I, like many others, got to know the music of Tyler Hilton through his character Chris Keller on the hit television show One Tree Hill. For ten years I've listened to his music and loved to hate his lady-loving, guitar toting alter-ego. So it was an absolute pleasure to finally get to sit down with the singer when he made his very first stop in Montreal on October 3rd at Il Motore. The venue had sold out almost immediately and fans were waiting around the block to get in when I arrived at 6pm.
Having recently released his album “Forget the Storm”, Tyler talked to CONFRONT Magazine about the differences between performing on stage and acting on a television show, how he's evolved as an artist and more.
CONFRONT: Have you been to Montreal before?
CONFRONT: Did you have a chance to look around or did you come straight here?
TYLER: I came straight here, did sound check, went to the hotel for a second and then came right back. I keep hearing about the city and we might go out a little bit tonight. I’m bummed. I wish we had more time here. It seems really cool.
CONFRONT: Are there any places this tour that you wish you’d had a chance to stop and play a show?
TYLER: In Canada?
TYLER: I’ve been on tour most of the year so I’ve hit pretty much everywhere two or three times. In Canada I’ve never played Halifax, which I really want to play, or Winnipeg. I’ve always wanted to play those cities. I haven’t played Vancouver this whole tour either and I love that city.
CONFRONT: Halifax is gorgeous.
TYLER: Is it?
CONFRONT: I can’t speak for Winnipeg since I’ve never been there but you have to visit Halifax.
TYLER: That’s where our tour manager is from! I really want to go there.
CONFRONT: Have you had a favorite stop on this tour so far?
TYLER: There are favorite shows that I’ve had. I loved…I can’t even remember where I’ve been on this tour anymore. Where did we start this tour? Toronto was a lot of fun. Oh you know what was also great? In just the last month there was this college in Minnesota which was really small called St-Johns! That was so much fun. It was super random. I haven’t had any days off on this tour. All my days off have been travelling. I haven’t had the chance to see anything. I’m going to take a few weeks off after this though. I’m spending Canadian Thanksgiving in London, Ontario next weekend which should be nice.
MELISSA(photographer): *laughs* It’s funny that you call it Canadian Thanksgiving.
TYLER: Isn’t that what it’s called though?
MELISSA(photographer): It’s just Thanksgiving here!
TYLER: Oh yeah! That’s true *laughs* My girlfriend lives there and they call it American Thanksgiving.
CONFRONT: That’s true. We call it American here too.
TYLER: It’s not called that…it’s called Thanksgiving. *laughs* Just kidding! That is true though.
CONFRONT: What’s it like coming here and playing sold out shows in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa? Did you know you had such a big Canadian following?
TYLER: No! I didn’t know at all. This show sold out in presale in three weeks. I’m making up as I go. I played a show in Ottawa and Toronto not too long ago and they both sold out quickly. So I added another night to both and they sold out too. I was just like “What the hell?” I was shocked. You never know. Sometimes I play a certain market and I’m like “This is going to kill!” and I get there and there’s nobody. I played a free college show in Colorado a few days ago and I was so excited to get there. It was a thousand seat venue and maybe thirty kids showed up. Sometimes the promotions don’t connect. When these Canadian dates started going I thought “Maybe there’s something going on in Canada?” Then at the Ottawa show I realized a lot of the people came from Montreal so I decided to try a show here.
CONFRONT: I heard that actually, that a lot of people from Montreal made the trip to see you play in Ottawa.
TYLER: Yeah! I booked a Montreal show and it sold out quickly. I guess we have to do a bigger venue next time? I’m learning as I go.
CONFRONT: You’ve played Europe right? You were there recently?
CONFRONT: What are the fan bases like there versus those in North America?
TYLER: I feel like the fan base in Europe is more like the one in Canada. Taking Canada out of it, I’d say everyone there is more excited and scream-y. I have no idea why, in some places, they’re like “I love your music. I’m so glad you came” and then some people are screaming and crying and they can’t even talk. I don’t know what happens in some cities. My guess is that I have some sort of exotic thing because I’m not from that area of the world? If someone from England or France had come to Los Angeles I’d be like “Cool. Check out that hot French girl or that British girl” or something along those lines. That wouldn’t make sense in Canada. I’ve never been like “Whoa look at that crazy Canada person there!” I feel like people are more like “Wow I can’t believe you’re here!” in Canada and Europe more than the States. It’s weird and exciting.
CONFRONT: I guess it is foreign to us that you made the trip over here.
TYLER: *laughs* I guess! I should ask people in the merch line “Am I exotic to you?”
CONFRONT: I feel like that would go over well.
TYLER: I should try it.
TYLER: It’s kind of more rock and roll and Americana. I grew up on country, folk and bluegrass music and I feel like the label never really wanted me to do that. I was always kind of trying to inch that in. I love roots music like roots rock and roll or country and blues; Rolling Stones for example. I kept trying to slip that into different records on the label and I was getting tired of pretending so this record I decided that I was going to leave the label and do whatever I wanted. I wanted to start with three guys in a room, like a cinder block room, with our amps and guitars and play rock and roll music like a band plays it and write music like that. I did but because I was so bummed that I didn’t anticipate leaving the label and that family that it came out a lot more rock and roll then I meant it to. That’s fine, I’m not going to question it. The next record maybe I’ll be really stable in life and I’ll write about staying home and looking out over the horizon but at that time my roots approach came out as rock and roll and kind of angry. It was just because of the time that I wrote it in.
CONFRONT: If someone were to listen to your music for the very first time, which song would you suggest they listen to first?
