New Slanged: Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights

All Photos Courtesy of the Artist

All Photos Courtesy of the Artist

by: Thomas D. Mooney

“Maybe it’s been too long
since rock n roll
turned you on.”
Jonathan Tyler, “Pardon Me”

There’s a riot coming.

By this time, you have to be already aware of that. If you’re not,  then there’s nothing I can write that prepare you for what’s in store. No words can conjure the images that do JTNL justice. You’ll just have to experience the booze thrown. The sweaty mosh of people crowding the stage. The ass to elbows crowded. The guitar jamming. The train howling harmonica. The (possible) stage diving.

After a JTNL show, you’re essentially baptized by rock and roll. Drenched by sweat and beer, forever changed.

It’s a like the band’s two album covers: “Hot Trottin” shows a Tyler, cigarette hanging from his lips, more than likely after a night of ending after the sun is already coming up, and “Pardon Me,” a silhouetted Tyler in an Indian chief headdress. You’re going to experience something that feels cosmic. Like you’re witnessing JTNL do something that’s a secret–possibly never done prior to that night. And with the flip of the coin, you’re going to feel that Sunday Morning Coming Down. But it’s worth it.

The music engulfs you. Taking you to the depths and core of what music–not just rock–is. I guarantee you, you’ll remember a JTNL show. It’s never leaving you; it’s part of you now. 

Don’t read this as sensationalism though. It’s not. It’s not building up a band. Like I mentioned before, describing the JTNL night train is close to impossible. But whatever it is, you know what I’m talking about–if you’ve been.  

Earlier this week, we caught up with Tyler. JTNL will be playing at The Blue Light tonight (Feb 16.) with The Quaker City Night Hawks opening. 

New Slang: So last time you guys played, you played two nights in a row at Blue Light. Those were just two nights of intense chaos. Just about the craziest nights I’ve ever seen at Blue Light. 

Jonathan Tyler: Mhmm. Well, Blue Light is always a party, but particularly the second night, it just got really, really amped up. I was surprised by the crowd. And also a little scared that it was going to turn into a riot at one point. That was probably single-handedly, the craziest show that we’ve ever had as far as the crowd. Crowd was just nuts. 

NS: Yeah. It felt like you guys pushed the crowd to the absolute limit without falling off edge of the cliff. 

JT: The thing is, if the crowd is going crazy, we’ll try to push them. And so it just kept going further and further. The crowd would push it. Then we would push it. Then they would. It was like we were seeing who could get the craziest. 

NS: Yeah. It’s easily one of the best nights of music I’ve ever seen. Now recently, Brandon and Jordan released their debut Rise & Shine record. What are your thoughts on the record?

JT: I think it sounds great. 

NS: Same here. What’s your favorite song on the record?

JT: I like the song “Riverbottom.” That’s probably my favorite. I also like “Dead on the Vine.” 

NS: Yeah. I love “Riverbottom” as well. I think they’ve got such a great sound going and obviously have great chemistry. Now recently, you posted a photo on Instagram and Facebook of you in a studio holding a double neck guitar. You commented on there you were working with Matt Pence (Of Centro-Matic) in Denton. What’s going on there? Are you guys working with him on the new record and in what capacity? 

JT: Well, right now, I’m producing another band. I don’t want to go too much into that because I could get into some trouble. But yeah, basically I’m helping put together another album for another band. But I really like Matt Pence. I will probably work with him in some capacity on my personal music sometime in the future. 

NS: The last time we talked, you mentioned you’d probably be going into the studio to work on the next record some time in the spring. Where are you guys now currently with the project?

JT: Right now, we’re just dealing with record label stuff. 

NS: Yeah?

JT: Yeah. Right now, I feel like we’re pretty close. Record label stuff, I don’t want to say too much. We’re just trying to compromise to where they’re happy and we’re happy. Kind of a strange place to be in. Basically, we’re writing and recording all the time. We just don’t have a release date. 

NS: As a songwriter, what aspects do you think you’ve grown the most? What areas?

JT: It’s always happening. It’s always evolving. I don’t know, right now I feel unstoppable. I feel limitless. I’ve been writing so much–for myself and for other projects. Helping produce other bands. I’ve gotten to this point where I’m kind of doing everything. I feel like I’m in a really great place with writing and hopefully get to show multiple different variations and multiple different styles and really get to show people what I can do. I want to be involved in different projects and in different capacities–as writer, as producer, as performer. Trying to open those horizons up a little bit. 

NS: Yeah. I imagine as a songwriter or performer, there’s new music you’ve discovered as time progresses, that maybe hasn’t opened your eyes as far as music goes, but at the minimum indirectly influenced you. Who is somebody recently that you’ve been liking?

JT: There’s a guy named Jonathan Wilson that I’ve been interested in lately. He’s from California. 

NS: Oh yeah? What’s kind of his story? What’s his sound?

JT: Well, he’s a performer, but he’s also does producing as well. He produced the Dawes’ records and Father John Misty’s. And his own music is incredible. 

NS: I really, really, love that Father John Misty album. 

JT: Yeah, it’s probably my favorite from last year. 

NS: Yeah. Same here. It’s such an eclectic bunch of songs. Now, you’ve been really talking about branching out as far as doing more stuff in music–producing namely. I don’t know, you may have been like this the entire time, but have you begun listening to songs differently with producing in mind?

JT: Yeah. I’ve always kind of been that way. It’s really not that different other than deciding one day saying, “I’m a producer [laughs].” It’s just like one day putting a sign on your door that says, “Songwriter, Producer, Whatever.” You’re just putting it on there and becoming that. You’d obviously get better with more experience, but it’s just like becoming a writer. Like one day, you don’t consider yourself one, then the next you do. I think that’s a big part where you’re believing you have the ability to do something like that. It’s a big step. And whether you do or not, people will decide [laughs]. 

NS: Last time you guys were here, we talked a little about how you guys are walking this line of being Texas music as well as being bigger than just that. You’re able to play a Texas circuit without being categorized as being just that and vice versa. What’s your opinion on why you’re able to do that?

JT: It’s mainly just having a sound where people outside of Texas and outside of this community can understand. People in New York City or people who don’t know anything about Texas music scene, if they would hear your record and think it was cool. I don’t really look at the Texas music scene as the end all. I think there’s some really great things about it and some really cool things about it. I think it’s really cool that as a state, we have a really huge music community. It’s as big as any other place. But, I just don’t see that as the ceiling. I don’t think that’s all there is. I like it and appreciate it, but am also listening to other places and other genres. I’m just trying to find the best music there is and trying to make the best music there is that I can. I mean, you know. You listen to things that are outside the Texas music scene. At the same time it is great to be part of something like the Texas music scene because it is a thing that’s inherently here before any of us were ever aware of it. There’s been the Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon–the whole outlaw guys who were here years and years ago. Townes Van Zandt. It’s been going on for a while. It’s a cool thing, but at the same time, I think you’ve got to look beyond. That’s what we try to do. 


3 responses to “New Slanged: Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights

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