Ask sing-songwriter and actor Tyler Hilton about his forthcoming album, City on Fire, and you won’t get a word in sideways for the next few minutes.
The Californian has an enthusiasm about the music that’s infectious, but try to pin down details about the business side – like when it’s actually out (it’s due in the autumn), and he laughs: ‘I get told what to do. I just hire a lot of adults who tell me what I’m doing so I can go off and play.’
Tyler is returning to the UK with his friend and fellow singer-songwriter Kate Voegele for their Summer Abroad tour, which swings by The Wedge on Wednesday.
‘I can’t wait to play the new songs. I get stoked when everyone knows the songs and sings along, and it’s hard when I’m on stage to not have a good time and play the tunes everyone knows,’ he rattles off. ‘Although I probably shouldn’t play the new songs because no-one will know them, I don’t think I’ll be able to help myself. I’m so amped on them, it’s like having a new relationship, I’m so enamoured with them, and they’re also the closest depiction of where I’m at right now and what I’m like. There’s a different quiver in your voice or something when you’re singing something that you’re super-stoked about.’
Tyler was signed to Maverick Records when he was just 18, and at first things were good, but the dream went sour, and he always has that in mind when bringing out new material.
‘I think this is the best thing I’ve ever done. I keep telling my friends, no matter what happens with it, if it’s not marketed right, or it doesn’t even come out, I’m so stoked that I made it.
‘I was on a major label for 10 years and I put out one record because I was in this major label jail. I made four records or something that just never came out. So I get sensitive now about making something that I know, no matter what happens, at least I can be like, “Man, that was a great experience,” and that’s how I approach this record.’
Surely it was frustrating to be recording and no-one was hearing your work?
‘It’s so frustrating, and truthfully the hardest part of it was about five years ago or so was when I was really going through it and wondering how am I going to get out of this? Am I going to get these songs back? And since then there’s been a lot of self-exploring and a lot of touring, which helped me get through it.’
While it sounds as if there are legal wheels moving behind the scenes with regards to those ‘lost’ albums, Tyler still manages to put a positive spin on things – it led him down the path to his new album.
‘I’m not smart enough to know if I’ll get those songs back, there’s people looking into that, and maybe it’ll happen and maybe it won’t, but even if I got them back, would they be the songs to put out now?
‘It’s like a relationship - five years later you’ve moved on and it might not be the right vibe.
‘Maybe these songs I’ve done now wouldn’t have happened if those other albums had come out.’
Trying to describe the new record, Tyler mentions Woody Guthrie, dance beats, murder ballads and film-scoring, but admits: ‘None of this can totally makes sense, but in my brain, the way I like to hear things, I love old blues music, old folk music, I’ve always been that way since a kid.
‘There’s certain artists and vibes I love. I grew up going to a lot of bluegrass festivals and doing a lot of campfire jams with musicians who were way better than me, and something about growing up that way, I love when a song locks in and you can feel a group of people playing it.
‘I’m just kind of exploring things and having a blast.’
Acting is Tyler’s other passion – he played Elvis in the Oscar-winning biopic of Johnny Cash, Walk The Line, and was a recurring character in hit teen drama One Tree Hill.
It was through the latter that he hooked up with regular touring partner Kate.
‘I knew her because we’re both singer-songwriters from LA and we were moving back and forth, so we were both moving in that same sort of scene. Then she went on One Tree Hill after I’d left the show for a while, so we had mutual friends from that, and then they’d have these One Tree Events where they’d have us both come along and play and we got to know each other.’
But despite their links to the show, they never appeared on it at the same time.
‘We first toured together a couple of years ago when the adults asked us, do you want to tour together? And we said that would be so fun. The first time we did it together was in Europe, not knowing how it would work out, but after two weeks together, playing and partying, we really clicked.
‘The vibe was great, so we kept doing more dates and since then her husband has come on the road, and my wife has come on the road, and we’ve all been hanging out off the road, it’s been a whole new friendship.’
While he does have the acting, it’s the music that Tyler finds himself coming back to every time.
‘One way or another the music comes out of me for some reason – ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve realised I’m happier if the music can come out. So I’ll be writing and recording songs even if I get a job at Ikea at some point because this didn’t work out!’
TYLER HILTON & KATE VOEGELE
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Wednesday, July 4