TYSON on finding home in the great outdoors

With a pair of Asics Gel-Kyrios™ strapped to her feet, the singer-songwriter discusses how connecting with nature and taking trips out of the big city have helped improve her clarity and mental health.

To celebrate the launch of Asics Gel-Kyrios™, we took a deeper look at the brand’s Sound Mind, Sound Body” philosophy. We tapped up two born-and-bred Londoners – Steven Julien, producer, DJ and founder of London label Apron records and singer/​songwriter TYSON – to ask, what does space of mind sound and look like?

With photographer extraordinaire Romain Duquesne at the helm, we asked the duo to take us on a virtual trip into the places in the city which have given them headspace his year.

Singer-songwriter TYSON has lived existences so countless that her sense of self is split across countries. There are so many different versions of me and I’ve already lived so many lives in so many places,” she says. With a childhood spent in Spain and teens in north London and Sweden, TYSON moved through her formative years with a sense of nomadic rootlessness which has since left her feeling at home both everywhere and nowhere.

After growing up in the boundless freedom of the Spanish mountains, TYSON found the move back to London as a child physically limiting, a reaction which caused her depression. But it was during this time that she discovered Hampstead Heath on a serendipitous school trip. Here, in a tree, she met a girl who went on to become her best friend. In the years since, Hampstead Heath has come to occupy a unique place in TYSON’s heart, with a wildness which feels something like home. 

Over Zoom, we speak to TYSON about how reconnecting with the natural world has been keeping her together during what can only be described as the strangest of years. I’m a very sensitive person,” she says. Which is probably why I like running around in the woods sometimes.” 

If your mind was a track or album today, what would it sound like?

My head can be quite busy: really loud with loads of thoughts. And I feel like today I’ve been quite present in what’s going on. 

Did you have any songs that you’ve been listening to over this time, either your own or other peoples?

I would say the Sault album which came out in May, Untitled (Black Is), is something I’m listening to. When it first came out, I couldn’t listen to anything else. I have a tendency to do that; listen to things over and over. 

Listen now: Tyson on life in London

We’re shooting you today covered in projections from Hampstead Heath. Tell us what drew you to Hampstead Heath, what it means to you, and why you wanted to share this space with The Face.

Nature is really important to me. We lived in Spain when I was a kid, in the mountains and then we moved back to London and I found moving back into a city quite difficult. Then we moved to Sweden when I was a teenager, so sometimes I feel suffocated by living in such a huge city. Although London’s quite green, sometimes I need fresh air and nature.

Hampstead Heath feels a little bit wild. And I like being in the woods.

Do you remember the first time that you went to Hampstead Heath?

It’s one of those places: it’s always been a part of my life since I was really young.

The first time I met my best friend Bella was in Hampstead Heath. Either she was in a tree or I was in a tree, and one of us was like What’s your name, what you doing in that tree?” That’s probably the first memory I have of being there.

Hampstead Heath is a recurring place that’s held a lot of memories and lots of functions, from running around and playing when I was little, to hanging out with friends and going to the ladies ponds. And now it’s a full circle; going there with my nieces and nephews. It’s a constant place.

So where have you been living lately?

I moved back to my mum and dad’s house, which is near Westbourne Park station in west London, not long before lockdown. So I spent the whole of lockdown there with them and my younger sister, Mabel, my auntie, my mum and dad and Mabel’s puppy. 

Listen now: Tyson on the importance of community

How did lockdown restrictions change the way that you move around the city and area around you?

I had quite a temporary relationship with Westbourne Park because it wasn’t my childhood home. I’ve really got to know and become a part of the community now. It’s so important I think, for all Londoners to speak to your neighbours, speak to people.

My neighbour Ruby gave me an allotment next to my house. Which is my saviour. It was the only time I was alone or had any space during lockdown, so that was really important.

How did all of these different places change how you growing up?

I think I felt quite suffocated, even though I was only little. Even now as an adult, I have to leave London quite regularly, because I can feel quite overwhelmed.

How did you deal with that feeling of suffocation?

I think that’s where music first came into it. I think it allowed me to invent the world I wasn’t able to be in.

Is the process of music something you find calming, or something you find energising and stimulating?

There’s two layers to the process; one is the more personal songs that I just write for my own process – sometimes they’re really deep or overdramatic. The second song will be one I want to share with people.

Listen now: Tyson on finding her space of mind

And when you lose your space of mind, how do you get it back?

I used to feel like that all the time, which was really intense. Sometimes I wake up and I’m so overwhelmed that I can’t even talk to another human and I have actually learnt to manage it. Every day isn’t always perfect, but I’ve learnt that exercise really helps. Ten minutes of yoga; a walk; anything.

I think going outside and just looking at stuff or talking to someone you’ve never met. Don’t look at your phone, don’t look at a screen and don’t be indoors. And just breathe.

The last thing I would say is probably the most important. For me this has taken the longest time to learn. Put yourself first, but don’t make such a big deal out of being the best or doing things perfectly.

Think like a Buddhist monk; laugh it off and give yourself a break.

Which musician would score your inner monologue in a biopic of your life?

Erykah Badu can narrate the story and then would have to get loads of different composers to come together. There’s too many different versions of me to write through one sort of music. 

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