Season 1 Episode 1 - Breaking Expectations: Tylar Bryant’s Story
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"[Black Opry] were just kind of like, glad that we found each other and, you know, we just kind of wanted to just help each other" -Tylar Bryant

With looks that don’t match expectations, showing up for gigs has sometimes started with an awkward or even unpleasant welcome for country musician Tylar Bryant (he/him). But that’s not stopped him from pursuing his passion. From an unusual encounter on a school bus to a chance meeting with a visionary who gave him the community he didn’t know he needed; this Texas native finds serendipity woven throughout his budding career as a Black Americana artist. (See full episode one transcript below.)

(S1 Ep1) Breaking Expectations: Tylar Bryant’s Story

More about Tylar Bryant

Meet Tylar Bryant
In Concert: WXPN Black Opry Resident Tylar Bryant
Black Opry Residency has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

EPISODE ONE TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:00]HOST: Tylar Bryant is a country singer and songwriter. He grew up in Texas and when he got serious about making a name for himself as a musician, he did what you do. Tylar played as many gigs as he could. 

[00:00:09]Tylar Bryant: And a lot of things that I ran into was like showing up to places and feeling like unwelcome.

[00:00:15]HOST: Tylar was made to feel unwelcome because he is Black. 

[00:00:18]Tylar Bryant: You know, you walk into, you know, a, a, a bar and you know, small town gonna go play a few songs and everybody’s like, over 50 white, you know, they, and they staring at you like, you know, they must not get a lot of Black people around here clearly. And they’re like, what you gonna do? Like, I’m gonna play some songs. Well, what kind of songs you gonna play? I was like, I guess you gonna have to find out.

[00:00:41]HOST: But it wasn’t just the older white guys hanging out in the bars that made Tylar feel unwelcome in the country music world. One time Tylar and his band were booked to play a bar in Texas. The guy who booked them didn’t know Tylar was Black.

[00:00:52]Tylar Bryant: And so when I showed up with the guys, he was like, uh, at first he didn’t believe that I was Tylar. Like I was the one playing. I was like, yeah, I’m Tylar. I’m the one playing. And then he, he told me, he’s like, Man, I don’t think, uh, our regular crowd would like your kind of music. So we’re just, we’re just gonna cancel the music for tonight. And I was like, , well, what’s my kind of music? Like, clearly like I’m doing country music. Like I know where I probably need to go and where I need to play. Like I’m not gonna go somewhere where no one listens to this and do this. You know? So it was just crazy.  

[00:01:25]HOST: You’re listening to The Artist to Watch podcast, Season 1, the Black Opry Residency. I’m John Morrison. I’m a music journalist and podcaster from Philadelphia. Over the next five episodes you’ll hear the stories of Black artists trying to make it in the world of country and Americana music. We start in Nashville, home to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium. 

(ambi of cover songs blasting out of Nashville honky tonks)

[00:01:39]HOST: Walking along Broadway down by the Ryman at almost any time of day, you’ll be greeted by the sound of bands blasting cover songs from the honky tonks that stretch for 4 or 5 blocks down by the Cumberland River. Broadway is full of iconic bars like Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World and The Stage.

And then there are the newer places with celebrity names attached to em’. Like Jason Al-dean’s Kitchen and Rooftop Bar and Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge. Kid Rock and Luke Combs are also in the bar business in Nashville. Putting your name up in lights on the side of a building and selling beer and chicken wings to tourists is a tangible reminder of an artist’s mainstream success. And these guys – and yes, they’re all guys. – these country music restaurateurs – are – ALSO all white. So, why no Black folks?

[00:02:23]Holly G: The narrative that is pushed in the industry about why Black people are not allowed in is because, well, Black people don’t, just don’t like country music or, you know, maybe they’re not working as hard or their music is not as good. But the problem is they’ve never looked, they’ve never heard, like, they don’t listen to, to Black country music artists, so they wouldn’t know. 

[00:02:41]HOST: Holly G lives in Nashville and is a lifelong fan of country music. In the spring of 2020, She was working as a flight attendant. But after George Floyd was murdered she started taking stock of what was important to her…….Country music was at the top of that list. More specifically country music made by Black artists. And so Holly started googling, looking for a platform that focused on that music.

