Today’s Feature, December 23rd-24th: Tyler Hilton

December 24, 2007 at 2:31 pm (Today's Feature)


You’ve gotten to know part of Tyler Hilton. You’ve watched at least one episode of “One Tree Hill” where the sunny faced Hilton has starred as Chris Keller across three seasons. Or maybe you saw him on the big screen as the king of rock n’ roll, Elvis Presley in the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line.” But what about Tyler Hilton the singer/songwriter? Do you know him?

Either way, you will soon. The guy is marvelous. He’s been writing songs since he was 14 years old, testing out his melodies across the open mic nights of Palm Springs, CA. He released “The Tracks of Tyler Hilton” back in 2004 at the tender age of 21, “an appealing slice of strummy pop Americana that included the breakout track ‘When It Comes.'” However it’s the future the holds true excitement. Hilton has since set up shop in Nashville to work on his second album, one that will ransack the billboard charts early next year under the Warner Brothers Record Label.

His sound is soothing, inviting and peaceful, something you can throw in on a ride down any crowded thoroughfare, or while enjoying the stillness of a warm Sunday afternoon. The bar has been set high since being compared to the likes of Elton John and Howie Day, but his talent makes the references less than intimidating. Sound unlikely? Give “Kiss On” a few minutes of your time. Enough said.

While the album will be out soon, you can also catch Hilton starring alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Hope Davis in the February release of the major motion picture, “Charlie Bartlett.” Reserve a Tyler Hilton section on both your DVD and CD rack, and jump into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Tyler Hilton

Pen’s Eye View: Where did I catch you right now?

Tyler Hilton: I’m just here at home in Nashville.

PEV: What’s it like living in Nashville?

TH: It’s a lot slower here. It’s a lot more homey. Doesn’t totally feel like you’re in the music business or anything. It’s really great. It feels like one big retreat or something, from L.A. and New York.

PEV: Where did you grow up?

TH: In Palm Springs, California.

PEV: So it’s definitely a little bit of a change of scenery.

TH: Yeah. I was in LA the last 4 or 5 years . I started coming here a lot and there were a lot of places you think are great but you don’t think you can live there. But there are so many people getting so many things done in this town. And it’s a cheaper cost of living so you can just so much more for you money. It’s just like “Wow”. All around it’s the coolest vibe.

PEV: Growing up on the West Coast, what kind of music were you listening to?

TH: A lot of blues. I listened to a ton of old blues. I can’t remember why or how, but I really liked the oldies station in Palm Springs and I got really into Frank Sinatra and Elvis and then I think from Elvis I just started listening to a lot of blues and then I just was pretty into only blues like BB King and then Muddy Waters and then went backwards into Robert Johnson and I just really liked all that blues stuff a lot.

PEV: You actually got a chance to play Elvis in a role, didn’t you?

TH: Yeah, yeah. That was pretty amazing. It was like a dream coming true. I was like, “What the hell?”. It was like out of a Disney movie or something.

PEV: A lot of people got to see you a lot when you were on One Tree Hill and you did a lot of other acting. Was acting something that you always aspired to do along with music?

TH: Yeah I did. I always thought it was going to be more of a hobby. I didn’t think it would be something that people would know me for. I remember when I first got signed to William Morris for touring. I signed a record deal and put out my first 2 records before I started acting or anything. I remember when I first got signed I asked them, I really liked doing acting in high school and if there’s a chance that at maybe some point I would love to take a break from my music and maybe do some theatre or do some kind of like, off Broadway stuff, or some kind of acting. Nothing too crazy. And they were like, “Yeah, if you want to do that, for sure”. They knew I was interested in it as a hobby, just as another way of being an artist and then when Walk the Line came out they were just looking for people to be extras. And so they were like, “if you would like to get some film experience and would like to be on the set, go on and try out to be an extra and so I went and hey were like “Elvis, and blah, blah, blah,” and the next thing you know I was in the move, acting. That’s how I got One Tree Hill and how I got the next movie I was doing.

PEV: How did you first get involved in music?

