Wild Child: A Coming of Age Tale
An Interview with Tyler Bryant
Words by Alex Napoliello — Nashville, TN
Wild Child is the name of the debut full-length album by Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, but it is also a metaphor for the young guitar virtuoso’s career thus far. At age 15, Bryant was handpicked by Eric Clapton to play his Crossroads Festival, and was also sought out by Jeff Beck to be his opener for his 2011 spring & fall tour.
“I’m kind of over the whole ‘guitar prodigy’ thing,” Bryant says over the phone from his home in Nashville. As a 21-year-old who’s resume reads like a seasoned veteran, Bryant’s first full-length record is more than just an album – it’s a chance for him to shake his reputation as a teenage-shredder, and be defined by his music rather than his age.
“You get guys who are like, ‘man, you’re really good for your age.’ And it’s like, ‘aw jeez. I guess I’m not good; I’m just good for my age.’ I think there’s always that (way of looking at me),” Bryant says.
Listening to Wild Child with no prior knowledge of Bryant and his band mates, Caleb Crosby (drums), Noah Denney (bass) and Graham Whitford (guitar), you wouldn’t be able to tell it was written by a bunch of young 20-somethings. It’s a record full of dynamic and a wide range of musical tastes. “House on Fire” is a hard-hitting, post-grunge masterpiece, while songs like “Poor Boy’s Dream” and “Lipstick Wonder Woman” are straight up country-blues. But then there are rock anthems like “Still Young (Hey Kids)” that are rooted in pop punk.
“We just try to make all that stuff (the various styles on the record) cohesive just using the sound on the record. But that’s what I love about the record, I feel like it embodies us as a band and all the things that we dig,” Bryant says.
Cohesiveness isn’t the only thing Bryant was concerned about when it came to the “sound” of the record. Perhaps another telltale sign that Bryant is mature way beyond his years is his appreciation and understanding of sound. For Wild Child, the Nashville-based quartet opted to cut the record on analog rather than use the industry standard, Pro Tools. “We wanted to make something rootsy and true to us,” Bryant explains, “If something was a little out of tune, we didn’t want to go in and fix it in Pro Tools, we just wanted it to sound like it did.”
Bryant continues, “I think we just wanted a very honest snapshot of where we are right now. It’s so easy for a band to go into the studio and make a record that’s way better than they are. We didn’t want the record to be better than we are, we wanted it to be just as good as we are.”
Bryant’s background further explains his quest for musical purity. As a kid, Bryant grew up listening to blues legends such as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughan. When he got into high school, he started venturing into rock and roll and listening to the likes of Tom Petty and The Black Crowes. Bryant even dabbled in some punk rock as a youngster.
At age 16, Bryant was awarded the Robert Johnson Foundation’s New Generation Award. He was also featured in the award-winning documentary “Rock Prophecies.” By his senior year of high school, Bryant decided to leave behind his home in Texas to Music City USA, Nashville, where he currently resides.
– Tyler Bryant on Wild Child
“I made the trip to Nashville, did a couple shows, and I met a few songwriters who said, ‘come to town, we’ll write a song together or something.’ These were guys from bands that I really liked. So I thought, ‘maybe I can go and learn how to write songs,’” Bryant says.
His original plan of coming to Nashville and strictly being a songwriter didn’t exactly play out the way he thought it would. Instead, Bryant put together the Shakedown and in March 2011, they released their first EP, My Radio, followed by a seven-track album From The Sandcastle in September of that year.
Things have been rolling for them ever since. Back in early November, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown made their late night television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live. They have also had the privilege of opening stadiums for Aerosmith, Eric Clapton and B.B. King.
Even though Bryant and his band mates have shared the stage with some rock legends, he still remains humble.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if it weren’t for all the musicians in Texas who let me sit in,” admits Bryant. “I feel like everyone in Texas is so supportive of young guys playing music. I mean, in Nashville they are, too. It’s a cool community in both places.”
As for Wild Child, which comes out today, Bryant concludes, “I just wanted to make an honest rock and roll record. If people think that we sound young, we are.”
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