[00:03:00]Holly G: And literally the only thing you could find if you Googled Black country music artists was a list of the same five or six people on other platforms. But there were no platforms that focused specifically on Black country music. Uh, RISI Palmer had just announced that she was gonna launch Color Me Country and that was the only other thing I could find out there that was serving artists of color and country music. 

(Color Me Country)

[00:03:22]HOST: Color Me Country is a radio show on Apple Music. It’s hosted by musician Rissi (REE-see) Palmer. Here’s how she describes it.

[00:03:28]Rissi Palmer: The Blackest Country music show you ever? No, I think always it’s a. What color mid country is, is a celebration of the very complex roots of country music that include people of color. Um, it’s not limited to Black people. Um, you know, Asian artists, indigenous artists, Hispanic artists, pretty much anybody that is not your, your typical baseball cap white guy singing about trucks.

(Sound design: Montage of radio dial montage of white country guys on the radio)

HOST: Yes. There are plenty of white men being played on the radio these days and not enough Black folks. In fact, a study of songs played on country radio in the 18 years from 2002 to 2020 revealed that roughly one percent of the songs played on country radio were by Black artists. One. Percent. 

(Source: https://www.tennessean.com/story/entertainment/2021/03/23/country-music-racial-disparity-study-Black-artists/4714774001/)

[00:04:15]HOST: And for (Black) women, it was worse. Rissi’s song “Country Girl” became the first song by a Black woman to chart on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs for the first time in 20 years when it was released back in 2007. That kind of success is remarkable and, unfortunately, very rare. 

(Music under: “Country Girl by Rissi Palmer)

[00:04:28]Rissi Palmer: I can count on one hand the amount of women that I was on radio tour with that I saw out on the road that I did shows with, festivals with. Mm-hmm. And I can’t count the number of other Black people that I was out with because there were none. It was basically Miko Marks, Darius Rucker, um, an artist by the name of Tebey, and that was it.

(Music under: Frankie Staton TBD)

[00:04:53]HOST: It was through Rissi Palmer that Holly G found Frankie Staton, a Black country musician who moved to Nashville in 1981 to pursue a career in music. 

(Source: https://www.wmot.org/roots-radio-news/2022-04-15/q-a-how-holly-gs-website-became-the-black-opry-revue)

[00:05:01]Frankie Staton: I had been running up and down music row trying to get ’em to listen to my music for years, trying to get a deal for years. And they just fluffed it off, you know? And I said, I know I’m not the only African American being treated this way.

[00:05:11]HOST: Then, in 1996, 15 years after her move to Nashville, Frankie read a story in the New York Times. It said there were no Black artists with major record deals in Nashville. So, why weren’t Black artists getting record deals? The Times story insinuated that there was a lack of Black talent. There just weren’t any Black country artists worthy of deals. The Times concluded that. – QUOTE – . “Country music may be yet another example of widening racial divisions in American popular culture, in which Blacks and whites choose to watch different television shows, read different books and listen to different kinds of music.”

(Source: https://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/20/arts/has-country-music-become-a-soundtrack-for-white-flight.html)

[00:05:43]Frankie Staton: when I saw it in print. Yeah, I said I’m gonna challenge the story. And what they were saying is, we look for Black artists, we can’t find them. They’re not interested in country. If they come to Nashville, more than likely they’re old r&b singers that couldn’t get a record deal in L.A. So they come here and try to be country. And I knew different, I knew Black hillbillies.

[00:06:03]HOST: Frankie helped to found The Black Country Music Association. And she made history by creating the first Black Country Music Showcase at Nashville’s Bluebird Café in 1997…..But the Black Country Music Association was short-lived. More than two decades later, in 2021, Holly G wanted to pick up where Frankie left off using modern tools, Widespread internet accessibility, smartphones and social media. Holly decided to start a website. A space to reclaim and celebrate country music as a Black form of American music. She grabbed the domain name Black Opry dot com 

[00:06:37]Holly G: It was like Walking into a room blindfolded, trying to start that website, whatever it was gonna be, I couldn’t really, um, I, I didn’t really have nailed down exactly what I wanted it to be. I just knew for the first 30 days I wanted to profile 30 Black artists that were working in the industry.

