This post is a bit of a departure from my usual, but I want to share this story to help get the word out about this fantastic musical duo, and to encourage you to listen to them and share their music with all the good people in your own circles. I’ve listened to The Talbott Brothers’ music for over three years now. They chatted with me at shows and granted me an interview by email. I think they have a story worth telling. It’s a story about passion, perseverance, and people connecting to each other through music. It’s a story filled with kindness and compassion, generosity and mindfulness – all the things I’ve written about here during the last few years. Please, read on…
The Talbott Brothers are singer-songwriters, musicians, travelers, and observers of life with a significant stake in it. Their music speaks of universal themes – heartbreak, pursuing a dream, making mistakes, finding strength, believing in love, carrying on – and their musicianship is extraordinary. But their story reaches beyond the music. Their story starts in the heartland and ends in the hearts of their listeners. It’s a story of passion and perseverance, of people connecting to one another, finding joy and hope and belief in the human spirit.
Nick and Tyler Talbott grew up in Imperial, Nebraska – a tiny rural town in the heartland of America. Like many siblings, they didn’t always share the same interests or get along, but one day when Tyler peeked into older brother Nick’s room as Nick played his guitar, Nick stepped aside and offered the microphone to Tyler. On that day, a new bond formed, songs began to flow, and a dream was born. That dream is to play their music for people all across the United States and beyond; to make a living with music and stories from their hearts.
But, how do small-town, rural teens do that? How do you go from the simple life in a farming community to fame and fortune in the music industry when no one in your family or community can even imagine that kind of life for you? How do you chase a dream that feels so right in your bones but is so far down the road that it’s barely on the map? You take the lessons from that simple life – work hard, do good, don’t give up, be grateful – and you pack them in your bags with your guitars, mandolin, and your family’s love, and you start driving down the road.
You go to bigger cities with tiny, dusty stages and two or five or ten people willing to listen to your songs. You book gigs, leverage social media, publish videos on Youtube, create a Kickstarter campaign, play your heart out at every performance, and get to know the people who turn their ears to listen.
Nick and Tyler are doing all that and more. They’ve been on the road for most of the past three years. They even dug up their Nebraska roots and transplanted themselves to the Pacific Northwest to pursue their dream in a bigger town (Portland, OR), where they could book more gigs and play to a broader audience. But the road is still calling, so The Talbott Brothers drive on, night after night, all across the country, introducing audiences to their unique brand of music, words and sounds that define their journey, their dream, themselves.
Their songs of heartbreak and struggle are imbued with hopeful optimism and appreciation for the basic human experience. Their sibling-blood-harmonies create both ache and awe in their listeners. So, far they have released three independent albums: The Road (2013), Places (2015), and Gray (2017) and supported each album with a tour.
The chemistry between Nick and Tyler creates a dynamic musical synergy on stage. Tyler is outgoing, talkative, smiling, the lead vocalist. Nick is quiet, pensive, serious-looking, singing harmonies and playing lead guitar. But every now and then, Nick looks at Tyler and his eyes crinkle as a grin forms dimples in his cheeks. Tyler returns the look and breaks into a full-face smile. In that moment they are one. You can feel the love and respect they share for each other. They get lost in the rhythm and sound of their own making. Their music unites them and their performance wraps the audience up in a warm musical hug.
Their playing is precise, tight, polished. What they create on stage is pure joy in the moment, and their audiences love them for it. As Tyler says, “we write with the purpose of inspiring – pressing on through heartache – we believe in the search for something more than Friday night – why are we here, how did we get to this point in our everyday lives? What really makes 100 years worth it?” Their audiences feel that inspiration in every word sung and every note played.
That kind of magic turns the heads (and ears) of even the most disengaged strangers at a bar. Once, while touring in Texas, Tyler noticed a man sitting with his back to them, working on his laptop as they began their set. After the first song, the man turned around to watch and then began tapping his foot to the music. At the end of the show Tyler went over to talk with the man and found out he was a transient, traveling the US with all his belongings in the backpack that sat beside him. “He was the most joyful man I ever met,” says Tyler. “Traveling to different parts of the country allows us to share in experiences through other people’s eyes. It’s a constant influx of inspiration and adventure that we can’t get enough of.”
Indeed, their fans are their fuel, the energy that keeps them on the road and moving in the direction of their dream. They meet and greet their fans in informal settings before and after every show. It’s not just a cursory “Hi. how are ya?” either. They ask questions and they listen. Nick and Tyler connect with and embrace their fans with grace and humility. They love hearing their fans’ stories, too. But beware… those fan stories, as Tyler warned during a recent show, “sometimes become songs, so be careful what you tell us”. Those fans sometimes become friends, too. “Some of the best friends we have are people we’ve met at performances.
At a recent show at The Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC, a new fan was so moved by Nick and Tyler’s performance that he would let out a loud “Mmmmmph” every few minutes throughout the show. I had to smile every time I heard him, because I’d had a similar reaction the first few times I’d seen them perform.
At that same show, I spoke to a couple other people who were there to see the Talbott Brothers perform for the first time (which was almost everyone in the room but us), and they were so stoked to finally get to see the brothers in person. From my seat in the front row I listened as all these new fans behind and around me sang along to each song. It was then that I knew the road to the Talbott Brothers’ dream was getting shorter.
Tyler says, “the ache of a songwriter is to connect, feel, and belong with his listeners.” Well, mission accomplished. I have no doubt that their listeners belong to them. From standing ovations at the Timberline Music Festival to late night “Sprinter Sessions” on the street after a performance, it’s clear they’ve connected. They’ve made their way from the heartland to the hearts of their fans by being true to themselves, making great music, and creating their dream – one performance at a time.
So, friends, if you like excellent alt/folk/rock music of the sweetest kind, take some time during this holiday season to listen to The Talbott Brothers. Then order a CD, stream their music on Spotify, or watch them on video. Your life will be enriched by listening, and they’ll be further on the way to living their American Dream (song lyrics).
The Talbott Brothers will be on tour again in 2019, so check to see if they’re playing near you, and if they are, go see them. Your heart and soul with thank you.
To see some great photos of their recent show in NC, check out photographer Derek Baker’s blog post here.
“Leave all your worries behind you at the door
We’ll just figure it out as we go down the road…”
-from The Road by The Talbott Brothers
——— A prelude of sorts: Just so you know how I found these guys… ———
I first saw The Talbott Brothers perform on April 2, 2015 in the Black Rabbit Winery at McMenamins Edgefield in Oregon. Their “stage” was around the corner from the tasting room bar, tucked back into the end of a 20-foot long hallway with windows into the barrel room where wine was being aged. There were no more than three 2-seater tables set against each side of the venue and a love seat near the stage. A table at the back of the hallway near the bar held a half-eaten cake from some earlier event. The stage was almost big enough for two stools, a stand for their instruments, a couple of mics, and not much else.
At showtime, younger brother, Tyler, greeted the small crowd with, “We’re the Talbott Brothers, and we’re from Nebraska. Thanks for being here tonight. I don’t think we’ve ever played in a hallway before… but there’s cake!” Everyone laughed and then his voice filled the small space with achingly warm songs of heartbreak and hope, of dreams and struggles and a deep belief in love and life. Nick’s harmonies added a depth to the music, as did their flawless guitar and mandolin playing, and their funny brotherly banter made everyone smile. I left that performance clutching their “The Road” CD and a napkin scribbled with lyrics I didn’t want to forget. I was their newest fan.