TH: My family is all musicians so I played with them a lot, whenever I could, and their shows. I have a huge family and once a year we have an extended family trip and there is a lot of playing there and I would always play on the stages there, just kind of sitting background or whatever. When I was about 14 or 15 I actually started doing some open mikes with my own songs and then with some blues songs that I really like. I just did that a lot until I got my own show at the coffee house and then really I was kind of up and running because as far as I was concerned once you got your own show you could take that to other restaurants and coffee houses and they’d let you play because you already have a show and then it just goes from there. It’s all about getting in front of people and if you have people letting you get up in front of people then you’re set. You’re off and running. All of the other things I might have had were significant but not as significant as someone saying “I’ll let you play on my stage for more than 2 songs”. I didn’t really get paid anything but I was able to make tips and able to put out a mailing list and it was off and running, Once you have an audience, once you have a stage, you’re set to go.

PEV: What were those earlier days like? Do you remember your first performance at the coffee house?

TH: The very first one I was just so excited. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like the biggest break ever. I was acting like Tommy Mottola from Sony had called me and asked me to single-handedly be the reason Sony still appears or something. I was so excited. My dad helped me. We printed up these cards. We printed up these cards advertising the show and the other people that came were friends from my high school and my family, and it ended up being a pretty big group. You know, a lot of my family came down from LA, ’cause it was in the desert in Palm Springs, and a lot of my friends from school came and I don’t know why they all thought it was such a big deal. I might have talked it up. It ended up becoming a big thing. I was really excited. A lot of people were there. I had my uncle and some friends back me up and it wasn’t a real realistic show. It was kind of like all of us all celebrating that I even had a show. After that was mostly whoever was in the coffee house at the time and whatever friends of mine could come down and see the show. But you know, once you’re in front of people it just goes. The local newspaper wants to do an article about you because you like blues and you’re young and then more people come and it just kind of snowballs. Now I’m 24 and that was almost 10 years ago and it’s still kind of snowballing, just slowly. I really like it.

PEV: Your family seems very supportive. I talked to your Dad, obviously.

TH: My family is very supportive. They were all trying to do the same thing when they were my age and they have a very realistic outlook on music and they love it now, it wasn’t just for the fame or for the money. I’m sure that it crossed their minds when they were signed, but they all still love to play and they all play all the time. Still, they go through their phases of their favorite artist, and they are just active music fans. It’s just nice.

PEV: What was it like in high school, when you were getting a lot of attention and you were playing music constantly, with your friends in high school as well? Was it a little bit hard for them to relate to? How did they react to it?

TH: It wasn’t like more success, than say…well, it was a bit of success. I was a rare solo artist I think and most of the time in high school you’re in a band or something and you’re playing battles of the bands and stuff. It wasn’t any bigger than that really. It was just kind of like “Oh that’s cool”. There were always a few bands in the high school and I was just one of them. I think people really started being like “Whoa, man, You’re really doing well” when maybe the local paper would write up something or a few times I got on the radio, things like that, and then people would be like, “That’s pretty cool”. It was really cool. And the teachers would come out and see me play sometimes, too, so I’m sure that always helped.

PEV: You get to tour around a lot. What has been your favorite place to play so far?

TH: My favorite place to play is probably, crowd-wise, Chicago. I don’t know why but people in Chicago are just always so receptive. We always get big receptions in Chicago. That city is so big for us. I don’t why. They are just always very receptive there. And I really like New York City just because I like that feeling. When you’re on tour, especially with a band, New York always feels like an oasis of fun. You’re always like, 2 days from New York or 3 days from New York. I can’t wait to get to New York. Everyone is just excited to get New York. I love playing in the city.

PEV: What is road life like for you?

