Jonathan Tyler on finding new fuel in playing a supporting role
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Jonathan Tyler is one of the most dynamic frontmen in rock today, but lately, he's finding new inspiration in playing a backing role.
Tyler — who'll return to Amarillo for a 10 p.m. Friday show at Hoots Pub, 2424 Hobbs Road — has toured the country for the past year opening and playing lead guitar for Nikki Lane, a rising Nashville star whom he's also dating.
"I haven't really played ... guitar in another band for a long time, so it's been kind of cool for me to switch roles, you know?" Tyler said. "I also produced her record (Highway Queen, which was released in February) ... and I've been enjoying playing the music.
"It's a job, but it's also been a lot of fun to get out and play with her. We did Conan recently, and we did a set with Loretta Lynn before she had her stroke (for CBS This Morning)," Tyler continued. "That was amazing."
"Don't Come Home A-Drinkin'," Loretta Lynn and Nikki Lane
Though he's a supporting player in recent months, he doesn't mind.
"It kind of helps me take my mind off of constantly trying to build my name up," Tyler said. "Whether people talk about it or not, other artists are only focused on themselves. I think it helps take the focus off me and to be more of a behind-the-scenes guy gives me a different perspective. I don't have to live or die off of doing my own thing.
"It's about preserving my love of music and being creative so I can keep doing it and not fall into working because I have to," he said. "It keeps it interesting."
Tyler's most recent album, Holy Smokes, dropped about two years ago, which consumed his focus for about 18 months on the road. He plans to finish work on the first five songs of his next album in June, then take a break from the studio by hitting the road again.
"My process is different than a lot of people's because I've done so much recording that sometimes I like to break it up into lots of different sessions," he said. "I don't feel like I have to go in and finish up everything at once. I'll work, then take a step back and go on tour, then go back in. I piece it together. I find what I like and what I'm inspired by and try to do more of that."
He's not sure when the eventual album could come out or whether he'll continue going the independent route in releasing it. After his 2007 breakthrough album Hot Trottin', Tyler and former band The Northern Lights signed with Atlantic Records and released Pardon Me in 2010 to great success, but constant disagreements with the label over a follow-up album led to a protracted battle to get out of his contract, which he finally succeeded in doing in 2014. But Holy Smokes didn't have the expect impact in its release by Thirty Tigers, so Tyler is reconsidering everything.
"My management team wants to go to a label, and I think that would be a good idea," he said. "Having a team and a label to help make sure the record gets out there better would be a good idea. But I'm real protective over that stuff — sometimes to a fault because I don't really want to give it all away, and labels kind of want to own everything. That's kind of the problem."
Otherwise, Tyler said he's content where he is and especially inspired by seeing Lane's success.
"She's just a really creative person. We just sort of help each other in that way," he said. "I think she trusts my creative direction as well, and I trust hers.
"It's funny, man. I really am so happy now with where live is and with her," he continued. "I have had so many relationships because of the lifestyle we live to do this job, and it's nice to find somebody who kind of is on the same page. We get each other and what this job requires."
Tyler will bring fellow DFW-area singer Charley Crockett to town for Friday's show at Hoots.
"I think he's got a cool thing going," Tyler said. "I like his sound. I like his vibe. ... He's out of the box for Texas music. I think it's different and authentic to him."