When I was first introduced to Jared Tyler nearly six years ago, it's hard to say what I was more struck by: his songwriting ability, his amazing voice and record or his softspoken and humble attitude. Blessed with an amazing talent, Tyler has risen with one of the best pure pop records to emerge out of Tulsa since 2004.
Blue Alleluia (Tyler's debut disc) came out of left field loaded with great songs, great production and a world of promise behind it. Not only did Tyler have Russ Titleman (who had produced Eric Clapton, amongst others) in his corner, both as producer and head of a fledgling label, which he had just signed with, but he also had the backing of a group of amazing studio musicians and even a cameo appearance from Emmylou Harris on the disc. Paired with a role in the film Killer Diller, which debuted at SXSW that year, it looked as if Tyler had the music world at his fingertips.
Fast forward to 2010: Tyler is back with his sophomore disc and presenting it independently -- as his debut disc never truly took off as its support never came together.
Tyler played select and strategic shows, but he also immersed himself in songwriting and production.
With a great ear for composition and engineering, Tyler started with a home studio then moved into the current digs he and Travis Fite recently took over just off of 13th and Lewis (formerly Zac Maloy's old studio). Even though he began recording and producing for others, Tyler didn't abandon his music.
True, it did take more than five years for a follow-up to appear, but the past few years have been filled with work, trials and loss for Tyler.
Besides establishing himself as a premier producer in his field, Tyler lost both of his grandmothers as well his mother, all of which slowed the process. As devastating as the losses and grief were, they also undoubtedly influenced Tyler's latest disc, Here With You, which is both aching and beautiful.
With the new disc, Tyler builds upon his debut with what feels like the logical progression from Blue Alleluia. Tyler has always been something of an enigmatic artist: his writing blurs boundary lines by combining country, folk and bluegrass influences with soul and R&B. The final product has enough of an earthy, gritty quality that could classify his music as Americana. Despite any outside influence or instrumentation, the songs are ultimate pure pop songs from an amazingly insightful songwriter.
After developing the songs, initial tracks were laid down for the disc when Reed Mathis and Jason Smart (both formerly of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) settled in at Tyler's Blue Alleluia Studio in February of 2008. The trio cut roughly 20 tracks in less than a week, as well as tracks for two other artist's records.
Since then, production has been a slow process as Tyler worked through the loss of loved ones and gradually brought in a host of personal friends and amazing musicians to finish out what would become Here With You.
As long as the process has been, the end result is worth the wait. Even more consistent than Blue Alleluia, Here With You flows with a consistent yearning and an overarching theme of universal love that ties the entire disc together. And although his losses obviously added gravity to the disc and its lyrics, the result is not overbearing. Instead, there is a sense of sincerity and a nearly indescribable heartfelt ache that pushes the disc forward both sonically and lyrically.
Eventually, Tyler asked good friend Chuck Zwicky to step in as co-producer and help him finish the disc. Sharing a similar taste in music and an almost mentor-ish relationship, Zwicky agreed and his input helped the disc come together in its final form.
Aside from the personal growth that is evident in Tyler's writing, the disc also stands out from its predecessor in that it sounds every bit as polished and professional as Blue Alleluia, yet was recorded almost fully in Tulsa instead of New York and Nashville, as the previous disc was.
Only Suzie Ragsdale's sweet background vocals were tracked at the singer's studio in Nashville and shipped back to Tulsa to be inserted in the mix. Aside from that, the disc is a true product of Tulsa and Tulsa musicians, with appearances by a host of local artists, including Steve Pryor, Jesse Aycock, Monica Taylor, Chris Combs and Brian Lee, amongst others.
One of the few tracks not recorded at Tyler's studio were the drums for the lead and title track "Here With You." Recorded at Wayman Tisdale's studio in early 2009, to Tyler's knowledge, the drums tracks were one of the last recordings, outside of Tisdale's own work, that tracked at the studio before his passing. In hindsight, it's a touching tribute, both to Tisdale and to the family members that were lost during the past few years, that the tracks should emerge now.
