The dressing room at MadLife Stage is one of the nicest I’ve been in for ages. It was seriously comfortable hanging out with Tyler Porch as he waited to set up. I told him I was pumped to hear the show and I’d checked out what he has recorded. I was really impressed with the Live tracks (https://tylerporchband.bandcamp.com/album/weekend-at-harrys) one of those bands that not only sound great in a studio but take it to an even higher level live. Tyler struck me as gracious, open, low key, easy to smile, so we and the band talked music and swapped stories until it was show time. It’s always cool to see a band enjoy each other’s company.
Showtime! Did I say Tyler was low key? Yeah about that…. From the down stroke it was obvious this was going to be something special. Super tight, solid rhythm section, impactful guitar with great tone, soul filled vocals and mad energy channeled into “worth every penny” for the ticket. I realized I had a huge grin on my face and almost forgot I needed to take some photos. The crowd looked exactly how I was feeling from floor to balcony. Everyone was all smiles with heads moving, feet tapping and no one just sitting still. Holding down the bottom was Brad Kemp on bass with a warm tone and a bit of bounce. A seriously solid pocket and hard hitting groove was brought to you by Joey Robertson lay ground work for a driving foundation. Blues rock is very much alive and well. This kid obviously spent time in the shed (or woodshed as they say down here). With a professional music career that is in it’s early years it’s going to be interesting to see how he grows from here… such clean emotional playing and chops… delivered where volume would never be an issue.
Interview with Tyler Porch
We both know music is such a gamble for a career, especially in today’s market, why chose it?
I don’t know if I had much of a choice; from the moment I picked up a guitar, I had a complete fixation with creating and playing music. I started playing when I was eleven, so I wasn’t one of those kids that took lessons on an instrument since they could walk, and nobody in my immediate family was musical at all, so music wasn’t ingrained in my childhood, at least not in a performing sense. I definitely wasn’t thinking of my future income levels at the age I started playing, it was just an interest of mine that very rapidly developed into an obsession. My decision to be involved in the music industry is almost entirely emotional, and any financial or business angles of it are purely inconsequential to me, even if they are necessary. I just love doing it.
Last time you spoke with Libro Musica you were almost done with your tenure at Berklee College of Music, I’m Berklee alum, the curriculum is pretty hardcore…what was your Major? Also what’ a takeaway that you have from the whole experience?
When I went to Berklee I majored in Songwriting and minored in Music Engineering & Production. The curriculum, especially the core courses you are put through when entering there, are definitely intense. I didn’t read music at all before I attended Berklee, which doesn’t really help the stigma about guitar players and sheet music, I know, but that was mostly because with Blues and Rock music, you don’t really need to read. It doesn’t hurt if you can, but it’s certainly not a requirement if you want to learn a Duane Allman solo from the Fillmore East record, or play along to a B. B. King record. So being a completely ear based learner made those first semesters at Berklee really intense. I learned that I knew some things, not by name, but by sound, and that there were considerable gaps in my knowledge of theory and language, even at a basic level. Going through that experience of basically having to build my knowledge from the ground up again was trying at times and ultimately beneficial. But the most valuable piece of knowledge I took away from that school wasn’t any sort of musical concept. It was learning to communicate and relate to musicians of completely different backgrounds and skill sets than mine, and fostering a greater appreciation for music in general. They don’t teach you that in a class; that’s something, in my experience, you learn by playing and working with other musicians. Getting to hear my peers’ work, and their process behind creating it, or listening to an album that a friend recommended, or playing with someone whose main instrument is an pedal harp, those are all things that effect you as a player and a person. Those types of experiences are some I don’t think I would have been able to find anywhere else, and that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Personally, I think I’ve met some of the most talented young musicians in the country (not putting myself in that category at all, I still don’t know how I even got into the school), and simply having had the opportunity to be around and work with them was enormously beneficial. I did quite a bit of work as a session and performance musician during my later semesters, both at the studios/venues that were owned by Berklee and privately owned ones, for students and for independent musicians. When you are in those sorts of environments, you learn really quickly what matters and what doesn’t. Above anything else, being able to relate and make friends with people of all backgrounds and musical styling is the most important aspect of those situations. You can learn so much that way; some of the experiences I had during those times fundamentally changed me as a musician and a human being. It makes so many trivial conflicts seem, well, trivial. I honestly think that’s the most important thing in this industry, is learn how to be a more accepting person. If you are good friend of someone’s, and they need a player or something from your skill set, they’re going to call you way ahead of pulling out a directory of local musicians, because they know and trust you.
