When he was 10 years old, Tyler Falcoa’s house caught fire. For nearly seven months following, he and his family lived in a small, three-room trailer on their front lawn as their home was being rebuilt.
“It was a tough time,” the now 19-year-old Bristol native recalled. “I was seeing a therapist and he told me to write everything down, all my feelings and emotions from that time, in a notebook. And by the end of the day, I’d have that notebook filled up.”
To make matters worse, Tyler got injured playing football, permanently forcing him to the sidelines.
To offset his trauma, Tyler’s dad Ray, bought him a guitar. He had never played before and picking at the the strings proved therapeutic.
Eventually, the words from his notebook parlayed into lyrics, and Tyler found himself creating music.
“I started teaching myself and developing my own style,” he said.
Tyler encouraged his younger brother Ryan, now 17, to pick up the drums.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Ryan said of the fire. “It brought us all a lot closer as a family. It was comforting, but very stressful.
“It really taught us to appreciate what we have and where we’ve come.”
The two never stopped playing music when they finally moved into their rebuilt home. Rather, they immersed themselves in it. They formed a band, Dirtytar, which stood for Tyler, Andrew (their cousin) and Ryan. With their cousin away at college in Vermont, the name reflects Tyler and Ryan. They took that band name viral.
Nearly a decade later, the two have a legion of virtual fans — more than 10,000 followers on their YouTube channel, with more than 1.6 million views of their videos, collectively. While they’ve recorded a few of their own original tracks, the videos are mostly covers of popular songs from bands like One Direction and Florida Georgia Line.
“The videos started off as a parody,” Tyler said. “We’d stand in front of an orange wall, with our shirts off, and just dance and be funny to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night.”"
That video got more than 500,000 views on YouTube, and was eventually taken down for copyright infringement. Once the video lost popularity, it resurfaced.
They also get fan mail, tons of it. The two made up Ryan’s room as a tribute their fans, covering the walls with the mail. Viewers can see the fanatic backdrop in their latest video, a “Last Christmas” cover.
“I don’t think they ever expected it to get to this point,” said the duo’s mom, Ana. “They did this to have fun.”
On a whim in March 2012, the two submitted an audition video for the X-Factor, which was scheduled to appear in Providence later that summer.
“We were supposed to go to actually audition in front of the producers, which is step 1, but it was really bad and raining that day,” Ryan recalled.
So the two uploaded a video.
“Our chances of getting picked to audition in front of the celebrities was slim doing it that way,” Ryan said of the show’s stats on video submissions.
Three months went by and Tyler and Ryan forgot about the entire thing, until one morning their dad told them someone from the X-Factor had called.
“We were given four days to learn three songs,” Tyler said.
They wasted no time in learning “Call Me Maybe,” which they performed in front of judges Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, L.A. Reid, and Simon Cowell.
“It wasn’t that great,” Tyler said. “But we didn’t expect to make it even that far. We were told that we were good. We got a lot of positive feedback from the judges. But they also told us that we needed more practice, which we expected.”
Their X-Factor appearance was a turning point in their musical career. Neither had performed in front of an audience before, and it was the first time Ryan had joined Tyler on vocals.
“I’d hear him singing in the shower,” Tyler said of Ryan, “and I’d tell him to sing with me. He’s good.”
Admittedly shy, Ryan initially balked at the idea of singing in front of an audience. While his voice marries Tyler’s well, his nerves sometimes get the better of him when performing.
“I’m not the front man,” he said, pushing aside a wisp of brown hair from his eyes. “Tyler is. I’m not that confident, yet.”
Since that performance, the two have performed anywhere they can get stage space. And they do it for free.
“We’re doing this because we love to,” Tyler said. “And when the time is right, we’ll get paid to do it.”
Tyler is currently studying marketing at Roger Williams University, with a minor in music, while Ryan is a senior at Mt. Hope High School.
They’ve been approached by several music producers who’ve offered to represent the pair — for a fee.
“The music industry is fiercely competitive,” Tyler said. “And you have to be careful or you’ll get taken advantage of.
“We feel that if we’re good enough, we’ll make it big without spending a penny.”
Tyler and Ryan have several songs for sale on iTunes, one of which being an original dubbed “How This Town Shaped Me.” Tyler penned the song while driving through Bristol.
“It’s about losing friends, and gaining friends, and learning who your real friends are,” he said.
When the brothers initially started posted videos to YouTube, they were ridiculed at school. That is, until they gained a following.
“We’d get a lot of crap at school,” Ryan said. “People would talk down to us.”
That didn’t deter them from making music, and more videos. Once they gained popularity online, their peers began to respect them more.
All the money that they’ve made thus far — either in donations while playing or from iTunes sales — the Falcoa brothers have donated to the American Cancer Society, in honor of their paternal grandfather who was diagnosed with a form of cancer last year.
“He eventually overcame it,” Tyler said. “But we still donate all the money. We love being able to make a difference. That’s really what this is all about.”
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