"The songwriting is of a quality that the like of Ryan Adams and Jackson Browne would struggle to match. This is beautiful, heartfelt and honest music that is performed with a conviction and passion that is simply irresistible. Straight from the start you are in no doubt that you are listening to something very special." The Music Critic UK
Born in Lander, WY and raised in Oregon, Tyler Stenson is a bold, lyric-first singer/songwriter in Portland that draws a profound influence from his roots in the humble West. Raised a vocalist by his musical mother and a perfectionist by his father the architect, Stenson's unique brand of "Elegant Folk" music is the fitting result of his upbringing -- wildly creative but ever wrangled by his maniacal attention to detail and the desire to design things differently.
"As long as there has been a song, I've felt it in my bones. It was a gift from my dear mother and her father who passed on -- yes, a long line of the Music Makers and of Soldiers for the Muse."
Tyler Stenson -- Fight 'til Dying Day
As front man and songwriter for his former bands Lander and Rhetoric Tuesday, Stenson played the Northwest college circuit throughout the early 2000s with great success. However, often unfulfilled by the beer soaked bars and bent upon highlighting his poignant lyrics that were too often shadowed by noise, he soon put band-oriented rock-n-roll to rest and tackled the burgeoning Portland scene in 2007 as a solo artist -- it was the best decision he would ever make.
Now, twice named the "Songwriter of the Year" by the Portland Songwriters Association (2007 and 2008) and "Best Male Artist" at the 2011 Portland Music Awards, Stenson's authentic ways have been well received, as he's become one of the premiere singer/songwriters in Portland. In fact, having posted near-capacity numbers at some of Portland's finest venues including The Aladdin Theater, Mississippi Studios, The Alberta Rose Theatre, Doug Fir Lounge and Lola's Room at The Crystal Ballroom, he has earned invitations to perform on OPB's Live Wire! Radio Show, for Lance Armstrong and his Live Strong Fundraiser at the Nike World Headquarters and has opened for Chris Isaak at The Oregon Zoo.
While Stenson has achieved much in the local trenches, he's also a contender on the national stage. With songs landed on two separate national Chevrolet commercials and a handful of others placed on Internationally televised shows, he's toured the four corners of America, as well as, spent nearly two years as a singer/songwriter in Nashville, learning from the best -- all the while touring and building.
Now back in Portland via Tennessee, Stenson continues to press forward with a broadened sense of self and an unshakable belief in his own abilities to plot his own path. A fearless recording artist, he will be self-releasing his 10th album, Some Days I’m a Lion, in October of 2012.
In an age where thoughtful lyric has taken a backseat to hyper production, Stenson has learned one thing through his decade of experiences and performances at notable venues such as the legendary Bluebird Cafe in Nashville and The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles: Lyric is King -- Stenson's music is just that -- words paired with notes that sum up the human existence and endlessly inspire the train of followers that find a piece of themselves in the sincerity of his words.
"Don't whisper softly the things that you want loudly to be."
Tyler Stenson -- Whistle Stop
Tyler Stenson - songwriter. guitar. harmonica. piano. voice and words.
Though the solo set is a powerful staple, an a la carte backing band is available upon request:
Birger Olsen: mandolin, slide, guitar
Joshua Stewart: drums, percussion
Jimmy Prescott: upright bass
Anna Tivel: violin
Jake Oken-Berg: piano/organ
LP - Some Days I'm a Lion (2012)
LP - Another Gleam (2011)
EP - Long Before the Wheel (2010)
LP - Bittersweet Parade (2010)
LP - See That Gleam (2008)
LP - Lander live at Mississippi Studios (2007)
LP - Orange Chrome Sky (2006)
LP - Moose Lodge Sessions (2004)
LP - The Low Ceiling (2002)
LP - Princess Willy (2000)
This Too Shall Pass
Leaves Blow By
Best Laid Plans
Great Man's Funeral
Welcome the Change
Babysitting the Cowboy
"Songwriter of the Year"
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Twice-named Portland's "Songwriter of the Year" in both 2007 and 2008. No other songwriter has recei...Twice-named Portland's "Songwriter of the Year" in both 2007 and 2008. No other songwriter has received this recognition more than once.
"Best Male Artist"
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Tyler Stenson was named the "Best Male Artist" at the 2011 Portland Music Awards. 100,000 votes were...Tyler Stenson was named the "Best Male Artist" at the 2011 Portland Music Awards. 100,000 votes were collected and the results were unanimous.
