Honey Grove native Tyler Bryant has played concerts all over Europe, opened for rock icon like AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, and faced crowds of more than 65,000 people, but he called the show he and his band is playing next week in Denison more “nerve racking” than any of those.
“I told my folks and a couple of my friends, it’s more nerve racking playing at home for me than it is like playing in a stadium full of people because you know everybody that you see,” Bryant said. “I think anytime my parents come out, that makes me nervous, because obviously I want them to be proud and stoked on what I’m doing. It’s always just a head trip when you have people you know there. And people who know you.”
His band, Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, will headline Denison’s Music on Main show Friday evening at Heritage Park. The music starts at 7:30 p.m. with opening act Sons of Fannin, followed by Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown at about 8 p.m.
“Most of the fans that we have all over the world, they know you as what they see and what you show them,” Bryant said. “But whenever you play at home, it’s like, I probably like busted my head open in that person’s backyard when I was a little kid and they drove me to the hospital.”
Bryant said he expects he’ll see a lot of familiar faces from Fannin County and Lamar County at the Music on Main show, which will be the closest he’s played to home since the band played a Red Dirt county festival in Paris last year.
“My parents, they’re very supportive of what I do, and on the same hand, do not like to travel,” Bryant said. “I imagine they’ll be there. My dad always raises a little hell about ‘Man, why don’t you play a show around here?’ Even when we played the American Airlines Center (in Dallas) with AC/DC, it was like getting my parents out to the show was a big deal.”
Bryant first emerged as a blues prodigy, receiving the Robert Johnson Gibson New Generation Award in 2006 at the age of 15 for his guitar playing, performing at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Music Festival in Chicago in 2007 and being featured in the 2009 documentary “Rock Prophecies.” Around that time, Bryant moved to Nashville where he formed the Shakedown. The band released its debut album “Wild Child” in 2013, a pair of EPs in 2015 and its sophomore album, titled “Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown,” last November.
“I think a lot of people have followed the journey I’ve been on since moving to Nashville at 17 and a lot of people haven’t,” Bryant said of playing in Paris last year. “I think it probably caught a lot of people by surprise to come out there with a full swing rock ‘n’ roll band when they’re going, ‘Wait, I thought you were a little blues kid. You’ve got long hair and playing rock ‘n’ roll.’”
Fans heading out to the show can expect a “full on rock show,” Bryant said, explaining the band is just two guitars, bass and drums.
“It’s no frills, the band that we have, everyone kind of holds their own and pulls the weight,” Bryant said. “It’s a high energy show, with just a lot of impact. We normally come out swinging and keep the energy up, but it’s also like there’s some chill moments and there’s no doubt that being that close to home, I’ve got to tip my hat to the blues. I try to do that anytime we’re in Texas, or in Mississippi or Louisiana — anywhere where the blues is a huge part of the culture, I try to tip my hat to that. So I’ll definitely be doing that whenever we play in Denison.”
In addition to Bryant, the band includes bassist Noah Denney, drummer Caleb Crosby and guitarist Graham Whitford, who is the son of Aerosmith ax-slinger Brad Whitford.
“The guys in this band are just such great players,” Bryant said. “I moved to Nashville to meet guys like this, and I lucked out because I got the best players in town. When we’re not on the road, everybody’s trying to get them in their band. Luckily, we’re not off the road very much.”
Lately, a lot of that time on the road has been as a support act for AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, the latter of whom the band will open for this summer throughout Europe.
“It’s been pretty surreal,” Bryant said of opening for those acts. “When I was growing up in Honey Grove, (the AC/DC album) ‘Back in Black’ was one of the soundtracks to my youth, and so was the “Appetite for Destruction” album from Guns. And it’s interesting how that happened because we got an audition with AC/DC to where we got offered three shows and they said if (AC/DC leader) Angus (Young) likes you, you can do the rest of the American tour. And then we ended up doing the rest of the world tour with them and they took us all over Europe.”
During that tour, former AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson developed hearing issues that forced him to leave the band. GNR lead singer Axl Rose took over as AC/DC’s lead singer for the remainder of the band’s “Rock or Bust World Tour” and later took a shine to Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. Bryant recounted a particularly colorful compliment they received from Rose, and self-censored the legendary singer for the Herald Democrat.
“The first show we did with Axl Rose was in Lisbon, Portugal, which also was the biggest show we had played at that time, it was like 65,000-70,000 people, all out in the rain,” Bryant said. “It was crazy. It was one of my favorite memories that I’ve ever made musically and apparently Axl heard us getting out of his car. And when we finally met Axl at the Olympic Stadium in London, he said, ‘It was so nice to finally have an opening band I don’t have to effing ignore.’ And then we started getting Guns N’ Roses offers.”
Since then, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown have opened for GNR in Southeast Asia, South America and Europe. The band will be back in Europe this summer for several festival shows, but Bryant said they’ll likely play much more than just those shows.
“Another thing I pride myself on, and I think it’s probably from growing up with a dad who worked in a factory and my mom would hold down two jobs, is just always wanting to work and just kind of earn my place in this industry.” Bryant said. “Make sure the next guy isn’t working harder than I am. So whenever we play massive shows like that, many of those bands will play one show and then take two days off, and then play another show. We’re normally filling up our off days with more shows to where we’ll do a stadium show and then we’ll play a club show. That way we’re using every bit of time we can in these other countries to make fans.”
Bryant said that hard work has started to pay off in Europe.
“It’s interesting because it’s taken off more in Europe than it has in America at this point,” he said. “To where we would sell more tickets in Paris, France, than we do in our hometown of Nashville. So that’s just interesting to me. It’s also America’s very much driven by the radio and what’s playing on the radio, and bluesy rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t really have much of a place on the radio, aside from maybe XM.”
Bryant said they regularly have songs on the radio in Europe.
“There they play the songs that American radio programmers laugh at us for,” he said. “Those are the ones that they pick to play over there. So it’s just interesting how that works.”
Coming to Denison
The band was the last act confirmed for this year’s Music on Main concert series because everyone was waiting to see what dates Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown would be opening for GNR.
“We’re going to do I think five or six more shows with Guns, and so we were just kind of waiting to see if we could do both things, which we can,” Bryant said. “It’s one of those things because Guns takes out a handful of different openers, so we were kind of waiting to see which countries we were going to get. It’s going to be great and I’m excited to come play so close to home.”
The last time Bryant was this close to Honey Grove was the Paris show last year, where he said the band “stuck out like a sore thumb” because their sound is so different from Red Dirt country.
“I never really did play many of those shows,” Bryant said. “It was always interesting because I’m friends with a lot of country artists and a lot of the Red Dirt guys and I really couldn’t be more different musically. But it’s like Texas and Nashville have a similar thing where artists and musicians are just very friendly with each other.”
He ended the conversation by saying he’s excited to be able to come back to Texas for a show.
“I can’t come and not pay respect to the roots that kind of inspired me to go out and make music for a living,” Bryant said. “So it’s going to be exciting.”