Fender Sessions is a three-song set from a unique location that helps peel back the curtain on the creative process of artists around the world. Aimed at amplifying the voices of both emerging talents and established legends, Sessions gives them a way to fully articulate their vision and mastery of their craft.
He might be only 28 years old, but Tyler Bryant has a reverence for rock and blues befitting someone three times his age.
First picking up a guitar at the age of 6, the Texas native was born and bred on the roughneck blues produced by his Lone Star brethren of the past – names like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lightin’ Hopkins and T-Bone Walker.
That relationship to the gritty musicians that preceded him by several decades was only furthered by a chance meeting with seasoned blues guitarist Roosevelt Twitty when he was 11. As the story goes, Bryant’s parents found him in a record store as Twitty was playing Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” and the young prodigy couldn’t turn away.
“He was singing it and playing it like Lightin’ Hopkins’ 'Home in the Woods,' specifically,” said Bryant. “I was just floored by it. I walked up and he said, ‘Do you like the blues?’ I said, ‘I don’t know what that is.’ He’s like, ‘This is the blues.’ So I said, ‘Well then, I love the blues.’”
It’s pretty simply math if you think like an impressionable not-yet-teenager. Luckily, Twitty took Bryant under his wing and helped educate him further towards what would be a game-changing career move.
“Mr. Twitty sharing music with me changed the whole course of my life,” Bryant said. “I realized how powerful just giving someone a record can be.”
Quickly after his deep dive into the blues, Bryant’s ability to conjure the ghosts of his influences through whatever wood and strings he grasped shone through. Bryant moved from his hometown of Honey Grove, Texas, to Nashville in 2008 to write with local musicians.
That was the beginning of his band, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown, who merge rock and blues to create an undeniable force of nature. Now, the band includes Caleb Crodby on drums, Noah Denney on bass and guitarist Graham Whitford.
Three critically acclaimed albums in to the Shakedown mythology, Bryant and Co. have cracked the code with Truth and Lies, a collection of tracks that shows the band at their songwriting best. The guys had over 50 songs for the album, and after whittling them down to just under 30, they finalized 13 that they knew could translate to stages they would eventually receive ringing endorsements from the likes of Guns N’ Roses (with whom they recently toured), Jeff Beck and ZZ Top.
For Bryant, the ability to play his music organically was one of the most important factors in bringing Truth and Lies together, and the band demonstrated that in our Fender Sessions episode that took them to Donelson Bowl in Nashville, a local haunt they've frequented many a time.
“For us in the Shakedown, [the songs] either sink or swim based on if we can deliver them with our instruments and our voices,” he said. “We don’t want to rely on backing tracks or computers. We want to be able to set up in a bowling alley and play our music and not have to worry about anything else.”
The venue doesn’t matter for Bryant. He’s always going to put his heart and soul into each and every performance. While his ferocious Stratocaster skills translate well to a crowd awaiting Slash at the biggest arenas around the world, they also come through the camera when he’s just around his four bandmates, simply playing for himself. Bryant’s passion is the music, and you’ll see it here.