Interview: Tyler Hilton

by Ceylan Kumbarji

If you’re a big One Tree Hill fan like the team here at Taylor Magazine, then you’ll know exactly who Tyler Hilton is. So, when we got an opportunity to have a chat with him about his new music, we jumped at the chance!

Tyler has had an interesting career so far – he started playing music from an early age and got his big break at just 15-years-old. This quickly gave him the chance to star in One Tree Hill, where he then later starred in films, including Oscar winning Walk The Line.

But now, music is definitely his focus, and with a new album coming out and touring Europe with One Tree Hill co-star Kate Voegele, we were keen to find out more about his current ventures. We caught up with him where he told us more about his journey to where he is now, his new (and very exciting) music and babies… yes, babies!

“I love singing for people – there is something about playing guitar, singing my song and playing for people that I just absolutely love.” – Tyler Hilton

Taylor Magazine: Tell us a little bit about the tour, and what you’re up to at the moment?

Tyler Hilton: I’ve got a few records coming out and I’ve just spent the last year in L.A. and Nashville recording, I feel like I’ve been working on it forever, but it’s only been a year and a half and it’s been so fun! I got together with my old friend Charles Kelley, who is in the band Lady Antebellum – we used to be roommates when I first moved to Nashville. So he and I have produced some of the new record, as well as my long term friend Jaco Caraco, he works with Miley Cyrus and a bunch of cool people now. His Dad and my uncles used to play together when we were kids too – so he and I have been making music forever! We produced the rest of the record together and it’s, by far, my favourite thing in my life that I’ve ever done. I didn’t know if anyone was actually going to hear it, but then this tour came around a month before the album was due out and it was perfect timing! It’s such a great way to get the whole album title started.

Taylor Magazine: What is it about this album that is different to things you’ve done in the past?

Tyler Hilton: With this record, there was a lot of leading up to it. Different Nashville labels wanted me to come down there and do a kind of country thing. People have talked to me about that over the years, because I really love that vibe. People have also tried to steer me into more pop type music, because of my history being a young singer and being on TV. But I always feel like it just sounds blank, maybe I’m just not a good enough musical liar! But it never works for me if it doesn’t really connect with me.

Anytime I try to choose a sound or a genre, it just doesn’t go right. With this stuff, it was weird because I was actually acting on a couple of TV shows in L.A. and I was spending my time filming. When Jaco and I would get together, we’d just catch up and talk about starting a side-band and we never meant for any of the stuff to get released – we were just making music for fun. We came up with these concepts that I wouldn’t think of for my fans. I was just making music that I would think was cool, Jaco would think was cool and Charles would think was cool. I’ve realised that who you make music with is so important, because they become your audience. They’re the people you want to impress, entertain and perform for. This all happened when I was distracted as well, which I think helped. I wasn’t solely focused on making a new record – I look back and think I don’t know how we made it, I can’t remember how we did it but it is what it is, and I’m loving it!

Photo Credit | Catherine Powell

Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite track on the album?

Tyler Hilton: Yes – City on Fire is my favourite song and I think it sums up the album really well too. That’s why I wanted to call the album this – it sets the tone well. My wife has been doing really well as a Video Director – she does a lot of videos with dancers, high fashion pop type of stuff. She loves City on Fire and had an idea for the music video – I never would have asked her to do something like this but it’s so cool! Some really cool stuff is happening.

Taylor Magazine: It sounds amazing – from start to finish it sounds like you’ve invested so much of your time into it. For that to be the ending and have a really cool music video out of it must tie it all together really well?

Tyler Hilton: Yeah – it can sometimes feel like you spend all of this time working and planning. It’s crazy how it all comes together in the end!

Taylor Magazine: It’s an exciting process though! When you think back to your journey, and how you’ve got to where you are today, why did you initially decide to pursue a career in music?

Tyler Hilton: Music wasn’t a choice for me – a lot of my family were musicians. I was really into it before I could talk! I grew up being encouraged by music, I wanted to play guitar like my uncles, I got a guitar for Christmas, all of this type of stuff! It was a cool thing to play music when we were kids. I don’t think I had a choice – I was in a band in school, I was doing open-mics, playing in karaoke bars. At some point, I put out a record when I was 15, and a radio DJ discovered me in L.A. and had me come on their show. I ended up getting all of these fans, and that’s when it started getting professional. I was always thinking of how to keep it going and make it better. I saw a lot of my family do it for so long, so it came naturally to me in a way.

With the acting side of things, it was such a surprise. I loved being in plays and stuff in high school, but never in a million years did I think I would be in movies or on TV. One Tree Hill were looking for people, ironically, that weren’t actors and were just musicians. They wanted to have guests on the show to bring an authentic music vibe. It was a really cool experience.

Photo Credit | Catherine Powell

Photo Credit | Catherine Powell

Taylor Magazine: With the acting jobs you go for now, is that equal to your passion for music, or is music still number one?

Tyler Hilton: Honestly, when a role or a part comes up and I’m available, I’ll do it. I don’t have control over that. With music, I run my own music world and do everything.

Taylor Magazine: Do you have a career highlight so far?

Tyler Hilton: Getting to play Elvis in Walk The Line was amazing, especially for the little kid in me, who was so obsessed with playing Elvis! Being 19, when I was so young and Elvis meant everything to me, was so cool.