Tyler said that the writing process comes differently for each song. While some songs start with the music, others might begin with a melody and others with a lyric or phrase. And although Tyler believes his gift lies in melodies, which tend to come to him more easily, he said, "If anything, I take the lyrics more seriously and struggle over them sometimes."
The time spent fretting over the phrasing and wording is well spent here. Not a songwriter to mince words, Tyler rarely becomes long-winded and his economy of words allows the spirit of the music to shine through and creates a transparency which makes each lyric both obvious and open to interpretation. That's Tyler's preference: to paint a picture, yet not be so specific as to not leave room for the listener to interpret and make it his own. It's also both the strength and beauty of the record.
In one turn, Tyler expresses the completion and contentment of "...When we're together/I am so much better /and I know you love me too/when I'm here with you" on the title track. Near the end of the disc, he calls a friend to step out of their hurt and past and into freedom with the hauntingly beautiful "Free."
Throughout, the overarching message is love and that it's universal, perhaps best expressed when he simply cores out "Turn to love, Turn to love" in "Pain of the World." It's a message that's timeless and poignant -- much like this record should prove to be.
Now that the record is complete, Tyler is ready for the fun part. The official CD release party for Here With You is Friday night, March 26 at the Marquee. Showtime is at 8pm for the all-ages concert, and it will be a full evening with Jared Tyler playing with a special group of friends for the entire evening.
Curly White, whom Tyler calls "a monster R&B and funk bassist" will be flying back in from South Carolina to be a part of the weekend, and Jason Smart will also be returning to town for the evening to recreate his tracks as well. The live band will be rounded out with Brian Lee (who plays with Leon Russell) on keyboards and Travis Fite on guitar, as well as Jared Tyler playing guitar, dobro and whatever else might tickle his fancy during the course of the evening.
Tyler's live show is always compelling, but as he rolls out the new material, visits a few tracks from his debut and delves into "a few pretty crazy covers," he said, "I feel like this will be one of our more powerful shows to date."
Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door for what will prove to be a special night of music. Considering the nature of the all-star cost of local musicians that appeared on the disc, a few surprise guests are sure to show up and make the night even more special, so you won't want to miss it. And you won't want to miss the opportunity to pick up Here With You, especially if you love great songwriting.
Following a week at South by Southwest and bands rolling in and out of town, Tulsa is in a bit of a lull this week, yet we've still got a few good shows.
Thursday night's best bets include the always inspired Dustin and Jesse's Higher Education or a special evening with Travis Linville at The Colony. Either way, plan to sit back, relax and soak up the music.
Thursday night, March 25, also offers up a cool show for the Christian rock crowd as KJ52, Group One Crew, Fedel and Apagee play the 24/7 youth Center with tickets for $12 in advance or $14 at the door.
Friday night, March 26, offers a variety of options. I.J. Ganem plays a rare public show as he appears at River Spirit Casino for an evening of music that spans the decades for the Casino's one year anniversary. Meanwhile, Mountain Sprout and Randy Crouch get down and dirty at Flytrap Music Hall. Elsewhere around town, Joe Mack brings the blues to the Hunt Club, Dustin Pittsley rattles the windows at Arnie's, Red Dirt Rangers set up shop at Mercury Lounge and The Rebellion livens up The Colony with a dose of reggae. The Chimpz pumps up the crowds with its latest project Home Invasion at Joe Momma's Express, 10309 E. 61st St. And if you're looking for an extra Red Dirt fix, hit up No Justice at The Otherside Event Center.
Saturday night's big shows include Randy Houser at Cain's Ballroom with Brandon Clark Band opening and The Wailers at Flytrap with Local Hero and The Rebellion opening the show. If you love classic reggae, this is arguably the show of the year.
Also on March 27, Alex and the Anders raise the party bar at Arnie's, William Joseph Band plays Hunt Club and Dance Robots Dance keeps Soundpony hopping with the dance beats. If you really want to step off the beaten musical path, however, stop in at Mercury Lounge for Cletus Got Shot.
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