Tyler Bryant Interview – January 2023

This interview has been edited for clarity and flow.

On January 23, Tyler Bryant of Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown took some time to hop on Zoom for an interview, from his home in Nashville. 

We talked about his influences, what’s it’s like opening for 100,000 people, and how his musical philosophy has changed as he’s gotten older, and much more… 

This is the first episode of Backline Beat’s new podcast. You can watch above/video link or keep on reading.

 You’ve been on tour, how’s it been? 

Yeah, we just did Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia, and we’re about to head to North Carolina and Virginia, in a couple days.

They went well?

Yeah, they wen’t awesome.

It’s the first of the year, right?

Yeah…I guess it was the first shows of the year. So…yeah…Last night I had a total mind meltdown and told someone, yeah, I think we’re done touring for the year. Then I looked at the calendar and was like ‘oh wait, we’re already in the new year.” The new years happened and we’re off and rockin’…I’m just happy to be out playin’, and to have the opportunity to playin’ after you know, so long of missing it.

I can only imagine. It’s been nice going out to shows again.


Getting right into it. Were did you start from and what made you want to pick up a guitar?


Well I guess the first thing that sparked an interest in music for me was seeing a video of Elvis Presley when I was in the first grade. I was instantly obsessed with Elvis and wanted to be an entertainer…and…when I was eleven, I met this man named Roosevelt Twitty, in a music store. He was a real deal Texas blues man. And he became one of my best friends, and would pick me up from school and take me to his house, or my parents would drop me off, and we’d just sit there listening to blues records or playin’ guitar…We really became best friends. All the people in out surrounding communities would call us the Blues Buddies, ‘cause it was this old man and little kid playin’ the blues together.

From there I got into classic rock and realizing the rock n’ roll I loved all stemmed from the blues. So a big part of my mission, was when I was seventeen, was…I’m going to move to Nashville and start my own rock n’ roll band. And I’m going to use it as a way to tell people about the blues music I love. None of my friends ever listened to that. I’ve done that, and I’m still tellin’ people of all these records I love.

What made it Nashville? Opposed to a place like Austin, that was closer to home for you?

I think I was…Austin seemed like a great place to go if I wanted to play live music in Austin, but my goal was to become a songwriter. So I kind of, through a couple of chance encounters, met a few Nashville songwriters, and publishers. And I met this guy named Jody Williams, who ran BMI, and they were all kind of going ‘come down here. We’ll help introduce you to some people”. So it felt like I was just just following the signs my life was giving me, you know? It seemed like the there was already some inroads in Nashville, and I had a couple of friends that I…One of them, I had lunch with today, who I met when I was fifteen, who was like ‘you can come to sessions with me, and see how studios work’…and I just had people who were very helpful and nice, like Jaren, from The Cadillac Three, was my next door neighbour…you know? All these things just sort of happened and it just seemed like it made sense. But I do love Austin.

What was your first guitar?

My first guitar was like a little tiny Harmony acoustic guitar, that came form a garage sale. And then my fist electric guitar was an Epiphone Les Paul, that I put on layaway, at Holly Bond’s music store in Paris, Texas. I had to save up my money to pay it off. I payed it off, and I still have it.

I can relate, I had a Jade’s guitar fund for my first electric. Which was also a Epiphone Les Paul.

I still have the Tyler’s guitar fund every now and then…Even though there’s probably a hundred guitars in my house…there’s alway something.

Trying to find the right one.

Yeah, man.

Are you someone who searches for the right one, or someone who buys one and feels it out, then decides on whether to keep it or not?

I’m someone who has a million guitars and plays one. You know? My main pink Strat is like the one I always reach for, and is the one I play the most. Like when we go on the road, I only take five guitars with me, and they’re all for specific tunings. And to have one backup for my main one. But in the studio it’s a different thing. I use them…I think of them as colours. You can’t make a painting with just one colour…I suppose you can, some people can, but I like to have other colours to paint with. Each guitar does a different thing and I keep some of the tuned differently, or strung up differently…just to have different flavours. To maybe inspire a song, or a different idea that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Is there one guitar one guitar you find you go to more?

Yeah, it’s that pink one right there (behind his left shoulder). It’s the one that I go to live, it’s the one I go to in the studio, it’s been sort of a travelling companion. It’s been with me so many years now that…I feel more at home on that guitar.

