Tyler Posey recognises when something is special and memorable, and the pivotal songs in his life all hold one thing dear – nostalgia.
Up until now best known for playing the heartthrob, titular character in the TV reboot of Teen Wolf, Posey has returned to his roots as a musician. Exuding a vibrant energy, he’s sitting in his home studio with a Californian sun radiating in, clad in a hoodie a few shades darker than his roughly swept, mint-coloured hair, reminiscing.
That’s because for Posey, music is reflective and very much a series of touchstones. Whilst his Nine Songs selections take in his family introducing him to music and going on to discovering its substance for himself, they also see Posey cast into the musical horizon, before dropping anchor in the oft-maligned, seemingly immature world of pop-punk. The truth is rather different however, Posey is a product of the purest form of musical exposure.
Maturation away from his beloved genre is also out of the question. Certainly, he’s no arrested development victim, but like so many others, once the sugar rush and dopamine of hearing hyperactive chords and a smirking self-awareness hit, it was ingrained deeply into his DNA. This is immediately apparent from his studio, which resembles the equivalent of a teenager taking over the spare room of their parents’ house. Numerous guitars are juxtaposed by a curved pedestal table featuring blossoming flowers, and a luscious white rug – including a matching dozing dog.
Recently Posey has been living his best teen life by working with one of his idols, blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, on recent single “Shut Up”, alongside alt-pop artist phem. 2021’s current pop-punk resurgence blends neatly with Posey’s desire to doff his cap to its impact on his own music. It’s also a sentiment that runs through his Nine Songs, where he mixes future-focused upstarts The Story So Far and State Champs with household staples, including his beloved blink-182.
He picks not one, but two songs from their catalogue, and about whom we have a discussion far out of the reaches of song rumination. Opting to not choose his two favourite blink-182 deep cuts, the questionably titled “Dick Lips” – he has its introductory chord tattooed on his upper left arm, which he excitedly shows me – along with latter day B-side “Not Now.”
“It’s one of the most musically genius things. It’s got a lot of emotion in it and I can feel it. Part of the reason I got into songwriting was because I wanted to do what blink-182 did for me, that band changed my life so much,” Posey enthuses. “That’s such a cool part about art and music – when you can be vulnerable and say shit that could resonate with somebody in a really creative way – music is spiritual. It’s like therapy.”
It’s been there through every step of Posey’s life, including his burgeoning acting career as a young child, inevitably leading to moments where the bands he’d discovered became a necessary family. “I was filming a TV show in Toronto. blink was big there and that’s where I found a huge love for them, because I was the only kid on the show. I got every blink record, every poster, every documentary that I could find and fell in love with those dudes. I wanted to be like them. They’re so funny, cool, and talented. How the fuck can you be all that in one?”
As well as the joy of connection and simpatico, loss is also a major theme in Posey’s sélections – the most tragic of which, the death of his mother in 2014, became pivotal for his personal and musical development. Before this however, he experienced the first instance of heartbreak in his young adult life when – like many, myself included – blink-182 disbanded in 2005. “What I felt was sorrow. I was heartbroken. It was the beginning of some interesting shit for me.”
A naturally emotive person, Posey gets infectiously caught up in the nostalgia that his choices summon. Moshing memories align with storming magazine award shows and his first crowd surf – Posey holds all of them dear – even a 10-minute long, cinematic prog song.
His musical journey connects the dots of Tyler Posey. Even as he’s explaining them to me from halfway around the world, it always circles back to fate.
“Layla” by Derek and the Dominos
“My family had great taste in music, and my Dad introduced me to Eric Clapton – and Derek and the Dominos – at a really early age. My first concert I went to I was five years old – it wasn’t Eric Clapton, it was Peter, Paul and Mary so it was a folk band – but my Dad had the greatest taste in music.
“This was the first song that actually affected me emotionally. I remember every moment of that song; being a little kid in the car with my Dad, jamming on an air guitar and then playing the 11-minute-long piano solo at the end. That song really affected me at an early age, and I’m glad it did because it introduced me to some harder music. *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears were big when I was that age. I wasn’t the biggest fan of them but it was the only music that I could connect to as a little kid, because that’s what it was meant for. Then I found a connection with this music and my soul just loved it. It loved that hard guitar solo and that rockin’ beat and steady rhythm.
