I fell in love with Tyler Hilton about the same time I wanted to crawl inside my TV screen and kick the crap out of Chris Keller. I am referring, of course, to Tyler’s guest stint on One Tree Hill, playing the egomaniacal, sarcastic, playboy jerk of a musician who talked about himself in the third person. He caused destruction in his wake all over town and then strolled off down the beach in the moonlight. I enjoyed that character most when somebody was giving him a much-deserved punch in the face, but I was still sad to see him go.
After getting formally introduced to Tyler via One Tree Hill, I realized that I had seen him before – he also played Elvis in the mega-blockbuster Walk the Line. (You may also recognize him from Charlie Bartlett.) Hopefully, whether or not you’ve seen his face on the big or small screen, you’ve at least heard his voice, which is svelte (like buttah) with enough gravel to be dead sexy.
Tyler is a hot topic in our office (really hot. heh.) since Kelli and I like to crank up his tunes and swoon. Kelli has always been particularly smitten with him. I mean – she even loved Chris Keller, and as our friend Melissa put it, “Nobody loves Chris Keller. Except Chris Keller.”
You may recall that Kelli and I attempted to go see Tyler in concert back in the summer, when he was set to tour with Better Than Ezra. We were on the ball with getting tickets and booking a hotel down in Norfolk for the weekend, only to learn that Tyler had to drop off the tour. Since then, we’ve been biding our time, knowing that eventually a new tour would come.
What we never imagined was that Tyler Hilton would book one solitary show in the midst of finishing his next album, and that said show would take place – not in New York City, not in L.A., not even in Wilmington – but in Lynchburg, VA.
It seemed too good to be true, so we spent a good deal of time flipping between the Facebook event and Tyler’s website, trying to determine if it was just a cruel practical joke. Even with tickets in hand, it seemed unreal. Finally, that great beacon of hope and purveyor of truth, Twitter, confirmed it all when Tyler tweeted: “Let’s get ready to fly to Virginia! Lynchburg…I’m coming for you.”
Kelli and I had talked about making t-shirts for the occasion since the first Tyler-show-that-wasn’t, so I worked on a few designs. Kelli suggested doing “Team Nathan” and “Team Chris” shirts (you can guess who would wear which one), so I designed this:
With a great Chris-pertinent Nathan Scott quote on the back:
Ultimately, Kelli decided against the t-shirt idea, so it didn’t really make sense for me to do the “Team” thing alone. Hence, I opted for this design (and I put the “Tyler Hilton” on the back with the infamous Chris Keller quote, “Chris Keller’s work here is done.”)
Kelli and I followed Tyler’s tweets with great interest once he got into town. We could gather that he was staying downtown (and it’s not like there are a lot of options to choose from, but we’re not stalkers or anything). It did just so happen that we were spending the day downtown at one of our favorite places, The Parlor Spa, getting facials, pedicures, and massages in celebration of Kelli’s birthday (which was a few weeks ago). We did send Tyler a Twitter invitation to come down to the spa, but alas, he was a no-show.
After we left the spa, we each went home to wash all the oils off, and then we met back up and went to pick up the third member of our merry party – another OTH-watcher and Chris Keller-hater, Melissa.
We arrived at Lynchburg College quite early, to make sure that we were the first ones in line. Arriving at the same time was a college student from Roanoke named Ali, so we were happy to welcome her into our group:
We waited and waited…and waited. The doors opened promptly at 6:30 (small miracles, people) and we trucked right on over to the front of the stage. Front. And. Center.
The opening act was a local(ish) musician named Dane Ferguson, who was entertaining and personable. This seems like a good place to interject that I hate it (HAAAATE IT) when people yammer through the opening act (or any act, for that matter). I get annoyed when people talk through movies, too, but at least then, the actors can’t hear you being rude and disrespectful. Not so for musicians. But ANYWAY. Dane played a good set and got the audience to (shut up long enough to) sing along with a few covers along the way. I could see the set list from where I was standing, and had jokingly said, “Hey, you skipped a few!” when he played the songs out of order. Shortly thereafter, a young girl tapped me on the shoulder to ask if “She Knows” was on the playlist. It wasn’t, and she looked heart-broken about it. It turns out she was his sister, and so we all threw our lot in with her to request it. He did not seem keen on the idea (you know every musician has at least one song they hate to play), but he acquiesced for his “baby sister.” (Awwww.)
During the break after Dane left the stage, we realized that Tyler’s set list was also on stage, and if I leaned over juuuust far enough and snapped a photo at just the right angle, I could zoom in on my viewfinder to look at it. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
Kelli’s favorite, “Missing You” – check!
My favorite, “When It Comes” – check!