It’s a weird thing with instruments. How you can just connect with one so deeply. We could both have completely different views on the same guitar.

It’s all so subjective. That’s what’s so fun about music, and creating music. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You know…even some of the guitars I have around here that don’t play good, they make you play a certain way, that could be beneficial to a song. Like if you want a song to sound like you’re kinda arm-wrestling it to where it needs to be, maybe the guitar your most comfortable on isn’t the move, you know. I just like havin’ things like that. I have tenor guitars, guitars with high strings…there’s this guitar I recently got, and I put the Nashville tuning strings on it, it’s only the little strings from a twelve string set. So it rings and chimes like a bell. It has that Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers type of sound to it. But having different things around are really inspiring to me.

When you first started out playing guitar, who were your influences?

Well, because I was into so much blues, I was really obsessed with Johnny Winter. I loved that Johnny Winter was doing Muddy Waters covers, and he was producing some Muddy Waters stuff. Muddy was one of my favourites, so I was trying to play some of his songs on slide. Also just, like, I loved the way Johnny Winter seemed to be progressive with the blues, that it seemed dangerous, to me. He was making it rock and roll and relevant to his peers. So I was really drawn to that. He was alway someone I tried to emulate.

Jeff Beck, of course. I…just studied his records, and always…I honestly never really tried to play like Jeff too much. Only a few times, but it’s just because his playing was always untouchable to me. He’s so good, it’s like ‘don’t try and do that, let him be’… You kinda got to give him a wide berth, because you’re not going to d it that good.

Of course. You know he recently passed, do you want to talk about you time with him, what was that like?

Oh, man. It was a dream come true, for me. He was so nice to me, and just the coolest guy, you know? He was as cool as he was talented, which is saying something. But yeah I still feel so grateful for getting to go out and spend time amongst a hero of mine, and arguably the best to ever do it.

All the stories coming out after his passing talked about his generosity, and how he was happy to give the spotlight to someone else.

Yeah man. I think that’s because he had to be ‘cause he was comfortable enough with himself, which I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t be, if you were Jeff Beck. It was the first time I was able to ride on a tour bus…just a lot of first memories, were on the Emotion & Commotion tour, that I kick off on with him. Yeah…early on I learned so much. I watched every soundcheck from the side of the stage. I watched every show…I started out following the bus in a van. And all of the folks on that tour were so kind to me, and become real friend. Some I’m still in touch with today. And they kind of took me under their wing, and let me travel with them. I really got to know Jeff as a friend, and yeah, he always gave me good advice. And through the years I’d send him songs I was working on, and he’d tell me what he liked…and what he didn’t like, that kinda thing. I always valued that.

Speaking of a Shakedown show. For those that have never been, what’s the experience like?

Well, a Shakedown show is four guys who just leave it all on the stage. There’s a lot of energy that gets spent, and we swing for he fences every show. We kinda like to wear our roots and influences on our sleeve. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We kind of treat every show like a celebration. You know, over the years we’ve been lucky to have a great group of fans that have supported us and come out to each show…I live for the exchange between us and the people that support our music. I know a lot of them by name, I see a lot of the same people at the barricades, and then when there’s new people, it’s cool because Shakedown fans are just as much part of the show as we are. I see people welcoming each other. They’ve made friends with each other, ‘cause everyone’s there to share rock n roll…It’s always a really positive atmosphere at a Shakedown show. 

How’d you and the band meet?

I met Caleb Crosby the drummer, when I moved to Nashville when I was seventeen. I was looking for someone to play with and we got together, and we’ve never stopped playing together. We still play together after all this time. Then I met Graham Whitford, the other guitarist, in New York City. And he was introduced to me as the guy who was going to put me out of a job, so I just asked him to join the band. He’s been playing with us ever since. Then Ryan, who’s on bass, he was actually attending…we played on the Kiss cruise, and Ryan is a huge Kiss fan and when he was young, he was on that cruise and saw The Shakedown playing and started following the band around…Then when our old bass player Noah, who’s still a really close friend, left the band, we were looking for someone to step in and fill that roll. Ryan stepped up and has done a wonderful job and it’s been really fun incorporating him into the mix.

Where did the name come from?