“It changed my perspective on music at a really young age, and I craved substance within music – not that *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys don’t have substance, but I needed something a little deeper. “Layla” opened my doors to all of my favourite bands nowadays. It’s a massive that song, oh, boy, it gives me chills just thinking about it. It’s insane.”
“Enter Sandman” by Metallica
“This one’s quite a special one in my world. My older brother – he’s about 12 years older than I am – started playing guitar at a pretty early age, so by time I was born he was already an aficionado in guitar and heavy metal. He loved heavy metal – Korn, Metallica, he introduced me to all these bands. He had his own heavy metal band and he’s one of the rippinest guitarists ever. He can shred like nobody’s business.
“He introduced me to “Enter Sandman” when I was two or three years old, and there’s a video of me sitting on a chair with a guitar on my lap like this [picks up nearby guitar and starts wildly strumming] and I’m singing “Enter Sandman”. I don’t remember exactly what the hell was going on in my head, but it seemed like I was super passionate about it, whether I was just wanting to copy my older brother because I thought he was cool, or I was actually starting to find some sort of passion within music and guitar playing.
“That’s where my passion for it started, at three years old I was trying to embody the song and the lyrics. I was kind of on beat too, it wasn’t too annoying, I’d already found the groove even though I wasn’t playing the actual notes or anything. I was just strumming the open strings.
“There’s always these stories of Travis Barker, that when he started playing drums he was banging on pots and pans, and all these stories of these great musicians – I’m not saying that I am one! – of being these little kids banging on pots and pans, or strumming on their brother’s guitars. So it’s cool that I have that same sort of beginning, but I love that song and I love that band. I really connected with it being a little kid because I looked up to my older brother so much and he always had that music going, it was just the coolest. It’s cool that I have a little video of myself at three years old strumming his guitar “Say your pwayres!” I can’t pronounce my R’s and I have a little speech impediment.
“Metallica is probably one of the most nostalgic bands that I listen to. It brings me back to whatever was going on in that time period. Everybody knows that song, it brings back a nostalgic feeling and that’s one of my favourite parts about music – this nostalgia. It feels so good it’s like it’s spiritual. You can’t really describe the feeling that it gives you, you just brought back to this really good feeling that you had when you were a kid, it’s wonderful.”
“I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)” by Grand Funk Railroad
“That’s another one that my Dad introduced me to. He would blast it, just like “Layla”. I really looked up to my Dad and my older brother as a kid and I wanted to be like them, so the fact that they loved these songs, I was also ‘Okay, I love this too!’ But at the same time these songs are masterpieces. “Closer to Home” is a full-on masterpiece. You can hear waves in the song, there’s a whole story of him being on this ship and these pirates take over.
“In Las Vegas they have Treasure Island, the hotel, and I loved that hotel, it’s magical. The show’s happening all the time, there’s fire, explosions on ships, and I put myself in that world when I would listen to the song. It was the first time in my early life – I was maybe five or six – where I could visualise a song’s lyrics.
“Even nowadays, sometimes I’ll sing a song and I have no idea what the fuck it’s about unless I analyse the lyrics. But that song was the first song I started analysing, and it put me in the story – I thought that was so dope. It also has the greatest guitar riffs I’ve ever heard, it’s comparable to Queen. And it’s one of the only guitar solos I can play, so that’s another reason why I love it.
“That song started teaching me that music is more than just sounds and stories. It was the first time I was like, ‘Holy shit, I can feel the singer’s stress and passion and wherever he’s at in this moment – I can really feel it’. It was interesting as a little kid to realise that. Music has been really big for me for my entire life, and the different chapters of it have been really cool. First it was just sounds and noise, then it was noise that I could bop my head to and then it was noise that made sense. That was the first time a song actually made sense to me.”
“All the Small Things” by blink-182
“It’s not really the favourite of the diehard blink fans, and it’s not really my favourite blink song at all, but I put it on here because it’s the first song that changed my life. I remember being at my friend’s seventh birthday party, jumping on his trampoline and hearing this new music. I was like, ‘Whoa, I’ve heard Sublime, I’ve heard Grand Funk Railroad, Derek and the Dominos, all this stuff my Dad grew up on. All the fucking Woodstock music; Santana, Jimi Hendrix. I’ve heard Metallica, Korn.’
