Tyler Bryant, whose band Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown will make its national television debut Thursday night on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live,' is a 21-year-old guitarist who was anointed a blues prodigy when he was barely a teenager.
He has shared billing with rock legends Kansas, Aerosmith and Heart. Last year, Bryant (sans band) played a couple of months with guitar god Jeff Beck. One night, Beck asked Bryant if he would join him on stage for an encore the following night.
"I froze up," Bryant recalled recently, before a show in Little Rock, Arkansas. "I kept it cool, I said, 'Yeah, that would be cool.' Then I got into the van that I was touring in -- it was just me and my manager, driving around the freaking country playing these dates with Jeff Beck -- I laid down on the floor so no one could see me and I just screamed at the top of my lungs for five minutes.
"I stayed up all night practicing. Right before I walked out on stage with Jeff for the first time, his tour manager comes up to me and whispers in my ear, 'Don't eff this up, kid.'"
Raised in the small town of Honey Grove, Texas, Bryant went through an Elvis phase in elementary school. Actually, it as more than a phase. "I was convinced I was Elvis," he says. His mother dyed his hair black and he went to class as the King of Rock. "They actually had to convince me that I wasn't Elvis."
When he turned 12, he saw Roosevelt Twitty, "an old blues guy," play in a music store. "He instantly became my best friend," said Bryant. "I had never heard of blues music before, I had no idea what it was." He adds, "That was the changing moment in life where I was like, 'I gotta do this.' So I did."
Twitty loaned Bryant cassette tapes. They jammed. "We'd sit in his living room for hours," said Bryant. "He would play rhythm and say, 'Just try to solo. If it sounds bad that's okay, no one's going to hear you except for me. Just go for it."
Soon after, Bryant and Twitty -- whom Bryant refers to as Mr. Twitty -- began to play gigs. "We would do private parties and we would do these three to four hour sets, just playing all these old blues covers."
Eventually, Twitty's age caught up to him and the two stopped performing together. And Bryant gravitated more toward rock 'n' roll. After going to a Black Crowes concert, he started listening to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and The Rolling Stones.
When he turned 17, Bryant convinced his father to let him move to Nashville to put together a band. Things didn't go so smoothly for the first six months. "I didn't meet any drummers," he said. "I didn't meet any bass players. I wasn't doing any shows."
But what he did in those six months was learn how to write songs. "I really pushed myself to do that," he explained. "That opened up a million doors. I ended up with a publishing deal with Sony."
Before the publishing deal came together, he met Caleb Crosby, the Shakedown's drummer. Graham Whitford on rhythm guitar and Noah Denney on bass round out the group.
The band has been on the road for weeks and they'll pretty much remain on the road until their debut album, 'Wild Child,' comes out January 22 -- and it's been a long time coming, said Bryant.
"We've done this record a couple of different times because we thought we could keep beating ourselves, and we did," he said. "We tracked it in 13 days, completely live to analog tape -- two-inch -- and I'm really excited about it."
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