A musician and actor, Tyler Hilton has accomplished a lot in his career so far. As a teenager, he
released two Top 40 singles. He starred alongside Taylor Swift in her video for “Teardrops on my
Guitar.” He played the role of one of his musical idols, Elvis Presley, in the Oscar-winning
Johnny Cash biopic ‘Walk the Line,’ and co-starred with Robert Downey Jr. in the acclaimed
indie film ‘Charlie Bartlett.’ He may be most known for his musical role on the show ‘One Tree
Hill,’ which earned him a devoted fan base around the world.
His new album ‘City On Fire,’ out January 18th 2019, comes from a much more personal place
for the California native, who grew up in a family of musicians and songwriters and spent much
of his childhood performing and jamming alongside of them. Steeped in country, blues, folk and
rock traditions, the album captures the loose, organic musical style that runs in Hilton’s blood.
Hilton remembers trying to explain that style to producers in Nashville as a young songwriter.
“I’d play them my favorite records; Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley,
Townes Van Zandt, Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton,’” he says. “I’d just get blank stares like, ‘So…are you
rock, pop, blues, country…?’ And the answer was always, ‘Yes, all that.’”
It may not have been the easy answer they were looking for, but as Hilton explains, “there’s a
common denominator in all of that music to me. Maybe it’s a feeling of adventure, or rebellion,
or just hearing real people,” he says. “Whatever it is, that’s what my feelings sound like, and
that’s what the music that comes out of me sounds like.”
Hilton recorded the album both in California with bandmate and childhood family friend, Jaco
Caraco, as well as in Tennessee with his former roommate and another longtime collaborator,
Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum. Hilton and Caraco had started recording what was
supposed to be a side project for film and TV soundtracks in their spare time. Hilton was on
hiatus from filming a pilot for CMT, and Caraco was on break from touring in Miley Cyrus’ band.
It was during this time that Kelley called Hilton about working together as well. “I knew this was
rare, to have both of my favorite collaborators available at the same time. It just hit me, this is
way more than a side project.”
That collaborative spirit is in Hilton’s songwriting DNA. He’s written with Taylor Swift and
Michelle Branch, co-wrote on Joe Cocker’s final studio album and is currently in the studio
working on new music with Billy Ray Cyrus.
For Hilton’s new album, the title track and first single, “City On Fire,” was written around the
2016 election, a period where Hilton found himself listening to a lot of traditional folk songs and
western movie scores. “It was strange and comforting to listen to that music during a time of so
much change. Everything seemed to be changing,” he recalls. “And then a good friend of mine
from high school passed away, and all of my friends came together. I sang some songs, we
cried, but mostly we were just left numb and blinking. A lot happened really fast.”
“‘City On Fire’ came out of me really quickly,” he explains. “It was kind of like a dream I should
have had, but instead the images came out as a song, a fully formed murder ballad. It was
eerie, but I think it painted the picture just right. It really felt like the city was on fire and a lot was
being lost very quickly.”
The accompanying music video was directed by Hilton’s wife, Megan Park, who is most
recognizable for her work as an actress (‘Secret Life of the American Teenager,’ ‘Central
Intelligence’) but has recently made waves directing music videos for Billie Eilish, Alina Baraz,
Blackbear, and Gucci Mane. For the video, Park teamed with production company
PRETTYBIRD, the studio behind videos for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Rihanna’s “We Found
Love,” and choreographer Andrew Winghart (‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ Lorde’s
‘Melodrama’ tour, Kahlid’s 2018 tour).