Just a few weeks ago, The 615 selected Tyler Barham as one of ten artists poised to make an impact upon the country music scene in 2014. The Montana native definitely has numbers on his side.
In the past seven years, the singer has amassed over 8.5 million views of his videos on YouTube, and has impressed two of the format's biggest stars with his cover versions of their hits.
"I did a cover of Brett Eldredge's 'Don't Ya,' and he was nice enough to share that," the singer tells Billboard. "I covered 'Honey Bee,' and Blake Shelton shared that on his Facebook page, so it's been really cool and surreal to have the artists enjoy our versions so much that they would want to share it with their fans. That's something I wouldn't have dreamed of. It's nuts to know that you're even on their radar."
Though Barham has released a trio of singles to radio so far in his young career, the singer knows that his online presence is definitely responsible for where he is today.
"Social media has been where it's all have happened," he says proudly. "YouTube has been my foundation for everything, and that all got started back in 2007. I just loved singing and had a passion for it in general. Artists nowadays used YouTube to build a fan base, but at the time I just wanted to get some feedback on what people thought. I had originally planned on only doing a few videos. It was just me in front of the computer singing to karaoke tracks. I didn't think it was anything special, but it just snowballed and turned into something special. I started getting more requests and followers, so I continued to put more videos up. YouTube led to so many different things. John Griffin (his co-manager, along with industry veteran Nancy Tunick) found me on YouTube, then I started working with Dave Flint on original music, and that led to iTunes, which I had never dreamed of. Then, we got on the iTunes charts and the Billboard charts with new releases (Don't Cage This Heart debuted in the Top-20 of the Billboard Heatseekers Albums Chart, and also hit the Country Albums Chart). It was one thing after another, and it's all been a dream come true to this point."
Barham says he was lifted by the success of the EP because of the fact that the five-song disc contains all original material. "I definitely didn't want to just do covers, but they were a part of my career and still are. The transition to original music went really well. It's really difficult to go from doing other peoples' songs to putting your original music in there and seeing what people think. But, my fans took really well to the original music, which is quite satisfying to know they like what I put out."
He's grateful for his success thus far, but stresses to his fellow newcomers that what has worked for him so well might not be the way in which they should shoot for the stars.
"Technology has grown so much, and it's so interesting to see how YouTube has shaped my path and journey so far," he says. "A lot of up and coming artists contact me and ask if I have advice for them. I'd love to tell them that YouTube will work every time, and it worked for me at the time, but I just hit it at a very lucky time."
There also appears to be no slowdown in sight for the performer, who is ready to take it to the next level in 2014. "There's a lot of short and long term goals, but I definitely want to work on progressing my career. We've been working on a lot of recording, live shows, and we're looking at doing some work with Kevin Grosh over at Made In Network. We've also had meetings with booking agents and record labels. I just want to continue what we're doing. We've had a lot of great things happen just with in-house releases. We're just looking forward to another great year."