Having relocated to Panama City six years ago as part of a marketing career, Tyler James soon found himself leaving the position he had uprooted his family for, as well as pursuing a full-time career performing live music on stages big and small throughout Northwest Florida. With his service dog, Gorgeous George by his side Tyler and his rotating cast of band members have played hundreds of shows in several music venues. James and his band opened for J.J. Grey recently at an event organized by Destination Panama City. He is in the process of planning an album with his band and gives one of the most dynamic performances in the area. His passion for his family and his music shine through with every performance and each show is unique and powerful.
Ashley Feller: What’s the latest in your musical journey?
Tyler James: Well, we just booked a festival for, Shreveport, Louisiana for October. We’re always working on writing and all of that. The band is all kind of finally clicking into place now. And so now we’re really gonna start working hard on getting the album written and recorded. Most of it’s written, it just needs everybody’s a little spice. I always say songs are like a gumbo, everybody’s got to put their flavor in there, put a little spice in it. Put a little bit of this, a little bit of that, Make it all work together. Because with me, I’m just the rice. I’m just the bland rice at the bottom of it. These guys are the ones that bring all the good stuff in it.
Ashley Feller: Fantastic. So who’s in the band and what’s the instrumentation?
Tyler James: So we got Matt May, he was playing drums and he and I were playing as a duo of four or five nights a week. You can always catch us playing together. And then, Derek Blackman Jr on bass. He’s been playing with me off and on for a couple of years now. He’s moved down to Panama City permanently. He was living in Georgia and driving down here to play shows and then drive straight back as soon as we were done. It was insane, but now he’s down here. So we’re working on a lot more trio shows.
We just played in Carrabelle. Had a good time at that. That’s my two main guys, my main trio right there. Sometimes we bring in a couple of other guys, like Dominic Boston on keyboards. Phew! my little roster I could go on for like an entire day, just on musicians that come and play with me on occasion.
Ashley Feller: I saw you not too long ago, with your drummer I think you were playing some King Harvest. I was impressed.
Tyler James: What are we doing? King Harvest? I’m really terrible about not putting set lists together and whatnot I just kind of pull from a massive list of songs and then at the end of the night, I’m like, what did we even play?
Ashley Feller: So if I remember right, you got to open for JJ Grey since our last interview, what was that experience like?
Tyler James: It was a lot of fun. That was the first big band that I got to put together since I’ve been down here in Panama City. So that side of it was a lot of fun. We had let’s see, I’ll list off everybody. Wesley Best, playing drums. Of course, Derek was playing bass with me, Dominic on keyboards, Matt Siegel of A Brother’s Revival on guitar, Chris Woods on rhythm guitar, and Emma Woods, with backup vocals. Chris was also singing backup vocals as well. So pretty big band, and it was a lot of fun, all the rehearsals leading up to it and really. You know, putting a show together for that, was awesome. Of course, the show itself was amazing and got to talk to JJ for a little bit when we first got there for load-in and soundcheck he’s a super nice guy. It was very cool. Very down to earth. told us some pretty funny stories. You know how shows go, it’s like all the work leading up to it and then it’s gone.
Ashley Feller: Ain’t that the truth? You’re over before you start. So for those who haven’t seen you perform, they might not know that you’re often accompanied by Gorgeous George onstage. What’s the story on Gorgeous George?
Tyler James: So George is my service dog actually. We got him as a foster. My wife had found him through the Heartland Rescue Ranch. Nobody would take him because he had mange really bad. He had no hair on him at all. He was all swollen, scabby, and disgusting.
My wife shows me pictures of him. I’m like, yeah, he’s cute, but we don’t need another dog. We got enough dogs. We don’t need anymore. We got stuff going on. That’s my opinion, but do whatever you want to do. Right? I’m always going to support her choice when it comes to that stuff.
So I go out of town for a couple of days to play some shows… come home and this like gross little meatball is in the kennel. Everybody is asleep. Cause I get home late, of course. So I opened the kennel and we just clicked immediately. So I started working with him and training him and all that. I noticed that when I would play, he would just come and lay down next to me whenever I was playing at home. So, after he kept doing it. It didn’t matter what I was playing, I’d get on my drum set and he would come and lay down in there and he just wanted to be around me. So, I started training him more and then took him out to the show to just see what happens. He just hangs out. He goes to sleep. That part doesn’t was no training at all. The rest of it, of course, is a lot of work. He just likes being around the music. In fact, we went to Moseys opening weekend and he was dragging me inside to go listen to the band because he didn’t want to stay outside. He wanted to get in there and hear the music.
Ashley Feller: So he’s absolutely the coolest dog in town. To see him now, he’s very handsome and very sweet.
Tyler James: Yes. Well, they had named him Sloth at the, at the rescue and I’m assuming because he’s a slow kind of lazy guy. I mean, as much as I love that Goonies character Sloth…He’s kind of an ugly dude, I don’t want to name an ugly dog an ugly dude’s name. So Gorgeous George grew into it. And now he’s like this muscly gorgeous dog, just like the wrestler of the same name. So he grew into it.
