TYLER BRYANT (TYLER BRYANT AND THE SHAKEDOWN): “We Have Over 1000 Finished Demos Just Hanging Out”

TYLER BRYANT AND THE SHAKEDOWN (Live at The O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., November 17, 2019)
Photo: Mick Burgess

While the lockdown has brought the music industry to a grinding halt Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown have put their downtime to positive use, writing and recording their latest album, Pressure, in a mere 20 days. Mick Burgess called up Tyler Bryant to talk about the making of the album and the recent lineup change within the band.

2020 has turned out to be one strange year. How have you been coping with COVID-19?

I’ve been in my studio making music. It’s been my outlet, my way of trying to make something positive out of a negative situation. That’s how we got to do the new record Pressure and I’ve also been able to engineer a record by my wife’s band Larkin Po as well as co-producing a Gospel album. I’m just trying to keep the creative irons hot.

Is this the longest you’ve gone without playing any live shows for a fair few years?

This is probably the longest I’ve gone without playing any shows probably since I was 11. I’m just trying to stay positive about the situation. It’s easy to switch on the news and feel like you’re doomed.

Do you have any plans to do any special livestream shows?

We are working on a couple of things. Our big one was the album release show. We actually pre-recorded that and aired it on the day the album was released. It was so cool as people from all over the world were calling in and we were able to hang out with our fans.

Talking of your new album, Pressure was released a couple of weeks ago. Are you pleased with the reaction it’s received?

Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s had an insane reaction from my fans and an insane reaction from new fans as well.

Have you had to approach the making of this album in a completely different way to your previous three albums due to the COVID-19 restrictions?

Our previous album Truth and Lies was recorded in one of the nicest studios you could ever use at Studio G in Brooklyn. This place was a palace to work in with all the gear you could want. Pressure was recorded in my basement, completely in my home during the lockdown. We circled the wagons and when it became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to go out and do things, I called Caleb and Graham, my bandmates and suggested that they come over my house and nowhere else. We planned on making an EP and the label were behind us for that. Then we thought we should get Roger Alan Nichols involved as we engineer a lot of our songs ourselves but sometimes when you’re wearing that hat as well, you’re not always focussed on the music or what you’re doing. I thought it’d be cool for him to come in and work with us again as an almost fourth band member. We’ve worked with Roger on every record in the song writing area and he’s been a sounding board for me since I was 17. He’s one of the few people I really trust. He showed up with masks for everybody and we did one big grocery store run, stocked up the refrigerator with provisions and 20 days later we had a record.

Did writing and recording so quickly help to retain the spontaneity of the moment?

With The Shakedown, we have to act or the moment goes away and you don’t know when it’ll come again so when there were songs that we were excited about we knew we had to start building a record or otherwise we’d lose them. There were a lot of songs written, 40 to 50, that we’d written from since December. We have over 1000 finished demos just hanging out. There were a handful we were excited about and knew we should record them before we wrote anymore otherwise, they’d get pushed further down the pile and that does happen with us. We write a good song then another and you almost forget what you have.

What about the writing? How did you get together with the other guys to write the material for the album?

We’ve never really written as a band on the road but sometimes Caleb and Graham will come up with ideas and we might start jamming a riff at a sound check. I’ll write a lot of lyrics on the road but we tend to get in there jamming, stopping and starting, figuring out what everybody is doing and we record it while we’re going. A song like “Backbone” for example is pretty much the demo. We kind of do every song like it’s going to be on a record.

Did you record this in the studio together?

We pretty much tracked everything except “Backbone” playing together, although I was in a different room to Caleb, but we’ve played together so much it just came naturally. “Coastin’” for example, was done in one take. Caleb had never heard the song before and we played it down live. It wasn’t even planned to be on the record but it happened that later on down the line we thought it was cool so wanted it on the album.

One of the first songs you did was “Crazy Days”. Is that you looking back on those pre-COVID-19 days where you could just go out and play without a care in the world?

I was thinking about going to shows and having fun without having anything to worry about. Prior to writing that song we’d been out to see Chris and Rich Robinson from the Black Crowes at the Basement East in Nashville. Later there was this tornado that tore Nashville to pieces and devastated people’s homes and then the lockdown happened just as we were preparing to go out on a major arena tour then all of a sudden all of my friends were out of work. I just went down to my studio and 15 minutes later I had this uncomfortably happy sounding song. I was just using music as my way of coping by imagining going out and with my friends like the night that we had at the Basement East.

Rebecca Lovell, your wife and Larkin Po singer, guests on this one. Have you been planning on a collaboration for a while?

I’ve guested on a few of their records and wrote a song for their last record. Me and Rebecca write together all the time but it’s really mainly just for us. When I wrote “Crazy Days” she was sitting at the kitchen table and I played it to her and she thought it was cool and started to sing the harmony so I said “Can you come down to my studio and do that please?” so she did. It was a spur of the moment thing and wasn’t planned out but I think it turned out great.

