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A weekly series focused on Bloomington-Normal's arts community and other major events. Made possible with support from PNC Financial Services.

Catching up with TyJon Charlie as Twin Cities summer music heats up

A musician in a plaid shirt and bandana plays multiple instruments while singing outdoors
TyJon Charlie
TyJon Charlie is scheduled to play in Uptown Circle on May 27 and June 7 at Bloomington's lunchtime concert series on the square. His new single, "Will Magic Find Me?," dropped March 10.

Summer is nearly upon us in the Twin Cities, and that means a whole bunch of free, outdoor entertainment all over town. Downtown Bloomington resumes its lunchtime concerts on May 31. And in Normal, pop-up concerts in Uptown Circle begin Wednesday night with a 6 p.m. set by Emilele.

Bloomington singer-songwriter and workhorse TyJon Charlie will appear in both concert series, playing at Uptown Circle on May 27, and for Bloomington’s lunch crowd on the square on June 7.

Pontiac native and former frontman of the Unemployed Architects Tyler Sweitzer went solo a few years ago under the moniker TyJon Charlie. Separating his identity from the band has been a long process, but Sweitzer isn't looking for a total separation.

“It’s confusing because a lot of my original music is listed on Spotify as the Unemployed Architects because that’s the band I recorded it with,” he said. “I still like to get the word out about the Unemployed Architects because there’s a lot of content there and I still play a lot of those songs regularly.”

As far as chances to see the full band play?

“Not so much,” said Sweitzer, who now almost exclusively plays solo shows — “one-man band” style.

In a feat of coordination most could not muster, TyJon Charlie regularly sings and plays guitar while operating a pedalboard, kick drum and foot tambourine all at once to give a fuller sound than the typical “man with a guitar” singer-songwriter bit.

“And it’s a tap shoe that the tambourine’s on, so you get a little bit of a hand clap,” he said. “That’s my two cents on the one-man band; I made my own tap shoe and I stomp on wood.”

TyJon Charlie is first and foremost a songwriter whose lyrics shine through all those foot gymnastics. The extra instrumentation is what pulls people’s attention on the street or in a crowded bar, but he wants people to listen to his story, which he succinctly sums up as “confusion.”

“Maybe that’s it,” he said. “[I’m] just trying to make sense of the human experience. We get given this life, and we just kind of do things and maybe try to avoid some of the bigger questions. When I’m writing songs, they’re a means to express those questions, concerns and confusions, reflecting on some of those ideas I think most people struggle with.”

Since his 2022 LP "Pandemic Relief"—the first since committing to a solo career—TyJon Charlie released a 16-track original album recorded during a taping of Live at State & Water in Peoria. And his first solo studio single “Will Magic Find Me?” dropped March 10. Expect these and some of those sweet older Unemployed Architects songs at both outdoor concerts and widely in central Illinois, where TyJon Charlie said he plays three- and four-hour sets, “anywhere that’ll have me.”

Full artist lineups for the Uptown Circle concerts and Bloomington lunchtime concerts are available at normalil.gov and bloomingtonparks.org, respectively.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.