Tyler Bryant is living proof that practice makes perfect, as long as you start early. For him, that means learning chords on his first guitar at seven, and perfecting his Elvis impersonations by eleven. Of course, befriending a blues icon in his elementary school days doesn’t hurt, either. These days the prodigy musician is touring the U.S. with Grammy-winning legend Jeff Beck and rocking sound systems with his new EP, My Radio.
So every “guitar god” must have a favorite guitar. What’s yours?
I have an original 1960 Fender Stratocaster which Fender cloned for me so it’s a little easier to take out on the road without it getting stolen. I was playing a show in Dallas at a country-style bar. I don’t play country, but this one guy was really into it so I jumped on his table and did a solo for him. He slipped me his card and told me to call him. I did, and he asked me what my dream guitar would be, so I told him a 1960 Fender Strat, and he asked me why I didn’t have one already. “Uh, well, they’re $20-$30,000 and I’m thirteen, so…” Then one day in the mail I got one with a note saying, “Play the hell out of this.”
That… is a way more badass story than I was expecting.
Yeah, I wasn’t expecting it either. But it was really cool. Fender cloned it for me and painted it Cadillac pink because I’m a huge fan of Elvis, so that’s my signature guitar. The original is in a gun safe in my house.
How old were you when you got your first groupie?
I think I saw my first boob at thirteen… that was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. I was like, “Oh, okay.” Who does that? And to a little kid? Seriously! But yeah, by the time I was seventeen I had played around 500 gigs just around Texas so we had a lot of pretty strong, passionate fans. So at about sixteen or seventeen we had people following us around.
You often talk about Roosevelt Twitty as a mentor and friend of yours growing up. How did you meet him?
I met him when I was eleven; he was sitting in a corner of Holly Bound’s in Paris, TX and he was playing a blues song. I just went over to watch him and was mesmerized. “Do you like blues?” he asked me. “Do you want me to teach you?” I was never good at sports or anything like that, but I’d go to his house and he’d play me old records. And throughout my elementary school years I was best friends with a 65-year-old black dude.
Your band has been described as being a “razor-tight trio.” Can you explain your relationship with them?
We actually just got another member. We have Caleb Crosby on drums, Calvin Webster on bass, and Graham Whitford on guitar. We’re all best friends. Calvin and I have a house together, everyone lives down the street, and we’re all like brothers. We’re constantly hanging out together. We talk to each other like we hate each other, but we really don’t.
Reviewers tend to compare you to old school guitar gods, and of course everyone mentions that you’re only 20. Do you ever just feel historically out of place while you’re rocking out with aging guitarists to pre-iPod bands?
I never really felt out of place because I’ve been too stoked. I grew up loving the older bands so I’ve been really happy to play with them. My whole thing is that my generation needs a poster child guitarist, and when I was growing up I had Jeff Beck posters on my walls; I’m looking at one right now and to know I’m on tour with him is so cool because he’s one of my favorites. So I don’t feel out of place because I’m hoping I can pass down a lot of the things I love about the music to my generation.
That sounds like quite a lofty artistic goal. When will you consider yourself successful?
I don’t know. Well, a bus would be nice. We’re in a van right now, just driving away. Besides that, I’m not sure. That’s a tough one. I’m already able to support myself playing music I love, and that’s great. Maybe when I fill out Madison Square Garden? It’s hard because I’m the kind of guy where I’m never satisfied with anything where it is. I think it’s beneficial to me and my career because it’s like, “Hey, this is cool!” for about two minutes, then I’m looking for something else. I want to be a long-term artist, so to start selling more tickets and selling more music will make that possible.
How can BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Definitely by spreading the website and getting the music out by burning it for their friends. Go online, join the mailing list. For me it’s about spreading the word and if that means giving the music away, then take it.
And a bus?
[laughs] Yes, someone can bring a bus filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.