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A Dirty Dozen with JON TYLER WILEY – April 2021

| 10 April 2021 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Since its inception, Jon Tyler Wiley & His Virginia Choir has claimed to be a country band that doesn’t play country music. One look at a live show makes that immediately palpable: electric guitars and fiddles winding in and out of one another under a screaming B3 organ with storytelling lyrics of love and pain, all wrapped up in a high energy performance. Upon further inspection, you will find syncopated and polyrhythmic drums that recall the influence of world music and alternative rock; eccentric bass grooves lend a new wave influence; noisy textures and outside tonal passages hint more at modern jazz than honky tonk.” We get Jon Tyler to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

I’m not sure what they might not get the first or second time, but I hope there’s something they don’t hear right away. That always happens when I’m listening to my favorite records. I could hear a song a thousand times and not notice a small musical detail in the mix, then one day I’d hear it, and it would blow my mind. We definitely arrange our music in a way to try and create those moments for listeners.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Growing up, my parents were always fans of music. My first memories are listening to Santana’s Abraxas in the car with my parents. At 3 years old, I met my newly born sister for the first time and got in trouble ’cause I held her like a guitar and starting doing a Pete Townsend windmill on her. I saw the Allman Brothers live as a 7-year-old. I think it was always going to happen, but if I had to pin down the exact moment, when I got There is Nothing Left to Lose by the Foo Fighters, I realized that great rock and roll wasn’t just a thing of my parents’ generation.  It was still happening. That was big for me. I was 10 years old, and I feel like I knew even then.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Bruce Springsteen. I’ve cried at his concerts. We don’t sound a lot like him, but I’ve always loved his simple mantra: write the best songs you can, serve those songs, be a great live band, and empty the tank each time you’re on the stage.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Dawes, Wilco, and Ben Folds. We love storytellers who aren’t afraid to take musical risks.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Paul McCartney. He’s perhaps the best melody writer in all contemporary music. He can write a really interesting, sophisticated song, but it’s so beautiful you don’t notice the complicated parts. That’s bit me in the butt before: I’ve embarrassed myself trying to spontaneously play those songs live not realizing how hard they were.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I’ve always described us as a country band who doesn’t play country music. That musical world is very much in the DNA, but you’re just as likely to hear jazz influence, or a nod to Paul Simon or Stevie Wonder, if you really listen to us. That being said, someone once told me “Strong” reminded them of ’90s country music. That was a weird pill to swallow, as I thought we were going for a nod to the “Graceland” record, but with a fiddle.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Well, we haven’t gotten together to hang too much lately, with COVID-19, but when it has happened, I probably cook the most. Piper (Brian ‘Piper’ Barbre, drums) is the drink mixologist, Eddie (Dickerson, fiddle and guitar) is the beer man. As far as jams and singalongs, Thomas Johnson (keyboards) is always reading charts to popular songs during downtime in rehearsals, but if it comes to a group jam, Eddie and Joanna (Smith, bass) are typically the initiators.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I met Carole King backstage at an event in 2019. She said, “Hi, I’m Carole.” I said, “I KNOW!” I was in awe. She was so generous. One of her songs was played at my wedding, so when she took a picture with me and my wife, I couldn’t stop saying, “Thank you so much, this means the world to me!” I was talking in the middle of the picture, so they look great but I look ridiculous.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I get to create for a living. That’s a pretty wonderful feeling, getting to sit down and make something from scratch. Then, sometime later, people hear it and hopefully it touches them. Being told, “Hey, your song really spoke to me in a such and such way,” that’s an amazing feeling. If I wasn’t doing that, I’d probably be working with animals. I got in trouble all the time as a kid, always playing around with snakes and frogs in my parents’ backyard.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

“Before this interview takes place, can I give you this stack of hundred dollar bills?” The answer would be, “Yes.” I’ll let you know if I ever get asked that question. My least favorite question is probably, “Who is your absolute favorite artist?” or “What’s your favorite song?” It’s just impossible to answer. Art is a living thing, and my tastes are always changing. Ten years ago, I didn’t get Wilco at all. Now they’re one of my favorite bands.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

There were a few nights earlier in my career when I performed after a few too many drinks and made a fool out of myself. I remember one specific incident where a few of my musical heroes were there. I cornered one of them and felt the need in that moment to tell him how much his music meant to me. I think I was 24. I’ve always wanted that night back, but you live and learn, and, God willing, you learn to not repeat your mistakes.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Abbey Road. I love the experimentation on that record, but all those risks were taken on such amazing songs that didn’t need a whole lot of spice to begin with. It’s one of the coolest records of all time.

BONUS QUESTION – Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 / quarantine / shelter in place, what have you discovered you miss the most from your life before the pandemic struck?

I miss gatherings. I’m from Fredericksburg, Virginia, where you could walk down the street downtown and know a third of the people you pass by. Now, people don’t leave their home as much. I totally get it, that’s what needs to happen right now, but I can’t wait to go back to my favorite bar, watch a mediocre cover band and high-five the bartender again without fear.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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