We met singer Tyler Hilton and his band before a recent performance at the Canal Room in Manhattan recently. Because we were too young to stay for the show, they did a private show for us and then let us go on stage with them. It was a lot of fun!
What was the first song you wrote called?
I think the first song I ever wrote, I was in middle school, I was in 8th grade and I wrote a song called “Sarah,” because my friend had a crush on a girl named Sarah. He wanted to write a song about her, so I helped him. I'd never written a song before. We were... let’s write a song for her. I’m sure she’ll love that. Girls always love when guys write songs about them. I don’t think she went to the dance with him, but she loved the song.
Who else would you choose to do a duet with?
I would probably like to do a duet with Chris Martin from Coldplay. I think that would be cool. I would like to do a duet with Emmylou Harris, who is kind of a folk singer I think is really good. And I love this guy, Jack White, who’s in the band, The White Stripes. I would really like to do a duet with him.
How many albums have you sold so far?
I don’t know. I don’t have any idea. It’s funny I use to know when I use to sell the records myself. I would make the covers. I would order a 1,000 of them and I would put them in a suitcase and then I would take them to gigs. And then I would know how many I’ve sold, but now, I’m with Warner Brothers Records. They are in charge of selling all the records and stuff. So I don’t know. I just wait for the money and wait for them to tell me where to go. The only way I would know, I got a gold record for “Walk the Line.” I did two songs on that soundtrack and then that record went platinum, which means it sold more than a million. For that one I know I sold more than a million. I haven’t got any gold record on mine yet.
What do you like to do more sing or act?
I like to sing more. Singing is more rewarding and I’ve been doing it longer. Sometimes dessert is better. You just want to eat dessert more than dinner. Acting is kind of like that where I probably couldn’t eat that dessert all the time, but I really like it because it fun. I don’t get to do it that much and it’s just kind of a hobby.
How was your experience on the TV show “One Tree Hill”?
It was really good. I was really nervous to go on there because I’m not a professional actor. I was a little nervous because I didn’t know if they’d like me. It films in this small town in North Carolina, so I wasn’t in LA where I live, I didn’t know anybody there and I did two episodes and as soon as I got there. I went to a lot of schools when I was growing up, it reminded me of the first day of school where you don’t know anybody, and literally you’re kind of alone and everybody’s introducing themselves and you don’t know who you’re going to be friends with. After awhile we all became such good friends. It was so much fun. And if we hadn’t become such good friends we wouldn’t have done as many episodes like I did. But I had such a good time there I said anytime you guys want me to come back, I'll totally come back. It’s only because they were such good people that I stayed.
What is your charity TH Books for Kids about?
Reading has helped me so much in life and I realize that a lot of that is because I got into it when I was a kid. And maybe in a lot of places people don’t have the funding or the access to books that maybe I had. I just thought, well just give the kids the books and let them come up with the ideas on their own. That’s how that started. Now what we do, we kind of raise money, if there’s an elementary school that doesn’t have the money to have books. We’ll save up enough money and give a kid a whole bunch of books to the library or a children’s hospital.
If you would receive an award, who would you thank?
I think one person I would probably thank, my dad. He’s been there since the beginning and he really helped me and encouraged me when I was too nervous to get up on stage. He kind of helped me get on stage and he still travels around with me. He’s still on the road, still manages me. I’d probably thank him. He the most person who helped me get to where I am today. He’s there every step of the way. It would be his award as much as mine.
We see you did a duet with Taylor Swift and also were featured in one of her music videos. How was your experience with Taylor Swift?
Good. She was really nice. I read an article about her in this magazine and that same magazine was interviewing me and I mentioned I never heard of this girl, Taylor Swift, but I read about her in your magazine and she’s really cool. I guess she read that and she was a fan of mine, and had all my records. She called, and she ended up doing a show in southern California where I live. They invited me out to meet her and kind of go see her. So we started to hanging, becoming friends and tried to write some songs. I got up on stage with her and when she was on stage, she said, I want to ask you on stage so you can sing and be on my music video. I said yes, and that’s how I ended up in her video and she was really cool about it.
Out of all your songs, which one to you has the most meaning?
Well it kind of changes. I think probably the song that has the most meaning to me is a song called “Keep On,” which is on the new CD. It’s kind of cool because I wrote that one by myself and I just wrote that alone one day. My grandmother just passed away. I was really bummed about that and I was having a hard time getting this record out, so I wrote this song just to keep myself happy and positive and keep working. I can’t believe they made it into a record.
