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Tyler Hilton          

Singer-songwriter and Actor

Before Tyler Hilton wrote the songs that appear on his new album The Storms We Share he had never written anything but love songs. Its not that I was uninterested in things other than love, but it was love that made me want to write songs, the 26-year-old singer, songwriter, and guitarist says. Which would have been fine except that Hilton had been working on a new album for three years and had already scrapped hundreds of songs that he didnt consider good enough. Uninspired, he was having a hard time motivating himself to keep going.

I started coming up with these lyrics that were little pep talks to myself, like Come on, you can do this. You just have to clear your head and keep going, Hilton says. So several of the tracks on this album, like Keep On, Somehow, and This World Will Turn Your Way, are these encouraging, hopeful tunes, which Id never usually write, but thats what was coming out of me at the time.

The uplifting theme of those songs eventually served as the inspiration for the albums title. I was looking for a phrase that communicated how we all have something in common, Hilton says. I was spending a lot of time in the South and in Canada and whenever there was a storm, you could be standing in line at the grocery store next to a stranger and theyd inevitably remark about the crazy weather. Thats when it hit me: Everyone shares one common thing weathering the storms together. And that became a metaphor about recognizing that we all need to be encouraged to weather the storms. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that dreams can happen, but they may take time so cant give up, which basically describes the last four years of my life. Thats what This World Will Turn Your Way is about. I wrote it last and it thematically sums up the whole album in that I took everything I learned and put it into that one song.

The Storms We Share is a vividly drawn, emotionally resonant snapshot from these years, which Hilton spent trying to make a follow-up to his 2004 major-label debut The Tracks of Tyler Hilton. That album, which spawned the Top 40 singles When It Comes and How Love Should Be, introduced the then-21-year-old Palm Springs, Calif., native to the public via Warner Bros. Records now-defunct label Maverick Records. After the label folded, Warner Bros. executives told Hilton they loved his music, believed in him as an artist, and wanted him to stay with the label. They basically said, We want you to make a record that really represents who you are now, Hilton says. So essentially I had limitless options, which can be too much of a good thing. I would try things that I had always wanted to do, but they didnt sound as exciting as I thought they would. It was frustrating. After a few false starts and some time living in Nashville, Hilton moved back to Los Angeles where he was introduced to producer Matt Serletic (Matchbox Twenty, Collective Soul) who suggested the two get together for a writing session.

Matt listened to what I had so far and said, I really dig it, but I think youve got more in you. And I was like, Oh crap, Hilton recalls with a laugh. But I was intrigued to see what he thought I could improve. The songs we came up with together were so good that I knew I had to put them on my album. Out of those sessions, the pair wound up recording This World Will Turn Your Way and Keep On, as well as Sunset Boulevard (a meditation on an artists idealism versus the reality of the music business), and So Young and 16th Summer (about longing for the simpler days of ones youth).

But it wouldnt be a proper Tyler Hilton album without his thoughtful love songs and Faithful, Id Rather Be Lonely, and Say It Like A Lie (featuring vocals from one of Hiltons favorite artists Rachael Yamagata) fit the bill. Those tracks were produced by noted studio vet John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer), a personal hero of Hiltons (hes done so many records that I love, I really look up to him). Alagia also produced another highlight, Aint A Thing, which Hilton co-wrote with his friends Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of Grammy-winning country band Lady Antebellum, whom Hilton used to live with in Nashville. We wrote that years ago and it was about us pretending to be cool, like, You aint a thing without me. Im sure if you looked at the three of us writing that song at home, in our basketball shorts and t-shirts, you would have thought, Those are some pretty lame dudes, Hilton says with a laugh.

The Storms We Share was recorded live in the studio, giving it a rich, bright sound that is well-suited to its pop Americana vibe. I wanted to make a great pop record, which is a big step for me to even say because pop felt like a dirty word for so long, Hilton says. I also wanted to make an modern Americana record. I come from country, folk, and blues music; thats what my family plays and thats the music I grew up on. So weve got pedal steel guitar, banjos, and mandolins, but its definitely a pop record.

Like he said, there was a time when Hilton wouldnt be caught dead playing pop music. The son of an electrical contractor and a teacher, Hilton grew up in a musical family in the California desert. My dads side are all musicians and my moms side too. My grandmother was a wonderful piano player. Her father had his own radio show, so I grew up around lots of music, Hilton says. Growing up in Palm Springs, there wasnt much to do, so he naturally took to playing guitar and singing at a young age. The amount of time I had to work on music was immense, Hilton says. Especially in the summer because you dont go outside. Its like being snowed in with heat.

A huge fan of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters, Hilton spent several years performing at open mic nights and clubs, and playing blues and jazz covers for tips in coffeehouses and restaurants. I did pretty well with the older clientele because they loved that stuff, Hilton says. It wasnt until I signed with Maverick that young people even came to my shows. Id always be so shocked when a kid came up to me and said he liked my music, because usually it was: Oh my parents heard you at the Crab Shack and they loved your rendition of Wonderful World and Id be like, Thank you. And thats when I got out of Palm Springs.

Hilton moved to Los Angeles and released a self-titled independent album in 2000. He also indulged his other passion, acting, by appearing in The CWs One Tree Hill and the indie cult favorite Charlie Bartlett, and playing Elvis Presley in the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. (Hiltons songs have been included on the Grammy Award-winning Walk the Line soundtrack and on all three of One Tree Hills popular soundtracks.) Hilton signed with Maverick Records and released The Tracks Of Tyler Hilton in September 2004. I wrote all those songs when I was still in high school, he says, and I was very impressed that the songs I wrote while I was doing homework ended up being released on a major label. That was really exciting to me. I could have written those kinds of songs again, but I wanted to do better. And I think my new album is better.

Indeed The Storms We Share is huge leap in the evolution of this young artist whose goal was to release a record that simply made people smile. There is so much to be bummed about; I totally understand that, Hilton says. Ive felt it and I get it, but I wanted to move beyond it. I would love to give people a tool to wade through all the bad times and make them feel really happy. Maybe thats nave to say, but I would love it if people listened to the songs and were inspired to do things that they didnt think they could do. That would be my ideal.

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