Tyler Bryant: A Six-String Love Affair
Tyler Bryant is in the middle of a passionate relationship.
It’s all-consuming. It gives meaning to his life. It brings joy and hope to his everyday existence.
Tyler Bryant is in love… with his guitar.
Seriously, Tyler is never far away from his shell-pink 1960
replica Stratocaster. He refers to
it as an attachment of his body. A
creation of the folks at Fender, it was built to his personal specifications,
complete with the wear and tear the instrument would have endured after 49
years of string-bending.
See, Tyler has a long-standing love affair with
guitars. Simply stated, it was a
relationship that was meant to be. The resident of Honey Grove, a small town in the northeastern corner of
Texas, received his first acoustic as a Christmas present at the tender age of
seven, and four years later sacrificed his own dirt bike, selling it in order to
purchase his first electrified axe.
While still in elementary school, a visit to a Paris, Texas
music store introduced Tyler to Roosevelt Twitty, a 63-year-old bluesman and
Paris native who saw the youngster’s talent, and before long, the duo was
making the Dallas area their musical playground while jamming at parties,
clubs, and benefit events. While in high school, Tyler immersed himself in the instrument, learning
everything possible recorded by blues legends Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy
Waters, then absorbing the work of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Stevie Ray
Now, let’s fast forward to 2007, when Tyler (And his guitar)
were the recipients of the Robert Johnson New Generation Award, given to a
promising artist by the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation. Yes, that Robert Johnson. Oh, and during the summer of 2007,
Tyler was invited to Chicago to perform at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, a
little get-together led by Eric Clapton. We all remember Clapton. He
had a couple of hits.
Most recently, Tyler completed (Along with his guitar) a
co-starring role in “Rock Prophecies”, a film about legendary rock photographer
Robert Knight. The film, which
premiers March 27th at Dallas’ Magnolia Theatre also stars Slash,
Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, and Steve Vai. Finally, a recent recording session resulted in “Bittersweet”, Tyler’s
newest song produced by Kevin Shirley, a man who also produced a fairly
well-known rock outfit we all know as Led Zeppelin.
That’s a pretty impressive resume’. Still, Tyler and the shell-pink love of
his life have a ways to go. Actually, he’s got quite a few good years left to make music. See, he’s only 18 years old. He’s good. Scary good.
Recently, Tyler sat down for a visit with Americana Music
Times, and yes, he brought the Strat. And while our conversation ranged from topics such as Santa Claus,
Stevie Ray Vaughn, and being the worst musician in the room, Tyler couldn’t
keep his hands off his beloved 6-string, and the music was worth every note.
You’ve been called
old-school. Pretty interesting for
My CD collection was so old school that it wasn’t even
funny. My grandma was like,
“Tyler, you need to get hip.” I
was listening to old school blues stuff like Lightnin’ Hopkins, all the Motown stuff,
and Stevie Wonder. Don’t get me
wrong, I love some new music, but I’m so about old school. It just seems like
it was real. They weren’t trying
to make a song to sell, they were just trying to make a good song. Music was musical. There was something back then that’s
not really being done much today. There
is so much good music out there right now, but there’s a lot that sounds like
the fast-food industry.
Talk about your pink
Stratocaster. It looks old, but
you say it’s really not?
Fender said I’m the only artist they’ve ever had that’s
asked for one. They basically
said, “Hey, what’s your dream guitar? What do you want?” I wanted
a 1960 replica Stratocaster, shell-pink, with rosewood bore. I sent them all the measurements,
because I have an original 1960 Stratocaster. I sent them pictures of how I wanted the wear to look, and
they built it and turned it over in about a week and a half. There was one thing that wasn’t right
about it. The neck still had too
much lacquer on the back, and it wasn’t worn down enough. My favorite thing about my old Strat
was that the finish was worn down on the neck so my hands just slid across
it. So, I went out to the Fender
factory and they took care of that. Man, it’s like a piece of my body. It’s my favorite guitar in the entire world. I’m actually holding it right now. (At this point, Tyler’s
playing bleeds through the phone connection) It’s definitely always close by.
You’re from Honey
Grove, but are currently living in Nashville. Talk about how you got there.
I was getting really down in Honey Grove, because I really
didn’t have anyone to share my love for music, and that’s why I got out of high
school a year early, so I could just go for it. I thought, “If I going to really do this, I need to stop
saying I’m going to do it and go for it.” If you look at a lot of artists that are making it nowadays, they’re all
17, 18, 19, 20 years old. Plus, my
mom’s a teacher, my grandma’s a teacher, and my grandad’s a principal, so all
them were saying, “You mean you’re not going to college? You’re just going to do this?” I said, “Yeah, that’s what I’m going to
do”, and everyone’s just so supportive of me. Here in Nashville, I’ve been getting so much stuff done for
my music career. Everyday it’s
just music, music, music. I’m
doing fine on my own, even though I miss my family a lot, but it’s all part of
growing up. I don’t mind making
those sacrifices if it’s gonna pay off in the end. I love Texas and I love
Honey Grove. That’s home to
me. Whenever the plane wheels hit
the ground I think, “Ahhh! It feels good to be back.”
