Tyler Preston

An interview with singer/songwriter Tyler Preston
by Mike Huberty
August 2014

Tyler Preston - photo by Sydney Akagi

Tyler Preston
photo by Sydney Akagi

Recent Madison transplant TYLER PRESTON came all the way from the Last Frontier. Not space, nerd, but Juneau, Alaska. He showed up in 2012 with a guitar in his hand and has been knee deep in the scene ever since. In addition to fronting the KING STREET BAND, he also has played a residency at the Rigby Pub (the place on the Capitol Square with all the Beatles crap all over) and an open mic at the East Side’s Tip Top Tavern. He’s releasing his first album, “Changes”, on September 5th at The Brink Lounge. We talked to Tyler about the new album and what his music is all about.

Maximum Ink: The music business is a hard, nasty place. What led you to it?
Tyler Preston: Honestly, I just picked it up one day. My mom and dad both had guitars from their college days that they kept stashed behind the couch. Then, one day in seventh grade I pulled my dad’s old six string out, my mom showed me the D chord, and I was hooked. I was pretty shy at the time; my family moved around a lot while I was growing up, so the guitar became this wonderful escape from the social pressures of middle school & high school.

MI: What’s the single? What track of yours should people listen to first?
TP: Probably ‘On My Way Home’ from the 11th Hour EP; that song was really definitive for me for a number of reasons: 1.) it was the first song that I wrote that I can truly say was masterful, balancing both inspiration and intention. 2.) it is the first piece in which I established my signature finger-picking style, which is drawn heavily from the North Mississippi trance blues of Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and more recently the Black Keys and the North Mississippi Allstars.

However, ‘Icarus’, the single off of my new album, would also be an exciting, interesting listen, because it takes those trance blues techniques and places them up against a disco beat reminiscent of the recent hits ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Happy’, reconciling the feels into something that is uniquely “me”—I’m very happy with that way that ‘Icarus’ turned out, and it’s definitely one of the more progressive pieces that I’ve done.

MI: What’s the meaning behind the songs?
TP: ‘On My Way Home’ is a fantasy of mine; like I mentioned earlier, growing up my family moved around a lot, so I experienced a sense of rootlessness from an early age. This was compounded by my parents’ divorce while I was in high school, which split the family. I stayed with my dad in Juneau, Alaska, and my mom and sister moved to Magnetwan, Canada, about 4000 miles away.

I guess I just wish that all my friends and family lived in one place so that I could come home to them, and have a big party and have everybody all together. It’s never been that way for me, so I wrote ‘On My Way Home’. It’s basically an expression of exile and longing for a home that doesn’t necessarily exist. I think a lot of people feel that way… that home is no longer reachable; or that there is no home to return to.

‘Icarus’, on the other hand, is sort of a self-interrogation. There is a conversation between the speaker and the unnamed listener, playing with the idea of willing sacrifice vs. self-destruction. I often introduce it as being about the perils of ambition. It’s about the blindness and fallibility of a person who is on a quest for fame, and/or it is about the way that the American dream started to die once there was no more untamed land left to explore/conquer and we began to deplete the resources of the earth. One of my favorite lines is the lead-in to the second chorus: “dandelions and interstate exits / all but begging me the question: / where do you think that we’ll run to, when the gods fall from the sky / when there’s no one left to save us from ourselves?”

MI: What were the “changes” behind the name of the album?
TP: Well, I feel like I’ve been in flux constantly since leaving Juneau in 2012. I’ve experienced literally the highest highs and lowest lows of my entire life. I guess the name of the album is paying homage to the one constant that we have to keep us company, which is the inevitability of change. Furthermore, it’s also a musical joke. “Changes”, to musicians, is a reference to the chord sequence of a song. So it’s really a double entendre.

MI: What inspires you to write?
TP: Well, love and loss are always big ones for any artist! That’s really the bread and butter of most tunes out there. But I try to get beyond that and elevate my work; I am really interested with the relationship between love and death; what it means to be alone in this world; questions of sustainability and the coming apocalypse (is it coming? I certainly think so. but very, very slowly, like the frog in the pot); the division of wealth in this country; why we can’t all just get along.

In advance of the release party, you can download the new album in its entirety at www.tylerpreston.com and there you can read his blog where he’ll be recording his experiences on an upcoming nationwide tour that he’ll be hitchhiking his way through!

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Tyler Preston
CD: Changes