If you’re going to any of this month’s AC/DC shows, get there early for one of the rising stars of blues rock. Tyler Bryant, together with his band the Shakedown, possesses the chops of a young Stevie Ray Vaughan, the swagger of peak-era Black Crowes and he was hand-picked to support the rock legends on what is increasingly looking like their last stand.
“We’re just grateful we managed to do ten shows with Brian,” Bryant offers, when asked about what might be a bittersweet occasion. “It’ll be a different dynamic now with Axl, but we’re just honoured to be sharing a bill with such an incredible group.”
Bryant is used to rubbing shoulders with rock legends. He’s jammed with Eric Clapton, hung out with Jimmy Page and toured six times with Jeff Beck. Even his initial steps in music, as an 11-year-old, came at the behest of an older man – 63-year-old bluesman Roosevelt Twitty, whom he met in a Texas music store.
“My father and I were just killing time there and he was sitting in the corner playing guitar by himself,” Bryant says. “I had the audacity to come over and pick up a little bass guitar and started trying to play along. He asked me if I liked the blues. I hadn’t even heard the word before!”
Twitty gave the youngster a crash course in the genre and an unlikely friendship developed. “He extended all the knowledge he had. He would pick me up from school and we’d listen to a John Lee Hooker cassette on the way back to his apartment where we’d play guitar for hours. We started playing gigs together and the local papers called us ‘The Blues Buddies’.”
Bryant turned into something of a guitar prodigy. At the age of 15 he won the Robert Johnson Foundation award for young guitarists. By 18 he was opening for Heart. He’s had to become adept at keeping his feet on the ground. “I always say to myself, ‘Don’t believe the hype.’ Even when you’re playing to eighty-thousand AC/DC fans, you have to remind yourself that they’re not there to see you.”
His second album drops later this year, but 2015’s six-track The Wayside EP shows the full range of his talent – from fuzztoned funk workouts like Criminal Imagination to the ghostly, slide-enhanced Devil’s Keep. Despite all the big-name endorsements, Bryant is keen to carve out his own niche. “I want to write rock’n’roll for my generation,” he maintains. “It’s important for all parents to educate about rock so it doesn’t die off when they pass on. We have to keep it alive and try to connect with people my own age.
“This music used to be such a huge outlet for people to express themselves and to make big, public stances and I hope it can get back to that place.” And is he the person to do that? “Hey, I don’t want to give myself that sort of pressure! I’ll just try to make the best rock’n’roll I can.”
FOR FANS OF: By Your Side by The Black Crowes
By Your Side isn’t The Black Crowes’ best-known album, but it is one that Bryant and his band hold dear. “We listen to a portion of that album before every show we play. I loved the way the drums sounded, the riffs and the backing vocals on it. It’s probably something we’ve pulled from just by listening to it so much.”