Oh, how much can change in a year. This time last year I was living in Columbus, Ohio, sitting on my porch just enjoying the spring weather. We were, at that time, roughly three weeks into a “lockdown.” People had stormed the grocery stores and panic-bought everything from guns and ammo to toilet paper and Advil. Shelves had been emptied. COVID-19 was still new and there was a lot left to be learned about it.

Fast forward a year, here I am in a completely different city in a new state. The pandemic still battles on. States are re-opening, some more cautious than others. Vaccines are getting distributed. While it’s been a long year and so much has changed for me and many folks across the country, there’s finally at long last some sense of hope.

One thing that has repeated itself, however, is almost exactly a year apart I’m sitting down chatting with the ever-so-versatile Tyler Posey. Last year, around this time, it was Posey, Kyle Murphy, Scott Eckel and I talking about their newly formed project Five North. They were getting ready to release their first EP, Scumbag, and hopes were high. Of course, the pandemic happened and put a halt to that. Eckel has sine been living at home in Australia, unable to travel to the states. Murphy decided that since the music industry was sort of in this weird spot, he would go to school to be a wildlife firefighter. The pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone reading this, and it certainly changed things a lot for those guys — and it also took a hell of a toll on Posey himself.

Our zoom conversation begins as we dive into what the last year of his life has been like since we last spoke, and how the pandemic has impacted him.  “It kind of affected me pretty hardcore,” he begins, “I got super addicted to hard drugs.” It’s a story that may sound familiar to those who have struggled with addiction issues in the past, and Posey has no problem opening up on what he went through if it can potentially help others.

His gateway to drugs, like many people, was weed. It was something that he started around 13/14 years old, and really did it to fit in. “I started smoking weed because I grew up acting and grew up in a small town also, so I really wanted to be normal. For some reason, acting didn’t feel normal to me. So I was like, ‘Well, my homies all smoke weed so I’ll smoke weed with everybody,'” he says. It was something that he became dependent and reliant on, which with weed isn’t inherently an issue in and of itself, but Posey’s relationship with weed and how he used it began to carry over to other drugs, as well.

“Any substance I introduced to my life became [like] weed,” he begins to tell me. “Like I would wake up and smoke weed. So if it was alcohol, coke, if it was any sort of substance, I used it as I would with weed — which was all day every day.” His journey down this road started during the pandemic, which was a bit of a surprise to Posey himself as he tells me he normally likes being alone. But, he shares there was something else that happened to him too. “My ex — her dog became really close with my dogs. She went to Germany to go film a movie and then COVID shut everything down. Her dog was here, she didn’t have a place here. So I was like, ‘Well you can stay here if you want to,’ which wasn’t the greatest idea,” he says with a laugh. “Especially as I was dealing with a newfound addiction to cocaine.”

The best part about this story and his journey through the pandemic, is that Posey can use past tense terms when discussing his addiction. Because through it all, there was a period of 5 months over the last year where he was completely sober. He went through a program that helped him in more ways than one, and gave him tools to use for the rest of his life — which is something he plans on doing.

Posey decided to get completely sober after a specific moment in time that felt something that resembled a panic attack, and left him feeling like he was going to die. It was basically a rock bottom type moment for him, and that lead him to getting into a program. Elaborating further on the things that he learned, Posey focuses in one big thing: structure. “I started acting as a little kid, and was always a professional actor. So I didn’t really have to work too hard to get a job. Once I got the job, my work ethic was really, really on point. But I didn’t really know structure. I didn’t really go to school, so it taught me discipline and structure.”

He continues, “I would wake up every morning and have my little routine, whether it was meditating, working out, praying to a higher power, and walking my dogs. Just kind of taking care of myself mentally. So, teaching me some sort of structure was, I think, the most crucial part of the whole entire process, dude.”

That structure cannot be an understated portion of his growth, as is the case for most addicts coming out of any sort of program. I tell him about my own personal experience with a similar rock-bottom type moment, specifically the summer of 2015 when I went to a friend’s party that, for a variety of reasons, ended up in me getting carried to my own car after spending nearly an hour vomiting in the bathroom. My then-girlfriend had to drive me home, which during the ride home I vomited out the passenger window, all down the side of my car. I tried to sleep in the car once she finished the drive home. Eventually, I got convinced to go inside and lay in bed, where I proceeded to throw up n the middle of the night.

So that rock bottom feeling often leads to seeking help: for Posey, it was 5 months completely sober, for I it was nearly a year. But those lessons learned along the way can be carried with you, even as you re-enter the “regular world,” so to speak. I’ve taken back up socially drinking, Posey has resumed some substances, like intermittent drinking and smoking — even if it wasn’t so smooth sailing.

“I relapsed, and I’m not sure if I’m going to go back to being 100% sober,” Posey tells me. “I’m learning now that I do need that structure, I quit the program and I quit kind of all the steps that I was taking to become sober. Doing that, I do feel a little — not lost, but I’m just floating around and I don’t have a tether to anything right now.”

“I’m learning to get back to this sort of structured mentality, that way of life. I’m working on it, dude. It’s all a weird experiment. I might, at some point, go back to being 100% sober but right now, I don’t need to. I know what happened and what brought me to that point,” he continues.