[00:06:54]HOST: Rissi Palmer was one of the first artists that Holly reached out to. 

[00:06:58]Rissi Palmer: She wrote me and she says, I’m gonna start a website and it’s called the Black Opry. And I, I was wondering if it was okay if I put some stuff up about you, and I was like, absolutely. Let me know anything I can do to help. She envisioned it as being a safe space for artists to present their music, a safe space for fans to come where there’s no judgment and it’s all acceptance. And you see yourself represented on a regular basis on this website. I was like, this sounds like utopia sounds like something that didn’t exist when I first got started. She filled a void. 

[00:07:34]HOST: Holly started by profiling some of the first artists that came to her mind. Lizzie No, Miko Marks, Valerie June, Amythyst Kiah (KEY-yuh), Darius Rucker, and Kane Brown. And then she started searching online.

[00:07:45]Holly G: I was like, there’s gotta be a Black country artist out there that likes Luke Combs. 

[00:07:51]HOST: Luke Combs is one of the biggest stars in country music. He won The Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 2021 and 2022. And, oh yeah, Luke Combs is also a white guy. 

[00:08:00]Holly G: And so I was looking up Luke Combs covers and kind of scrolling, looking for Black faces, and I found Tylar. 

(Mix under audio of Tylar covering Luke Combs from YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI73a3vaL_c )

[00:08:06]HOST: Tylar Bryant

[00:08:07]Tylar Bryant: I got an email from Holly, and she’s like, Hey, saw your video, uh, of you doing a cover of Luke Combs, uh, “Better Together.”

[00:08:15]Holly G: And I remember I was like, Hey. I wanna interview you for this website and I remember him like kind of looking at me like I was crazy because he was like, yeah, okay, whatever you say, like you’re gonna start a platform for Black country artists. Yeah. Okay, sure. 

[00:08:33]Tylar Bryant: And she’s like she was kind of telling me her story about country music and she just wants to find more people, um, you know, that look like her, that do country music. And she’s like, there’s so many and y’all all super talented. And, um, she’s like, you know, I don’t know what’s gonna go with it. I’m just gonna make it and, you know, it’ll be out there. And so, um, I was like, sure, like why not?

(Begin Tylar Story)

[00:08:53]HOST: And what Holly found was that, other than being a Black man, Tylar Bryant’s story was pretty common for a country musician. He grew up in Texas, first in Houston and then in a town called Gause (pronounced like “gauze” tape with a “z” sound).

(Music under “Summertime” by Kenny Chesney from the 2005 album The Road And The Radio)

[00:08:58]Tylar Bryant: It’s not, it’s not a very big place at all. You know, blink and you miss it. uh, It’s a town, you know, 300, it could be about 306, you know, with some of the people I went to school with, having babies and such. 

[00:09:08]HOST: It was one of those people that Tylar grew up with that turned him on to country music on his first day of school. 

(Begin Tylar’s School Bus Story)

[00:09:12]Tylar Bryant: I get on the school bus, first day on the bus, and uh, I sit down, there’s this kid in front of me, um, he’s listening to a CD player.

(Sound design note: Kenny Chesney music on headphones, school bus ambi)

[00:09:22]Tylar Bryant: And so we’re about halfway to where we’re going and he turns around. He was like, Hey man, have you listened to the new Kenny Chesney album? I was like, what? He was like the new Kenny Cheney album. Have you listened to him? I was like, Who is that? He goes, Ugh. And he turns around and he sits down, he says Nothing else to me until we get to the school. We get to the school, he, uh, turns around, uh, he gives me the cd, he gives me his CD player and headphones. He said, take this home and listen to it. 