Is Music College something you would recommend for anyone thinking about the Music Industry? Some folks argue the more “schooled” someone is they sometimes lose their “feel”, any thoughts on that?
Overall, I’d say yes, but a lot of that answer depends on what field you want to be involved in. Berklee is incredible prolific as a contemporary music school, and if that suits your interests, then it’s right for you. But I don’t know if a higher education in music is necessary for success. I’m of the mindset that you don’t need a diploma to be successful in any industry, but what you do need (and what I think a higher education might help foster) is a hunger for knowledge and a goal-oriented outlook. If you have those things already, and you are finding your own unique experiences to help you improve, then no course list or formal lecture will supplement that.
As far as loosing “feel” from getting a formal learning experience, I’m going to say that’s a myth. Here’s why: I don’t think that “feel” can be taught, or messed with by teaching. And just to be clear, when I say “feel”, I’m not talking about the musical concept of a 12/8 shuffle or a swung sixteenth note feel, I’m talking about the nebulous concept of how a player sounds, which is what I think people are talking about when they make that statement. “Feel” has two components to me. One side of it is individual to the player, like a persons voice. You can teach someone how to sculpt it, and how to control it better, but in the end, their voice is still a part of their identity, and you can’t change that. The other side of it happens when one musician interacts with another musician or a group of musicians. It’s the chemistry that happens in bands or ensembles, it’s a bunch of voices (sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively) harmonizing with one and other to create something larger than any one part. Some of the most musically literate people I’ve met and played with also have exceptional “feel” on their instruments. I’ve also played with people who can’t tell you what a Cmaj7 chord is, but who have that same exceptional “feel” for their craft. So no, I don’t think schooling robs a player of their “feel”. If anything, it reinforces it, or demonstrates a lack of it.
Let’s jump to gear for a second: guitar/amp/pedals of choice? Why? Favorite artist, tone?
Oh man, if I had a tickle spot, that question just hit it. I’m a nerd about all sorts of things, and I love gear. My current rig is sort of build for the Tyler Porch Band material. For amps I’ve got a Fender 4×10 Deville run in “stereo” Peavey Classic 30. The reason I say “stereo” is because it’s not really a true stereo rig, I just split my signal with one stereo effect at the end of my board to feed both amps, and I don’t switch between them. My pedalboard/signal chain is always getting fumbled around; some things that are constant are a Boss RT-20 (where the “stereo” part comes from), an Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer, MXR Carbon Copy delay and a Vox wah. My guitar of choice is a very particular Gibson 335, which is not officially mine. It’s all stock with custom shop specs, Iced Tea sunburst circa 2011. A good friend of mine loaned it to me four years ago to do the first TPB record, and I fell in love with the thing, eventually bugging him into letting me use it full time. Shout out to Weston Faulkner for letting me use that beautiful instrument (look him up, another very talented musician/performer who helped me become who I am). As far as tones in general go, I tend to prefer darker tones to brighter ones, so more like lead tones from guitarists like Joe Bonamassa & Robben Ford, things of that nature.”
It was interesting for me to hear someone your age talk and reflect about some of the artists and musical styles I grew up loving, where did you acquire such an eclectic taste in music?
I can definitely say my parents had something to do with it. My parents weren’t musically inclined, but they both had a pretty wide collection of music themselves. I still remember sifting through their CD cabinet and pulling out different albums, sometimes just looking at them and other times actually putting them in my rinky-dinky portable CD player and listening to them. The album that started my obsession with music (and guitar by extension), was the John Mayer Trio album from 2005, TRY, with Pino Pallidino on bass and Steve Jordan on drums. The rawness and intensity of that record left a huge impression on me; it was a live record, after all, and those three are incredible performers. I still remember being almost paralyzed from the moment they kicked in until the end of the third song, which was a lesser-known Hendrix tune, Wait Until Tomorrow. The lead that John pulls at the end of that track is unbelievable, and after I heard it that first time, I promptly took off my headphones, walked downstairs and told my parents the thing that every ten year old’s parents want to hear: “I want to play guitar”. Being a testament to how wonderful and supportive my parents are, they got me a guitar not very long after that, and continued to help cultivate and support me wherever they could. Once I started playing, that’s when my parents’ musical tastes started to inform me. I’d walk into my dads’ office while Led Zeppelin IV was playing, or hear my mom blasting Whitesnake in the living room, and immediately set out learning and tracing back those bands. Not really normal behavior for an eleven year old, I know, but I was transfixed with finding new things to learn, and that never really stopped for me. I think that’s what I can ultimately attribute my eclectic tastes in music to: a desire to grow and get better.
