The Rocks Off 200: Tyler Newberry, Head Chef in the Songwriters Kitchen
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Photos by Cody Bess/Courtesy of Tyler Newberry
Who? Tyler Newberry came to our attention exactly one week ago, when he wrote in to the paper, told us he had just released an album and asked if we'd write about him. (See, musicians... it works.) We listened to his album, The Devil Rides a Horse, and discovered he's a thoughtful songwriter with an understated but soulful delivery, whose music wanders hither and yon between alt-country and adult alternative. He's got a pretty interesting backstory too.
Newberry lives in Pearland now but grew up in Memphis, where -- "miraculously," he says -- his parents would drop him off at Ardent, the legendary studio where the likes of Big Star, ZZ Top, R.E.M. and the Replacements all recorded. He wrote his first song in seventh grade and started a band with three home-schooled kids. Their name was Inner Circle and their first gig was at a friend's pool party, Newberry recalls.
"After realizing that the COPS theme song, 'Bad Boys,' was written by a hip-hop group by the name Inner Circle, we changed the name to Still Waters and released our first, self-titled album," he says. "Years later we lost the drummer, but [he] was quickly replaced by Michael Jackson, arriving with obvious and immediate street cred. He was a shorter, blond child, but his name was a winner."
We'll let him tell you about his Songwriters Kitchen project, a very cool idea, himself.
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Home Base: Newberry divides his time between Houston and Memphis, which he calls "the lesser-known of the Tennessee music towns." Ha.
Good War Story: "Hmm," he muses. "Falling off the stage, having an opening band knock my guitar off its stand, getting into a car accident on the way to a show, forgetting the words (that's every show), bringing an empty guitar case to the venue, seeing my own record in a Tennessee Goodwill, loaning my first guitar to a fella who tore it to pieces in a drugged-out rage. The list goes on."
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "Having moved from a small community in the Colorado mountains, I'm constantly amazed at the opportunities, not only for musicians, but for any line of work," reasons Newberry. "I'm drawn to the diversity. People from all over the world move to Houston. It says a lot about the openness of this great city."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Houston has the songwriters, but not the songwriting gatherings that other music cities have," he says. "That's why I started the Songwriters Kitchen (@songkitchenHTX). It's a gathering of songwriters, for songwriters, to build and grow the craft of songwriting. It's as simple as that.
"There's a bit of a 'lone wolf' mentality in Houston for some musicians," continues Newberry. "The way I see it, if you want to be better at something, hang around people that are better than you. So with Songwriters Kitchen, I just invite better people over to my house, feed them family-style spaghetti, and learn from the best. Look us up on Twitter, shoot us a message, and we'll send you the details."
Learn more about Tyler on the next page.
Five Desert Island Discs:
- The Beatles, Rubber Soul
- Julie Miller, Blue Pony
- Ryan Adams, Easy Tiger
- Rich Mullins, A Liturgy, a Legacy & a Ragamuffin Band
- Radiohead, The Bends
Best Concert You Ever Saw: Easy," he says. "Jonny Lang at the Houston House of Blues. I cried. Twice. I wouldn't consider myself a fan, but I ended up at the show, nonetheless. Yes, it was performed perfectly, but the way it was played was unearthly.
"From one perspective, I was finished as musician -- I could never reach the shores of Johnny Lang's kingdom of excellence," he explains. "From another, I was challenged to become a better player/performer/audience connector. Every concert I've been to since is compared to that show.
First Song You Fell In Love With: "This goes back to my roots," Newberry says. "The earliest moment of being drawn in by a song was sitting in my dad's blue recliner. I must have been five years old. He had a record player and a small stack of records. I have a specific memory of hearing 'Not of This World," by Petra, and thinking to myself, 'I don't know what this is, but I like it.' A seed was planted."
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200 and a link to the Rocks Off 100 on the next page.
Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
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