Thirty people. One relatively attractive 26-year-old man in a plaid shirt, cuffed jeans, and Toms, sitting under the spotlight. With him, one guitar and a case full of harmonicas.
Over the course of about an hour, singer-songwriter Tyler Lyle serenaded Pomona College students in Doms Lounge the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 29.
You may or may not have seen the table tents advertising this event sponsored by the Pomona Events Committee (PEC) Budget Committee. Here’s how it all happened: Kaya LeGrand PO ’15 first read about Tyler Lyle on the music blog, “I Am Fuel, You Are Friends.” She listened to Lyle’s music, liked it, and decided to write to the e-mail address on his Bandcamp page to ask him to play at Pomona. He responded with a monetary figure. She asked PEC Live Music; their budget wasn’t large enough. She asked the Budget Committee; they decided to pay half of it. Finally, she asked Lyle, and he agreed to play for half.
And thank goodness he did. Raised in the “Deep South,” as he mentioned between songs, Lyle plays acoustic folk-pop accompanied by a guitar, harmonicas, and his own beautiful whistling skills. His lyrics were sincere, and his clear, emotive vocals soared through and filled Doms Lounge. Lyle transformed the room’s atmosphere into that of a cozy coffee shop, unplugging his guitar and backing away from the microphone after the very first song to pull up a chair on the floor and simply play and sing. He gave the place a sacred, honest feeling, which is a feat considering the scene that is PUB every Wednesday night.
Lyle self-released three projects in the last three years and has recently signed with Pulse Recordings. He currently lives in Santa Monica. NPR’s World Cafe named his latest album, “The Golden Age & The Silver Girl,” one of the Top 10 Albums of 2011.
My favorite thing about musicians is their passion. I could see how much Lyle loved music by the way he closed his eyes, arched his foot, or stomped his shoe on the rung of the chair when he sang. It also never hurts to have charisma and inter-song chitchat with the audience. Lyle excelled at establishing these connections, profoundly announcing:
“This song is about being drunk, and maybe being in love. It depends on the audience.”
“I got a degree in philosophy from a not-so-prestigious university and was tired of delivering pizza, so I moved to Paris to find myself. Turns out it’s not very cheap. So I lived that winter on Scotch and reading existentialism … on Wikipedia.”
“I spent my childhood as a Southern Baptist learning that it’s easier to do good than bad, which is military-grade bullshit.”
“So I decided to make this song about a man who has a fetish for prosthetic limbs.”
“You choose: I could either do a life-affirming song about whiskey, sex, and fresh vegetables or a song about burying your wife.”
In the middle of one song, Lyle began playing more quietly and said, “If there were another guitar player up here with me, he’d be playing something right now.”
But instead, Lyle just sat there strumming softly, eyes closed, smiling to himself. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else on stage with him. Lyle was brilliant on his own.
In an e-mail to TSL, Lyle wrote, “My advice for aspiring musicians is this: Study a major that requires you to read a lot of books,” listing Immortality by Milan Kundera, Narcissus and Goldman by Herman Hesse, and Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller as his favorites.
Referring to the show at Pomona, Lyle wrote, “I enjoy playing to smaller groups of people, especially college kids. I remember college as an important time for music discovery and self-discovery (sometimes the same thing), and I feel like I get to tap into a little bit of that when I play at colleges.”
If you are interested in a music discovery yourself (which is, in my opinion, something that is extra-special and super sincere), you can find Tyler Lyle’s music on Spotify, Facebook, or tylerlyle.com. And tune in to our radio station, KSPC 88.7 FM or kspc.org, to hear the CD he graciously donated.