When you think of “Guitar Legends,” who are the first people that come to your mind? Jimi Hendrix? Eric Clapton? Jimmy Page? Santana? Jeff Beck? Now what if I tell you about another guitar legend who has shared the stage with Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Slash, Aerosmith, B.B. King and Vince Gill just to name a few; oh yeah, and he is only 20 years old. I’m talking about Tyler Bryant, the Texas native who taught himself how to play the guitar at the age of six, and was being praised by Eric Clapton by the age of 14. In a world where young male musicians usually equates with Bierber-hair and skinny jeans, Tyler Bryant is touring the country with the artists that we are trying to imitate on Guitar Hero. At age 15, Tyler won the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation’s New Generation Award, which recognized him as one of the most promising new artists on the music scene. He has also performed at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago, and was signed by Creative Artists Agency on the spot, after his first showcase in Nashville. We chatted with Tyler before his show this Thursday at Smith’s Olde Bar about just how this musical prodigy came to be.
Hi Tyler! You are currently on your first headlining tour, how is that going?
It’s great actually. We are in Orlando right now; it’s been great because it has been really intimate shows. There is definitely a difference between playing for 200 people compared to 20,000 people!
Yeah, let’s talk about that for a second. You are 20 years old, just recently signed to a record label, but yet are being asked to go out on tour with guitar legends! How exactly did that happen?
Well I’ve always paid attention to the players that I love (i.e. Jeff Beck), and have always listened to music. From the ages of about six to 11, I was obsessed with Elvis and didn’t listen to anything else. That’s when I taught myself acoustic guitar. When I was around 11, I discovered bands like Tom Petty and the Black Crowes, and I sold my dirt bike that I got for Christmas and bought my first electric guitar. The better I got, I realized I needed to start selling myself if I was actually going to be successful. So around 13 years old, I would just call every single club in town, pitching myself and trying to convince them to let me play. And finally someone did.
That is not normal! You were 13 and calling clubs? Then what happened?
Well, once I got my first gig, I knew I was going to have to deliver. So I played my best, and one gig led to another, and suddenly there was this buzz that was getting around. Not long after that there was a fan voted Ernie Ball Guitars online contest to play Eric Clapton’s Crossroads, and I won. I was around 14 or 15 at the time, and I went to Chicago. That was also the first time I ever saw Jeff Beck play. It was amazing.
So all this cool stuff is happening with you, but you were still so young. What were your parents saying?
Well they have always been super supportive of me. They have always been like “Listen if you want to play guitar, I will still love you.” After Crossroads, record deals were coming to the table, but my parents insisted that I finish high school. They have never tried to interfere with my career, but that was the one time they stepped in, which I am pretty grateful for. Literally right after I graduated high school, I decided I needed to move to Nashville, so I did. During my very first show, an agent from CAA (Booking Agency) was there, and he signed me on the spot.
Wow! That is amazing, that is not a normal story at all. Did you ever want to do anything else?
Yeah, I definitely feel like God must be watching out for me! I’ve actually never been good at anything else! I was the kid wearing the high-top Chuck Ts on the basketball team keeping the bench warm for everyone else!
So what’s next for you?
Actually I’m pretty stoked cause I am recording my first record in between being back on tour with Jeff Beck, being released in September. Thankfully rock n roll isn’t rocket science, so hopefully I will be around for awhile making good honest music people can live to.
I have absolutely no doubt.
Tyler Bryant is playing Smith’s Olde Bar on August 4. This is a show that you will regret if you miss!