TH: It’s a lot of reading. There’s travel in vans. A lot of….life is very simple on the road. Your whole life is in a little duffle bag and in a suitcase and so you don’t pack much, you don’t have much around you. I don’t have much around me. Whatever the hotel’s got and I feel like everything else is in my suitcase. It’s just a very simple life. I like it. I really do. Things are very simple and easy. A lot of things are black and white on the road which I like. It’s nice. Well, I can’t say it’s black and white. The weird thing about being on the road is so many things are so predictable. The way the hotel runs. What you’re traveling in. Your suitcase. Everything is just really compact. But then at the same time it’s one of the most adventurous times of a career because, who you’re going to meet. You don’t know what the town’s going to b e like. Even if you’ve been there several times you don’t know how it’s going to be this time. There so much adventure involved. Adventures happen after show and places you go, places you eat. It’s always fun. I love it.

PEV: I’m on your site right now and I see Charlie Bartlett. Tell us a little bit more about that.

TH: That’s the movie that I really liked. I read scripts every once in a while when I’m on the road and a lot of them I like and a lot of them I try out for and don’t always get the part. Most of the movies are terrible but it’s like music if there’s music that you like. But that one in particular I really liked and I was going to start recording my record and I ended up getting a part in that movie and I remember really, really wanting it. My agent loved the film, too. So when I got that chance to be in there, it’s kind of like music where you even write the song on your own time. I’ve only been in 2 movies ever and that was Walk the Line and this one. So at the time I was thinking, I’m glad I didn’t pass up Walk the Line. That’s something that I’ll always remember and this is another movie it was worth pushing recording the album for a couple months to do this movie. At the time also, I had shaved my head into a Mohawk because I didn’t think I’d be seeing anyone for awhile because I was going to be recording a record and they cast me in this movie with the Mohawk. They wanted me to have the Mohawk in the movie. It was really weird. There were all these things coming together and so I thought, “This will be the only time in my life I’ll end up on screen in a Mohawk and he’s like, this sadistic dude who loves to beat up people and sell drugs”. It was such a different part so I thought this would be really fun. And Robert Downey, Jr. was doing it and he’s a musician and he’s got a great vibe and a lot of people involved are very artsy people. It was killer. I loved it.

PEV: You mentioned the record. Tell us about the upcoming record.

TH: I filmed that movie last summer and so the record has kind of been developing since then. It was something that I haven’t been willing to just rush and get out and then get back out on the road as soon as I can. It’s weird that one side of me wants to rush it and the other side wants to take forever making it. And right now the side that wants to take forever making it is winning. But I think that it’s really been good. The record I would have put out right away wouldn’t have been half as good as this one. You know, the version I’m now at. And I’m really glad that I’m working on it in Tennessee, too. It’s slower down here and I’m able to be influenced by a lot things. I’m able to rebel against different things. The music’s coming out a little different than it would have if I was in LA. In a good way. I wanted to make something that sounds like a new live. It sounds like a band on record. I’m really attracted to those kind of records. Nothing with a wall of guitars with the fen guitar part doubled a million times. It’s just really stripped down. And I wanted a lot of rootsy elements because I love that kind of music. There’s this producer that I hooked up with down here that I really dug named Dan Huff and he’s done a lot of country records in the past and had a lot of success recently with that. He’s a rock guy. He kind of tough. His time out in LA he was in this rock bank called Giant for a while. He’s just got a rock heart and he’s had some success in country. The more he was jamming with my band and I, I was like, if I could hire another band member to come out on the road this guy would be it. He just kind of like gets the vibe of what I want to do. And so it seemed like the perfect match to have him produce the record. And it’s been going really good. I think we’re going to be finishing up about February. I’m just trying to record as many new songs as I can with them, probably 11 or so on the record and the rest of them I can put on soundtracks or whatever else. I just want to soak up this time down here and with him and record as much as I can because this is a really nice time right now to capture.

PEV: When you sit down to write music is there a certain kind of environment you surround yourself in? An atmosphere?

