A Talk With
TYLER D. MORRIS (Guitars)
Questionnaire by Stefan
Tyler Drew Morris recently presented his debut album “And So It Begins…” to the world. Most of the songs are instrumentals under the leadership of Tyler himself, to me this young man of only 16 years old is a natural born guitar wonder, yes he is !
He uses guitar techniques that defy everyone's imagination - the next interview I want to have a talk with him about how it all started, what he has already experienced in his young life and stuff… may I present you to the youngest guitar hero at the moment, Tyler Morris !
Q: Hello Tyler, great to have you here at Belgium based Metal To Infinity Webzine. How does a daily schedule of a young guitarist looks like?
A: Thank you for having me!! On a normal day, I get up for school at around 7:15 am and I get home from school at about 4 or 4:30. I finish most of my homework in school so that I can practice guitar when I get home.
I practice for about 6 hours as at 9 or 10 o'clock I got out to a club and play a show. I play locally in Boston regularly from Monday to Thursday. On the weekends, since I am freed up, I practice guitar for 8 to 9 hours a day. My schedule is really packed!
Q: To start, I’d like to congratulate you with your debut album “And So It Begins…”. We will return to this later on, as for now I want to know where the ambition to play guitar came from.
A: My ambition for playing the guitar came from my dad, who would have band rehearsals when I was growing up. I was always curious about how to play guitar because of this. My dad began to tune my guitar to an open d or g chord (depending on the song) and I would even play with his band at their shows, strumming along the open chords. At the age of 10, I asked my dad if I could take lessons and, by the time I was 14, I started to develop my intense determination and drive to continually improve, a quality that I still have today.
Q: At what age did you take for the first time a guitar in hands, what about the inner thrills you felt back then?
A: When my dad used to let me perform with him as a kid, tuning my guitar to an open chord, I would always have this feeling of excitement that I was contributing to the music being created. At the age of 8, at my dad's birthday party at the Hard Rock Cafe, I felt this rush of energy on stage that was unprecedented to that point. That feeling ceases to go away; nothing can compare to the feeling of playing on stage in front of a live audience. I continue to get this rush every time I play. This is reason that I try so hard to continually become a better musician.
Q: Does your family have other musical talents?
A: My dad plays guitar and my sister has a really great voice, although she has been into athletics more recently.
Q: You started playing guitar at a very young age, how have you combined the many hours of practising with your school activities?
A: I try to do finish all of my schoolwork and homework during lunch in school so that I have time to practice guitar when I get home. Also, I started a music club in school so that I have time during the school day to practice.
Furthermore, for the last two years I have been in a part of our school's Jazz band of that has placed 3rd out or hundreds of competing bands from around the world in the annual Berklee Jazz Competition. Additionally, when I have time I go down to the practice rooms in my school's music department And practice.
Q: First and foremost, you've played in a few local bands, right? What type of bands were they?
A: When I was 11 years old I played in my first band, which was a Blues/Rock band. As each band member began listening to more and more styles of music we were playing Guns N Roses, Deep Purple and Van Halen near the end of that band. After that I played in a Van Halen cover band for a couple of years and, towards the end, we began to write a couple of originals. I also played in a thrash metal band for less than a year; we played songs by Pantera, Megadeth and Iron Maiden, as well as playing my own original music. On And So It Begins, I assembled a studio band of a drummer and bassist and I directed them on the parts that I had written for the album.
Q: Shortly after, you was seen by the musical director of the BB King’s Blues Club. You were 12 years old at that point. What has resulted from this?
A: In total, I have played 6 nights at BB King's with the musical director's BB King's All Star Band in West Palm Beach, Florida. Because of this experience, I have had many fans in Florida. Additionally, the YouTube videos from a couple of my nights at BB Kings have gained many videos. I go to Florida frequently and I am always exited to perform at BB Kings!
Q: You have played at numerous world-renowned stages where you had the ability to perform alongside the most famous guitar kings. I’m inclined to ask for a briefing history on this Tyler.
A: One of the first major people that I played with was Sammy Hagar at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, CA. Since then I have played with some of my favorite musicians such as Joe Stump, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Vince Neil, Phil Collen, Leslie West, Rudy Sarzo, Ronnie Montrose, Mark Farnar, Kip Winger, George Lynch, Bruce Kulick, Ritchie Kotzen, Gary Hoey, Jeff Skunk Baxter, ect.
I also was invited by Jason Becker to his house in San Francisco, CA, where I got to play for Jason for 5 hours and I was invited out a couple of more times after that, the most recent being last August. I have also met Slash, BB King, Warren DeMartini, Stevie Wonder, everyone in Aerosmith, Michael Anthony, Uli Jon Roth, Billy Gibbons and many more of my guitar heroes. I still aspire to play with and meet Eric Clapton, George Benson, Ritchie Blackmore and Eddie Van Halen!