Did you experience a
moment when you knew playing music was your destiny?
Stevie Ray Vaughn’s a huge influence on me. He changed my life. I remember getting his Live at El
Mocombo DVD. I think every young
guitar player goes through a time when they want to be Stevie a little bit. I
got it on Christmas night when my grandma gave it to me. I went home and I watched it. That’s when I found out that Santa
wasn’t real because I wouldn’t go to sleep. I think was 9 years old.
People often compare
you to Stevie Ray Vaughn. What’s
I try not to be anything like Stevie. He’s untouchable, one of the greatest
artists that’s ever lived. To me,
he’s on a level that no one has ever reached. You just don’t go there. For so long I got tired of people of saying, “You’re the
next Stevie Ray Vaughn.” To me
that was offensive. Outside I said
“Thank you” but inside I didn’t want to hear it. I appreciated the thought, but inside I was thinking, “There
will never be another Stevie.”
You mention Roosevelt
Twitty as your main influence. He
sounds like a special guy.
I give Mr. Twitty all the credit for what I am today. I’ve always had it in me, but he brought
it out. I talk to him a lot. I usually try to talk to him once a
week. He’s still in Paris. He’s a great guy, and he taught me a
lot more than just music, he’s such a good person and like family to me. Part of the reason for what I am today
is because throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, my
best friend was a 65-year-old black guy. He always told me, “Tyler, you’re like a grandson to me.”
Watching your live
videos, playing in front of a crowd seems to transform you.
I turn into a different person when I’m playing. The other side of me comes out, the
side that never, ever comes out unless I’m on stage. I’m never more awake then when I’m on stage. It’s pure energy and adrenaline, and
the only place I get it is when I’m front of people. On stage I’m going to move around and act kinda crazy. To me, it’s the greatest feeling in the
world, so whenever the lights go off, I’m like, “Cool. I feel like I could beat up a small
During the past few
months, you’ve had sessions with some world-class musicians.
Anton Fig (Drummer from the Late Night With David Letterman
Band) played on the song “Bittersweet” that’s on the MySpace page. He was the coolest guy ever, and was
telling me all these stories. Also, the film (“Rock Prophecies”) needed a 7-minute song for their
credits, and so I wrote the song “Who I Am.” Then, Abe Laboriel, the drummer from Paul McCartney’s band came
in, and Carmine Rojas from Rod Stewart’s band came in on bass. We set up in the studio and I played
the song for the guys acoustically one time. We lit like 300 candles and just went for it on the first
take. I probably mess up more when
I’m playing with those guys, but they push me. Sometimes it’s good to be the worst musician in the session,
because it definitely pushed me to try new stuff that I’d never tried before
and to get some really cool sounds.
You’re in the process
of writing songs for your next CD. What are you hearing?
The new album is going to be right, I know that. I’m not dissing my first record, but
that was recorded in 2 days. I had
no songs at all. I called up these
2 musicians that a friend of mine knew and said, “Hey, I’ll pay you guys $200
to come out and play on a record with me.” They thought they were going to do a single song. We cut 11 tracks in 2 days. We did it on analog, so it was all a
live-in-the-studio thing. I’m
spending some time on this one to insure my songs are undeniably good. We’re going to bring back guitar solos,
and we’re going to bring back some old-school stuff. I want it to be so slamming, soulful, and rockin’ that you
start the involuntary head bobbing. It’s like Albert King said about blues, “If you’ve got a soul, then you
can feel this.” I think that works
for a lot of music. I want it to
be undeniable and automatically make you feel something. You know, the Black Crowes did that
with “Remedy.” That’s where I’m
You’re co-starring in
a movie along with Slash, Jeff Beck, and Carlos Santana. What goes through your mind seeing
yourself on the big screen?
That’s the biggest honor for me, and I feel so blessed to be
in there. It feels pretty unreal
whenever I see the film, and I’ve seen it a few times now. I enjoy seeing myself in there, but
every time my parts come up I cringe and think, “Man, Jeff Beck’s gonna see
that.” He’s one of my all-time
favorite guitar players ever. It’s
the best honor ever to be in that film.
You’re 18 years
old. Where do you go from here?
I just want to come out with some blazing guitar, just some
great rock ‘n roll with a really soulful vibe to it, and take some of that
blues influence and add it to the mix. I don’t necessarily want to make a blues record, even though that’s
where I come from. I just wanna
As previously mentioned, “Rock Prophecies” will premier at
Dallas’ Magnolia Theatre on March 27th as part of the American Film
Institute Dallas International Film Festival. For more festival information, visit www.afidallas.com
To visit Tyler Bryant’s website, go to www.tylerdowbryantband.com, or at