Saturday 23 June 2012

Tyler Hilton // Interview & Live Review, Leeds O2 Academy

Chances are that you may not recognise Tyler Hilton as a stand alone musician; instead many people will recognise his alter ego Chris Keller from the hit show "One Tree Hill". That aside, Tyler is a “real” musician; his latest album “Forget The Storm” is actually his third full length release and he is taking to the road in the UK for the first time alongside Boyce Avenue.
Est.1987 sat down with Tyler to chat about the new record, touring in the UK and why he’s nothing like Chris Keller.

Tyler Hilton on stage in Leeds
Hey Tyler! So on your way over to the UK you wrote on your blog that you missed your flight, your bags got lost and you got held at customs; apart from all that, are you enjoying finally being over here?
Yeah, I am. I’m trying to fit in seeing the cities when I can and it’s been really cool; I had no sense of what the UK would be like and I only had a picture in my head, so it’s been really cool. It’s been going so well that I’ve been talking to some people that I work with and I think I’m going to come back and do a headline tour here in October which will be really cool. 

So, back to the blog; do you think it’s important to have that contact with your fans and do you enjoy writing everything down?
Yeah, it’s weird because I feel like there are so many jobs that I have to do, day to day. But the creative stuff; if I could I would just write blogs, make YouTube videos and writing songs and sing then I would. But just because of all the other stuff that ends up happening; the travelling, loading in and out [of venues], it feels like you’re camping, but with nicer clothes. If I had more time I would write more often; I do love doing it.

The blogs are written in such an enjoyable and readable way, and are definitely humorous.
I’m so glad you said that because usually I do try and make them enjoyable to read. But the most recent ones I wrote really, really quickly like five minutes before I went on stage and just sent to my family, but then ended up putting them on the blog so it worked out.

Your new album is called “Forget The Storm” in reference to your unreleased record “The Storm We Share” with Warner Bros. How was it writing the new album with everything that had happened before it?
It was annoying because I’d worked so long on the other one, but sometimes I wonder if art is a balance between trying to push the envelope and then not trying at all. I tried so hard with “The Storm We Share” and then when it came time to “Forget The Storm” it was like “f**k it”; I didn’t care. I was like I’m going to write these songs really quick; I’m not going to think about them, they’re going to be songs that I like and that’s it. I didn’t think about what a label wants or anything like that and I loved it, it was so just instinctual; it was the most fun record that I’ve ever made for sure.  

You released the album on your own label; did you enjoy the freedom that brought, or did you feel under more pressure because everything was down to you as opposed to a major label?
I feel more pressure in promoting it and I’ve never done this before. So my rule this time around, and it may change for next time, was I didn’t want to think about the music at all. I just wanted to do it really instinctually and then think really hard about how to promote it. I have to be smart because I don’t have millions of dollars to promote it, so it’s just been really interesting what we’ve done like online and touring a bunch to support the record. I’ve learnt a lot from that, but the music part I’ve let myself be an artist and I wish that my record company had let me do that.

Tyler Hilton supporting Boyce Avenue at Leeds Academy 

You’ve collaborated with Taylor Swift and have done covers of songs such as “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon; who else would you love to work with or songs to cover?
Yeah, I keep this running list of songs that I want to learn, I just never have time. Being around Boyce Avenue and Alex Goot is inspiring me to do more cover videos. I love that vibe and it makes you such a better song writer and musician all round. There are a lot of tunes that I want to learn, like a lot of old country stuff. And artists I’d like to work with are John Mayer, and I love Jack White and I’m a big fan of Damien Rice. 

Many people will have you seen you play Chris Keller in “One Tree Hill”; although Chris is a musician like yourself you and he don’t have that much else in common. Was it fun to play a character so different from yourself?
Yeah, it’s so cool; I read the scripts and I’m like “really!?” I could never survive living like that and saying the things he says [in real life], but in the safety of TV it’s hilarious! I’m friends with everyone on the show and sometimes we would do these scenes and afterwards the girls would be like, “I’m so grossed out right now”; he’s just so creepy, but it’s just so fun to play.

I guess people sometimes presume that you’re like that in real life.
Yeah they do and now I’m starting to wonder if they like that and are into that. I’m like no, I’m a nice guy, it’s cool. But then I’m thinking maybe they don’t want me to be nice; they look disappointed, all these sadistic fans [laughing].

And in terms of acting now “One Tree Hill” has finished; do you see yourself as a musician first, so concentrating on that for now, or do you want to do more acting?
Yeah, I’ve always kind of done music ever since I was a kid. I’ve always toured and then done a little bit of acting and stuff, but I’d like to do more. I definitely feel like a musician first and now even more so; I don’t know if I consider myself an actor yet. I feel like it would be so disrespectful to so many people I know in LA that are actors. But I’d love to do more acting and learn more.  

And finally, who have you been listening to recently that you recommend we check out?
I was just listening to Brandi Carlisle, she put out a new record that I really like. But I’ve been listening to a lot of random stuff, like I got really into Lil Wayne this year and John Mayer’s new record and Coldplay’s new record. And I keep hearing about this guy Ed Sheeran, so I need to check him out too!

And here's what happened when Tyler Hilton took to the stage...

One man, one guitar: the stripped back stage makes Tyler Hilton’s debut performance in Leeds captivating from the off. All eyes are on him, and opening with the infectious “Loaded Gun” with its folk roots laden with rock riffs wins the audience’s attention immediately. The grittier more up-tempo songs are pitted against the more melancholic and soulful. Songs such as “Kicking My Heels” and “Missing You” give the set a varying dynamic, pulling things back to a more focussed and composed level.

Tyler Hilton on stage
Playing mostly from the latest record “Forget The Storm”, which Tyler admits he wrote for himself, he proves what a knack he has for creating a narrative lead, ridiculously catchy life-soundtrack. “You’ll Ask For Me” is vintage inspired with its intricate folk-rock guitar work and driven by a catchy hook, while “Ain’t No Fooling Me” pushes more towards the rock genre; Tyler’s raw, raspy vocals forcefully lead the track. Slapping the body of his acoustic guitar replaces the need for a kick drum, adding a percussive element into the set. The “We love you Chris Keller” chants soon die out and make way for the audience appreciating Tyler Hilton the artist. Those who aren’t already singing the words back at Tyler are now new fans; he is at ease on stage, even playful with the audience. “Everyone get their cameras ready, let’s make the most rock ‘n’ roll picture ever,” he laughs as he pretends to launch his guitar out into the crowd, holding the pose for people to snap the image before pulling away. “People will think this is the craziest Tyler Hilton gig ever,” he laughs before taking his position behind his acoustic guitar once more. Closing with “Prince of Nothing Charming”, lead single from the latest record, the pop-rock balladry soars though the bustling Leeds Academy crowd. Tyler has held their gaze from beginning to end. “Leeds, this is the start of a good relationship,” Tyler adds and the crowd is left asking Chris Keller who?

“Forget The Storm” is out now on Tyler’s own label- Hooptie Tune Records.