Q: Musically wise, you were Blues inspired in the beginning but as time passed by, there was room for Rock and Metal as well. Tell us about please.
A: When I started off playing guitar, my dad got me hooked on guys like BB King, Chuck Berry and Eric Clapton. Eventually, when I was about 11, I started listening to more rock bands such as Aerosmith, AC/DC and KISS. I was really into AC/DC at this age and I saw them twice on tour and I even used to wear the devil horns while playing my Gibson SG guitar! Also, I have seen Aerosmith about 20 times and I have seen KISS about 5 or 6 times! When I watched the movie Superbad, I was awestruck by the scene where the police are driving around, destroying their police car.
The song playing in the background was Van Halen's Panama. I began to be induced in a Van Halen obsession that still hasn't subsided today! Eddie Van Halen was and is still my hero! After discovering Van Halen, I started listening to other 80s bands: Dokken, Motley Crüe, Guns N Roses, Europe, Danger Danger ect. Eventually, I also became intrigued in trash metal bands such as Megadeth and Pantera! Dimebag Darrell clearly learned a thing or two from Eddie Van Halen!! After that, I became immersed in the world of shred guitar, listening to such greats as Jason Becker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Stump, Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth and Gary Hoey.
Now I have circled back around to blues and I am learning much from the blues legends, Freddie King, Albert King and T-Bone Walker. In addition to this, I am also a really big fan of George Benson. I find that learning many styles of guitar only helps me in playing shred as Yngwie, Eddie and others learned from the blues and rock legends too!!
Q: You’ve won a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music Summer Program, how did you finished the rest of your studies, who was your guitar mentor?
A: The Berklee College of Music program took place during summer vacation so, fortunately, I did not have to attend regular classes at school. My guitar mentor has been the legendary Joe Stump for that last 3 years. Because of this, I requested Joe as a teacher for the Berklee program. Joe is one of the best guitarists in the world. His touch, phrasing, technique and melodic playing are as great as many other icons that I look up to!! He's also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet!
Q: What about your own musical sources of inspirations Tyler, which instrumentalists mean the world for you and I also like to know why?
A: Jason Becker is a huge inspiration on me, his relentless pursuit to make incredible music has ceased to be diminished by that fact that he suffers from ALS. I am fortunate enough to know Jason personally and can tell you that he is one of the most genuine guys you will ever meet and certainly one of the greatest guitarists of all time!! As previously mentioned, Joe Stump is another influence of mine. Joe is truly a living wonder!
Also, Yngwie Malmsteen is one of my biggest influences. Yngwie is truly an original, fusing ideas from Ritchie Blackmore (another influence of mine) and Bach to creat his own style, neo-classical metal. Yngwie does not simply play fast, but he plays with emotion and passion! Another influence of mine is guitar virtuoso Gary Hoey. I love how Gary is able to effortlessly combine shred with blues elements, all while creating memorable memories.
Lastly, Eddie Van Halen has had a major influence on both my playing and my songwriting. Eddie's sense of melody is far beyond that of most players. Eddie developed his unique style and phrasing out of the desire to play what he heard in his head. Because of this, Eddie's ear and sense of melody is so great!
Q: Besides playing guitar a masterly way you also write your own songs. According to yourself, what is the basis of a well-written song?
A: For me, a well written song has many components that must work together properly. The most important component in a well written song is having a memorable melody. Everything in a song is built around the melody: the chords, the bass, the drums and the keyboard should all be built around the melody in a well written song. Also, the great solo should quote, or be based on the melody in some way, even if not obvious. In my songs, I improvise all of the solos and play them differently every time. Lastly, a song is well written if it gets stuck in your head, not to the point of annoyance, but to the point that you have a desire to keep going back and listening to it even after listening even hundreds of times.
Q: The time has come to put your debut CD “And So It Begins…” in the spotlights. The title is very appropriate, right?
A: This is my first solo effort and debut as an artist, so I wanted the title to be reflective of that. Furthermore, I wanted to convey the fact that this will NOT be my only album, it is just the first, so And So It Begins was an appropriate title. Furthermore, this this also the debut of my original music.
Q: How long have you been working to complete the entire album, ready for sale?
A: From the time that I decided that I wanted to record, it took over 1 year to get a final printed copy in my hands. The process of making an album is far more complicated than one may think. The first step in the recording process is making scratch tracks, which are rough takes of the songs.
Next, I track the rhythm guitar, then the bass is tracked, then the drums and keyboards are tracked and lastly, the lead guitar is tracked. After the recording process, mixing takes a month and mastering takes another month. Then the actual pressing of the CD takes another month or two.
Q: From which point you’ve started to create these new compositions?
A: Some of the songs on And So It Begins date back to when I was 13 or 14 years old, while most of the album was written during the summer of 2013, when I was 15 years old.
Q: Who has inspired you the most during the making of this new album?