“And then I was like, ‘What the fuck is this?!’ It felt like all those bands that my Dad introduced me to, those were his bands. All those bands my brother introduced me to, those were his bands. This felt like something that I discovered, something new to me and it was the first time where my soul connected to music.
“I had all those experiences before but with “All The Small Things” I felt it for some reason and still to this day I love pop-punk so much, it fits my personality. This was the first time I felt a certain style of music fit my personality and it was a really great feeling. I didn’t know I was looking for that at such an early age especially, but dude I fell in LOVE with blink.
“I went to get the album the next day and fuck man, I went down a fucking rabbit hole and they changed my life. That’s where it started, I was seven years old, on a trampoline at my friend’s birthday party. That was actually the first thing I got to introduce my family to. My family had introduced me to all of my music until that point, then I was like, ‘Yo, check this out, this is so cool.’”
“Stay Together for the Kids” by blink-182
“Like I said earlier, blink was the first band that I introduced to my family and my parents, because they introduced me to all their music. Also, at the same time I bought the Kid Rock CD that had the cover of him flipping off the camera. My Mom saw that and was like, ‘You can’t listen to this’ and I was like ‘Why?!’ I stole it back from her and took it to school.
“So there was some air about me listening to music that wasn’t really meant for me. I was still pretty young and they were swearing all the time. My parents weren’t the biggest fans of it because they thought that it was just silly fart jokes kind of music. Then my Mom listened to “Stay Together for the Kids” and she cried.
“My older brother was raised in sort of a broken home. He and I have different dads – my Mom divorced his Dad – so she resonated with it. It was the first time I saw my Mom know that the music wasn’t just dick and fart jokes, it was heavy and substantial, and it had a deeper meaning. I was like ‘Yes, you get it! You see!’ and ever since then she’s loved them. That was a big moment for me, because I was acknowledged and validated that what I was listening to was deep, not just awesome fart jokes, it really took me by surprise.
“I was still pretty young, 10 years old I think, and that was a big landmark in my life for music. Knowing that I have somebody on my side finally, and that what I was listening to, as funny as it could be, sometimes it actually is adult, and they tackle adult scenarios. I found more respect for them after that.”
“Kiss Me” by New Found Glory
“This one is huge for me. So, Warped Tour, did you ever go? It’s fucking dope. I started going when I was 14 years old, I got in my first mosh pit that day, I got elbowed in the face and it was like, ‘I love this shit!’ It was a couple years after that first Warped Tour and I’d never crowd surfed before.
“I was fucking nervous dude, I don’t know why. I taped my pockets with skateboarding stickers they passed out and I found the biggest dude next to me. This was during the New Found Glory set and they’re covering “Kiss Me” and my energy, the anticipation. I was anxious, I was nervous, I was scared and I was excited. I was like ‘Okay, I’m gonna fucking do it.’ I tap this big fucking dude on the shoulder I was like ‘Yo, put me up!’
“As soon as he threw me up the hook for the chorus – “So, kiss meeee” – happened right as I launched up. I remember I spun around, I looked at the crowd and I was like, ‘SO KISSS MEEE!’ I fell back down and crowd surfed to the very front. It was a movie, dude. It was literally a fucking movie, I couldn’t believe the moment. As soon as I hit the ground I ran around security, got back on and crowd surfed again.
“There’s little landmarks in punk and your first pit is one of them. First time crowd surfing, first time stage diving – it’s an adrenaline rush and you feel like you’re part of the world. The camaraderie of ‘if you fall, you get picked back up’, you feel this connection. I felt like everybody in the audience was looking at me at that one moment and I wanted to give it my all for everybody. It was a really great moment in the heat, sweating, there’s dirt everywhere, there’s pot smoke filling the air, fucking people fighting.
“New Found Glory, one of the greatest pop-punk bands in the world, are right behind me and doing the theme song for this entire moment for me. It was just unreal dude. I couldn’t fucking believe it. It was a perfect moment.”
“Devotion and Desire” by Bayside
“My little brother is one of my best friends, and we’re so fucking similar. He was really into The Doors and still in that world of my parents influence of music. He had his own music he was listening to, but he’s three years younger than me. I was 17 when I found Bayside and he was 14 years old, and that was the first band that we fell in love with together.
