanye West, 808s, and all that stuff. That led me to like recording myself because I didn’t know an engineer or anything like that.”
Tyler would keep at his recording through his time in the Marines, but his military experience also honed another skill of his: cooking.
“My mom was a baker, my dad was a baker and a cook, any barbecue. So almost every single day we were cooking. Since I remember being able to reach over the stove, my mom and dad always encouraged me to be a cook because I was the little fat kid in the house. So when I got recruited, I was a little overweight. And if you know anything about recruiting tactics, they’ll just find you, and get you to the exact job they think you can do. And they made the call to make me a cook.“
Tyler would continue his education at an Austin branch of the famed cooking school Le Cordon Bleu upon leaving the Marines. In addition to his music, these days he sidelines a private catering service he calls Mr. Murray’s Barbecue.
None of this explains why Tyler’s first actual gig happened just weeks ago, though. When Tyler recalls his cooking background, he is referring to his adopted parents. His birth mother died when he was very young, his actual father was out of his life.
“The hardest thing for me to explain to people,” Tyler attempts, “is that my parents adopted me. So the idea of rap music is not something people from the thirties are trying to hear. I was always focused on having money in my pocket. I didn’t take rap seriously to the point of getting myself paid for it. I just always wanted people to know, one, I was talented and two, anybody could do this. I would upload my music, but I was never self-promoting. You’d only ever hear me talking about food. You come here, you’ll see my studio. But I’ve never talked to you about music. I always tried to separate it because I didn’t think it’d be a path for me personally to take, to like, make money. And I had this weird thing about not wanting to take from the culture if I wasn’t serious about it. I can make rap, I can make beats and stuff I produce for guys. But I never wanted to steal from the culture.”
These are complex issues most musicians don’t consider. They just hop on stage and start playing their music. Not Tyler.
“For once in my life I feel like I’m actually able to give back. And I guess that’s why I’m more open to these opportunities now because now I don’t feel like I’m just taking, especially from the city of Austin, I’m very weird about my place in Austin history. A lot of the music I released back then, you could hear the pop culture and not so much of the battle rap. I didn’t even want to put out a bunch of serious music so people wouldn’t take me seriously. They almost look at me like I’m a joke because I’m just a chef. People always be, ‘Oh, flip burgers, bro’. So my path was kind of rough.”
Two moments became watersheds for Tyler.
“I did a podcast that might have actually [driven] me to become Jedi512. That put a chip on my shoulder because a lot of people started saying I was a dude just commenting on the game but not actually participating. In my head, I thought I was participating, but I learned none of that matters, until you hit the stage or you make a hit song. I did study enough to understand that I can do those things. That’s what you see me doing on the internet. I sound like I’m some super righteous guy, but it’s 100% a concerted effort not to do things a certain way.”
And Tyler recently reunited with his biological father.
“I didn’t have daddy issues until January. I met my dad for the first time since I was 12 years old this January. And then he disappeared on me again. I found out I got another little brother. I found out I have a little sister. I was already on my little path these last couple of years. But this year is like a Bobby Boucher type of thing. Like, ‘Oh, you disappear again’. I’ve changed so much since I’ve met that man. And these last couple of months I almost saw my future. It showed me something I honestly didn’t want to be.”
It took a lot to pull Tyler out of his mindset. The trauma of his mother’s death, his early weight issues.
“I joined a gym two years ago. In my head, I was kind of an athlete in the Marine Corps and kind of in shape. But I didn’t understand health as a tool. And now I’m using it the right way. Two years ago, you couldn’t have physically gotten me on stage because I wasn’t even comfortable with how a t-shirt fit. And now I’m walking around with the gym with my shirt off, outside doing my pullups and stuff.”
And slowly, Tyler began to come around.
“Fresh and Confucius, always in the background telling me, ‘Brother, you’re too good to keep being this guy’.”
So in July, at this year’s Summer Jam, Jedi512 took the stage for the first time indoors at Stubb’s.
“You know that feeling you get on your first plane ride?” Tyler asks, trying to recall the experience. ”Like you’re not actually there, you get zoned out because you’re trying to hear the lady on [the intercom], know what I mean? I feel like I was getting on a plane, my body was fast vibrating. And I’m hearing Fresh calling me to the stage. I went deaf and the only thing I could literally hear was Teddy [Teddythelegacy] messing up my adlibs, and me messing up in my head and messing up the lyrics. I just went numb. I could have a heart attack any moment.”
“But I practiced so much that whole month that I knew it was coming up. I practiced [every move] almost every day. I treated that show like a 20-minute recipe. I planned it out like a recipe because I knew if anything messed up, there’s nothing you can change.”
“I went backstage, smoked a couple of times. It never stopped. I didn’t stop feeling weird for a couple of days. It was exciting. It was beautiful. Feeling like my smile was huge. I went to the gym the next day. I had a great time. I really felt like I had like it changed my perspective. I never understood why people say they love performing. I ran away from it for a long time, but I thought it was something else. Even watching my friends, that feeling is a totally different feeling than people looking at you while you’re doing your thing.”
So you’ll be doing this again?
“Oh, for sure.”
Tyler Murrray/Jedi512 – vocals; TEDDYTHELEGACY – DJ
Producer: Deidre Gott; Audio Engineer: Jake Perlman; Rene Chavez; Audio Mix: Jake Pearlman; Cameras: Michael Minasi, Renee Dominguez, Patricia Lim, Edit: Rene Chavez; Host: Fresh