ARTIST FEATURE: Tyler Bradford Wright
An interview with one of Raleigh’s very own alternative rock artists
At the end of last month, I had the opportunity to reunite with an old friend from high school. A talented musician with a heart full of gold, I sat down with Raleigh’s Tyler Bradford Wright and learned about his touring experience, history in music, and life story.
Let’s talk about your childhood.
Today is the anniversary of my family issues starting twelve years ago. I had a lot of domestic stuff happening when I was a kid, especially with my father. Between alcoholism, some mental illness involved, and issues between my parents, there was a ton of weird family dynamics going on. Painful. I felt on my own a lot — not necessarily isolated because I did have brothers, but there was always a lot going on at the time. I felt alone. It had to grow from that, figure things out on my own. The whole “daddy issues” concept was a very real thing. Music became my escape, my way to release from what was happening at home and the pain associated with that.
When did music begin for you, and how did that shape your experience with art growing up?
When I was eight years old, I was starting piano. By middle school, I had picked up guitar. That’s when things started rolling for me, I think. My older brother played music, too; once I started realizing that music was something that came naturally, I started pouring more time into it. It turned into more than just escapism from the past, more constructive for sure. It started to grow.
Your music: What are your tastes in music, versus what you actually play?
I play a lot of hard-driven rock. I grew up in the church, playing worship music. Most people know me as that, but what I have grown into is more of an alternative feel. Despite my associations with that type of rock, what I am gravitating towards is more of an R&B style, soulful even. I find it is more honest, coming from the heart. That’s the vibe I am going for. I know it is super different than what I have done before, but I really love it.
Talk to me about your current project/band and how that lines up against things you’ve done in the past.
I went to school in St. Louis for undergrad and was with a band out there, which actually releases an album that we recorded together later this year. I also toured with the emo/punk band, Rookie of the Year. It was such a cool experience; being on the road really opens your eyes. You learn a lot. Right now I am focusing on making sure I write music that moves me — I never want to write music that I don’t truly feel or comes from the heart. I just played my first full-band show in a year a few weeks ago, which was so amazing. I want to keep going in this state of transition as I learn more about myself and my music.
What lessons have you learned from your childhood experiences, or what do you not regret experiencing?
Well, I grew up in the church, specifically leading worship. Doing that not only influenced my music, but my lifestyle; I was what you would expect to see and get out of someone in that position. Over the years, I have been trying to figure out how that translates into growing in a world like today. For instance, the whole legalism versus pursuing Jesus, living with societal expectations and the demands of culture today while still following God.
I think I used to zero-in on what I believed people expected of me, too. Sometimes I get people who run into me and ask about me about how life is going or whatever… then I get hit with the question, “So, are you still super religious?” Haha, I always stop and pause for second, because yes, I totally am, but I swear that it always seems to be coming from a negative place. I wish that didn’t carry that kind of connotation! It’s about the relationship with God more so, than what people think of modern church culture. I always felt this sort of weird pressure to stay within the lines of people’s expectations of me, or what people expect comes from a “religious person, you know? Trying to morph into my own man has been eye-opening and honestly, a bit difficult. Breaking away from those negative associations caused me to shine light on a lot of skeletons in my closet. I was able to come face-to-face with bitterness and jadedness surrounding my life, past, and experiences within the church. I got to address some personal things about myself essentially. It was an awesome learning experience. Now I am constantly asking myself, “What is the path that I want to take?” Ultimately, it’s my story and getting back to my roots, and using that as the basis for my music now. That more organic place, with full honesty, despite other people’s opinions and understanding that particular honesty may not be what people want to hear.
What are your dreams in regard to long-term goals within the music industry? Not within the music industry?
I would love to have a songwriting contract, something close to home. I am sort of a homebody, to be honest! Touring is amazing, but I also find that traveling takes a toll on me. I know that aside from music, I want a family one day, I want a wife, all that stuff, so badly. Keeping my music close to home where I write for myself, other people, would be incredible.
If you could go back in time to high school and tell yourself one piece of advice in respect to your art, what would it be and why?
I would say to spend more time being honest with myself. Get out of denial. I know there isn’t a whole lot of insight in being a teenager while you’re in high school, but I wish I was just more honest about what I was feeling, what I was okay with and what I was not okay with. More raw, more roots-oriented. I was afraid; it shut me down for a long time. I think when you find people who are more honest with themselves, they stand out. People relate to that, recognize that. I think I was worried I was not going to fit into the classic “worship lead” image that I was afraid to branch out and be who I really was. The questioning, the wondering… it all shuts down the creative energy I was having. I don’t let that happen anymore.