Tyler Stenson Friday, Sept. 11
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“Music is now the focus and the purpose of my days,” announces Tyler Stenson, who recently quit his ...“Music is now the focus and the purpose of my days,” announces Tyler Stenson, who recently quit his day job selling wallets for DB Clay. But eking a living out of song isn’t always easy: It can translate into gigs at the Buffalo Gap or in private living rooms; playing weddings or in songwriting contests. Like every other artist toiling in this economy, Stenson plays where he’s asked to.
Lander, Wyo., was Stenson’s birthplace and the name of his first band (Lander). Raised a vocalist by his mom, he moved to Oregon in grade school and picked up his first guitar his senior year at West Linn High, eventually crafting a style he refers to as “three chords and the truth.” It’s straightforward but smart: While the acoustic guitar sits shotgun, navigating calmly, Stenson’s rich lyrics grip the wheel: white-knuckled with swollen, natural imagery and stark confessions.
Though he claims decidedly un-hip influences like Garth Brooks and Josh Ritter, Stenson draws equal strength from pen bearers like Edgar Allan Poe and Jon Krakauer. One hears the literary influence on “Nameless Beautiful,” in which Stenson sings: “You are above this serenade/ And these words I’m writing are cheating as we speak.” He’s twice been named the Portland Songwriters Association’s songwriter of the year.
Stenson is currently constructing his second solo album at 8 Ball Studio. “It’s stripped down with a stand-alone feel,” he says. “I don’t want instant gratification. Listeners have to be invested.”
Fearing no metaphor and drawn instinctively to the bright flame of the American West, Stenson is a fire builder. He pits soft Americana against tender, billowy pop until it sparks, fanning the flame with his gusty, crackling vocals for warmth. Tracks like “Nameless Beautiful” and “Gravity” may have come straight from the second, albeit imaginary, disc of the Counting Crows’ 1994 breakout August and Everything After.
Come October, Stenson will head to Nashville, Tenn. Lassoing a dream is rarely a simple, rational toss, but Stenson says he’s leaving to flourish in a songwriter’s mecca. The troubadour says farewell to Portland—the city that armed him with the courage to follow his dream—on Sept. 11 alongside a host of local singer-songwriters, but the move may not be for good. He’d prefer we call this his “wish me luck, we’ll see how this goes” show.
Competing with His Words
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A year ago Tyler Stenson sold screen-printed leather wallets with a company he owned with his brothe...A year ago Tyler Stenson sold screen-printed leather wallets with a company he owned with his brother. Now the 27 year old is hoping to have his own wallet just thick enough to support his full-time music career.
A singer-songwriter, Stenson will compete Feb. 19 to become Portland’s Songwriter of the Year, a title he’s held for the past two consecutive years. The contest – put on by the Portland Songwriters Association – is based on melody, lyrics and song structure – all things this guitarist has been perfecting for 10 years.
“I have yet to write an emotionally generic song. My (songs) are biographical to a fault,” said Stenson, a graduate of West Linn High School. “My friends say (that) if you listen to my catalog from start to finish you can tell who I was dating and where I was living. … My mom even listens to my stuff to keep tabs on me.”
Stenson describes his music as lyrically-driven, eloquent Americana.
“I don’t claim to be overly deep or poetic,” he said. “I’m just saying simple things in unique ways.”
And the local music community has taken note. When performing around Portland, Stenson is known for his uncomplicated yet sophisticated stage presence – himself, a stool, a guitar and large screen displaying his song lyrics.
“It’s like reading an album jacket,” he said.
His latest mellow CD, “See That Gleam,” is appropriately titled after the silver lining that shines from every downpour in life.
“‘Cause the water looked like cellophane reflecting stars back into space / Your eyes look that way to me,” he sings on the melodic lullaby Cellophane. “Look there / See that gleam? / It’s the sun and your eyes the beam / All out streams rise off your face and / All I see is all your lace.”
More than making people bob their heads to the beat, Stenson said he hopes his music makes people think.
West Linn resident Kelsey Watters went to high school with Stenson and has followed his career for years.
“I was just listening to him last night,” she said. “I’ve been humming all day. I love local music and acoustic talent.”
Stenson’s tune, “Babysitting the Cowboy,” is a throwback to his upbringing Lander, Wyoming: “My memories are a series of backyard cul-de-sacs / That smell of fresh cut grass and juniper / Wyoming sunsets burned and / Crickets sand their hearts as the sky turned orange / And mother called us in from the day.”
Stenson says his biggest musical influence is his mom – whose singing and piano playing would wake him up on Saturday mornings as a child – before Garth Brooks gave him “that itch to really be a singer.” At WLHS, Stenson volunteered as an outdoor school counselor for the middle schools and sat in awe when “Mr. Costa played guitar around the campfire.”
“I looked at him and thought that was really cool,” he said.