(Music Post: SONG “Summertime” by Kenny Chesney from the 2005 album The Road And The Radio)

[00:09:50]Tylar Bryant: And so I listened to the whole record. I, I probably still know that whole record. I could probably sing every song. So that was the first country album I ever listened to was that one. And it was, it was a, I would say it was a good introduction. I was like, this wasn’t like, it was like, it wasn’t boring. Like it was interesting. It was like, it was upbeat, it was fun. And it was a different take on like music than I was accustomed to listening to. And, uh, I never gave that Walkman back to him or nothing. He never asked for it.

(End Tylar’s School Bus Story)

(Music Cue: “Don’t Let Go”- Loop intro under first guitar story)

(Begin Tylar’s First Guitar Story)

[00:10:15]Tylar Bryant: I got my first guitar when I was in the seventh grade and I bought it, uh, from a kid, uh, that I went to church with. His name was Jordan and it was a Black Fender guitar. And, uh, I wanted to learn how to play it because, uh, I saw this guy at church named Jason who was playing. He’s really good. I was like, man, I’d like to play one of those. That looks pretty cool. And so he would show me stuff here and there and so I kind of like picked up on that and then just kind of watched other people play. 

(End Tylar’s First Guitar Story)

(Music post “Dont Let Go”- She’s a Texas angel covered in white sheets… )

(Begin Tylar’s Writing Song “Don’t Let Go” Story)

[00:10:41]HOST: Before long, Tylar started writing songs. The first one he finished is called “Don’t’ Let Go”

[00:10:46]Tylar Bryant: So I was writing it for this girl at the time, so I was like trying all the game I could, like I was shooting all the game I had and like nothing was working. And so, uh, my buddy, he’s like, man write her a song. He’s like, no girl can resist you if you write her song. And I said, I was like, you know what? You’re exactly right. I had never written a song before, but I’m like, you know, I’m gonna write her song. And so, um, I guess in that moment it was just like, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I have something that I wanna say. So, I was like, I guess I just gotta say it.

(Music Post – “Dont Let Go”- chorus – just let go… )

[00:11:17]Tylar Bryant: And so I just, I wrote this song and I, just looking back, I don’t know how I did it. It was just like I had this idea. I remember I started writing and then I looked up and I was done. And I think I probably in the span of like a week wrote that song. Cuz this girl’s birthday was coming up and I’m like, I’m gonna sing to her on her birthday. This is gonna work. It didn’t work. But, um, I got a song out of it. And so, uh, and I, and I’m proud of that song, you know, like for a first song, I’m like, I don’t know how I did it. It would process. I used, I was just watching these surfer videos on YouTube and drinking orange juice, and that’s what it was.

(End Tylar’s Writing Song “Don’t Let Go” Story)

(Begin Tylar’s Karaoke Bar Story)

[00:11:51]HOST: When he got a bit older, Tylar started hanging out in a karaoke bar. But he didn’t get up and sing until a friend gave him a nudge. Remember the guy who gave Tylar that Kenny Chesney album on the school bus?

[00:12:01]Tylar Bryant: Same guy that gave me the, uh, album was the same guy who got, he’s like, do you need to get on stage and sing a song? Liquored me up. I got up there, I sang, “I Told You So” by Randy Travis. The place went nuts.

(Music Post – “I Told You So” by Randy Travis)

(END Tylar’s Karaoke Bar Story)

[00:12:13]HOST: Tylar realized he could sing, but the idea of making a living as a musician didn’t seem like a realistic career option. He got a job working on an oil rig. 

(Begin Tylar’s Working in Oil Fields Story)

[00:12:20]Tylar Bryant: When I got there, uh, my first day out I was in Pyote, Texas, never been out Pyote, Texas. You talk about hard work, man. you work 12 and a half hours a day, right? We’re, it’s summertime, it’s 109 degrees outside. I mean, scorcher wind’s blowing. I mean, and we’re picking up 200 pounds slips, you know, uh, everything on the rig floor is heavy. The clamps are 500 pounds. 

HOST: And the living arrangements for the oil rig workers weren’t very glamorous. 