For the under 25 age group, what’s one album and style you would recommend to get their Listening Analysis happening? Ok, no Berklee terms, to open them up to a new musical experience/conversation?
Oh man, only one? Hmm… That’s tough, because my answer to this changes nearly every week. A band I’ve taken particular interest in lately would probably be Vulfpeck. You could call them retro-funk, if you had to pin a genre on it, but that’s a very loose pin. The best explanation is to hear it. They stem from that Motown, live-in-the-studio kind of playing, but with a modern and sometimes humorous take on it. I’ve been aware of them for quite some time, but only recently started digging into their discography. Besides, I think they might have one of the best bass players (in terms of feel) from the modern era playing with them, and he’s not very well known outside of musicians communities: Joe Dart. Definitely check out the track Beastly from their first EP, and then let yourself fall into their fairly extensive catalogue. But my answer for last week would have been a rock band from London called Band Of Skulls, and the week before that it would have been Jon Batiste, a jazz piano player from New Orleans and the bandleader from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
It seemed to me that you and the band have some great chemistry and communication both on and off stage, how did you guys meet up?
Well, Joey (the drummer) and I have been playing together for around 6 years now. When I was 15 I joined a local cover band called Pretty Twisted, and I met Joey after he sat in with us on my second or third gig. The current drummer had to quit, so after some consideration we hired Joey. About two years after that (and many, many shows), I expressed an interest in starting an original project and writing my own material, and asked Joey if he’d be the drummer in that group. He said he’d love to. We had the bassist from Pretty Twisted fill in on our first show, and then set about writing new material. Joey suggested we try out a previous band mate and good friend of his, Brad Kemp; he met us at our practice space, and within the first few minutes of us playing it became clear that he fit like a glove. Joey and Brad have more history than I do with either of them, they’d been playing together years before I met Joey, in various different projects. From there, we just kept developing our style, and three studio albums, one live album and so many shows later, here we are. Something about being in band with the same guys for around 4 years does create a certain level of comradery between us.
How has the road been for you all? Which has been your favorite Show?
It’s been good; we dip in and around the southeast, mostly staying in the Atlanta area. I think my favorite show, and I only speak for myself, was playing the Hummingbird Stage & Taproom in Macon, GA. We played there for the first time in June of last year, and it was a part of their anniversary celebration. There were six other acts on the bill, and we were the fourth, if I remember right. We crammed all our gear up on the little stage, didn’t get a sound check, and played one of the best shows I think we’ve ever played. I just remember the whole room being packed, and everyone there being super responsive to what we were doing. I think that sometimes, adverse conditions, be it from having to rush gear up on stage or from a bit of a tense situation (not necessarily being the fault of the venue, in that case) actually pushes us into playing a better show; we end up being that much more committed to put our best foot forward and knock the teeth out of the anyone in the front row.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Anywhere. One of the things I picked up at Berklee was to always be receptive to ideas, whether it’s a series of car horns that have an interesting cadence, or a fork that hits the ground and implies a particular rhythm; could be a band I’ve found and a certain idea in one of their bridges, or a thought born from a particularly potent lyric or book title. Inspiration, for me, is everywhere, and the limit to it’s potential is how well I can successfully tap into it; that’s something I’ll be learning about and getting better at until I die.”
What message if any do you want to deliver to your audience?
I think our overall message is just to live the way you want to. Don’t let anyone else call your shots, because life is full of places to get pigeonholed and trapped down by things that seem responsible and important. I know it’s cliché, but I think if everyone lived their lives the way they dreamed of living their lives, this world would be a better, more fulfilling place.
What is your dream gig to sit in on:
Oh boy… So many. I’d love to sit in with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, simply because I think they are exceptional live group. Every year they go out on tour, they get better and better at making each show unique, and working new and fresh ideas into older songs. Not to mention Derek Trucks is a monster musician and a hero of mine from way back.
Where can people find out more information, hear the band and upcoming events?
You can follow us on Instagram (@tylerporchband) or on Facebook (facebook.com/TylerPorchBand) to keep up to date with upcoming events, news, etc. We also have a website (www.tylerporchband.com) that has all our official contact information as well as events, previous press, and shows.