In an age of extreme excess in the music industry, it’s nice to see a band that practices their skill for the joy of the art. It is this kind of simple passion for music and performance that makes the Nashville-based Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown so special. Onstage, the camaraderie between the young musicians is evident as they feed off each others’ playing, a sincere and wholehearted investment in every riff and drum roll. With Tyler Bryant on guitar and lead vocals, Graham Whitford on guitar, Caleb Crosby on drums, and Noah Denney on bass, the group harbors a huge pool of talent that makes their blues-infused rock ‘n roll something to pay very close attention to.
On September 19, after a hectic day seeing the sights of L.A. and popping in visits to Capitol Records and CBS (the band recently contributed their “Say A Prayer” music video for use in the trailer for the new CBS show Vegas), Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown blew the roof off L.A.’s own Viper Room, giving those in the audience a night to remember. All of the guys got the opportunity to demonstrate their skills at the front of the stage, much to the crowd’s enjoyment. Yet it was when Bryant, Whitford, Crosby, and Denney all played together that the magic really sparked. These guys are not just professional musicians – they are friends as well, and the fun they seem to have so much of onstage translates directly to the audience. The performance is up-beat and in sync to the point where their efforts seem flawlessly executed – it’s easy to forget that most of the complex riffs and drum beats they’re pulling off would make any musician’s jaw drop.
At just 21 years old, Bryant has already spent years being referred to as a “guitar prodigy” by some of the best in the business. Though Bryant has played onstage with major recording artists such as Jeff Beck, Aerosmith, B.B. King, and many others, he is humble about all the attention that has been focused on his talent. In addition to playing the guitar like he was born with it already strapped on and having a blast onstage, Bryant also makes a great first impression by being extremely polite and quietly confident. Before the band’s gig at The Viper Room, I sat down with Bryant to ask him a few questions about music and his band’s rise to fame.
Is this your first time playing The Viper Room?
This is the first time at The Viper Room, yeah – we’re all really stoked about it.
When you were first noticed by Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton and all these big-name musicians…how did that feel for you? Is there pressure?
There’s so much pressure. But I just, you know – I try to sweep all that under the rug.
The bluesman Roosevelt Twitty is said to have been an early mentor to you. Is he still in your life these days?
He’s my best friend. I love that guy. He inspired me more than anyone, and I will be forever grateful.
I’ve heard your also know the rock n’ roll photographer Robert Knight pretty well, after appearing in his Rock Prophecies documentary. Do you still communicate with him often?
Yeah, hopefully he’ll show up tonight. I talked to him a couple days ago, he’s a really cool guy. He’s just got such an ear for hearing young talent. He’s got a really good heart when it comes to trying to help out starting musicians.
Where do you find inspiration for your music? Do you look to other forms of art that inspire you, or do you see someone on the street and all of a sudden you’re hit by the perfect song…?
It comes from all over, really. It comes from a lot of relationships in my life, pretty much every relationship in my life, whether it’s my best friend, or a girl, or something that my family’s going through. I mean, I get inspired watching TV shows, honestly – like Breaking Bad, or, you know shows like that that are just so intense. They make me want to write songs because you feel like you’re in someone else’s life. It’s the same thing with my friends, like if something’s going on with them, it makes me feel something. But yeah it comes from all over. A lot of it comes from listening to the bands that you like, going, how can I take that and make something of my own? But the lyrics are all just from personal experiences.
Some of the best stories come from being out on the road. If you could pick one favorite anecdote from the road, what do you think it would be?
Geez. That’s really tough. We have stories for days. I mean I love waking people up. You know, like getting Caleb’s cymbals, and just taking them around the room. One was running out of gas and then skateboarding three miles to a gas station to get a gas can.
Where did that happen?
I have no clue where that happened. Once I ran out of gas in Clarksdale, Mississippi by myself and I met the sweetest woman, and she drove me – I was out hitchhiking, I had my guitar – and she drove me like ten, fifteen miles to get a gas can, and then drove me back and I played songs for her all the way.
Is there a certain indication where you guys will know you’ve hit the big time?
I think a tour bus is going to be awesome. We’ve done a couple of bus tours, but we still use a van a lot. A lot of bands that have a smaller following than we do are in tour buses because their major labels are paying for it but we kind of opt out of that until we’re able to live fancy. There are better ways to spend money as a starting band. It’s not that bad hopping in a van with your buddies and sharing a hotel room.
You have cited Tom Petty as a major influence, and he played at The Viper Room opening back in 1993. What does it mean to you to play on the same stage tonight?
That’s unbelievable, I mean Tom Petty is one of my all-time favorite artists. There’s been so many killer bands play here, so I think this place has quite a bit of mojo to share, so hopefully we can conjure it up.
Conjure it up they did. But being “on” for a show is nothing new for Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown – all of the YouTube videos and SoundCloud clips online convey the same electricity that the band exhibited at The Viper Room. From singing for a ride to the nearest gas station to waking each other up with cymbals, this band incorporates music into every daily occurrence they can. Most importantly, Bryant, Whitford, Crosby and Denney are thoroughly enjoying their journey. Watching them perform at The Viper Room, it was clear in how they all played off each other onstage that they’re having the time of their lives. A band that is young, incredibly talented, and on the rise is a rare and exciting thing to watch, and these guys have just scratched the surface.
Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown will continue to tour the U.S. through the end of the year. Their first full-length album Wild Child is expected to drop in early 2013.
Check out a clip of the Viper Room performance on AXS Live’s YouTube video below, and visit the band’s website to check out their music and tour dates.