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Tour Tales | Chris Villa dropped out of nursing school to become Tyla Yaweh’s photographer

In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Yaweh’s photographer discusses how he’s seen the artist live show improve over the years, Drake and Post Malone’s backstage beer pong matches, and how international audiences embraced Yaweh on stage.

Tyla Yaweh and Post Malone Chris Villa

Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ‘Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’

Chris Villa dropped out of nursing school in his last semester in order to photograph Tyla Yaweh around the world. From small club shows to concerts with thousands of screaming fans, Villa has seen all of the rising star’s best live moments.

“There have been so many girls who flash [Tyla] for no reason. I’ve seen people in Australia throw shoes at him just so he can drink beer out of them. There have been a few bras thrown up at him. Those were some of the craziest ones,” Villa told REVOLT.

In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Yaweh’s photographer discusses how he’s seen the artist live show improve over the years, Drake and Post Malone’s backstage beer pong matches, and how international audiences embraced Yaweh on stage. Read below.

How did you first connect with Tyla Yaweh?

It’s crazy. I was in nursing school when I first started all of this back in Dallas, Texas...and I got a new camera. I was like, “Let me try to get into these concerts.” So, I got into these concerts before I met him. I saw he was coming to town because I listened to his song “Gemini,” and on Spotify it shows you where their concerts are. He was opening up for Yung Pinch and I looked up who his manager was and who he knew. I hit up everyone until I got a hold of him. His manager hit me back like, “We’re opening up for Pinch.” I asked him, “Do you need a ride from the airport or anything?” This was in December 2018. I picked up him and his manager at the airport, drove them to the radio station and the show, and made a video for them the day after. They liked the video and posted it. I saw they were going to open up for Posty (Post Malone) on the New Year's Eve show in New York. I flew myself out there, but first I asked them, “If I fly myself out there, can you guy get me into the show and I can shoot for y’all?” I got my own hotel and everything. Made a video for them the day after, flew home in time for New Year’s with my family. A month later, I get a call from Tes Siyoum, Tyla’s manager, and Dre [London], Post’s manager, on a three-way call. They were telling me to move out to L.A. I had two semesters left to get my Bachelor’s in nursing. I just said peace out and dropped out. Now, I do all his photos, videos, and music videos.

Congrats on betting on yourself. What was the first tour you went on with Tyla?

The first tour was in Europe. He was one of the openers for Posty’s 2019 European tour. It was him, Roddy Ricch, and Posty. The shows were crazy. The energy was something you’d never forget. Posty always put on a crazy show. Every night, I was memorizing every time the fireworks would go off with certain songs. Tyla is super loved out in Europe — especially in Australia.

What did you have to learn about his show to get the best photos?

When I first started to tour with him, everything was fast-paced. If you turn around for a second, you might miss something because one second he’s on the stage, and the next second he’s crowd surfing or in the crowd causing a mosh pit. The one thing I learned is you have to follow him constantly because you never know when he’s jumping in the crowd. I also learned to never wear good shoes when he’s performing (laughs). I jump in the crowd with him to get in the mosh pit and get a cool angle.

What’s the most memorable show?

The Reading & Leeves Festival shows [in 2019]. For him being a rising artist and not being super up there yet, the entire crowd packed the stage. He had a 2 o’clock set time, and usually not many fans pack those stages at that time. Both of his shows at Reading & Leeves, the crowd knew every word to his songs. It was crazy to see. We made eye contact while he was on stage and we were like, “Damn, this is actually happening.”

What songs that he performs give you your best photos?

One of my favorite songs of his to shoot is probably “Novacane” because it’s the opening song he walks out to and it always has him jumping. Those are the best shots I get because of how his dreads move around when he’s going crazy. That always looks the best on camera. When he walks out, the smoke starts in the beginning. Also, “Drugs & Pain” because he always goes in the crowd and starts a mosh pit.

What is on Tyla’s rider?

A bottle of Henny for sure. Honestly, just alcohol, Fruity Pebbles, anything related to Fruit Roll-Ups, and that’s pretty much it. Also, a bunch of White Claws or Bud Light. They had the Bud Light on deck on Post’s tour.

Explain to me the story behind the “She Belongs To The Streets” shirt.

Oh my god (laughs). Basically, my friend Oliver [Cannon], shout out to him, was recording me. Me, him, and Posty’s photographer Adam [DeGross] were just there chilling. I was trying to get the attention of this girl and it ended up not working out. Posty came up to me a day after saying, “Let her go, bro. She belongs to the streets.” Oliver screenshot my face in that moment and put it on a shirt. We were thinking, “Should we print these out and give them to the whole team?” We ended up printing a bunch of them in some weird random shop deep in some sketchy mall in Montreal. We picked up 12 shirts. Tyla and everyone wore it. It was the worst day for me, but also the best day because Posty was like, “I’m going to wear this on stage.” I’m over here thinking, “Oh that’s sick.” Except, it’s making fun of me at the same time.

How would you describe Tyla and Post’s friendship?

When they link up, it’s very genuine energy. Both of them connect well and vibe off each other’s energy. I’ve seen a lot between the two of them (laughs). One of the craziest nights was in Toronto. It was the day before a show and we all went to the bowling alley. We pull up there and all I was told was it’d be Tyla and our team going. All of a sudden they say Nav is going to pull up. Then, they say Posty’s going too. Then, Swae Lee pulled up to the bowling alley. We were all in the bowling alley playing like normal people. It was weird to see artists that big doing normal things you wouldn’t expect. After we were done, we were on the street, and Posty, Nav, and Tyla were comparing their chains and stuff like that (laughs).

You also got some great Drake photos at a few Post Malone shows.

In Toronto, he visited and didn’t really do much. He just pulled up and watched the show. The second time around, he, Tyla, and Posty were all backstage playing beer pong. I was able to capture footage of him vibing out with them. He got destroyed in pong (laughs). Post is pretty good at beer pong. I’m not going to lie, I’ve seen Tyla beat Posty many times.

Tyla performed in Tampa during Super Bowl weekend?

Yeah. He and [Carnage] did a performance together at [The Floridian]. Tyla went on for about four songs. It was a small club set. It’s open out here, man. It’s like COVID never happened out here.

What was the craziest crowd reaction at a Tyla show?

There have been so many girls who flash him for no reason. I’ve seen people in Australia throw shoes at him just so he can drink beer out of them. There have been a few bras thrown up at him. Those were some of the craziest ones (laughs).

How have you seen his live show evolve over the years?

It’s crazy to see because the first time I ever shot for him was in a super small venue. The one thing I love seeing from him is that it can be a crowd of 10 people or a crowd of 10,000; and he’s giving the same energy. It doesn’t matter if it’s two people in the crowd, he’ll still start a mosh pit. He developed his entire performance and set. He and his manager go through every song now and decide what they want to perform. It’s a very detailed and specific order they play the music in.

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