Tyler Bryant, Blues' Next Rock God, Hits the Back Porch

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A kid named Tyler walks into a music store and becomes entranced by an older black gentleman named Roosevelt Twitty, (a true “bluesman” name,) playing a guitar and singing what he’ll soon find out is called, “the blues”. Nearly a decade later, Tyler Bryant has played for B.B. King & Aerosmith, been prominently featured in an award-winning rock documentary, played with Jeff Beck, toured the country, and has enjoyed a highly successful move to Nashville, among many other fantastic accomplishments.

Tyler is one of the most impressive artists playing Blues and Rock n’ Roll today. His love of the blues and music at large is striking; and in the vein of a true artist, he’s rapidly forging his own style and sound, one that’s impressed countless major players in music, and had developed a growing legion of well-deserved fans. Bryant is one of our favorite artists here at American Blues Scene, and we were fortunate enough to get a few minutes to talk with Tyler “on the road” down in Louisiana.

Tyler BryantSo you moved to nashville, huh?

Yeah, man, I moved to Nashville about 2 years ago. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. Feels like it was 6 months ago. But I moved up there 2 years ago, put together the band, and i think the reason it doesn’t feel like it’s been very long; we’ve been gone most of the time.

That makes sense. From everything I hear, y’all are doing pretty damn good up there.

Yeah! We’re working hard.

A lot of people work hard and don’t make much, so it sounds like you’re in a pretty good position.

Yeah. I mean, we’ve just been plucking away! We’ve had some really great opportunities and we’ve been really fortunate to have some pretty cool people paying attention.

I’ve been watching what you been doing for a while now. I first heard about you… somebody posted it on a blues forum maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Then the other day, my girlfriend told me I’ve got to watch an awesome documentary, that it’s got this sweet guy that plays blues and he’s like 16… you gotta come see it! It was Rock Prophecies. You’re all over the place! But how’d you get into blues!?

So I was 11 years old and went in Hollybond’s Music Store in Texas, and there was this older gentleman in there named Roosevelt Twitty. He was just sitting over in the corner, and he was playing some Lightnin’ Hopkins style guitar, and it just instantly… I was addicted from the minute I heard it. So I picked up this little bass and started trying to play along and he was like, “what do you know about the blues!?”, and I say “what’s the blues?”

I was like 11 years old. And he was like “well, if you like this music, why don’t you start comin’ by my house.” So I started going over to his house every day after school, and I just pretty much gave up on everything else other than learning to play music.

So I’d go over to his house, and he’d give me Lightnin’ Hopkins cassettes and John Lee Hooker cassettes and all these these old VHS tapes of all these amazing blues artists and we would just sit there and listen to music. But he and Lightnin’ Hopkins were always my favorite.

Yeah, a long time ago, the first time I ever heard Lightnin’ Hopkins… I thought it was ZZ Top. I thought “dang, I’ve never heard this ZZ Top before!” When I figured out who it was, I went out and bought a bunch of stuff from him, T-Bone, Peppermint Harris… a bunch of those Texas boys. And you’ve been doing tht ever since and you were… 11 then?

Yup! 11 years old. I was really into Elvis before that. So I was always really in to Rock n’ Roll. Once I started getting into the blues, I really got to see where Rock n’ Roll came from. And you know, I just spent a long time digging into the acoustic blues. I was really into Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers and all those cats… Son House, Leadbelly…

Not a bad way to be man!

No, and I was really into that sort of stuff and then when I got into high school, I was really into the Black Crowes and the Rolling Stones, and I started listening ot that side of things, and at that point, I already knew where all those guys were stealing their licks from!

Right! Hey, I heard you opened for B.B. King by the way!

Yeah I did. It was a pretty amazing moment for me.

Although that’s not the only one. I saw at one point a whole huge list, and I guess B.B.’s the one that stuck for me. But you’ve been really tearing it up lately! I heard something about REO Speedwagon…

Yeah, REO speedwagon, Aerosmith, Pat Benatar… I’m actually about to do a few weeks with Jeff Beck.

To cool! Yeah if there’s ever a blues-rock god… it’s be Jeff Beck.