The name…this story…everyone has different memories about this story…The way that I remember it, is we’d done a show Syracuse, New York, supporting Aerosmith at the New York State Fair, and they had pyrotechnics on stage. And I’d put my guitar, like down on the stage and somehow, some sort of dust got on the guitar, and the next day I was flying and my guitar got flagged as having…as being a potential bomb threat. Then Graham walked by at the airport and said “look it’s a shakedown”…and we kinda laughed about that. That’s the way I remember it, but Caleb might have a different memory on how it happened. But it just feels like it’s always been our band name, you know?

You made your first album in 2013 (Wild Child). What’s it like making a first album?

Oh it was a lot of fun. We certainly had a few swings and misses with studios and producers. Just trying to figure out what our work flow was. So much of this band is about having fun. Like I said, our shows, are a very positive atmosphere. And we wanted our first record to just sound like us. The way it sounds when we get together and rehearse and jam…so we ended up going in with Vance Powell, and recorded that record in six days, I think. We just played it, did it live and recorded it all onto two inch tape. It was just a very reckless recording experience, honestly. Not zooming in on anything, or trying to make anything too perfect. Just letting it be. I think…you know, during post records, we started zooming in and started to…the music business starts getting in your ear. If you do this you’ll be successful, and if you do this you might have a better career, and if you do this you this, your life might be better…happy. All this stuff, and I think…we just put out this record called Shake The Roots and I think it was like it was our way of silencing all those voices, and getting back to that initial child like enthusiasm, that initial kill spirit, of we gotta go do this now, we gotta play. We kind of used that energy on this newest record. It felt a lot more like us.

It’s a great album. It’s a bit more bluesy than your previous. You also released it yourselves, on your own label, did you not?

Yeah, we started our own record label. That’s been a whole whirlwind of learning experiences, and swings and misses…and home runs. But that just, for us, we started Rattleshake Records to one, try and get closer to our fans. To cut out the middle man, and two, to just take another step in what I was talking about. Sustaining this so we can continue to do this for years and year to come. We’ve over the last few years been doing som much recording on our own where we were going ‘we don’t need to take a bunch of money from a label’ if we were going to own anybody anything, let’s just front it ourselves. Let’s hire people that are passionate about this band. Other than having people work on the records who might not even like our band, you know? We’ve been very fortunate to work with incredible labels and have incredible label partners. But I think we’re also very aware that artists have more power than they’ve every had, right now in 2023. This is the future, we’re here. We have to take the opportunity and bet on ourselves and I think that’s something we just had to do. We reached the point of if we’re going to do it, let’s do it.

Did that stem from making Pressure yourselves in your basement studio during lockdown?

Well yeah. It stemmed from that. Then I got to make a record with Larkin Poe, and seeing how that record went out and performed. I thought what’s the difference of us spending $50,000 on a record, and us just capturing the moments. I think that, especially for the type of music the we’re doing…something that I have to constantly remind myself of is, I might like to spend ten hours tinkering with a snare sound the kid in Delaware who just want to put his headphones on and hear a song that makes him want to punch his fist through the ceiling, is listening to the who experience. It’s like, how do we set ourselves up to constantly have that whole experience in the forefront of our mind, and not zoom in on, well, this producer did this record, so your chance of success is higher if you do that. It’s like ok, tune those voices out. What is it we do? And just trying to focus in on what makes us tick as a band, and water that flower as it grows. I just think that the older I’ve gotten, and the band has gotten, it’s just become more apparent to us that we just love doing what we love doing, and that’s what we want to do. So if anyone’s going to tell us no, it’s going to be ourselves.

You talked about making the Larkin Poe record, was that Blood Harmony?

We did that record as well. The one that set off the spark for me was their covers album Kindred Spirits. We did that record in two days. It was capturing a moment and I think…I really love that. When recordings are treated like pictures. It’s like here you are in this moment, snap shot. Then when you hear it, it takes you back to this moment in time. I think the music industry sometimes puts so much weight on a single album, when it’s like…each record is really important, but…each record doesn’t have to be a defining…you don’t have to make Master of Puppets every record. I look at Elvis Presley for example. Look at how many records he had and how many record of his I love, and they’re all moments, and snapshots of him in that time…I’m inspired my that idea, so that what I’m chasing right now. So maybe in a year it will be different. 