When you were a kid did anyone influence you to become a singer?
Elvis influenced me. When I was younger, maybe, I was definitely younger than you guys, my family went on a trip, we drove around the United States and we stopped in Memphis and my parents took me on a tour of Graceland, which is where Elvis lived. You go into his house and it’s so cool. There’s all these cool cars, cool hair and the music sounded great and I thought, man I want to be like this guy. So I started combing my hair like him, I started singing, like being him for Halloween. I loved that. So he was probably the one that made me want to be a singer the most.
What keeps you going in music?
Good question. I think the good thing about music it’s always changing. So not only does the day change, but the job changes, cities change and the people change. But what I also want is to make changes. I can decide to write this kind of song one day, and this kind of song another day. I could write a rap song and nobody will ever hear it because is awful. But I get to do that. However, I could write a song that maybe people get to hear. What keeps me going? The fact that it’s always changing, that I could keep reaching for higher goals. That really keeps me going. Or a lot of times I’ll get bored with music because everybody gets bored every once in awhile. And then I’ll hear a new song by somebody I really like and I’ll think gosh, I want to write a song like that too.
Do you write your own music?
Yep, I write my own songs and sometimes I write songs with other people too, which is cool. Like I’ll have an idea and I’ll go over to say, my friends, Emily, and I’m like what do you think of this, and they’ll give me some ideas and we’ll change some things and we’ll write a song together, which is cool. And I’ve sang some songs, I’ve recorded them that I didn’t write, but they were songs that people had recorded before. Like the song “Missing You” came out in the ’80s and I really like that song and I recorded it, but most of the time I write my own music.
Are all your songs based on your life experiences?
No. I use to only write about real life, but I started realizing that I was writing about real life and then kind of adding some things in. Kind of like dreams, where it’s like based on real life. You’re like oh, right I watched that movie tonight, so of course there’s a car chase in my dream, but the whole thing isn’t the movie. It’s like you kind of add some things to it. That’s kind of how my songs are too. And sometimes I’ll just make it up and it’s out of nowhere. It’s really just exactly like dreams or when you’re -- it’s all in my imagination. So of it is kind of grabbed from real life.
How many songs did you write?
I think - 200, maybe more. I had gone into this record… I wanted to pick 11 songs and I ended up picking 15 songs to kind of put out on different records over the next year. And I started with 80 this time, I’ve written since my last record even so. I would think maybe about 200 or so. Not all of them are good. Probably most of them are bad. But you have to write bad ones.
When you’re acting and you make a mistake, you can do it over. What do you do when you make a mistake on stage?
Oh, good call! I use to get really nervous and I think probably just like in life the best thing to do is just kind of acknowledge it. Sometimes you go on stage, you’re like . . . that’s not the right words. Sometimes I’ve even stopped before I sneeze. I’d be like “I’m sorry.“ Let’s start that again, and everybody laughs and it’s fun. Because everybody makes mistakes. When I first started singing I thought what if I make a mistake on stage and the first couple of times it’s terrifying until you realize that nothing bad ever happens. You never make a mistake when something bad happens.
It’s actually more nerve wracking to make a mistake when you’re acting because at least when you’re doing music it’s your show. I hired the band, everyone’s there to see me in the audience. When you’re on set, somebody else wrote it, somebody else is paying you ... Somebody else’s camera and when you mess up they’re like all right do it again.
How did you become famous?
I think it was kind of in steps. I think the people that know me probably know me through different ways. When I got my first show at a coffeehouse, some local paper started writing about me and that was kind of a little famous. This radio station heard me and started playing me and that was just a little famous. And then I got signed, and I was in magazines, and then a little more people knew and it just kind of happened in stages like that. And now I’ve been doing it 10 years and, or maybe 11 now, and there was never one thing that was like I wasn’t famous one day and then all of a sudden my song came out and I was this big person the next day. It never happened like that for me. And everybody’s different. I’m sure Justin Bieber, a year ago, was coloring in a coloring book and had no idea. And now he’s like the biggest thing ever. With me it was like a bunch of different things.
Did you start in a band?
I never had a real band. There’s a lot of bands that try to come up with a name, that is what I was in. We all played instruments. We got together two or three times to play. But we actually got together to think about a name like 10 times. I don’t think that’s a real band. No, I’ve always been by myself singing. I couldn’t find people who liked Elvis as much as me