Yeah, and he’s one of my favorite guitarists. I mean we’ve been on some really cool shows man.

I’m curious. Everything I keep hearing about you is that Tyler Bryant could be like the next “Stevie Ray Vaughan” kind of guy, which gets tossed around a lot, I know, but I guess I mean in the sense that he made this huge impact and he helps provide a blues resurgence because he’s so into blues, etc. And I saw in Rock Prophecies that Stevie Ray was a big hero of yours, so what do you think about that?

You know, I think it’s really cool. Stevie was definitely someone that I listened to growing up, and you know, I went through that phase that I think every Texas kid goes through where he wants a beat up Strat and he wants to throw it behind his head, and it’s like the punk kind that all the veterans want to kick off the stage at the blues jam, you know? And I definitely went through that stage, and I would like to think that I’m out of that now. I feel like Stevie was in his own realm, and I dont think anyone will ever be in that realm.

I don’t want to try to be the next Stevie; I want to do my own thing, and I have like so much respect for him. I feel like he made such an impact on music and he made a huge impact on me in the way I listen to music, and in my guitar playing. But he just goes to show, if you find your own sound and you chase after it and do something different, you can really make an impact.

Tyler Bryant was featured in the documentary Rock Prophecies, which followed famed photographer Robert Knight
Tyler Bryant was featured in the documentary Rock Prophecies, which followed famed rock photographer Robert Knight

And you know, Rock Prophecies is amazing and it kind of says that, maybe Robert [Knight] saw that I had the same sort of energy as Stevie, and I would hope that rather than me being the “next” Stevie, because I don’t think there will ever be a “next Stevie”.

Goin about it the way you are though…. is probably the best way to go about it.

Yeah man, and we’re doing our thing now! I’m playing Rock ‘n Roll music, and I’m just trying to find my own sound, and we’ve been working on creating this thing that’s unique to us, and it’s a mixture of all of my influences, from Lightnin’ Hopkins to the Crowes to Jeff Beck to, you know, Tom Petty… melting it all together. Because I want to bring something to new to my generation. Because I feel like the history of that music that’s so important to… It’s like when you really dig into it, blues music is pretty much behind all american music, so I think it’s really important for people to understand that, you know? And I don’t call myself a complete blues artist, because I [laughs] I’ve been that guy at the blues jam that they’re like “you’re not playing blues!”. But whenever I get home at night, I’m listening to some old acoustic blues record. That’s where my heart is, you know?

Hell yea. And some of those blues purists are assholes anyways.

Blues Nazis. [laughs]

Growing up in Texas, there was just so much good blues there! I grew up loving Anson Funderburgh and the rockets, and Alan Haynes, and a lot of guys there in texas. So I used to go around and try to sneak in the back door of those clubs to hear those guys play and sing.

That’s the thing. It’s all music, and I feel like those old blues guys probably weren’t concerned with it. They were just doing their thing.

Yeah, Texas sure has no shortage of musicians!

It’s true man. Where are you from?!

Missouri.

We’re playing KC with Jeff. You’ll have to come out! We’ll be in Kansas City on the 18th!

I’m doing acoustic shit, but that’d be a great opportunity to play some of that slide blues without the old P90, know what I’m saying?!

Can’t beat that! I can’t play a lot of that old acoustic slide; not enough control. But it’s great that you can; it’s not exactly easy.

I learned how to do that stuff… I played in the open tuning. I pretty much just tried to learn as many Muddy Waters licks as I could. I don’t know a lot of the Duane Allman sort of style. I just know the Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers style. I try to cop some of those licks.

Even better! If you can bring that into the 21st century, you’re pretty well set, I think, because that was some pretty amazing stuff they were doing, and a lot of people have forgotten it.

Yeah, I just really want to keep that music going, even a little bit. If I release a rock/pop record that’s going to appeal to people my age, then I can get them to the show and slap them with some old school blues. Give them something to go home and think about, you know what I’m saying?

I like the philosophy. We share that ideal around the American Blues Scene. We talked to Bonamassa the other day, and he said something very similar to that. “Blues in disguise” kind of thing.

