Interview

Tyler Williams, The Head and the Heart

By Kevin Alan Lamb

Like a garden, Michigan is a home I’ve made by growing relationships from seeds of goodness, sprouted from love, consistency, and attention to detail. I often share with others how foolish I would be to live anywhere else after the time, energy, and care I’ve invested into the fertilization of a true community with the potential to be a foundation for this better world we strive for, yet always let someone else give us an excuse to come up short. Although I was born and raised in these Great Waters, like many others, my family and fellow Lambs have all moved away, following their hearts, abilities, and dreams to Alaska, Connecticut, and South Carolina.

In their absence, I have farmed a family who is frequent to remind and encourage me that this is my home, and where I ought to lay my head and rest. My adopted family fills their days and nights with the music we love, and actively await the series of moments when and where we will have the opportunity to enjoy together in song, dance, and collective exaltation. But no matter the rivers and roads between us Lambs, our love and bond have been strengthened by space and time; reminding us just how special family is, along with each moment we are blessed enough to find ourselves in the same room, or beach along the Atlantic.

The Head and The Heart have long been a “Sign Of Light” and embodiment of this duality in my life. I first experienced their hope-infused singalong-melodies with my best friend, who happens to be a Badger, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids en route to Chicago for one of our first of several road warrior weekends. My hair was shorter then, face clean cut, and I can even recall the t-shirt on my back: a light bulb wearing headphones. Like many of my favorite bands over the years, Badger introduced me to The Head and The Heart, with “Cats and Dogs,” track 1 on their self-titled first album; which without question I’ve listened to more – or as much as any other in my thirty-one years here. At this time my parents still lived in my childhood home in West Bloomfield, but over time, as my love for track 5 – “Rivers and Roads” grew, so did the distances between us.

When I hear Charity and Jonathan’s voices, it reminds me of all the people that matter in my life. When I tell a friend about their music, it is with childish excitement for the journey they are set to embark on. When I got a gig working with Showtime on their new show “Roadies” at SXSW, and discovered The Head and The Heart were headlining our Clive Bar Showcase, I was reminded that our passion and pursuit of dreams is not only significant but serendipitous. When I walked into the photo bay as they took the stage before a full crowd on the Detroit river at MO POP, it was not a coincidence but forged fortune that Jonathan looked down at me and smiled as I captured the moment with the sun setting upon us all. And when I walked onto their tour bus before their sold out show at The Fillmore, it was not by accident but self-actualization that members of the band looked at me and asked, “Are you the Good Sign guy?”

MO POP Music Festival 2016 (Photo Recap)

With gratitude for my friend Scott Guy, here is my conversation with The Head and The Heart’s drummer, Tyler Williams, who hopes his mates can offer a little bit of their vibe, to Detroit’s resurgence.

If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Superpower, yeah I’d pretty much just like to fly because I’ve never even had a dream, where you know some people have dreams and they can fly and it’s like a thing… but I’ve never even had a dream like that so I’d like to fly.

Growing up, who were some of your heroes, whether it was musically or just in general?

I was a big skateboarder when I was young, so Eric Koston and then the whole girl skateboard team were a huge inspiration, just watching their videos. It was nice.

Did you know that Tony Hawk is a homeowner in Detroit?

No way!? I had no idea.

Yeah, it’s pretty solid.

Amazing! Yeah. But The Beatles were one of my first musical experiences…

[I showed Tyler my first tattoo, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on my right shoulder]

Nice! I found out – my parents turned me onto them when I was really young, like three or four, and then – I’ve had all of these different bands throughout life that have come in, and come out, but I still have a place for them. Lots of different bands.

If you could sit in with any band living or dead, who would it be?

Man, that’s a big, tough question.

You could even say two.

I would probably say The National would be a good one for that, they’d be super-fun, but that dude’s too good, though. And then…

The Beatles.

Yeah, The Beatles [laughing].