TYLER: I think it would be “Loaded Gun”. Even though it hasn’t, so far, sou
nded like a lot of my back catalogue. I think somewhere between “Hey Jesus” and “Loaded Gun”. There are a lot of songs on this record that are indicative of what I meant to do but “Hey Jesus” and “Loaded Gun” are my two sides of my roots personality. On one side I love blues and sometimes I feel this big bad wolf in sheep’s clothing thing that I just want to make trouble. That’s what that song embodies. Then there’s the “Hey Jesus” kind of really sweet folk redemption side. I think between those two you’d get a good grasp of who I am as an artist and a person. Moving forward and looking back.
CONFRONT: How would you compare being on a television set versus being up on a stage?
TYLER: I feel like on a television set it’s a bit more like playing with a band. The directors don’t matter as much and I say that because there’s a different director every episode so they aren’t working as much with the actors as they are trying to make sure they get their shots. It’s not like the director of a movie who’s had months and months to figure out what he wants and he’s going to work with the actors the whole time. With a television show I found that you’re working with the other actors like you would a band on stage. We’d get a script and the directors say “stand here and stand here and this is the room we’re going to do it in” and the actors are like “what if I do this? Are you going to do this? If you do that maybe I’ll go over here”. You’re kind of working it out. I felt it more like a band rehearsal where you’re working with a musician as opposed to a producer in a studio. A movie is like working in the studio a bit more whereas a television show is more like working live with musicians.
CONFRONT: Growing up did you want to act or did you want to be a musician or did they just kind of come hand in hand?
TYLER: I always wanted to do both. For awhile I wanted to sing always and I wanted to sing in everything. Early on I fell in love with Elvis and Frank Sinatra. They did movies so I always thought I’d act as well because that’s what they do. My heroes were never James Dean or Marlon Brando. Sinatra and Elvis went on tour and made records so that’s what I wanted to do too. You can decide to be a musician and play shows but you can’t decide to be on a television show, someone has to want you to be in it. The fact that Walk the Line and One Tree Hill happened because I was a musician was lucky and I came in the back door of it. I look back on it now and I realize how great it is and that it might not have happened for me.
CONFRONT: For all the One Tree Hill fans out there, do you have a favorite memory while filming the last season?
TYLER: Yeah! There are so many. One of my favorite memories ended up being one of the most exhausting for me. I had gone to visit my girlfriend in London, Ontario and I wasn’t supposed to leave town because they needed me to film. So I came back to town and my flight was delayed in Atlanta and I had to get Wilmington. It kept getting delayed and it had started to pour rain and all I could think about was “I have to be on set at 6am and it’s 7 at night”. I was so nervous because I’m new on the set and I’m the least experienced actor on the set and I really don’t want to cause any problems. So I kept thinking about what I could do and I ended up renting a car. I thought I’d drive all night from Atlanta to Wilmington and get to the set by 6am. Sure enough it rained all night. I thought I was going to die several times throughout the night because it was raining so hard that I was going 5 miles an hour. I get there around 4:30 in the morning. I was shaking because I was so tired and so happy to be there. I had about an hour to sleep. I got up an hour later and I kept thinking that I had to go and be on camera on something that’s going to be on a DVD forever and I have to not look exhausted. I didn’t realize but that morning we were filming a scene where I was in a strip club with Stephen Colletti and Paul Johansson was directing. I was supposed to be wasted in the scene and I was so loopy to begin and I don’t even remember filming because I was so tired. Everyone kept laughing because they were convinced that I was really drunk and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was playing with strippers and slapping asses. I kept screaming at Colletti and messing his hair up and I was being so annoying. I could tell the whole time he was like “Oh my God”. It worked for the scene and I had so much fun that morning because I was running on pure adrenaline and it was one of my favorite memories. When I went home that day I thought to myself how well that ended up working out.
CONFRONT: Back to your music, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the music industry so far?
TYLER: There’s a balance of two things, it’s like making a cocktail. You have to be really true to yourself. Sometimes what you think is who you are isn’t. Sometimes what you think who you are is what you want to be instead of who you actually are. It’s really getting to the heart of what you want to do, what music is going to make you happy to sing and what things will make you happy to sing about. The other thing is not taking yourself too seriously. Sometimes you can end up standing by something that’s just a phase you’re going through or immaturity manifesting itself. If you’re like “I’m too cool for that or I’m not cool enough to do that” your ego gets in the way. For instance there was music that I was singing forever and then I went on One Tree Hill and did two episodes and they wanted me to keep coming back. My first thought was “Musicians don’t go on television shows. I’m not an actor. I don’t want people to see me as an actor. I don’t do that kind of thing. I’ve been on tours.” Then someone asked me if I was having fun doing it and I said “Some of the most fun I’ve had in my whole life.” They just looked at me and told me to do it. If I hadn’t done that then this place wouldn’t be packed. Most of my fans wouldn’t know who I am; fact. However I got there I had the best time doing it. Whether people think it’s cool or not, I’ll let that roll off. I had a fun time doing it and ultimately it’s made me the most happy.
CONFRONT: Where do you hope to see yourself 10 years down the road?
TYLER: I keep saying that if I could keep doing this for a living that’d be pretty big because of all the changes in the business. I know a lot of people who can’t afford to do it anymore, they don’t make enough money, their record didn’t do well or they don’t have enough fans coming out. So if I’m still doing this that’d be great. If I’m not working at Starbucks that’d be rad. I would like to keep putting out records and I’d like to put a record out in Nashville which I haven’t done yet. I’d love to do more acting as well. If I could continue to do both that’d be really nice.
Short Clip of Tyler Hilton Interview:
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