Taylor Magazine: Who are you listening to at the moment?

Tyler Hilton: A lot of cool people – I’m going to go through my music now to be accurate. Christine and the Queens (she is killing it!) Honestly, I love Drake and Kanye. Both of their new records have been on repeat a lot! It’s such a mix – nobody likes it when I put shuffle on because they never know what they’re going to get.

Taylor Magazine: What is the song-writing process like for you? How do you get into the zone to write?

Tyler Hilton: I’m in a bit of a groove at the moment – what I’m doing is just not overthinking and working fast. My rule at the moment is don’t overthink, don’t be precious, just go, go, go. Write and let it happen. When I try and analyse every word that comes out of my mouth, it never goes anywhere, it just has to be really natural. I’m not actually too sure how it all happens, but that’s what I’ve been doing and it seems to have worked!

“My rule at the moment is don’t overthink, don’t be precious, just go, go, go. Write and let it happen.” – Tyler Hilton

Taylor Magazine: You’ve done a tour in Europe before. What is it about touring with Kate as a duo that you enjoy the most?

Tyler Hilton: It’s really easy – she and I are very similar people. We have a similar background – we both started young, we were both given a big opportunity on One Tree Hill and both played music on the show. We’ve crossed paths a lot, we hang out in L.A. when we’re not touring. We grew up with a lot of the same people on One Tree Hill. We see each other at different OTH events when they invite us out. The last couple of years has been funny, because we never toured together until two or three years ago. We’re working on doing the shows together and harmonising – it’s really amazing when you find an artist that you can work with like that where it is so natural and easy.

Taylor Magazine: Talking of One Tree Hill, do you find now that a lot of people that come to your shows want to hear the older stuff from the show?

Tyler Hilton: All the fans that I got from One Tree Hill are real and true fans. They stayed, buy all the new stuff, bring their friends. When Kate and I tour, obviously there are a lot of One Tree Hill fans there, but they’re interested in hearing what we have to play. She and I sing a bunch of songs from the show, of course, because we did the show together and stuff. I’ll always ask the crowd what they want me to play and if they have any requests and almost every time, they’ll request these random songs that I would never think they wanted me to play! They’ll sing every word, it’s just something I’d never expect!

Taylor Magazine: What would you say, when you’re touring, is the most difficult part?

Tyler Hilton: It goes back and forth – right now I’m so happy to be away from home. I bought a house, fixed it up, there was a lot going on at home and I needed a break. But if you ask me this question when I finish touring, it’ll probably be something like ‘I never want to go on tour again!’ I’m so happy to be away and be travelling right now though! Travelling can be really hard work, but that hour and a half when I’m on stage makes it so worth it. I love singing for people – there is something about playing guitar, singing my song and playing for people that I just absolutely love.

Photo Credit | Catherine Powell

Taylor Magazine: What do you do in your down-time?

Tyler Hilton: This question terrifies me the most. I don’t know! It’s a part of me that is undeveloped and I need to explore more. I love micro-hobbies, so I’ll get into something for a little while, then I’ll stop. It’s weird because I’m so busy, there is always something to do. When I have a day off on the road, all I want to do is walk. I love to read, watch TV, Netflix when I need to shut down. I’ve been getting my pilot’s license slowly. I’ve loved that. A lot of my free time is spent working on our house in L.A. – I usually just grab on to something random and focus on that for a while. My current random hobby is just travelling, I suppose. I’ve been googling RV’s I could buy to go and travel around Canada in. I guess that’s what I’m into it right now? Also, maybe I’ll have kids in the next few years – who knows! I have this energy to just go and see stuff right now!

Taylor Magazine: It’s fun to have lots of different things to dip into!

Tyler Hilton: Yeah – my sister just had a daughter so it’s my first niece and now I’m obsessed with her! We get videos every day and I’m always excited when we pass a baby store! It’s the little things that fills the time between touring.

Taylor Magazine: Maybe that’s the next step for you then?!

Tyler Hilton: I know! That’s what I’ll be googling the next time we talk – strollers, or something!

Taylor Magazine: What is the most memorable concert for you?

Tyler Hilton: I played a really big show in Vegas with John Mayer and Keith Urban. I love the way they do music so much – to be on the reel with them was amazing. I also played a gig in this tiny little town in Switzerland, we had no idea why we were playing there and were wondering who was going to come to the concert, but it was sold out and the fans were going insane. It was the craziest show ever in the middle of the tiniest, most beautiful Swiss village. I remember smiling the whole show and wondering what was going on!

Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self if you could go back in time?

Tyler Hilton: Oh man… I would definitely say don’t care about writing good songs, just write songs. Write as many bad songs as you think you can, because they might be a lot better than you think! I would just tell him to stop being so careful. I would also say go faster – it’s a lot more fun!

Photo Credit | Catherine Powell

Taylor Magazine: What should we expect to see from you in the short-term future?

Tyler Hilton: I’m going to be everywhere! After not being on tour for a while, I’m going everywhere! The record is going to be released in Autumn, or early next year. I’m ready to do it all – I’ll be criss-crossing and doing all kinds of random stuff. I’m excited to promote the music I’ve been working so hard on.

Follow Tyler’s new music on SpotifyApple Music and YouTube. To keep up to date with what he’s up to, follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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