Tylar Bryant: They have these like portable little motor homes out there. So, and there’s what, there’s six of us, six grown men in this small space sleeping in bunk beds. It’s not, it’s not fun. You you’re in like a very small room, like, Sharing a bath, one bathroom. Oh my gosh. Yeah. It’s, it’s, you get real close with people, man. It’s, it’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. 

And uh, there was this old guy, God, he was probably like 70 years old and he was still working these rigs and like that’s saying something because if you ever worked in an oil field to be 70 years old, working on a rig is beyond me. But he was like, uh, he looked at me, he was like, this your first time working on uh, rig?

I was like, yes, sir. He’s like, just finish your first hitch. 

HOST: A “hitch” is the 14-day shift that workers spend stationed at an oil rig. After Tylar’s first day of his first hitch he’d had enough. His feet was hurting. His back was hurting. 

Tylar Bryant: And so I was thinking, I was like, man, I’m dragging up. I was like, I’m packing up myself and I’m leaving. And then I thought about what that guy said. He was like, just finish your hitch. it’s like 13 more days. I was like, I can, I can suffer 13 more days, whatever. And so about day four, I was definitely about ready to go. I was like, I can’t suffer 13 more days. But, uh, I was like, nah, I’m gonna finish. Might as well just finish, you know, because it’s, I don’t know, it was probably like 12 hours from home, so that’s a long drive.

HOST: Tylar finished his hitch. And when he was done…..

Tylar Bryant: I packed up everything in my truck and, uh, I didn’t even, a lot of the guys would sleep a little bit and then they’d get on the road. I didn’t even go to bed. I was ready to go home. And, uh, I drove 12 hours straight on to the house. By the time I got to the house, that first paycheck hit my account and I was like, you know what? I think I could do this. It’s like, I’m gonna go to the gym, get a little bit more, you know, fit. And so, uh, yeah, I did that for a while. Couple years.

(End Tylar’s Working in Oil Fields Story)

[00:14:49]HOST: Tylar eventually moved on from working in the oil fields and got serious about making music. He had moved to Nashville by the time Holly G reached out to profile him for her website. Holly wasn’t sure what would happen with The Black Opry. But, remember how her goal was to profile one artist a day for 30 days? 

[00:15:04]Holly G: So by like the seventh day, I had people reaching out to me. There were artists that were DMing me on Twitter, like, Hey, can I get a profile up? Like, wow, can you, can you put my stuff up? And it became so easy, so quickly for me to get in contact with these artists because they started coming to me before I even really needed to. Start looking for more people. And it’s been like that ever since. 

[00:15:25]HOST: Soon the online community that Holly was building through The Black Opry website led to real life, in-person gatherings 

[00:15:31]Holly G: So the way the story goes, we, we started the website and then after we started the website in April, Americanafest was coming up. And you know, I wasn’t very familiar with that scene, but everybody was saying it was like, We needed to be there. 

[00:15:47]HOST: Americanafest is an annual gathering hosted by the Americana Music Association. It brings musicians and industry professionals together in Nashville.

[00:15:55]Holly G: So I got in contact with some of the Black artists that typically go to Americanafest, and I was like, what has your experience been like? What work do we need to do there? And they were like, well, you know, we get invited, we get to play. But the problem is when we come off the stage, we don’t get invited to anything else. There’s all these networking opportunities and brunches and things, and nobody ever invites us to those things. And that’s where the people are getting the opportunities that propel their career for when they leave. And so we were like, cool, we’ll just do our own networking thing so we got this Air B n B.  

[00:16:21]HOST: Holly had one rule for the Black Opry’s Air B n B house.

(sources:https://www.uscannenbergmedia.com/2022/10/01/21-years-later-Black-country-music-finds-a-home-at-americanafest-2022/ AND https://www.nodepression.com/the-Black-oprys-road-to-newport-folk-festival/)

[00:16:25]Holly G: Anybody can come, but this is where the Black Opry is gonna be. So if you come, you have to respect the space and respect these artists. And we had no less than like 30 to 40 people there every single day. And, um, it was a lot of artists, but also a lot of people within other marginalized communities that needed a safe space to go and they would just sit on the floor and on the couch and pass the guitar around for four or five hours at a time. 