“My brother now is my pop-punk homie. We go to shows all the time, we crowd surf, we stage dive. There’s a clip at the APMA when Neck Deep are performing and he and I rush the barricade. We’re the only ones on stage and we’re dancing onstage, moshing with each other for far too long. Looking at it, it’s the craziest thing. I’m like, ‘Get off the stage!’ But he’s my brother, literally and figuratively now. with punk music, and Bayside are the band that started it. It’s a really emotional thing for us.
“We got close with Anthony from the band, and the band itself, and he would invite us to shows. It was always such a cool moment for us because they were the first band that we fell in love with together. There was one time at Warped Tour when he was doing an acoustic performance in this little tiny tent. We went in there and he was just singing to us basically the whole time, he was looking at us in the eyes and we were just holding each other, so it’s a big deal for me, and for the both of us.
“Through this list you can tell that there’s a lot family moments with music and that’s for sure where it started for me and my little brother. Now he’s lived with me, he had a band that toured with my band. It really started this process of us getting closer and opening up his world to more punk because he was kind of, not stuck in this other parental world, because the music’s great, but he hadn’t found his thing yet. Then through that he was able to find his thing and we’re punk brothers.”
“Simple Existence” by State Champs
“This one is where it takes a heavy turn. My Mom passed away from cancer almost seven years ago. Wow, fuck, that’s how long I’ve been into State Champs, holy shit. At that point I was riding hard on old pop punk, I wasn’t listening to any new music. I was 22 and it was just blink and New Found Glory, Bayside was the newest band I had heard of. All the bands that I had discovered as a kid, that was still my listening vocabulary.
I thought that pop-punk was kind of dead, I was like, ‘I haven’t heard any new fucking bands.’ Then I heard of State Champs. And then The Finer Things, and “Simple Existence” was the one that fucking changed my life.
“There’s something really emotional about that song. I was obviously feeling pretty emotional and it was weird for me, because what I was going through was really sad, but I was trying hard to be this strong kid who could be there for my family and not have this, you know, ‘kill me’ basically. So I was trying to do that and losing that battle.
“Lyrically, I don’t even know what the fuck that song is about, but the vibe, the feeling, the drums, the musical genius in the song and how the instruments meld with each other, did a lot of things for me. It made me feel musically how I was feeling in that moment. It was hopeful but it was also heavy. It also made me realise that there’s still people doing this, and I was too, I was always in bands. I put my band aside for a little while, because I got busy acting, and it gave me more passion and motivation to do this shit again. I was like ‘Fuck man, maybe it’s not dead’. It really helped me through the hardest time I’ve ever had in my entire life.
“I got close with State Champs and I told the lead singer Derek (DiScanio), that one day ‘Your shit really helped me when I was going through some really hard stuff’, and it was nice to let him know. It’s been so cathartic. That song means a lot to me. When I started playing music again I had this YouTube channel where I was covering shit, because I had bands growing up and I left them for a while, I started slowly working my way back into music and performing again, that was one of the songs that I covered.”
“Line” by The Story So Far
“I could have chosen a thousand other Story So Far songs. I love them, they’re another band that my brother and I are diehard fans of. We’ve seen them, we’ve snuck past security or ran past security while they’re grabbing our shirts. We love that band so much.
“I thought “Line” was the most musically inclined and evolved that they’ve ever been. I love the hard shit, I love being able to mosh, but when I heard “Line”, I’ve always known that they’re musical geniuses, but there was something about “Line” that really spoke to me in a way that I had never had a Story So Far song speak to me before.
“It’s a fucking masterpiece and it’s so fucking simple. He just repeats the same lyric over and over, and I thought ‘the confidence that it takes to do that’, they killed it. With the bassline, there’s such a groove that I’ve never felt. “Phantom” from their album untitled is a similar kind of vibe to this song, but there’s something so interesting about “Line”. It really caught me off guard, kind of like how it caught you off guard to have it on the list – it just rocked me, and I respect those guys so much. It added a level of respect.
“They’re just fucking doing what they love, they’re really good at writing music, and they know what sounds good. It’s such a chill fucking song, it’s almost like meditative listening. The beat and the bassline that goes with the guitars and that single lyric. I could talk for hours about that song!”