And lots of other great songs, too. He came out full throttle with “Tore the Line,” a song I’ve never been able to help singing and dancing along to whenever I hear it. We were so close. Like spit-range close. A little too close for picture-taking, but great for viewing! I did manage to snag some pretty decent pictures, anyway.
Tyler was very personable, joking with the crowd between songs and telling stories. At one point, mid-story, he stopped suddenly and his eyes lit up with a big smile. I realized from his gaze that he had spotted my shirt. He laughed and said, “I like that!” and told the crowd that it said “Keller for President – nah, I’m just kidding, it doesn’t say that.” I was beyond thrilled that he liked it – because, obviously, I made it in support of him, but also, I’m glad he still appreciates Chris Keller. Probably 90% of the audience there knew about Chris Keller before they knew about Tyler Hilton, and he has managed to hang on to all those fans when he hasn’t been a Tree Hill regular for over four years, save a one-episode appearance in season 4 (which was still three years ago). Then again, we OTH fans have always been intense about our music.
About midway through Tyler’s set, his band took a break and he pulled over a stool to play a few songs acoustically. A girl yelled out “When the Stars Go Blue,” and he said he’d sing it if she came onstage to sing Joy’s part. After a few moments of what I’m assuming was shock and disbelief, she pulled herself up onstage to sing the song. She was in full freak-out mode – really excited – not that I blame her. She was, however, the level of excited where she will probably be embarrassed to see any videos that her friends may have captured of the moment. She first started looking out at the crowd, pleading, “What’s the first line? What are the words?” Kelli pointed at me and said, “You should direct all your Ryan Adams-related inquiries right over there.” So, I slowly told her every line to the first verse, and she seemed grateful. When the song was over, she wanted a picture, so Tyler handed her his other guitar and suggested they strike a pose:
Then, he sat back down on his stool and played a few more ballads, including Ali’s request, “I Believe in You.” I was glad she asked for that one, because I do really love that song, and it wasn’t on his list. It took him a few minutes of fidgeting and singing to the side of the mic before he found the right key. I’m sure moments like that are terribly awkward for musicians, but I love them. There’s a lot of value in a set list – those are the songs the band has actually practiced! Especially in this instance, Tyler isn’t actually on tour, it was an isolated show, and he’s been in the studio for months on end recording new songs and certainly not singing the old ones. Still, when an artist is willing to reveal the imperfections to play a special request, I admire them for it. Once he found the right key, the song was perfect, anyway.
Melissa shared a few of her pictures with me, too, so you can see a different angle of Tyler!
When he finished up, he announced that he was going over to the merch table, so to come and say hello! This was great news, since it meant we got to actually meet him – and I had something to give him, too. While we were waiting in line, I saw Dane over to the side so I went to talk to him, to let him know I enjoyed his performance and that he should listen to his sister more often, because that song was great!
It didn’t take long to make it up to Tyler, and naturally he remembered me by my shirt, which he insisted on signing. I obliged him, of course!
The event coordinators had put the kibosh on picture-taking. We could take pictures as he was signing whatever, but no posed pictures (in order to keep the line moving). Kelli told Tyler about the Norfolk show debacle, and he asked us to hang around for a bit until he got through the line.
We did, and I spent the time chatting with my old friend Amanda (who graduated high school with me and recently reconnected with me at Levi Weaver’s Lynchburg show). She is also a big One Tree Hill and Tyler Hilton fan, and she had some friends along with her that were all very nice and funny. Her hubby regaled me with tales of meeting Paul Johansson when they went down to Wilmington, and made me super jealous. (I looooooove Evil Dan Scott.)
Before long, Tyler did come over, ready to chit chat and take photos. Someone asked if he’d go back on OTH (because I’m pretty sure he’s got a standing invitation), and he said he’d definitely like to return for the finale, whenever that may be. He said he loves going down and filming episodes, but when he goes, he gets so wrapped up in it that he doesn’t want to leave, and therefore he doesn’t do anything else (i.e. his primary career as a musician). Hence why the last time Mark Schwahn invited him back on the show, he famously replied, “Chris Keller needs to focus on his music.”
We talked about Glee and “Bob’s Green Hut” (which was hilarious beyond what I can convey in a blog) and I told him he missed out on his massage. He replied, “Oh! Was that you?!” and lamented that he didn’t have time. Putting two and two together, he asked, “So, which one of you tweeted that you were going to wash all the oils off to come to my show?” Unfortunately *blush*, that was me. (Of course it was me.)
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with Mr. Hilton. Not because I expected little from him, but because he delivered beyond my expectations. He was funny and personable and his performance was off the charts. The fact that he went above and beyond to hang around and talk to us and take pictures just sealed the deal.
I cannot wait for his new album to come out (because “So Young” has been in my head all week and I can’t actually LISTEN to it), and I hope to see him on tour again very soon.