(Music Post: Lizze No “Pity Party” at Americanafest House – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQy2CwsKNjA)

[00:16:47]HOST: That’s Lizzie No, a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter, playing her song “Pity Party.” She’s standing in the living room at that Americanafest Air B and B surrounded by other Black Opry artists. There’s a video of it on YouTube. In it, you see a community of musicians listening, playing and supporting one another. 

(“Pity Party” ends)

[00:17:02]HOST: After Americanafest, the artists went their separate ways. But just days later Holly heard from Lizzie No again. Lizzie had a show booked in New York City and the artist she was sharing the bill with backed out. Lizzie thought of the musicians from the Black Opry house and reached out to Holly. 

[00:17:15]Holly G: So she was like, I’ve got this show in five days. Do you think you can come and do a Black Opry show where you think they would wanna come? And so I called a couple artists and they all said, yeah. And we took six people up to New York to do the first show.

(Mix under audio from Rockwood”Fast Car”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXCIcRoS8Fo ORMontage:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mC2HLRSuZk)

[00:17:26]HOST: That first Black Opry show took place at Rockwood Music Hall on October 5th, 2021. The artists sat side by side on stools. Facing the audience with acoustic guitars, they took turns telling stories and singing songs. Lizzie No was joined on stage by Roberta Lea, Joy Clark, Jet Holden and Tylar Bryant. 

[00:17:42]Tylar Bryant: Man, that was magic. First time we had just met each other. Really didn’t know each other from a can of paint. We were just kind of like, glad that we found each other and, you know, we just kind of wanted to just help each other, so it’s just like, Hey, let’s do it. And you would’ve thought, we’d known each other for years. Everybody was super talented.

[00:18:03]HOST: Again, here’s Holly G.  

[00:18:04]Holly G: It was insane. I think it opened the door for all of us to think about what the future could be like. Cuz up until that point it had only been the website and I hadn’t been thinking about any kind of performing or touring or anything like that. It was nowhere on my radar. And so for that to just happen that organically and then we get there and, you know, we did really good on, you know, packing out the venue and everybody just responded to it so well. And after that, like , venues started reaching out to me to ask could we take it to wherever they were. And that was when I realized they needed an agent 

[00:18:38]HOST: With the help of a booking agent, The Black Opry started playing shows all over the country as “The Black Opry Revue”. Each show featured a rotating group that mixed touring musicians on stage with local artists. The artists took turns telling stories and performing in song circles. On February 16th, 2022 The Black Opry Revue came through Philadelphia.

[00:18:56]Holly G: And when we played that show, um, WXPN, reached out and asked could they help promote the show? Would we come to a World Cafe session? And of course we said yes. 

[00:19:05]Bruce Warren: WXPN is a public radio station. It’s owned by the University of Pennsylvania. It’s located in Philadelphia. 

[00:19:14]HOST: That’s Bruce Warren. He’s the Assistant GM for Programming at WXPN. The station’s General Manager is Roger LaMay 

[00:19:21]Roger LaMay: WXPN has for a long time had a reputation as a taste maker. And part of that has been its ability to identify and curate new and emerging artists from across the country and connect them to wider audiences. And our mission, pure and simple, is connecting artists and audiences.

[00:19:37]HOST: WXPN’s radio signal reaches listeners in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. But the station also has a national audience with World Cafe, a radio show that is produced by WXPN and distributed to hundreds of other radio stations by NPR. Bruce Warren is the World Cafe’s Executive Producer. He invited the Black Opry Revue to come on the show and record a version of what they’d been doing on the road. The Black Opry lineup that day included Autumn Nicholas, Tylar Bryant, Jett Holden, Roberta Lea and Sug Daniels.

(First BOR World Cafe session in 2022)

[00:20:05]Sug Daniels SINGING: “…But friend, can we make believe, like I never said anything, you just been heavy on my mind.

