It seems like this time of year is associated with a kind of short-term nostalgia. With a new year approaching, it’s almost tradition to take a step back and consider the passing year — the triumphs and the disappointments, the bright moments and the sorrows — and perhaps to raise a glass. This year, there are few that can look back on their last tour around the sun with as much clarity as local musician Tyler Kealey. You see, he’s recorded a good deal of it.
Kealey has for the past year been engaged in what he calls his “Song-a-Day Challenge.” That’s exactly as it sounds: Kealey has committed to posting one song per day (in video form) to his YouTube channel for the duration of 2014. Challenge is certainly the keyword in that title. Let’s be clear: these are no self-directed phone camera videos. These are productions. Kealey’s videos have been of decidedly high quality all the way through, and each is an enjoyable watch. And that’s very impressive, considering each video is the product of less than 24 hours of rehearsal, performance, and editing.
Though he’s posted over 340 videos (an estimated 17 hours of footage), he manages to keep it fresh each time. Many of his videos feature collaborations with other local artists. For example, here’s a video of Kealey’s original piece “Following the Full Moonlight” featuring Harmonic Generation:
Kealey began his project on the first day of January 2014. According to Kealey, he began the project to reconnect with what he loves most: music. Kealey is a career musician and, like many in his field, he found himself becoming separated from the joy of creating music itself as he pushed to maintain the financial end of his musical business.
“I was getting tired of being frustrated with music,” said Kealey. “I think it’s not a good sign. If you’re in music, I think the love of music should stay with you. And I think the business side was starting to eat at me a little bit.”
So, near the end of December of last year, Kealey decided to do something about it. He wanted to renew his focus on the music itself.
“I thought, I’m going to start a new page here and try something that just completely celebrates music,” said Kealey. And so the Song-a-Day Challenge was born. Over the past year, Kealey has posted music from artists such as Jonathon Coulton, John Prine, The Beatles, Mumford and Sons, and many others, as well as the occasional original tune, some of which he wrote on the day of recording.
It’s a huge catalogue of music, but one that really stood out to me was his cover of the Pinball Number Count from Sesame Street, which endearingly emulates not only the musical style, but the visual as well.
One of his most popular videos thus far has been this one featuring Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” It was inspired by the sign on Sparks Street that encouraged people to do their best silly walk through an intersection. The video features Kealey on Sparks Street playing while people perform their silliest walk to the music.
“We filmed it, and went home. And then we noticed the next day that the Ottawa Citizen had picked up the story.” Later, CTV would ask Kealey to reproduce the performance for their own coverage and, despite the sign having been stolen, Kealey provided.
Now, with only a few weeks left in the project, Kealey can truly say he has accomplished something impressive. But he wasn’t always sure he was going to make it through the entirety of the 365 videos. As a father and a busy musician, there were times when the Challenge was more of a challenge than he’d have liked.
“The last thing I want to do some days is record a video. I want to have supper, you know (laughs),” he said. “But once I made it over half way, there was no turning back.”
So what will Kealey do when this is all finished? “Oh man, I’m not going to do anything,” he said. “I’m not going to record a song for many days.”