Ashley Feller: So another big part of your performance is that you incorporate the loop pedal. For our gear nerds out there. What kind of Looper do you use right now?
Tyler James: I use the Ditto XIV and I’ve had it for two or three years now. I really liked that pedal a lot. I’ve played with some of the other ones. I know there’s pedals that can do a lot more than that one can, but I’m not that deep. I lay down the guitar tracks and then depending on if I’m playing solo, sometimes I incorporate a little mini drum set, then I’ll add that into it as well. But, I’m not using a lot of effects and stuff with the looper pedals. I’ve played with the RC 300, I think it is the boss one. And, it’s neat. It’s got a lot of bells and whistles to it, but I liked the simplicity of the XIV So that’s a great pedal.
Ashley Feller: You mentioned you’ve got an album in the works and recording and that process, aside from that, what are your creative intentions for the
Tyler James: Just trying to really hone in on my skill overall. I played up at Maggie’s Musical Farm recently. They did a song right around afterwards. We played all my original stuff and then I sat back and listened to all these folks, play their music and, I was just like, I’m so glad that y’all didn’t play before me because I would have just said, no, I’m no good. You know? It was just seeing the imagery in their lyrics. The finesse in their fingertips and they’re playing and all that. I realized like, man, I’m like garbage. I know that I’m not… but it’s like when you hear somebody that’s on that next level. You’re just like, man, okay… time to work. It’s time to get back to work. So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m back in the woodshed. Let’s extend the skills. Let’s work on it. Let’s get better. My dynamics need work. My finesse. I need to get that touch.
Ashley Feller: How do you balance your professional life with your family life?
Tyler James: Well, I’m very lucky that my wife is an artist and we homeschool our kids. We’re home all day with the kids and then I’m out the door, usually around four. So, five days a week I miss out on dinner and putting the kids to bed but, I get the entire day with them and I take two days a week off. Especially this time of year, we try to have a water day every single week. So we’ll go either out to the beach or up to the springs, which is the only reason I know where Maggie’s is. Cause we go to Pitt and Sylvan (springs) all the time and it’s right there. You know, a kayaking trip, paddle boarding, surfing, anything we can do to get out and enjoy it. I don’t even think of it as a balance because it’s not even a balance. It’s just life. We wake up every day, we’re together all day long. I go out and play my shows, come back. We do it again the next day. It works.
Ashley Feller: So what’s something that you wish the public knew about the life of creative that’s often misunderstood?
Tyler James: The the ebbs and flows of your emotional state. I guess you know how much it does control your mind and everything. That one day you’re on top and feeling like you just crushed it… you’re riding high. And then, the very next day, you’re just like, I am garbage. Like, there is no reason. I don’t know why people pay me to do this. It doesn’t make sense. I think it’s the mind of a creative in general. Musician, artist, or whatever. I think we all kind of go through that. Because creativity is such an emotional investment, whether it be music, art, or anything, you’re putting a piece of yourself into what you’re doing every time. It all becomes an emotional roller coaster and going through it. Most of the time it’s great. But you get those times where you’re just like, I want to hang it up. Can’t do it. Can’t do it anymore. But I typically stay on the high side of it.
Ashley Feller: That’s the way to be. Because that imposter syndrome is real.
Tyler James: Yes. Oh my gosh. Big time. I think what helps me a lot is, doing shows with Matt on stage. Being up there by myself with George, of course, it’s hard to laugh at those hard times on stage, you’re just ripping it and then you get done with the song and you’re feeling great, but all you hear is plates hitting the table and forks in the desert, you know, it’s like you get nothing. When you’re there just by yourself, you just have to take that, you know, that’s it. At least having somebody else on stage with me, I can turn and just like, we can laugh about it, you know? It’s much easier to deflect that kind of stuff. So I think for me because I’ve been doing so much solo stuff since I’ve been here, I’ve always played in bands back in Louisiana. I never did any solo music. I was always in a band. It’s been a weird experience to be solo for so long. So it’s great to have a buddy on stage with me. We can joke around and just have fun, whether it’s a good night or a bad night we have fun. So it’s cool.
Ashley Feller: You play a lot in St. Andrew’s, what do you love about it?
Tyler James: The vibe. I think we noticed straight away when we moved here six years ago. It was always very artsy and creative. Like our tribe, they just kind of worked with our vibe as well. So we were just immediately drawn here. I guess the coolest thing is that I met Melissa Bowman at Little Village. She was the first musician that I met here, and then that’s when she and her husband, Sam are the ones that got me pushed out to be able to play music full time for a living and support my family doing it. So St. Andrews gave me that. So that’s pretty awesome.
Tyler James is performing July 18th at Monday Night Little Fest at The Taproom in Historic St. Andrews. Tyler also performs every Wednesday at Peddler’s Pavillion in Sea Crest Beach Fl 6pm.
Follow Tyler James on social media at @TylerJamesRocks
Check out his wife Kelsi’s artwork at @bohemianfunk850