They’re not a power couple in the Kim and Kanye sense, but Tyler Bryant and Rebecca Lovell are serious players with big reputations – Rebecca starring with her sister Megan in the acclaimed roots-rock duo Larkin Poe, and Tyler, with his band The Shakedown, having played on some of the world’s biggest stages as opening act for AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses.
So it made sense for the two of them to work together, and that’s what happened this year. Rebecca plays and sings on Pressure, the new album from Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. And Tyler has had a hand in the making of Larkin Poe’s acoustic covers album Kindred Spirits.
Speaking together from their home in Nashville, they talk TG through their musical dynamic as a married couple, as well as the sounds heard on their latest endeavours...
What was it like working together for parts of this album?
Tyler: “It was awesome to have Rebecca on Crazy Days. She sang a little bit on Misery and Hitchhiker too. Noah Denney left the band in February, so a lot of the higher harmonies we’ve had in the Shakedown were now missing. I asked myself, ‘Who are the best singers I know?’ and Rebecca was on top of that list.”
Rebecca: “I don’t know if it was a case of something lacking, I was just excited to get in there and add some soulful BVs! I definitely heard a lot of the process... We have a house together and a home studio that Tyler set up with the band in the basement. So I was getting a healthy dose of rock and roll from the boys in the house!
“I was just excited to be a part of the process. They’re incredibly self-sufficient musicians, down there rocking! They didn’t need any help, but to be able to go in and contribute to the party was a real blast.”
As a married couple, how exactly do you play off and inspire each other?
Rebecca: “The inspiration part is not hard at all. We’re both hard workers and very dedicated to the arts. Music is a large part of our everyday lives, if we’re not playing then we are listening to music or watching interviews on YouTube... So it tends to be a musical free-for-all! When we first got together, there was a lot of competitive spirit between the two of us...”
Tyler: “We’re both very much the leaders of our own respective bands!”
Rebecca: “We’re definitely alpha wolves! We’ve learned over time and with trust, and through all the shared time together, how to make music really fun. Tyler actually helped me write one of my favourite tracks on our most recent album Self Made Man called Back Down South.
“Setting up gear and making music with someone I love so deeply but also respect is such a joy. Having the home studio here has been great and Tyler has taught himself how to engineer. Now we can record music as a family... It’s a pretty special connection and we are very fortunate.”
Tyler: “We recorded Kindred Spirits here at home. I had the privilege of engineering it. I didn’t have anything creative to say other than, ‘Maybe we should move that microphone...’ and it was cool to play a very different role to what I play in the Shakedown. I was more of a fly on the wall, experiencing their process of recording and how that goes instead of my own which is more chaotic [laughs]!”
Speaking of Kindred Spirits, it seems as if you are only playing acoustic guitar this time round, Rebecca...
Rebecca: “Yeah! It was all recorded live in about four or five days. That was a unique experience, because as children of the 80s and 90s, it’s always been a very isolated and pristine kind of thing. You track the vocals separately, everyone is in different rooms to eliminate bleed and so on.
“For this project, we wanted to be a lot more rock – just sitting in a room together and capturing the recording similarly to how we do a lot of our cover videos on YouTube and Facebook. As a player and vocalist, I learned how to find the confidence to just go for it. Previously, I would have been too nervous to commit to vocals right off the bat with my sister at the same time. But playing live together, you have to give up that control of making it all incredibly perfect.
“Instead of tweaking it like that, we decided to be a bit more raw. I feel very lucky to have blazed those trails in the room with Tyler as a support system as well. We’ve learned how to support each other as musicians, players and writers – as well as a married couple. Support is key to us and we don’t take it lightly.”
Tyler: “We also like to make up classic country songs over a cup of coffee!”
So where exactly would you say your influences differ?
Tyler: “Rebecca comes from more of a bluegrass background. She will comfortably go to that place while I tend to go back to being a teenage punk rocker! We have different influences in that regard. I’m more steeped in heavier blues and '90s grunge!”
Rebecca: “Obviously these are rough approximations – both of our goals is to sound like unique and individual players. I definitely hear a lot of Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan in Tyler’s playing, whereas I might err more on the side of a Doc Watson or Bryan Sutton. Those are my roots as a bluegrass player. With my sister as an incredible slide player and Tyler as this consummate shredder... I’m just buckling up and trying to hang onto the reins, baby!”