Would you like to do a full album together?

Yes, I would. Although we’re both very busy with our own projects, that would definitely be a thing. We’ve been writing old school Country songs during lockdown which has been a fun thing to do.

You also got Charlie Starr in from Blackberry Smoke on “Holdin’ My Breath”. How did he get involved?

Basically, one night I just plucked up my courage and called him up. At this point we were already mixing the album and “Holdin’ My Breath” was already “finished” then I had the idea one night, that it’d be awesome if Charlie sang on it. I asked the guys in the band if they were cool if I asked Charlie Starr to join in and they all went “Yeah”. So, I asked him and he said yes, he’d be honoured. The vocal that he sent just elevated that track even further

Blackberry Smoke and Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown is a tasty proposition for when COVID-19 lifts. Have you toured together before?

We’ve toured America together but have never done it outside of The States.

The album has 13 songs and clocks in at around 42 minutes. There’s no fat or excess there. Was it important to you to make a punchy, every song a killer type of album?

We originally only planned to do six and then it got to thirteen. On the last day we recorded “Like The Old Me”. Roger, the co-producer, posed the question, because we had so much material that we had been working on and we were writing more material too, “Fever” and “Hitchhiker” were songs that just happened and he asked whether we wanted to make a double album but I think at that point, after 20 days straight of living with the recording process and we were making the record in my house which is like an alcoholic working in a bar, we had enough for the record. There was no rest, it was full tilt 100% all the way. I thought we needed to cool the jets and let this one be what it is. We’ve already been writing more songs for the next record because what else are we going to do?

There’s been a line-up change in the band since you last toured the UK with Airbourne with Noah Denney leaving the band. Why did he decide to leave?

Noah went to college with Caleb and he was a drum major. Noah auditioned for our band on bass. He’d just be learning to play and it was something new for him. I think in his mind, he’d join the band for a few months and move on and play the drums in another band but 7 or 8 years later he was still here playing the bass. He really wanted to get back to his main passion which was playing the drums. So he came and sat down, man to man and said that he had to follow his heart and go and do it and he said that if he didn’t he might regret it later in life. We were like 100% do it and we totally supported him. I can’t imagine a better parting, I don’t even want to say split because Noah lives down the street and we still hang out together. He was just at a different point in his life so we now have a new bass player.

Who is your new bass player?

He’s a long-time Shakedown fan called Ryan Fitzgerald. He’s from Joliet, Illinois. When Noah left the band, he texted me and said he’d followed us since day one and would follow us to the end. He told us he played bass and could play every one of Noah’s parts. We sent him the record and asked him to learn 3 songs. He learned the whole record note for note and absolutely crushed it. When we finally got together to jam, it was so cool. He Rocked.

Did he join in time to play on the new record?

No, me and Graham played bass on the album. We didn’t even think about looking for a bass player until we were finished. I actually already knew Ryan as he’d been in a band that had opened for us so I knew he was a very capable Rocker. He’s been coming to Shakedown shows for 7 years and I’d sneak him into soundchecks so we’ve known him for a long-time and a lot of our fans know him too from opening for us. He’s just moved to Nashville so it’s all looking good.

Talking of being out on the road do you have any plans for touring in 2021 or are you waiting to see what happens with COVID-19 first?

I don’t think a lot of people have much information right now. A lot of shows that are booked, people are crossing their fingers that they still happen. We’re just waiting to see and working on music and will be doing a livestream that we’ll announce soon. We’d love to get out on tour and play live again and hopefully we can by the summer of 2021.

The list of bands you’ve toured with is well impressive and includes AC/DC, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top and Guns n’ Roses. What did you learn about touring and playing live with them?

Each band taught us something a little different. AC/DC was, get to the point and Angus was a master showman. Touring with Jeff Beck, I was so inspired by his work ethic to always keep the band ploughing forward and keeping himself inspired by always playing guitar and that’s why he’s one of the best guitarists in the world. ZZ Top was a lesson in how to be cool. We learned something different from each of the bands we’ve toured with.

Who would you like to tour with if you got the chance?

I’d love to tour with the Rolling Stones. I got to play with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and I have a tour T-shirt with both our names on which is really cool. He’s my all-time favourite songwriter and main inspiration behind what we do. He always pushed forward and kept his integrity intact. Getting to play with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was like a dream come true for me. We got to play with The Who and Alice Cooper which are great and hopefully we can play with the Rolling Stones sometime.

Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown’s new album, Pressure, is out now on Spinefarm.

See tylerbryantandtheshakedown.com and spinefarmrecords.com for more information.

Interview By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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