Tyler Preston makes his musical debut

Musician to celebrate CD release

Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tyler Preston is a talented musician who is shooting for the stars.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Preston is releasing his first album, "Ragged Claws Under Silent Seas," through his own production company, Northwest Sound Productions. A release party will be held Friday, Nov. 14 at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar.

A solo artist, Preston plays every instrument on the album and sings all his own original songs.

Speaking from his music studio, "the factory," in the Mendenhall Valley, Preston described his music as indie-rock, but thinks his style could be compared with Seattle-based bands Death Cab for Cutie and Pearl Jam.

"I think my music falls somewhere in between that spectrum," Preston said, adding, "It's really hard to define yourself with other artists because everyone is unique."

Preston first played the flute at age 9, but switched to guitar after being teased. He eventually learned the drums, then the piano and synthesizer.

He says he listened to a lot of music while growing up to create his own style.

"What I really listen for are hooks and hearing other artist's influences come through the music, because just like jazz music, rock relies on certain patterns of playing, and ... they are like little threads of common musical heritage that stack up everywhere, and you find them often times in hooks."

His musical influences are many, but he said key groups were Modest Mouse, Tegan and Sarah, and others.

"Modern bands coming out of Portland right now are really interesting to me, but I still have a love for old songwriters - I really like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan."

As for the song he likes best on his album, he said it was a toss-up between "Like Plants in Plastic Cups" and "Heavier Than Heaven, (We Miss You Kurt)." Nirvana was the first band that really resonated with Preston, and he added the second title later in retrospection.

"After writing 'Heavier than Heaven' I realized that a lot of it seems to kind of mirror the angst that Kurt Cobain went through."

His other favorite song, "Like Plants in Plastic Cups (Jesus of the Motel 6)," reflects Preston's Juneau upbringing with lyrics such as "the eagles crying for the salmon dying; everything's connected and everything's frying. Momma don't you worry, I'll still try to be kind."

Preston is a creative writing student at Univesity of Alaska Southeast and a big fan of T.S. Eliot. The album title "Ragged Claws Under Silent Seas" is a line from one of Eliot's poems, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

"I feel like thematically that poem sums up what I was feeling while I was writing the album."

The cover of the album is a screen print from the 1800s by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai called "Great Wave," and Preston was able to use it because it recently became public domain.

"I replaced part of the wave and added a boat with people because I felt that a big wave is not as impressive as a boat of people riding the great wave and surviving; the connotations of that picture and those people riding the wave works with the rest of the album material."

Preston has ridden a lot of personal waves since he began writing songs at 14, but this album didn't take off until he met his manager Sarah Ribeiro.

"It's been on the cooker for a long time. I guess the real cathartic point was when I sat down with my manager, Sarah, and we were kind of riffing around and we said we should really consider doing an album together and trying to make this into a business." he said. "It's blossomed into this huge thing that I could never have envisioned back in March."

Preston hopes this album will show him as a well-rounded artist, showcase his talents and give him a soapbox to stand on, but he's already thinking about his next project.

"This album has been a really personal experience for me, and I don't think it's as politically relevant or socially conscious as I would eventually like to be as an artist."

His songs have been available on iTunes since Nov. 10, and he'll be selling his CDs after his release party, where he'll be playing with The Downsideup, the rhythm section from the Folkin' A's, consisting of Steve Kunz and Alan Nichols.

• Courtney Nelson can be reached at nelsonfamily@acsalaska.net.

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