From Kenny Rogers to Miranda Lambert, the Lone Star State has a proud history of producing top-selling country musicians. However, think about the edgier, outlaw side of the genre, and your mind might take you to places like Memphis and Nashville. But digging a little deeper in Texas will yield some dirty gems.
Texas natives Jonathan Tyler and William Clark Green come from the grittier side of the country music tracks. They’re also currently on tour together and are preparing for a co-headlining date in Denver.
Despite the fact that they’ve performed at festivals together over the years, this tour is the first time that the two have found themselves thrust together in close quarters for an extended period of time.
“We really don’t know each other that well yet,” Tyler says. “I’ve run across him over the years of just playing around the alternative-country scene down in Texas and around the country. It’s just a good fit and good timing for it to work out.”
They are fans of each others' music, and their mutual respect hints at the flourishing and supportive alt-country scene in Texas.
“There are lots of bands and a circuit [in Texas],” Tyler says. “It seems like it’s continuing to thrive. I’ve watched a lot of bands come up and grow up in that world. It’s not huge, but it’s definitely big enough to support a healthy scene.”
According to Clark Green, unusually receptive radio stations have a lot to do with the healthy alt-country scene.
“The awesome thing about the scene is that there’s such a respect and willingness to listen to original music,” he says. “A band can start out with songs they write themselves and become successful with them because radio is so prevalent. That’s the biggest blessing: We have a scene that is supported by radio.”
Though they come from the same genre, Tyler and Clark Green's sounds are starkly different. While Tyler’s blends country with rock 'n’ roll, Clark Green's has a more traditional outlaw vibe and even throws in some folk for a mild Tom Waits-y vibe.
"Jonathan is rock ’n’ roll,” Clark Green says. “We’re more in the style of the Texas country scene, doing some folk stuff as well. A lot of what we do is the same; we both have high-energy shows. But each set will definitely have a different flavor.”
“I think we’re both songwriters at the end of the day,” Tyler adds. “That’s where our music all comes from — the idea of writing these songs that you can play on acoustic with a band. Old-school songwriting.”
Tyler has found success in TV placement, an increasingly lucrative aspect of a music industry that isn’t exactly throwing money around anymore. His songs have appeared on Boardwalk Empire, Friday Night Lights and The Good Guys, to name a few.
“It’s definitely a way for artists and songwriters to make money these days,” Tyler says. “You don’t really know it’s happening until it’s on, though. You can’t really count on it.”
Tyler also has three albums out, the most recent being 2015’s Holy Smokes. Meanwhile, Ringling Road is Clark Green’s fourth full-length effort. He feels that over the course of those records, his songwriting has matured. (“Ringling Road,” the title track, showcases his penchant for the unusual, telling the story of a backstage circus/freak-show party.)
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“I feel like I’ve learned a lot, songwriting-wise,” he says. “I feel like our last record was our best, personally. I know that there are fans of ours who have their own personal favorites. I have my own favorite records of bands that aren’t necessarily the newest one. As a fan, I think different than as a musician.”
Both musicians have played festivals and rooms in Denver and greater Colorado before.
“We love what we do,” says Clark Green. “We have a high-energy show. We have a lot of fun on stage. We don’t suffer through the music business to not enjoy the ninety minutes while we’re on stage.”
Jonathan Tyler and William Clark Green play with Elise Davis at 10 p.m. on Thursday, August 18, at the Lost Lake Lounge; 3602 East Colfax Avenue, 303-291-1007; $12-$15.