Interview: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown

“Yoooooooo!!! Yoooooooo!!!” I hear screamed. I don’t know where it came from, or from whom. To be honest I’m a little afraid to ask. Tyler’s in the room. Tyler’s out the room. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s madness. “That’s life backstage at Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown,” proclaims drummer Caleb Crosby. It’s a wet night in Camden’s Dingwalls for the final show of Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown’s three-night UK tour. It’s been a well-received run by the US blues rockers, and I find myself squeezed into what I’m guessing used to be a storage cupboard. It’s now a dressing room for the 4-piece band plus their entourage, who are all itching to get the show done and back to their families in the US. The support act, the Blackwater Conspiracy, are playing so loudly the walls are shaking. It’s hard to hear as I sit down with drummer Caleb Crosby and Guitarist Graham Whitfield. Bassist Noah Denney is happy to watch quietly from the other side of the room. Singer and lead guitarist Tyler is nowhere to be seen. I’m told he’s saving his voice for the show.

Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown formed when Tyler arrived in Nashville aged 17 – how did that come about?
Caleb Crosby: Tyler and I actually met through a mutual friend. I’d moved from Kentucky originally and moved to Nashville to go to university. And we happened to meet literally by circumstance through a friend. Probably 6 weeks later we were on the road. It was literally so fast. And here we are almost 9 years later. Obviously, the line-up has changed. I had a friend in school that just played with us at first. Then we ended up meeting Graham in New York City at a radio interview and convinced him to move to Nashville. Noah and I went to school together and after our bass player quit back in 2012 we got him in the band. So, it’s been the current line up for a little over 5 years.

Graham Whitford: Well, Caleb said they convinced me, but they didn’t convince me – there was no convincing needed. I just fell in love with Nashville and playing with the band. I’ve been there for about 7 years now playing with the band. Yeah, when I met Tyler we started chatting and became fast friends and he asked me to come play with the band. We then did a tour with Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon.

Since then, you’ve opened for some even bigger bands, including Aerosmith, Guns ‘n’ Roses, AC/DC: how do you alter your show from playing club gigs for ones with such large audiences?
Caleb Crosby:The show doesn’t change. As far as how our mental preparation and everything, like if we’re playing for 80,000 people or we’re playing for 80 people, they’re getting the same show. Clearly, it’s very different as far as how you approach the show. You know, I mean like for us we’re playing this club for 4 or 500 people and it would be the same as if we were playing a stadium because it’ll be the same amount of energy. It’s just slightly different as far as with AC/DC or Guns ‘n’ Roses you’re playing to a big crowd who don’t know who you are. For us, that’s a bit of a challenge. So maybe headspace wise you have to bring these people on a journey with us. You know the people that are here in this club tonight are here to see us. They’re going to get that energy. We’re going to be hiked because here, there are a crowd of people that are our people, and are going to be singing our songs. It’s hard to explain but it’s not different as far as how we perform, or how much we give. You know there could be 10 people out there and we give the same show we did for 80,000 because that’s the only way that we’re going to keep coming back is if you give it everything – and that’s what we’ve always tried to do since day one. You’ve got to learn how to work that stage work and literally pull in the very back person, in the very back top tier, and bring them with you.

Graham Whitford: Every once in a while, we get projected on screens and stuff, but for the most part we’re not. You know there’s still an image of us, so that’s another thing. To the people in the back. They can’t see what we look like really. We’re like ants. So it’s an extra pressure to sound good you know.

And obviously Graham you guys opened for Aerosmith with whom your father is a member. Does he give you some support?
Graham Whitford: Yeah man, he’s really supportive of the band. Loves the band. He’s a huge fan.

You recently signed to Snakefarm records a subdivision of Spinefarm – what influenced that decision?
 Caleb Crosby: we were signed with Republic and made an E.P. We put that out and had the opportunity to part ways with that situation. We had a couple of months free in which we decided to make a record which is the new one that came out. Spinefarm heard it and really liked it, so decided to do a deal with us. It was really quite that simple.