Yeah, we’ve had some good jams! He’s a scary guy to jam with; he’s so damn good.

He’s sat in with my band before, and I sat in with him a couple times, and he’s a really good guy. I played with Bonamassa and Hubert Sumlin… all those guys at the same time and it was pretty unreal. House of blues on the Sunset Strip, L.A. Hubert Sumlin’s so freaking good, man. And he’s one of the last guys too, man. One of the last original blues guys.

Him and Honeyboy [Edwards]. That’s pretty much it…

What about freaking Pinetop, man?! How terrible was that…

Yeah that was crushing. We heard it on Sirius when it happened. It was shocking. I got to meet Pinetop a couple of times, and that cat LOVED the ladies.

Yeah! I know. I met him at Momo’s on 6th street in Austin a couple of times, and he’s just sit there with his hat on smoking his cigarette and hitting on every girl that walked in the door.

“Come here pretty baby lemmie show you my whip!” [laughs]

I forgot about the Austin thing, where you come from.  I know it was more impactful for a lot of people from down there.

Yeah, he would play with this guy, one of my all time favorite guitarists is this guy named Allen Haynes. He’s this texas blues guy, but he plays with his fingers, and he’s played with everyone from Buddy to Johnny Winter… I mean he’s just so good. One of the tastiest players. And Pinetop would go out and sit in with Allen. And I’d stand two or three feet in front of Allen and listen to him play. I’m really thankful for those times.

I saw him and Bob Margolin  — You know him?

Oh yea! I used to watch videos of him all the time. That guy can pull off Muddy better than anyone alive, man.

Well, hell, he learned from Muddy in Muddy’s living room! I got to see him and Pinetop for Pinetop’s homecoming last year down in Clarksdale, Mississippi. I’ve never seen anybody play slide better than him.

Yeah, he’s a beast. I stole a lot of what I know from him. Have you ever gotten to Duke Robillard or any of those guys?

Some, yeah! We’ve seen him play before, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him live.

I’ve never seen him live or talked to him or anything, but I just recently got some of his records and I though it was pretty cool.

That’s cool! Tell me about your philosophy! Guys like your age and my age, blues is kind of like a “what now?” kind of thing. And you’re holding these blues guys in such high relevance, and I love that idea that you’re playing this rock for the people, but it’s Muddy and Jimmy and stuff like that. What’re you doing? Musically?

I moved to Nashville because I wanted to work on songwriting. I feel like songwriting is a major part to being an artist and I started writing all kinds of music… Country, Pop, Soul, R&B, Rock… lots of Rock. I have Rock n’ Roll blood. But just writing all of this music, just trying to get it out and to stretch myself as an artist. But at the end of the day, it’s like, you can pull a rubber band so far, but when you let go it goes back to being a little rubber band. And I stretch myself, but at the end of the day, I love the blues in my heart. So at the end of the day I’m listening to all these guys, but I get my kicks from playing Rock n’ Roll, and my band is just a bunch of kids who just want to get together and play Rock n’ Roll and have fun! And I’m addicted to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Rolling Stones… Guys like that who have those influences but took it somewhere and did their own thing with it, so I’m just trying to write my own songs and do my own thing and then in the middle of the show somewhere, tip my hat and pay my respects to the guys that inspired me to make music. Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and those guys. And if I can get people out to the shows by playing Rock n’ Roll and throw them, you know, just a little dose of blues, I think a little bit goes a long ways for people who don’t know too much about the music, where it came from.

It’s kind of like what you were talking about; playing some of those slide licks that are deeply form the soul and they’re surprised! “What is that?! I have to find out more!”

Exactly! And I love so much music that I get to stretch so much, and I get to do what I want and I try to be able to contribute to the history of the blues, because I feel like it really is the most important part of American music. It’s the beginning! It’s where it all started. Without that… where would we be?

Polka.

Yeah!

It feels like you are kind of the spearhead of this crop of a younger generation of artists that’s coming to light now, guys like the young Tallan Latz, Johnny Lang, Matthew Davidson.. these young guys that are coming up and loving the blues and doing their own thing, and people are eating it up!