Blood Harmony was done the same way Shake The Roots was done. With help from a couple other friends like, Roger Allen Nichols, who’s an amazing engineer here in Nashville, as well.

Is producing something you’d like to do more of?

Oh yeah. During the pandemic, I started working with a bunch of different artists. And now have been trying to find the balance of being the frontman of The Shakedown, producing Shakedown stuff with my bandmates, and then also all of these other projects. I was thrilled that Larkin Poe asked me to co-producer their album. I’ve been producing this other record for this artist named Frankie Ballard, who’s amazing. And I’ve got a few other pretty exciting records I’m working on, as well. I’m staying very busy in the studio, yeah.

You’re married to Rebecca Lovell, one half of Larkin Poe. What’s it like having musicianship under one roof? Are you constantly going back and forth bouncing ideas off one another?

I think we…pick and choose when we do that. We certainly play each other everything we’re working on. I’m very very fortunate to have such a strong sounding board. She understands what this requires, and I understand what it requires. I dropped her off at bus call last night, and won’t see her for three weeks, and it’s great to know we’re good. That we know what it takes, and are able to support each other in that way. If there’s a bunch of shows in a row, it’s like, ‘hey you need to save your voice, let’s text.’ There’s just an understanding that I feel really lucky to have. When Rebecca and I write together, which we wrote four or five songs on the new Blood Harmony record, and then she co-wrote “Hard Learned” with me on the new Shakedown record. But for the most part when we write together, we write classic country songs, in the morning. I just love hearing her sing that. I feel really lucky that I’m the only person in the world who gets to hear it, really. I mean we have some songs…like…there’s on in particular that I play for friends when they come over, and I just watch people get goosebumps. Her voice is stupid, yeah.

So will there ever be a Tyler Bryant & Rebecca Lovell country album?

Well I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’ve been kickin’ around some ideas for a record I’d put out as a potential solo album one day. My band members know that’s something I aspire to do, and Rebecca sang on a handful of those and she’s been putting in her two cents. But I think I’d vote to put out some of those. ‘Cause we like classic old school country. Not a lot of the modern country. But I think it would be a lot of fun to make that record, even if it was just for us, but it would be wonderful to share it too.

As we wrap up, do you have any advice for someone looking to join, or start a band?

Yeah, I mean my advice would be to follow your heart, follow your own intuition and instincts. Because being yourself is the most powerful thing you can do. Also, don’t get discouraged because doors will get slammed in your face. But there are always more doors, so you just have to keep knocking on doors until you knock on the right ones. Just keep your nose to the grindstone and keep swinging away.

Lastly, what’s next for Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown?

Well, we’ve got some new music coming out already. So we’ve got some exciting things in the works we’ll be announcing soon. And I’ve been working on couple things personally announcing in February. As well as more tour dates, obviously posting that on our website, tylerbryantandtheshakedown.com. Yeah, so lots of exciting things we’ll be announcing soon.

Can’t wait to hear the new stuff, and hopefully you guys will come up North at some point. Thank you for taking the time.

Pleasure to talk with you…bye.

Tyler's Favouries

“Take It With Me” by Tom Waits

Wildflowers by Tom Petty

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Play? Big clubs, I like when it feels intimate.
Watch? Ryman*

The Perfect Storm**
TV Show?
Breaking Bad…no, The Office.

Mexican food.

City to have a day off?

First Concert:
Watched? George Straight
Played? Roxton Café with Mr. Twitty. They gave us each a $100 and a steak.

If you were to meet a civilization that had never hear music before what would you play them? It could be one of your songs or someone else.
I’d probably play them “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.

*I got to play there with Jeff (Beck), twice. Then Grahams first show with The Shakedown was opening for Heart. All downhill from there.

**That’s a tough one, I gotta say maybe, ’cause this will piss my wife off. I’m going to say The Perfect Storm. Because the other day I said, we gotta watch The Perfect Storm, it’s one of my favourite movies. I’d realized I’d never seen the end of the movie, ’cause I’m notoriously awful at falling asleep in movies. Because if I put on a movie, it’s like I’m so in it, I’m not think about my life, which I really care about, then I just fall asleep. She woke me up and said “this is the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen, in my life.” And I was like “What happens?”

Thank you again to Tyler. You can check him out here.

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