TH: I can’t really create too much hoopla for writing a song. It’s like trying to think about your dream when you wake up or like trying like trying to think about what you’re going to dream about. It’s just kind of happens and there’s not a lot I can do. I can try to do some things like try to make sure I have some time, try to make sure there’s an instrument in my hand as often as I can or try to make sure that I’m really paying attention to songs so when I get a vibe and it comes out I’m ready to write. But other than that I can’t do much. What I have been doing out here is I’ve been co-writing with a lot of people. All these songs for the record have been just things that I’ve been kind of writing on the road for the last 3 years. But when I came down to Nashville I started wanting to branch out, kind of as another finger in another pie, and co-write for people, for other country acts and other people and try to see if I could write some songs for other people. It’s spawned a lot of songs that I really like on my record as well. And so it’s just kind of a huge collection of songs I didn’t have before I moved to Nashville to where I thought I was ready to record a year ago I realized most of the record is these brand new songs that I just love. So, about all I can do to setup song writing is get together with other people and be like “hey, you wanna come over and jam?” and just see what happens.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your free time? When you’re not performing and you’re not traveling?

TH: There’s always something. Respond to e-mails, there’s some kind of business calls. I try to do as many self-indulgent things as I can. Like I just got back from taking this tour of an old mansion and I just got home right now. I try to do things like that that expand my horizons as often as I can, but unfortunately a lot of it is just business stuff; returning calls, e-mails. Then uninteresting side. I’ve always thought it would be interesting to own a restaurant or a bar and people are like “Oh man, that’s so much paperwork” and I’m like “Really?” Same thing as being an artist. You think you’re gong to be a musician and rock star, traveling, and you’re like “God, there’s so many damn phone calls to return!”

PEV: Is there an up and coming band right now that you think everybody should be looking out for? An artist you’ve run across?

TH: An up and coming band? Well, no. I’m sure I’ll think of one as soon as I get off the phone. I know what I’ve been liking recently is, I love this, I’d not really owned a Radiohead album before but I love this new Radiohead album so much. I can’t stop listening to it. And I love the new RKFIRE record, I like that album a lot, too. I can’t think of an up and coming band really. There is a guy down her who’s a great songwriter and he’s not signed yet. He’s a really cool guy and his name is Sean McConnell. He’s real hip guy and writes the most haunting songs. They’re like writing movie scripts, every one of his songs. When he gets signed and puts out a record I think everyone should check that out.

PEV: What’s next for Tyler Hilton?

TH: I’ve got to concentrate on getting this record out. It’s really important I get it out. I’ve got to finish something and it’s got to be set next year, early next year. This record is going to come out and all the trimmings, photo shoots, and this and that, and promoting as much as I can. So I’m really just trying to hunker down and get ready for touring and promoting this, what I’ve been working on so long. And, Charlie Bartlett comes out February 3rd. I feel like this last year has been a really important year for staying quiet, relatively, as far as touring and publicity goes. It’s been really important for creativity and making something. Next year is going to be a lot of promotions of what I’ve been doing this last year. So I’m really just getting excited for that.

For more information on Tyler Hilton, check out



  1. Kristy said,

    Tyler is a very special young man. He makes our world a better place.

  2. Tony Adolfi said,

    Hey Tyler, it sounds like you are having a ball and enjoying your career in music and acting. I will be sure to see your movie in February. Your number one fan in the world -K – keeps me up to date on your career. Good luck in Nashville and with the record you are working on. I hope to meet you one day at a gathering in BD. I enjoyed the interview and the other clips and info that K has sent me. You have an impressive career and I know there will be many more great projects in your future. Keep enjoying yourself. I look forward to seeing you on Broadway! Buona Fortuna. aja

  3. Nunzi B said,

    Hey T, Great interview. Sounds like Nashville has been a terrific catalyst for your music. Can’t wait to hear the new album.
    I’ll keep watching your website to see when you are returning to Beantown. I know where you can get a great Italian meal to break up the usual road fare. They deliver too.
    We are anxiously waiting for the release of Charlie Bartlett.


  4. Jessie said,

    Good Interview.
    I just wanted to mention that there is a typo– the artist that Tyler talks about is Sean McConnell not Reconnell. His music is fantastic so I wanted to be sure everyone knew what his name really was. Check out his music!! He opened for Tyler Hilton in Nashville last summer and it was amazing. They’re both great.

  5. sarah m said,

    i love tyler hilton cant wait for the new album i just saw charlie bartlett and it was great!

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