He talks about, not necessarily “rules,” but mentions a lot of his friends and him got sober together. So when it comes the aforementioned substances and even harder drugs, they know what they all went through together and can rely on one another. They’ve all got the tools they learned to make sure that they stay on a healthy path.

A few weeks ago, Posey appeared on the Just for Variety podcast and opened up a little more on his sexuality, after a Q&A he did on his OnlyFans in October made some waves. He mentioned that while he’s been with men sexually, he has no label for himself other than simply being sexually fluid. For him, he never intended for it to blow up into being a big news story, rather it was a very organic conversation that just happened naturally.

Posey has been in the spotlight for so long, between acting and music, that he knows he’s developed a fan-base that has some kids that look up to him — something that he doesn’t take for granted. “I feel like, I have a lot of really bizarre experiences under my belt that can make me relatable to almost anybody,” he tells me. “I’ve been acting since I was a kid, I’ve been in punk bands since I was a kid, I grew up in a small town but also grew up in the Hollywood world. My mom had cancer and passed away. I just have all these trippy little experiences that I feel like make me relatable, or I can relate to other people who are struggling.”

“Like, ‘Hey, look, I’m going through the same shit that you are’ and I’m really open about it. It’s really nice, dude. It’s not like I was wanting to come out about sexuality or myself, it was all just for — kids were asking me on this live thing, I was just honest, and then it blew up like the next day. It’s a trip dude. But it’s nice to be able to be there for people,” he finalizes.

All in all, for Posey, it’s been a hell of a 12 months. Through thick and thin, Posey has taken everything he went through and used it as inspiration for music. This is something he’s always down, and has always come naturally — but perhaps he’s never gotten more personal with his music. Just a few weeks ago he released his debut solo single as a lead artist, “Shut Up,” which can be heard above, and it’s a culmination of the last 12 months or so.

For “Shut Up,” and other new songs (more on that later), he points to his sobriety as a main influence. “My producer, John Feldmann, is sober and he and I were sober together,” he says “We’ve been really close for the last few years, but we opened up this new line of dialogue with each other. We were singing about the coolest shit about becoming sober and the little intricacies within it.”

With “Shut Up” specifically, it had began coming together a few songs in between Feldmann and phem, who appears on the song with Travis Barker. The majority of the song then came together when he was on a trip with a friend and his dogs — and his guitar, of course. During this time, he was talking to his aforementioned ex who he had been split up from for about two years.  “We started talking a bit again on this camping trip, things were interesting. I felt really good about myself and being able to handle a relationship for the first time because I was sober and was killing this program, I was really doing a good job and making myself really proud. I was like, ‘I think I can maybe handle something,'” he recalls to me. “But I realized quickly I couldn’t handle — we are just not right for each other. But I got my hopes up a lot and then kind of started writing this song at that same moment, in this RV that we had. And wrote pretty much the entire song, it had a different chorus. But when I was writing it, it really felt like it was going to be special.”

When he got back, he took it phem and Feldmann who helped him round it out, as well as putting together the new chorus. He credits phem for coming up with the repetitive “shut up” part in the chorus, which he mentions is “the most genius part” of the whole song. Through their writing session, it never really lost it’s meaning — sobriety and dealing with things sober for the first time, like cutting off an ex. “I wrote it at a time where I was talking to my ex, got really depressed because I could tell that there was no future there,” Posey recalls. “It was my first time being depressed sober, I would always turn to substances to cure my depression. This was the first time that I couldn’t do that. So I turned to music and let everything out: the struggle of becoming sober, not wanting to be sober, but also at the same time wanting to be and all the stuff that goes with that. Doubting yourself and then realizing that you’ve got a lot of self worth. It’s jam packed, there’s a lot of shit in that song. It definitely dictates the last year of my life.”

Getting phem on “Shut Up” was something that Posey wanted to do, but was a little worried with asking her. One day Feldmann got her to go into the vocal booth to see what melodies she could throw onto the song, and then wound up staying on the whole song. When it came to getting Travis Barker on the song, something that Posey describes as “fucking nuts,” due to his admiration for blink-182 (he has two blink tattoos, and behind him I can see blink-182 posters), it almost didn’t happen. He tells me he pitched the idea of getting Barker on the song to Feldmann, who initially was skeptical due to it being Posey’s first solo single — and then one day he facetimed Posey with Barker in the studio and the rest is history.

As mentioned earlier, “Shut Up” is not the only new song that came out of those sessions with Feldmann and phem. Five North is still very much an active project, but since they’re not all able to be together, now was the perfect time for Posey to branch out on his own and see what he can do. I can’t give you a timetable for when to expect more new music from Posey, but I can tell you that fans can expect him to mix it up a little bit with different genres when that time comes — everything from pop music to acoustic pop, and of course, pop-punk.

No matter when that time comes for more new music, there’s one thing to be sure of: Posey has poured everything he has into it. It’s been an incredibly long year for him, much like it has for the rest of us, and now it’s time to just look forward. He went through a little bit of everything, but has found himself in a great place — maybe even in the best headspace he’s ever been in. That alone is a great accomplishment, what comes next with his music, is icing on the cake.