Tyler Bryant (second from left) and the Shakedown
There’s nothing like being on the ground level of something big that’s starting. Whether it’s investing in a stock of a young start-up company or the early stages of an underdog political candidate who goes on to win the office they’re seeking against incredible odds.
That’s how I feel about a young guitar prodigy by the name of Tyler Bryant. Several months ago Desiree, a loyal Boomerocity reader from Pennsylvania, turned me to Tyler, encouraging me to check out some of the video of him on YouTube. What I saw held me spellbound and I was immediately hooked as a fan. I also felt like I was getting in at near the ground floor level of something phenomenal that was going to be big. Really big.
Tyler is already commanding attention and creating an incredible amount of buzz wherever he goes and plays. The crazy thing is: There are people – very talented people – who have been at it a lot longer than he has and haven’t achieved ten percent of what he has.
Since learning of Bryant, I’ve been researching his history and work and what an incredible story it is. He first picked up the guitar at 6 years old. A few years later, he reportedly sold a dirt bike that his parents had just given him so that he could buy an electric guitar. He was turned on to the blues at the age of 11 when he walked in to a Paris, Texas, music store and heard Roosevelt Twitty playing a Lightning Hopkins tune back in the corner of the store. From that point he was hooked on the blues.
By the age of 15, Bryant had his own touring band, gaining notoriety in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma – even winning the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation’s New Generation award. The following year, he was tapped by Mr. Slow Hand himself, Eric Clapton, to play at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago. Having finished with high school early, he packed up and moved to Nashville at the age of 17.
Once he hit music city, he formed a band consisting of fellow guitar player Graham Whitford (son of Aerosmith co-guitarist, Brad Whitford), Caleb Crosby on drums, and Calvin Webster on bass. Together, they form Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown and are enjoying a gradual, high-climbing trajectory that is sure to place them in ever larger venues and played on a growing population of fans.
So far, that ascent has had them share stages with Jeff Beck, Heart, REO Speedwagon, B.B. King, Paul Simon, Vince Gill and quite a few others. In fact, a couple of years ago Vince Gill said about Bryant, “To be 18 and play like this dis is the rarest of the rare. Hands down a future guitar god.”
Tyler and I recently spoke by phone to, among other things, discuss his upcoming album, From The Sandcastle, that will be released on Tuesday (read the Boomerocity review here).
Before we started chatting about Sandcastle, I asked Bryant if he misses Honey Grove, Texas.
“Yeah, I do. I just got back to Nashville last night. We went to L.A. and played a show and then flew to Texas. We played a thing called ‘Red Dirt Revolution” out towards Deport, Texas, which is actually a really cool festival. So I got to go home and see my family and spend the night in Texas. I miss the people more than anything.”
However, when it comes to his new, adopted home, he adds, “Oh, I love it, man! I moved here over L.A. just because it kinda had a small town feel to it and it’s still in the south. The people are really nice and it’s got a lot of the same qualities that I love about Texas.”
We quickly shifted gears to discuss Sandcastle. I asked him to give you guys a heads up as to what to expect from the album.
“Oh, it’s just dirty rock and roll! There’s ups and downs on it but, for the most part, it’s simple rock and roll - very guitar driven. It’s the first band album we’ve done as Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown just because my band is such an instrumental part in creating our sound. They were very instrumental in making this record. So, yeah, I’m very excited about it! It’s pretty high energy for the most part. It sounds like a couple of kids got hold of a couple of microphones.” He says, chuckling.
Comparing it to his last release, My Radio, Tylers says, “We’ve just grown since that project. I mean, that project was pretty much straight ahead rock and roll, too. This one has a few more songs than My Radio. We tried to bring out a lot of our roots and where we come from on this record.
Listening and watching Bryant perform his craft it’s clear that his influences are many and varied in their genres. I asked him who his musical influences were and are.
“Oh, there’s so many. Lightnin’ Hopkins was one of my first blues influences. I got turned on to him by a guy that was probably one of the most influential people in my life, Roosevelt Twitty, a Texas blues man who lives in Paris (Texas). I was really big into the acoustic blues guys like Robert Johnson, Son House and that kind of thing until I got into high school. Then I heard the Black Crowes and the Rolling Stones. I started listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and started to want to write songs. Not long after that, I moved to Nashville – when I was seventeen. I moved out and found a couple of guys who were in the same spot I was in and we put together a band.
“It definitely all happen to come together really fast. Everybody in the band knew exactly what they wanted. I knew exactly what I wanted. I knew that no one was going to stop me. That’s why I got out of high school early and why I moved to Nashville. I just started calling everyone I knew, including people I didn’t know. ‘Hey, do you know any musicians?’ One thing led to another and, yeah, it’s still one thing leading to another.”
On impulse, I asked Tyler what he’s been listening to on his iPod recently. He just happened to have it on him .
