Q&A: Tai Verdes on returning to live performances, TikTok and positivity

By Carolina Garibay

You may be familiar with hit songs “Stuck In The Middle” and “A-O-K,” which gained millions of plays on TikTok, but how well do you know their creator Tai Verdes? We got to know the rising star at Lollapalooza, where he performed twice on Saturday. He spoke with buzz about returning to Chicago, the power of TikTok and the importance of a positive outlook.

buzz: Have you been to Chicago before?

Tai Verdes: I used to live in Chicago for a minute. I lived in Chicago for six years in this place called St. Charles, and I left because my family moved, but yeah, I love Chicago.

buzz: Well, welcome back! How does it feel to be performing in the city?

TV: I don’t know. This whole thing, it’s like a fever dream, honestly. I don’t even know how any of this is happening, so when I see all the people, you know converging, no mask, everything I’ve done –– it’s been imaginary. So now I’m seeing people in person like you’re interviewing me in person right now.

buzz: Is that overwhelming or scary for you at all?

TV: I mean, I think that it’s really cool that everyone has come together to make something like this, but I don’t really get intimidated by lots of people.

buzz: So, you started off practicing in your car, right? And then now there are 100,000 people here. So, how does that feel to just go from you and your voice in your car to now all of these people watching you?

TV: Well, I’ve always had illusions of grandeur, you know what I’m saying? In everything that I do, I think, “Oh, a lot of people are gonna see this,” so eventually, I guess, I’ve been preparing for this for a while but, you know, having the physical people actually here is crazy.

buzz: So your debut album “TV” came out, and it’s a super upbeat, feel-good album, as far as sonically. I’m curious if that sound is something that you had in mind or if that kind of just happened as you were making it.

TV: I mean, I’m just telling stories. So the whole thing is a story, and whatever that episode is, is that episode. And I just want people to feel what I feel. If it’s feel-good, it’s feel-good. If it’s not feel-good, it’s not feel-good. Yeah, I’m honestly doing the music for me, so whatever happened to me is going to happen in the music.

buzz: And then sort of preparing for this festival, what did that look like in terms of rehearsing?

TV: I had a week of rehearsal, and then after the week of rehearsal, it was basically just, I don’t know, the flight, getting to the hotel, but because I write everything, it’s super easy for me to remember a lot of the stuff, so I’m not really worried about lyrics or anything like that, but I think that’s kind of an advantage. But we just locked in the tracks, locked in the band, locked in all the talking points in the show. I just can’t wait to talk to a bunch of people at the same time. That’s something that not a lot of people get to do, so I’m excited about that.

buzz: Yeah, there’s a lot of planning and logistics, right? I didn’t realize the mechanics of everything that has to go into a show.

TV: Yeah, the little robot voice that goes into your ears? No one told me about that s— until I started f—— doing this, so now I’m doing it, so it’s great.

buzz: I do want to talk about TikTok a little bit. So, I know you’ve said in the past that TikTok is kind of like buying a lottery ticket. And so obviously, you kind of won that lottery and with your song “Stuck In The Middle.” So what do you think it is about that song that made you win that lottery ticket?

TV: I don’t know. I think it’s super relatable, you know? It’s not just relatable, but it’s also something that happened to me verbatim, and I think people can sense the authenticity of that. So, as long as you’re authentic, your chances of winning the lottery go up.

buzz: What was it kind of like seeing that take off on TikTok, like this unconventional way of spreading your music?

TV: I just had never had that much positive feedback before. So just getting in that space was like, wasn’t overwhelming because I’ve kind of been preparing for this. I’ve been on every single other social media trying to grow. So, you keep going through those social media, maybe not making it has helped me handle TikTok, essentially.

buzz: So, in the past, you auditioned for The Voice and American Idol.

TV: Yeah, and America’s Got Talent –– I did all of them.

buzz: And you said you just didn’t make it on any of them?

TV: No, I didn’t even get past the first one. I was trash, well it wasn’t that I was trash. The lyrics were because I’ve always been like a lyricist, but it’s about the singing, you know? It’s about the singing, having people believe what you’re saying. And I didn’t realize that was so important until I started trying to sing, and one of my friends, who shall remain nameless, listened to one of my songs and was like, “I just don’t feel it.” And after I got that note, it kind of made me want to work harder.

buzz: Did you audition with original songs?

TV: Yeah, I did. I mean, I had to write s— songs before I got to this point.

buzz: Who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences?

TV: Childish Gambino, and Childish Gambino [laughs]. But definitely Childish Gambino for real, and then Kanye West is really good. Some of the new people are like Brent Faiyaz, and Dominic Fike is really cool. Billie Eilish is super cool. I love anyone who keeps their personality throughout an entire career, you know, that’s really important to me because I want to do the same thing.

buzz: So, we’re a college paper, and there are a lot of college kids who do music. I’m curious if you have advice for kids in that age range who are aspiring musicians or artists.

TV: Make sure you actually like it, you know? If you’re trying to make music and you don’t like the process of figuring it out, then it’s probably not for you. But try everything. Try all different types of music. Don’t be pigeonholed into making only one type of music. And, you know, if you want your music to sound better, get help. You don’t have to do it all yourself. That’s what I did. I got help.

buzz: In terms of Lolla, I’m curious if going from COVID where you weren’t able to do anything live, and then going to now being thrown back into it, did you feel like pressure getting used to that?

TV: I don’t really think about it that hard. I just go. My whole mentality about life has been positive. And that’s different than happiness. A lot of people listen to my music and be like, “He’s a happy guy.” But I’m not really happy, well that sounds kind of negative, but I’m just more positive when things are going bad.

buzz: What, in your opinion, is the difference between happiness and positivity?

TV: Oh, happiness is an emotion, but positivity’s a choice, and you can make that choice every single day. That’s what I try to do. You can’t do it all the time, but I just make sure the majority is positive.

buzz: Looking ahead to your performances tomorrow, what are you looking forward to most about being on stage?

TV: I just want to see how many people know the words [laughs]. If people know the words, then mission accomplished. If not, then that’s cool, too, but I’m gonna be singing super loud, so I can help people learn them.

buzz: And then, what kind of stuff are you thinking about doing in the future?

TV: Whatever happens, happens. I’m just gonna make music that makes me feel good, however long that takes.

buzz: Who are you looking forward to seeing the most this weekend?

TV: Hopefully I’ll be able to see Miley Cyrus. Post Malone, Tyler, The Creator, renforshort, for sure. She’s going on tour with me.

buzz: Super cool! Anything else you wanted to add?

TV: I’d say life is long. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s short. Every single thing has long-term repercussions, so think about that when you make decisions about what you want to do.

Check out Tai Verdes’ debut album “TV” which came out in May and features hits like “Stuck In The Middle” and “A-O-K.”