[00:20:20]Raina Douris: On World Cafe today you’re hearing performances from the Black Opry Review that was Suge Daniels performing her song Heavy. Thanks so much. Thank you for me. Next in the song Circle, Tyler Bryant, and that’s Tyler with an a I should clarify in case you’re, uh, looking him up. Uh, Tyler, I know that you, uh, didn’t really grow up listening to country and you’re also an MMA fighter. Could you talk about how you ended up playing country music? 

[00:20:48]Tylar Bryant: Um, The short story is I tried it one day and it worked, you know? Yeah. That’s, I guess that’s the short story of it. I really don’t even really know how I ended up playing country music. Uh, I went to Nashville in 2013 with, uh, my Poppy and my brothers. I never, it was my first time there and it was during CMA Fest and, um, I’ve always been a fan of music, you know, and so, uh, sort of being engulfed in country music, I don’t know. There was just something about it, I don’t know, that just stuck with me. And so a couple years later, You know, I picked up the guitar and, and started singing and writing songs.

[00:21:19]Raina Douris: And you moved to Nashville in 2019 to 20, yeah. 2019. Yeah. Um, how did your experience when you got there compared to your expectations of what it would be like? 

[00:21:29]Tylar Bryant: Well, uh, when I, I mean, I came in right before the pandemic, and so, uh, it. It was, it was very depressing actually. It’s like, you know, I packed up everything. I moved here and now the world’s shutting down. It’s like, what am I doing? You know, it wasn’t what I expected. Nobody expected, you know, 2020 to happen. But, uh, since then, since the bounce back, I, this has been, you know, way more than I expected. So, uh, I think things have gone pretty good. 

[00:21:52]Raina Douris: Yeah. How have things gone since you’ve, uh, joined the Black Opry?

[00:21:55]Tylar Bryant: Uh, it’s been a whirlwind actually. And so, uh, and I’m glad, you know, I was able to find community in, you know, a place with, uh, with these guys and, uh, it’s just, it’s really just kind of been a whirlwind, honestly. 

[00:22:06]Raina Douris: You’re gonna play “Stay Wild” for us. What do we know about this song before we hear it? 

[00:22:10]Tylar Bryant: Uh, I guess the song kind of speaks for itself, I guess If you know me, I’m just, uh, I’m just a fun person. I try to make any situation fun. And so it, it had been a couple years since I put out any music. I was thinking my next single, you know, kind of need to be a statement. And so, uh, with everything that happened in 2020, uh, as we sat down, sat down with my team and, uh, I was pushing for Stay Wild, but they were pushing for another song. But I was like, Hey, you know, it’s time to get wild and stay wild. So stay wild is it is. So this is actually my current single Stay Wild. Right on. 

[00:22:53]Tylar Bryant SINGING: I hope you never lose those NASCAR dreams. Hope you keep chasing after number three, even if it’s on the dirt track at BFE. Stay Wild. I hope he only speed through one light town, buy the stranger at the bar one more round. Never let the nine to five tie you  down. Stay wild… 

(fade “Stay Wild”WC performance under Host)

(Idea for the Residency)

[00:23:12]HOST: World Cafe has been produced at WXPN for more than 30 years. It’s one of WXPN’s most powerful tools for supporting the station’s mission of connecting artists to audiences. But, after going through the pandemic and the live music shutdown, WXPN’s Roger Lamay says the station came to a realization. 

[00:23:28]Roger LaMay: We realized that we needed to up our game in terms of supporting artists and that was something that we could do in a unique way that isn’t being done. So we really committed to saying, Hey, a part of our strategy of supporting artists is helping them to get paid, helping them to work on their art, helping to give them the space and the tools, um, to be able to take it to a higher level.

[00:23:51]HOST: Roger and Bruce came up with an idea for how they could help artists. Again, here’s Bruce Warren. 

[00:23:56]Bruce Warren: We wanted to give people an amazing, immersive experience that would help change their careers and at the same time, showcase a deeper piece of who they are above and beyond the actual music that they play to our audience.

[00:24:14]HOST: Bruce got back in touch with Holly G.

[00:24:16]Holly G: Bruce from WXPN and called and was like, Hey, I got this idea, 

[00:24:19]Bruce Warren: I was, I said, Holly, we have an idea. I mean, essentially that’s sort of what it was. I was like, let’s do a residency with Black Opry.