You guys travel everywhere doing everything, then you come here and Detroit’s pretty historical, a musically significant place; what type of feeling does that tap into?

Yeah, the whole MO POP, Motown vibe, and everything: you’ve got The White Stripes, you’ve got all this amazing garage rock from here. It’s pretty legendary and definitely one of the cities that is kind of coming up right now. It’s had a resurgence and hopefully, we can give our little bit of the vibe to that as well.

What’s the last song you want to hear before you die?

[Within seconds] “Strangers” by The Kinks.

I love how quickly you answered that. If you had any lyrics tattooed on you?

That would be tough, but probably “Everything counts a little more than we think.” (The National)

If you weren’t a musician, how do you think you’d be spending your time?

I don’t know. I still harbor this dream of going back to college and doing astrophysics or quantum mechanics and shit like that – the whole field excites me.

You have the rarest opportunity to heal others using your gifts. Can you talk about music as medicine; a chance to heal a lot of people in a way that’s organic?

Yeah, I mean, that’s why a lot of us love music so much and play it because it helped us get through some hard times; so to see fans in the audience have visceral, emotional reactions to our songs, to hear what people tell us, and the messages they send us, the letters, it’s amazing. It’s such a good feeling to know that you are affecting the world in a positive way, and not in a cynical manner. I like it.

Can you recall one of the most significant testimonials from a fan who reached out?

There’s always a lot of people who reach out to us with friends who are in need of medical help, or addiction-recovery – especially now, and I think those are always the most touching where you’re actually helping somebody in the moment and giving them a chance for healing, like you said, through music.

Your love, simultaneously takes you away from your blood family, but to a whole-nother family, can you talk about how that’s both difficult and satisfying?

Yeah, it’s definitely a sacrifice when you leave your family and leave your wife, or your girlfriend, or boyfriend, or whoever you have at home, waiting for you, and you’re on the road, thousand’s of miles away, typically…

Rivers and roads away.

Yeah, that’s kind of what that song is – why it still resonates so heavily with us, and I think it encapsulates how we feel on the road. Even though at that time we weren’t touring, we were moving across the country, onto different things, but that song is the summary of what this modern life is to everyone I think. Where you strike out on your own, and you have people you come back to – hopefully.

You know I’m one of those. I’m the only one of my blood family living in Michigan, but I have a family here that I built, through music.

Exactly.

What do you miss most about your home, and where is your home?

Richmond, Virginia, and when I leave, I miss my wife, definitely; I miss my cat, I miss my house and all those creature comforts, but I also miss the community there and the music scene, and the food scene, and I worked at restaurants there; so, I have a bunch of friends who are still grinding away in kitchens, and any chance I get to support them and support another creative aspect like that, it’s awesome.

What has surprised you most about the life as a musician? There are expectations, there are hopes, but what has been most surprising?

Most surprising I would say, would be how every band has their own path, and there’s room for everyone; it’s not as much of a competition as you may see from the outside, and it makes it an easier way to get through life. We’re all in this together and tonight’s a good example of that. We’ve got three bands who have never played together before, all sharing one stage and making it work. It all boils down to the love of the music, and love of comradery on the road.

Who is someone you’re grateful for that might not know it?

Probably my middle school band teacher. She was instrumental in getting me to really care about what I’m doing, and not just be another slacker or kid who threw off how important it is to take what you love, and to take what you’re good at and put your effort into it.

Just in case you were listening for one, This is a Good Sound.

 

A year from now we’ll all be gone

All our friends will move away

And they’re going to better places

But our friends will be gone away

Nothing is as it has been

And I miss your face like Hell

And I guess it’s just as well

But I miss your face like Hell

Been talking ’bout the way things change

And my family lives in a different state

And if you don’t know what to make of this

Then we will not relate

So if you don’t know what to make of this

Then we will not relate

Rivers and roads

Rivers and roads

Rivers ’til I reach you

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