Some have called him a future guitar god, and with good reason. At age 21, Tyler Bryant's resume already reads like a guitarist who's been performing for a long time.
Before he had even reached the legal voting age, Bryant was awarded the Robert Johnson Foundation’s New Generation Award and was chosen by Eric Clapton to play at his Crossroads Guitar Festival.
He also was recruited by Jeff Beck to be the opener for his 2011 tour and invited to play alongside him during his encore set each night. It was an almost unheard-of event that put the young Bryant in the elite company of Stevie Ray Vaughan (who toured with Beck in 1989).
Bryant and his band, The Shakedown, have drawn comparisons to the emerging sound coming out of Nashville that includes bands like Cage The Elephant and the Black Keys. Comprised of Caleb Crosby on drums, Noah Denney on bass and Graham Whitford (son of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford) on guitar), the band's album, Wild Child is a 12-cut culmination of intense musical bonding, soulful writing and tasty licks.
I sat down with Bryant and asked him about his music, as well as his time sharing the stage with Beck.
GUITAR WORLD: How did the song "Last One Leaving" come about?
It started out of frustration when i just wanted to play some bluesy rock and roll. I went in with two of my buddies in Nashville, Trent Dabbs and Paul Moak. Originally we wanted to try to write a ballad. So we spent a couple of hours writing this kind of pop-sounding ballad, and at the time, I was thinking that there was no way I was ever going to play it. Out of my frustration, I picked up my Resonator and just started playing that little riff from "Last One Leaving." Trent got on the drums and we wound up writing that song in about 15 minutes. We decided to make it as bluesy and ritzy as possible for Wild Child, and it's since become the first single.
What's the song about?
It's about one of those relationships that you know you shouldn't be involved in. It could also just be a thing (like alcohol) that you know you're not supposed to get into, but you know you're born to and you're fully prepared for it to destroy you! It's something you know you shouldn't have but you're going to anyway, and it's going to have its way with you; whether you like it or not. [laughs]
When did you first start playing?
I got my first acoustic guitar at 7, but I really started playing at 11 when I got my first electric guitar.
Did you have a practice routine?
Yeah, it was pretty much wake up and play guitar until I fell asleep! [laughs] My mom and dad would actually make me go outside because I would literally just sit upstairs on the floor in front of my amp adjusting the knobs. I would just sit there and learn how to play.
What did you play?
It all depended on what kind of mood I was in. Sometimes I'd start off playing with a distortion sound. Then I'd play clean and pretty for a while. I have a lot of old recordings from when I was 13 or 14 and I think I was shredding more back then than I am now. When you're young, you always want to play hard and fast.
Who are some of your influences?
There are so many. Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix are some of my favorites. Then there are guys like Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.
You actually had the chance to perform with Jeff Beck. What was that experience like?
It was an honor to play with him every night on tour. I grew up with his pictures hanging on my walls and had all of his albums. It doesn't feel real when you're working with one of the heroes who inspire you to do what you do. It was a cool experience, but it was also terrifying. I remember the first time Jeff asked me to come out and jam with him, I think I peed my pants. [laughs]
Did he give you any advice?
He would always push me to play better. I was learning every night, and I was getting schooled. I've had the opportunity to meet a few of the guys I look up to, and a lot of times you want to leave them hanging on your wall because you put their music in such a sacred place. You don't want to mess it up by meeting them and actually realizing that they're human. But Jeff is such a nice guy, and very supportive of me. It was very cool.
Your band also has an Aerosmith connection.
Those guys are cool. Graham's dad, Brad Whitford, is in the band, and I'll never forget the day we got the master for Wild Child. We were driving around listening to it, and decided to drive over to his dad's house to see what he thought of it. That just happened to be the same day Brad got the master of the new Aerosmith record (Music From Another Dimension!), but he didn't tell us. So we played him our record and we were all pretty excited and then he said, "Well, can I play you guys our new record?" [laughs] That was a cool experience.
What's the future hold for you guys?
Hopefully, at the end of this year we'll have toured to the point of exhaustion and are starting off on a new record. It was so inspiring making Wild Child that as soon as we were finished with it, I immediately came home and started writing. There's so much chemistry going for us as a band. But our goal is to continue to tour, meet fans and build a base that's going to grow with us. Because we don't want to just be a massive radio success. We want to be around for a long time.
Photo: Joshua Black Wilkins
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.