[00:24:28]Holly G: He didn’t offer me like platitudes and apologies and, oh my God, I’m so sorry. The industry is hard. Good luck, which is a lot of what I usually get. Like, I know it’s hard. Thanks, like I don’t need that. He was like, we have a plan and we, you know, are gonna create a budget and like, we’re gonna make sure that these artists get what they deserve if they participate in this program, which was really important to me. So many times art is looked at as something that should be expected for free, but these are artists that are working to make a living. And so I feel like when we invite them to do something, even if it’s something that will enrich them as an artist, it’s important that we respect their time and do that by providing them resources to be able to do it comfortably.

[00:25:07]Bruce Warren: So I said, look, you know, we got this grant. And we’re ready to share our platforms for the stories that are happening right now and for this amazing community.

[00:25:23]Kallao XPN On-Air PROMO: 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of WXPN’s Artist to Watch program, our longstanding commitment to artist development and music discovery.

[00:25:55]Kristen Kurtis XPN On-Air PROMO: Meet one of our Black Opry residency artists, Tyler Bryant. Tyler is a Texas native now based in Nashville, who blends modern country music with rock and pop. Here’s X P N Artist to watch Tyler Bryant.

[00:26:08]Tylar Bryant: I, I feel like I’m always getting like spam emails about random stuff. Oh yeah. This record label or something like this. 

[00:26:13]HOST: Tylar Bryant couldn’t believe it when he got an email telling him that he’d been picked to participate in the Black Opry Residency.

[00:26:19]Tylar Bryant: So at first I was like, man, who, who’s spamming me with this? And so, uh, I’m like, is this for real? For real? So I was stoked. I was like shocked for one. Cause I was like, dang, look at me. I’m actually like doing something, you know? 

(Music Post – TBD)

[00:26:32]HOST: You’re listening to The Artist to Watch podcast, Season 1, the Black Opry Residency. I’m John Morrison.

[00:26:35]HOST: In our next episode, we’re going from Nashville to Philly. 

(mix very brief morning show clip under)

[00:26:37]Kristen Kurtis on XPN Morning Show: Bringing us to 8:31 and a very special guest in the studio. I’m Kristin Kurtis. Welcome Tylar Bryant. Hey, how are ya? I’m good. Good morning. Good morning. Thanks for getting up so early… 

(Song: “Keep Your Silver Shined” by Samantha Rise)

[00:26:47]HOST: And we’ll meet another Black Opry Residency artist. Samantha Rise.

(Clip to Tease Episode 2: Samantha Rise)

Samantha Rise: Seven out of ten of the most stressful life events that can happen to a person happened to me in a two-year period here. As the world and as my world fell apart, I was navigating a kind of devastation that I had not experienced in a long time. How is it possible after trying and failing and losing everything, you know, is there, is there a way forward? And the way forward was to say yes to the music, um, and to trust and believe myself.  

(“Rye Grass Riders” By Samantha Rise “…Take a pull and pass the bottle… listen for a while…DUCK Organ solo under HOST)

[00:26:49]HOST:  We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Artist to Watch podcast. 

For more information  about the Black Opry Residency, visit x – p – n dot o – r – g.

The Artist to Watch podcast is produced by WXPN, member-supported radio from the University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with Rowhome Productions.

WXPN’s Executive Producers are Roger LaMay and Bruce Warren.

The Executive Producers for Rowhome Productions are Alex Lewis and John Myers.

This episode was written by John Myers with help from me, John Morrison.

Final audio mixing and mastering for Rowhome Productions by Justin Berger.

Special thanks to Holly G and Rissi (REE-see) Palmer.

The Black Opry Residency has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

The Artist to Watch podcast is distributed by PRX — the Public Radio Exchange. 

If you enjoy being the first to discover up-and-coming talent, be sure to go to the Artist to Watch show page on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe by clicking “follow” so that you never miss an episode. While you’re there, please leave us a review and share an episode with a friend. 

Thanks for listening.

(Rowhome Productions Sound Logo)

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