I’m a pretty big fan of Tyler Hilton. I think you can look around this blog and see that I’ve written about him a time or two before, back when I didn’t update as much. I try and see his shows whenever he comes to Los Angeles to play, I used to frequent his shows when we both happen to be living in Nashville at the same time, and I find him a genuinely amazing musician with his heart in the right place. Like most Hilton fans, I discovered him when I was obsessed with the cultish CW show, “One Tree Hill.” Back then, he made fun singer-songwriter songs that were catchy enough to ear worm their way into your head, making you want to play them over and over. At least, I did.
The thing is, I’ve been lucky enough to watch his career progress. For some time, it seemed as if he was on this quest to find the right sound for him, maybe he knew what it was and couldn’t quite make it happen for one reason or another. Or maybe, like so many artists, he had to go through a bunch of stuff in his head to figure out what he WANTED to play. There were periods of time where he wasn’t releasing anything; but he was playing shows, he was doing his thing and taking on other projects. What I love about his career right now is that I feel like he’s finally discovered who he is as an artist, maybe even an individual, and it radiates in the music on his recently re-released album “Forget the Storm.” While the gentle singer-songwriter style of his early career still exists within the lyrics and subtle folds of some of the songs, there’s something heavier, deeper and much more constructed than what he used to release.
Full of a perfect mix of pop, alt-country and a rocking blues style; he’s crafted a record that speaks to the heart of who he is. You see this most when he’s up on stage, conveying the meaning of each song, talking about the road it took to make this record. Which is what I love about Hilton, he’s honest to a fault, he’s charismatic but not stuck on himself. He’s as authentic as his music is. He shines most on songs like “Loaded Gun” and “Ain’t No Fooling Me,” both high energy and explosive in their delivery. He’s able to lose the sweet, romantic guy from all those loves songs he’s written and rip into a whole new sound. He’s got perfect tone and that blues-y aspect to his vocals, with just enough grit to make it tear at your heart when he’s feeling lost, and make you feel angry as hell when he feels taken advantage of. One of my favorite songs on the record is “Can’t Stop Now” (I’m a woman, okay, I love a good ballad). And every time he plays it live I feel like my entire world is falling apart. His knack for tapping into his emotions is flawless, showing how his years of grinding the pavement on tour and taking up residencies at small venues has developed his skills as an emotive artist. The adorable “Prince of Nothing Charming” is always more… charming when he tells the sweet story behind it, and allows his insecurity of not being good enough for his (ADORABLE) girlfriend to inspire the very lyrics. Then there’s “Hey Jesus,” something of a backwards prayer that sees him asking for more struggle and less sunshine-y days. While so many in his position would feel frustrated and entitled, Tyler focuses on making great music and making that what’s he’s about, which is entirely more respectable than the latter. And he succeeds.
With each show I’ve seen, I’ve witnessed such a huge amount of growth from this incredible musician and honest songwriter; and I feel blessed to have been part of this journey with him even if he doesn’t know I was. My biggest concern for him is how more people aren’t tuned in to how incredible this guy is. Despite a role on a popular television show and playing Elvis in a pretty amazing movie, placements in big music videos, and a pretty huge following… I feel like Tyler Hilton should be more than he is. I feel like we, as lovers of music and great musicians, need to take him to heart and make him fly. So many of the comments on pictures last night were about how people had no idea that show was taking place at The Hotel Cafe. Granted, it’s a small venue that couldn’t hold a massive fan base, but why don’t these people know when he’s playing? Why are they not out at the venues with us? Why are they not buying the record?
If I could urge you to listen to ONE artist this month, it would be Tyler Hilton. I’d say go download the deluxe version of “Forget The Storm” and get to know this man for who he is now. If all you think of him is the music from One Tree Hill, I hate to say it, but you’re missing out. He is so much more than that.
Usually I’ll link to Spotify and have you go take a listen. But don’t do that for Tyler. Go spend the $10 and support someone who deserves it, who has worked his ass off, and made an outstanding album.
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