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Avant Guardians

By Leticia Gonzales

Channeling demons

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West grad Tyler Herwig uses personal pain to write memorable music

Photos courtesy Tyler Herwig

While Mankato native Tyler Herwig grew up singing in many church choirs, his journey to becoming a musician didn’t really begin until his teen years.

“It was until I was 13 years old and my brother’s best friend passed away that I started to see music as a way to let my emotions out in a very healthy and constructive way,” said Herwig, who is now 28.

Shortly after the loss, he wrote his first song, “Miss You,” dedicated to his brother’s friend.

“That song has carried me very far in my career,” he said, having just performed at a recent funeral.

Herwig, who graduated from Mankato West High School, began picking up other instruments when he was 16. He learned how to play the guitar by watching YouTube videos and got his first gig when he was 16 after a woman heard him practicing out of the trunk of his car. She asked him to perform at her wedding, which jump-started his performing opportunities.

Although he didn’t seek out new gigs, his musical skills were noticed when he was singing at his sister’s wedding at Chankaska Creek Winery in Kasota in 2012. The events coordinator asked him to come back and sing live music not long after. It was then that he started to see he could make money and pursue a career in music.

“I always had this idea in my head that someone was going to find me,” said Herwig, who acknowledged it takes more than that to make it in the music industry.

After high school, he made an attempt to study vocal opera performance at Bethel University in St. Paul.

“It wasn’t until my third year of trying to get that degree that a professor told me that maybe I wasn’t a very talented opera singer and maybe music should be a fallback career for me or more of just a hobby.”

He went on to study nursing at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul for three years before switching yet again to biochemistry for a possible career in medicine. He graduated in 2017 with a health sciences pre-degree.

“I struggled to find a way to balance my passion for music and my nerdiness for science and some of my dorky quirks.”

After college, he found himself bouncing from job to job, trying to figure out where he belonged. Herwig was also struggling with alcohol and chemical addiction, which he said almost caused him to lose everything many times throughout his life. But that all changed more than two years ago when he had a wake-up call.

“I had kind of my moment where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I let those emotions finally “I struggled to find a way to balance my passion for music and my nerdiness for science and some of my dory quirks.” — Tyler Herwig

flow through my music,” Herwig said. “And since doing that, not only have I maintained sobriety, but I have had my music career develop and take off in this whole new, very unique way.”

While Herwig has continued to perform at Chankaska since his first gig there, his music has expanded to other wineries and venues over the years, such as the Mankato Brewery and the Circle Inn Bar. He describes his style as a mix between Ed Sheeran and Adam Levine, using acoustic guitar and vocals.

“I do a lot of looping and vocals that kind of creates my own sound that fits in a lot of different categories.”

Now living in Eden Prairie, Herwig also performs at other venues around the state. The Minnesota Music

Coalition invited him to play at the Mall of America, which helped him gain national attention.

He recently signed a record deal with SSM records from Nashville where he will co-write a song with them. He is also working on putting together a full band so he can expand to larger festivals and events.

He continues to use his struggles with addiction to inspire his music, which he said provides a unique way for him to tap into his past experiences and those feelings where he was at his lowest and his highest.

“Once I kind of got the hang of how to influence and sway a crowd, and then people started responding to music I was writing, countless doors have opened,” he said. “Most of the live music venues that I want to play at in the state, I get to play at, which is an honor and privilege.”

Herwig will perform this month at Rockin’ on the Hill at Loyola on July 16 and Circle Inn Bar on July 20. Visit tylerherwigmusic.com for additional performances.

Herwig recently signed a deal with a recording company in Nashville to write songs.

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