The Rocks Off 200: Tyler Newberry, Head Chef in the Songwriters Kitchen

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Photos by Cody Bess/Courtesy of Tyler Newberry
Who? Tyler Newberry came to our attention exactly one week ago, when he wrote in to the paper, told us he had just released an album and asked if we'd write about him. (See, musicians... it works.) We listened to his album, The Devil Rides a Horse, and discovered he's a thoughtful songwriter with an understated but soulful delivery, whose music wanders hither and yon between alt-country and adult alternative. He's got a pretty interesting backstory too.

Newberry lives in Pearland now but grew up in Memphis, where -- "miraculously," he says -- his parents would drop him off at Ardent, the legendary studio where the likes of Big Star, ZZ Top, R.E.M. and the Replacements all recorded. He wrote his first song in seventh grade and started a band with three home-schooled kids. Their name was Inner Circle and their first gig was at a friend's pool party, Newberry recalls.

"After realizing that the COPS theme song, 'Bad Boys,' was written by a hip-hop group by the name Inner Circle, we changed the name to Still Waters and released our first, self-titled album," he says. "Years later we lost the drummer, but [he] was quickly replaced by Michael Jackson, arriving with obvious and immediate street cred. He was a shorter, blond child, but his name was a winner."

We'll let him tell you about his Songwriters Kitchen project, a very cool idea, himself.

Home Base: Newberry divides his time between Houston and Memphis, which he calls "the lesser-known of the Tennessee music towns." Ha.

Good War Story: "Hmm," he muses. "Falling off the stage, having an opening band knock my guitar off its stand, getting into a car accident on the way to a show, forgetting the words (that's every show), bringing an empty guitar case to the venue, seeing my own record in a Tennessee Goodwill, loaning my first guitar to a fella who tore it to pieces in a drugged-out rage. The list goes on."

Why Do You Stay In Houston? "Having moved from a small community in the Colorado mountains, I'm constantly amazed at the opportunities, not only for musicians, but for any line of work," reasons Newberry. "I'm drawn to the diversity. People from all over the world move to Houston. It says a lot about the openness of this great city."

Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Houston has the songwriters, but not the songwriting gatherings that other music cities have," he says. "That's why I started the Songwriters Kitchen (@songkitchenHTX). It's a gathering of songwriters, for songwriters, to build and grow the craft of songwriting. It's as simple as that.

"There's a bit of a 'lone wolf' mentality in Houston for some musicians," continues Newberry. "The way I see it, if you want to be better at something, hang around people that are better than you. So with Songwriters Kitchen, I just invite better people over to my house, feed them family-style spaghetti, and learn from the best. Look us up on Twitter, shoot us a message, and we'll send you the details."

Learn more about Tyler on the next page.

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