Yea! It’s great! I think my philosophy is, there has to be songs. I could sit and listen to guitar shredding all day, but most people, if a guitar solo goes for more than three minutes, they want to go grab a beer or go take a piss, you know?! And for me, I’m just trying to write the best songs that I can, that hopefully people can connect with on an emotional level, and write songs that connect with people, that way I can sneak in a couple of guitar licks and maybe try to trust their soul a little bit so that they may want to expand their musical taste!

That is awesome! That’s one of the best philosophies I know.

I feel like there’s a million kids on the U.S. who can pick up a guitar and play like nobody’s business. Like everywhere you look there’s a shredder kid. And I think a lot of people are getting a little tired of that, so I think you’ve got to take it somewhere new.

I agree. And you’ve got the unique musical ideas to compliment that. They’ve got Johnny Lang and those guys, and it’s working. The guys that find their own style with that blues base.

I love Johnny! He’s awesome. We’ve actually written a song together. It’s actually not out, though. We met and I was leaving to go on the road at around six in the morning and we got together around midnight and got some pizza and started jamming and writing a song. Johnny, he’s a good guy, man.

When I first heard him, I was blown away! That was when I first got really excited about the younger guys getting into the blues and where they were going to go with it.

Yeah, man, me too!

Well, you’re one of them!

Damn right, man!

So I heard you got into Guitar Hero?

Yeah! I had a song in Guitar Hero! I think that one of the guys from Activision was at one of my shows in California, and every now and then I pull an “Albert Collins” and jump off the stage and go deliver a guitar solo to someone’s face, and I think i actually delivered it to the Activision guy’s face!

Well I guess you made a good choice of delivery, there!

I had no idea! And now my song’s in the game. It’s been really cool. I think that game is really good! What the game is, it’s nothing like playing a real guitar, but it IS getting goog guitar music out to people. right now, when I was growing up there was posters of Jimi and Jeff Beck and Slash and all these great guitarists on my wall, and I don’t feel like there’s a poster child for our generation as far as guitar goes. And there could be hundreds of them. There’s so many great players. So my thing is doing something just a little bit different, so it’s not 100% focused on the guitar, and it’s focused on the song and the song is filled with great guitar. You know?

Like you said. A lot of guys can get up there and shred, but you’ve got to have the soul to go with it.

Sometimes it’s more about what you leave out than what you put in.

So you’ve got Albums out, right?

We just released our first EP two days ago on iTunes! It’s called My Radio. That’s some Rock n’ Roll for you right there! It’s $3.96. As much as a king sized candy bar and a diet Coke!

There’s also a video on YouTube called “Shackles” that we did. I wrote it, it’s sort of like my take on where I come from, from a “Blues” standpoint. [Editor’s Note: The video was so good we had to post it up the day we heard it. Find it at the bottom of this interview! ]

We’re starting our band’s first full length record in May, and it’ll be out in June.

Tyler Bryant That’s not much turn-around!

You’d better believe it! We don’t need to over-process anything. [laughs]

We get in the same rooms, turn the amps on, push record, and let it roll! That “My Radio” EP that’s on iTunes was recorded on two-inch tape! It’s just so easy to make music these days. “Fast food music”. Any kid with a fast computer and pro tools can make you sound great. And that’s cool, and if that’s your thing then that’s awesome and I even happen to like some of that music, but I think there’s also something to be said about a band in a room playing their instruments.

What’re your plans for the future?

We’re going to make records and we’re going to tour like crazy! After Louisiana we’re heading out with Jeff Beck for three weeks! And I’m just excited because I get to see Jeff every night for three weeks. I get to watch his show! I’ll be down there taking notes!

Jeff really is one of the greatest.

In my book, he’s the most innovative guitar player of all time. He is my all-time favorite guitarist.

I believe he’s recording a blues album with Rod Stewart here, soon!

Yeah he is!

What’s something people wouldn’t know just by Googling you?

That I’m completely OCD…. and that I love to fish.

Thanks a lot, Tyler! We’ll be up there for you and Jeff playing!

I look forward to shaking your hand, man!


Visit Tyler Bryant’s Website

Pick up a copy of his four-song EP release “My Radio” on iTunes!

 

 

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