A: During the making of And So It Begins, I was inspired by Yngwie a lot! His influence is present the most in my solos. Additionally, I was also inspired by Ritchie Blackmore a lot during the recording process. A lot of my writing is inspired by Eddie Van Halen as well; Eddie is one of the best writers out there, he never had to change himself to conform to music industry standards of the times, instead he continually changed the music industry standards of the time!
Q: Three of the available songs are sung Casey Desmond, for whatever reason you have chosen her to sing a few of the songs?
A: I have always been a fan of Casey Desmond's voice and her music. She was on the first season of NBC's show, The Voice. Casey is great to work with! I had the lyrics for the songs that she sung on written and, when I gave them to Casey along with the melody lines that I had written for the songs, she brought my lyrics to life. I was amazed that it took her only a matter of hours to record all three vocals and these three songs, "Right Now", "Over And Over" and "Can't Turn Back Time" couldn't have turned out better!
Q: What are your favorite tones and why?
A: My favorite rhythm tone on the album is on "Can't Turn Back Time" because it has just the right amount of punch and aggressiveness that I desire in a perfect rhythm sound! My favorite solo on the record is on "Right Now" because I like how the solo builds up from start to finish, both sound wise and phasing wise.
My favorite melodic sounds on the record are on the songs "And So It Begins" and "Hang Gliders ". My favorite clean tone on the record is the during bridge in Hang Gliders.
Q: The comic/fantasy kinda artwork looks great, done by Brian Allen. Who is this guy, with whom did he worked in the past?
A: Thank you!! Brian's work is phenomenal! Initially we came to Brian with the idea for me fighting aliens with my guitar and he was able to create the cover of And So It Begins, which is cooler and more intricate than any album cover I could have imagined. In the past Brian has worked with, and continues to work with, Hard Rock Cafe, Scholastic, Spiral Direct and many other notable businesses. As Brian says, "I work with bands and businesses large and small!"
Q: The production of “And So It Begins…” has been delivered by Taylor Barefoot, what to tell us about this person’s background history?
A: I have been friendly with Taylor for that last couple of years. Taylor is great and goes beyond what is expected of him to make a great product and he always succeeds! Furthermore, in my opinion, Taylor's skill at engineering is truly as great as many industry legends. Taylor has worked with such notable artists as Tony Levin, Will Ackerman, Robert Ellis Orrall, Casey Desmond, St. Vincent (Annie Clark), Don Preston, T-Bone Wolk, Eugene Friesen, and many others.
Q: How is the sale so far – are the assumed expectations filled in or not?
A: The album sales are doing great!! I am proud to say that, in addition to the U.S., my album has been purchased in Europe, Japan, Asia and South America. Also, the response to And So It Begins has been great and many fans have voiced their praise of the album to me. Additionally, the album continues to sell more and more as time passes! I am really happy with its performance so far!!
Q: Do you have already proposed the album to a live audience?
A: I have played the songs And So It Begins many times in bars around the local Boston area. Also, at this year's NAMM show, which took place this past January, I demonstrated Fishman's revolutionary new Fluence electric guitar pickups, playing many of my songs. I also have some shows coming up in Massachusetts at the moment and I plan to play many more live shows this Summer.
Q: A successful album always asks for a successor, what are the plans Tyler?
A: Thank you! Well, I am nearing completion on my second album, which should be released sometime later this year or early next year. In my opinion, the songs on the second album are far better than anything I have written before. This next album will be more guitar focused and mainly instrumental.
Q: How do you see your career evolve if you look at the next 10 years?
A: My goal is to make one album every year or two and to make every album better than the album preceding it by improving my ability to track and improving my songwriting skills. Furthermore, I hope to greatly increase my abilities on the guitar over the next years, doing everything it takes to continually get my playing to the next level.
Also, I would like to have my own original style within the next few years, one that makes me unique. Lastly, I hope to be playing in countries outside the U.S., in continents such as Asia, South America and Europe within the next 10 years.
Q: Than I wish you all the very best of luck and success with a view to the future, thanks a ton for this conversation ! Before I say goodbye one last question Tyler - what is the secret behind a top notch, technical guitar player such as yourself? Maybe you have a few tips in promotion for any novice guitar player…
A: The secret to getting better at guitar or any instrument is to practice as mush as possible, and practicing properly is key. In addition to practicing technique, the main key to bettering your musical abilities is to learn songs by ear, doing this improves your overall melodic sense, and therefore your writing, improvisational and overall musical skills. Also, don't be afraid to learn other parts of a song that are not parts played by your instrument, in my case guitar.
I find that learning vocal melodies of songs opens up new possibilities for my guitar playing! Lastly, if you ever want any advice on guitar playing or if you would like to ask me any further questions please contact me via my website www.tylerdmorris.com !!
Thank You for having me! It was a pleasure to speak with you!