“Let me look. Right now, it’s on Iggy Pop and the Stooges. I just bought something from an Austin guy. His name is Gary Clark, Jr. just released a couple of songs that I thought were amazing. Have you checked out Grace Potter and the Nocturnals yet? Love them!”
The fact that Tyler has, in less than three years, hit Nashville, formed a top shelf band, and getting the traction that he has is the stuff that many, many aspiring artists have dreamed about and never attained. Aside from such early career traction, there’s also the realization of his dreams to share the stage with some the legendary artists I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Most recently, he was asked to tour with the iconic Jeff Beck with several performances having found their way onto YouTube. I encourage you to check them out.
On the subject of Jeff Beck, I asked Tyler about his experience with the rock icon, who else he’s played with and who he would like to work with.
“He (Beck) doesn’t talk all that much. He’s always been really supportive of me. He had me up there jamming with him every night. He’d kind of push me on stage, ‘Come on! Come on!’ – that kind of a thing.
“We’ve played with a ton of people so far. We toured with Heart and Pat Benatar, Jeff Beck, REO Speedwagon. We played with Aerosmith. We still haven’t played with the Crows. I’d still like to play with the Crows. I think that would be fun! The Heartbreakers would be awesome. The Stones would be cool. We’re also trying to get on with some younger tours with this new record – taking the music to the kids and give ‘em what they ain’t gettin’!”
I typically ask the “more mature” artists what they haven’t done, project-wise, that they still hope to accomplish. Since Tyler is still clearing the launch pad of his career, relatively speaking, I chose, instead, to ask him what his dream project would be. His answer was immediate if not also short and sweet.
“Oh, man! I’d love to have Tom Petty to produce a record for me. It would just be American rock and roll!”
And, as far as touring to promote Sandcastle, Bryant says, “We’re going to be doing our own shows. We coming to Texas on the 15th – I think in Lewisville. Then we’re playing the Austin City Limits Festival on the 17th. We’ve got a lot of our own shows coming up. I honestly don’t know where they’re all at. Then, in October, I’m going out with 25 more shows with Jeff (Beck). Well be doing the west coast and Canada.”
As for his long term plans and goals for, say, the next one to five years, they’re crystal clear in his mind.
“We’re planning on going into the studio again in November and working on a full length record. We going to be touring and I’m pretty sure that we’ll start the process all over again – record/tour, record/tour, until I die.”
I was curious what was Bryant’s guitar weapon of choice on stage and how many guitars he actually had in his arsenal.
“I pretty much only play my Fender.” And as for the number of guitars in his arsenal, “Oh, around 45 or 50” he says matter-of-factly. I suppose a man can’t have too many guitars. He continued by saying, “I’ve got all kinds. I collect vintage guitars.” He says that his pride and joy is a 1960 Fender Stratocaster. “I’ve got a 1960 Fender Strat, a 1965 Gibson SG, a 1956 Gibson 125.”
At this time, Tyler feels that he is fortunate to already own the guitar that he considers his “holy grail”.
“Fender built my dream guitar which is a 1960 Cadillac Pink Strat. It was a guitar I always dreamed of and they built it for me. It’s pretty much the only guitar that I play now.”
Even though, at the time of this writing, Tyler Bryant isn’t even quite 21 years old, I was curious if he had any idea as to how he wished to be remembered after he’s no longer on the sunny side of the earth’s crust. Surprisingly, though he indicated that it was a tough question, he quickly and succinctly had an answer.
“Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I’ve definitely thought about it before because I had a producer say to me one time after playing a guitar solo, ‘Hey, if you died right now, would anybody remember that guitar solo?’ It was kind of an intense thing to say but it’s so true. If you want to be an artist that’s remembered, you have to be an artist that someone can remember. You can’t be forgettable and you have to do your own thing.
“I speak for myself and the band when I say that we want to bring it to the kids because, when I was growing up, fortunately I had people in my life to play good rock music for me. But it seems like it’s a little harder to find these days. I want to keep blues alive. There’s this massive form of American music that’s been pushed under the bus a little bit by mainstream radio. It’s just the way things are now. It’s cool because there’s a lot of really interesting, great music out there now. But there’s some soul that’s missing in a lot of it and that’s what I want to bring back.
“So, I think we’d like to be remembered as a good rock band that was really honest. Nothing more than a really honest band that did what they believed in and gave it to the people, you know?”
If you want to fill your mind with incredible memories of phenomenal, guitar-driven rock and roll, then you will definitely want to, a) purchase your own copies of Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown’s work – especially From The Sandcastle and, b) sign up for e-mail blasts from Tyler and the gang by visiting his website, www.tylerbryantmusic.com. You will be kept up to date on the band’s touring, recording plans and whatever else of importance might crop up.
Be prepared to become an ardent, life-long fan.