Tyler: “Yeah, but whenever I have friends over, I always try to get Rebecca to pick up a mandolin because they always freak out!”
There are some truly mouth-watering fuzz tones on Pressure. What exactly did you end up using, Tyler?
Tyler: “One that ended up on every single song except for the acoustic tune was my signature pedal – the Rodenberg TB Drive. I grew up in Texas, so I was always a Tube Screamer guy. Every Texas blues player I liked had a Tube Screamer on the board. Some of them would even have two – one which was set clean and used more like a boost, then another for more gain.
“I was struggling to find ones that sounded exactly how I wanted. My guitar tech was on a guitar forum one day and found out about Rodenberg. He went out on a limb and bought one of the pedals, it was a dual stage overdrive based on a Tube Screamer.
“He brought it to me and I had a couple of thoughts on it. I reached out to Rodenberg after four years of using the pedal to say it was my favourite pedal and that I’d used it on every record, as well as potentially tweaking it out a little bit. That’s how this pedal came to be.”
And how did it end up being different to the drives you were using before?
Tyler: “It’s essentially two Tube Screamers, you have the option on one channel to kick in an extra gain stage – that’s the secret to how I get all the sustain and hold notes for so long. There’s a bass boost on each channel for extra fatness... That helps me out a lot, playing single-coils or resonators. It’s a pretty versatile pedal.
“When I first reached out I said there was something going on with Instagram, it’s where guitar players were hanging out. I said if we could make five or ten pedals, we could sell them pretty easily. They didn’t turn the pre-order off in time and we pre-sold a hundred. It just kept going from there, I think we’re at 600 pedals now, just through Instagram alone, with no advertising.”
Talk us through what else we’re hearing on the record...
Tyler: “For the fuzz tones where my speaker sounds like it’s actually dying it will have been a number of things – I have an amplifier made by Square Amps. It’s tiny little six-inch speaker thing that runs at four watts. That amp is basically a fuzz pedal, it seems! Dunlop sent one of those new Billy Gibbons Octave Fuzz pedals, the Siete Santos.
“I also had a Jext Telez Dizzy Tone and ZVEX Mastotron. For Coastin’ I used a new guitar made by Mule Resonators in Saginaw, Michigan. It’s a shell pink tricone resonator with a maple neck that’s heavy as hell but it sounds amazing for those Johnny Winter slide licks I like to copy. My two pink Strats are all over this record – the main one has the Shawbucker humbucker in the bridge.
“I have this other Custom Shop Strat called The Judge, with a Tele neck pickup and Eddie Van Halen humbucker in the bridge. It’s a really wacky guitar! I’ve also got my 1960 Strat which got used on a few things, plus a Duesenberg 59er for a couple of things and this Banker Flying V Goldtop.
“And for amps, it was mainly a Custom 50 handwired Orange head through a Universal Audio Ox Box while simultaneously running a ’59 handwired Marshall Plexi-style thing through a cabinet in the room with mics. Oh, and a Marshall Silver Jubilee too. So, all the usual suspects plus a few new welcome additions!”
You also make and sell backing tracks for guitar players...
Tyler: “Yeah, with all of our shows being cancelled this year, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to all those kids downloading my backing tracks. It’s a creative exercise for me to make them every day and I build them all from the ground up. As a guitar player, the feeling of playing over dead air is not as exciting as playing with a band or backing track. I like the structure to bounce around within.”
What do you think is the secret to great blues playing and how much do you think about moving from minor to major pentatonics and Mixolydian scales?
Tyler: “To be honest, I don’t know any scales or theory. It’s funny – when you tell me what scales are in my songs I’m like, ‘Wow, this is news to me!’ What I would say is that anyone who wants to get into the heart of blues playing needs to hear Live Wire/Blues Power by Albert King.
“It was one of those pivotal records for me as a kid – less about the notes he was playing but rather how he was getting there, how he would bend into each note and the tension it would create. Play along to your favourite records, learn the licks and figure out how you would play them. Whenever I hit walls, I just take a break or go from shredding to playing cowboy songs... That helps it all feel fresh again!”