And the Head of A&R, Dante Bonutto, has been a big supporter?
Graham Whitford: Yeah, Dante has been a big supporter of us since he came over here for the first time and we hit it off. We just saw eye to eye on the kind of our vision of where we wanted to go. And it was kind of a no-brainer as I think the biggest thing with us signing the deal that we signed with Snakefarm and Dante and Jonas – that whole team – is that they signed the record that we made. You know, I mean it wasn’t like they said: “We’re going to do a deal, and you guys are going to sign it. We’re going to record all the songs and you need to do this, and do that”. It was that we made our own record and they heard it and they were like: we want that. So it was easy. The bond was quick, and it was already there, even before we started recording. I think that they believe in us so it was just easy.

How would you describe the evolution of the sound of the band between your debut album and the latest record, Tyler Byrant and the Shakedown?
Caleb Crosby: This album is the most band-written songs. I mean we evolve just like any artist does. You change, and you hear new music, get inspired by new things and we kind of write whatever we’re feeling at that time. We’ve picked the best batch of songs that we think all worked together.

It’s definitely more mature and crosses more styles. Is there perhaps a move towards more social commentary on this album? I’m thinking particularly about songs like Heartland and Don’t Mind the Blood.
Caleb Crosby: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean songs like Heartland and Don’t Mind the Blood – that’s us making a statement. Like hey, this is the climate we’re living in and we need to say something. Speaking of the culture and what’s happening in the world, in the U.S. Also you know, Don’t Mind the Blood, I think speaks about us as a band. We’ve been like, we don’t care to get our hands dirty and bleed figuratively and literally for our craft, and for what we love, and the passion of what we do. We don’t care what it takes, we’re going to do it. That’s why I love some of these songs because it can go both ways. You know one person can interpret it this way and one person can hear it that way. I realise that a lot of people that listen to the record hear both ends of the spectrum. People can take different things from every song, and I love songs like that.

And the crowds are loving the new songs?
Caleb Crosby: Absolutely. It’s the coolest thing. Honestly, just seeing the reaction to the songs. Finally playing them live on this tour. You know, songs like Backfire and Heartland are songs played over the summer. They were done. They were written. Recorded. But there were songs we wanted to save until the record was out, until people heard them before they got on YouTube.

You’re touring constantly, so am I right in guessing that you’re writing on the road?
Caleb Crosby: A little bit. Not much. Honestly, we’ll compile ideas whether it’s lyrics or riffs or grooves or whatever. Most of the time when we’re on the road we’re so deep into that. It’s when you get home and you kind of wash your hands of it that you can go, “Right I’m in a creative space again” because you’re in a different mode when you’re on the road. You know sometimes at soundcheck something will happen when someone plays a riff: “Oh, that’s cool”, and then we’ll jam on it for a second and think, “Hey remember that. Record that.”

Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?
Caleb Crosby: Oh man, that comes from everywhere. Whether it’s a girl, or like I said before, the culture we live in. And you know from the road. Ramblin’ Bones is about being on the road. Inspiration is endless. It can come from anywhere.

What’s currently on the playlist on the Shakedown tour bus?
Graham Whitford: The new Queens of the Stone Age and The Foo Fighters.
Caleb Crosby: We watch a lot of like Netflix on the road. We kind of like our own thing on the bus.

So what’s next for Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown?
Caleb Crosby: We fly home tomorrow. Very excited about that. Very excited to go home. We’ve got a tour with Blackberry Smoke next year in the States. Everybody in the U.S. is mad at us because we never play the States. But we love it in the UK. We’re doing a lot of festivals and shows of our own. We’ll be back in the UK in the spring or summer. As far as the tour, we’re still talking about it, but we will definitely be back. I would imagine probably twice next year. So keep a look out. We’re going to enjoy the holidays – probably take a little bit time off and then start writing again.

Maybe a new album next year?
Caleb Crosy: I’d love that, but I’ll tell you this, we’re sitting on songs from The Wayside EP. You know The Wayside was supposed to be an album. Our plan right now is to release the back half of those songs, and to get those out. Keep the concept rolling, and in the meantime, we’ll be recording another record. We already have the songs and we could put out 3 records tomorrow. So that’s what’s next for us. We’re just happy to be here and happy to be doing this and this has been a tour of a lifetime doing this headlining run in the UK. The crowds have been great. And honestly, most of all, the new record has been the most fun. Doing this and talking about the new songs because I think it’s the best representation of us today.

Interview by Barry Warren and Mark Underwood

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