But he said he doesn’t want to emulate anybody else musically. He takes his original music seriously, and that’s why he became a full-time musician last October.
“I’ve achieved more in the past four months than I have in the last eight years,” he said. “It’s a huge step. It means I finally have time to do everything I should have been doing.”
Four of his CDs are for sale at www.CDBaby.com/tylerstenson, also a place for fans to post comments after listening to the album. Someday Stenson hopes to take his live shows to a more personal level, hosting “boutique private performances,” or in other words, performing in front of a seated audience in people’s living rooms.
“My goal is to not play 300 shows a year,” he said. “My goal is not to be on MTV as a superstar. I want to be timeless, endlessly respected – historic.”
Someone like James Taylor, he said.
“In someone’s house they leave shaking my hand with my CD and getting to know me as a person,” he said. “It’s more intimate.”
Stenson shares his soul through his music and hopes those listening can learn something about themselves in the process.
“If you sit down and listen to my songs I sound overly deep, but I am just a guy. I love to laugh with my buddies and drink pitchers of beer and just kind of be a dude,” he said smiling.
He continued, “I don’t consider myself a musician. My guitar is like fourth on my skill list. I’m not doing anything on guitar that hasn’t been done. But it’s my lyrics and stories (that are unique).”
To learn more about Tyler Stenson, purchase songs and book him for gigs visit http://www.tylerstenson.com/.
3 Chords and the Truth
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Three Chords and the Truth Tyler Stenson finds his voice Richard D. Oxley Vanguard Staff Publi...Three Chords and the Truth
Tyler Stenson finds his voice
Richard D. Oxley
Published: Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Tyler Stenson moved to Portland at a young age, though all his life he has carried with him what he calls “the Wyoming way,” a holdover from the place of his birth. Listening to his music, one can hear this Wyoming posture through his organic Americana sound.
Singing had always been a part of Stenson’s life, though his path with the guitar only started in 1999, when he picked up a few chords. These days, Stenson and his guitar can be found all over Portland, spreading his sound. Stenson was generous enough to give the Vanguard a few words on his musical world.
Richard D. Oxley: Is there a style you aim for?
Tyler Stenson: My goal is to write music that is authentic, heartfelt and human—I'd rather put a lump in your throat than make you tap your toe. The artists that I'm personally drawn to are saying something accessible but in uniquely poetic ways—interesting vocabulary, word order, phrasing, etc.—and I strive to model that. In the end, I want my music to be timeless and personal, and I find this inherently surfaces in "rootsy" acoustic songs.
RO: How many recordings do you officially have under your belt so far?
TS: Technically, I've recorded six albums but only four are available. I plan on releasing one of the unreleased albums as soon as I can afford it but, with a smile, I plan on never releasing the other.
RO: Why won’t you release that album?
TS: Oh, quite simply, it is my first album that only my family and closest friends get to hear. I smile because it takes me back to that era in my life when I had just learned the guitar and written my first couple songs. Very vintage, haha. Every step is a learning experience, but this is definitely the most novice album of the bunch. I may be my own harshest critic, but it's not worth the monetary investment to see it through to a public release.
RO: Any plans to record further?
TS: Absolutely. I have my seventh album mostly written and ready to start recording, however, this portion of the music industry is a financial dance. As an independent artist I am more prolific than my pocketbook allows. Writing songs is one thing, but when it comes to recording and releasing albums, I am at the mercy of my finances.
RO: Any venues you have played that you prefer or enjoyed more than others?
TS: My favorite venues in Portland (that I've played) are Mississippi Studios, Artichoke Music, Lola's Room and Doug Fir. These are places that people pay to see a concert and they act accordingly. Of course I love my Buffalo Gap and Macadam's Bar and Grill, but, with my intimate style, I'm a sucker for a captive audience and the "concert" venues that suit me, my ideal situation and where my music is heading.
RO: How important are lyrics to you as opposed to their musical counterpart?
TS: I've said it before but I write under the mantra of "three chords and the truth." My guitar progressions and various movements generally surface within one day but my lyrics safely spend years on the brain before becoming official. In my eyes, I'm not doing anything on my guitar that hasn't already been done, but I'd like to believe my lyrics (and the care I give them) are my unique ingredient that keeps my crowds growing and coming back for more.
RO: When considering the context of your songs, are they fictional, biographical, issue-themed, etc? Do you like to write story-based songs, or more poetic?
TS: I pride myself on the fact that I've never written an emotionally generic song ... meaning, I don't write something if I don't mean it. If it didn't actually happen, it doesn't get mentioned. I don't write about heartache if my heart is whole. I don't write about losing my job if I'm employed. I don't write about being in love if I'm not.
This may back me into a corner someday, but for now, all of my music is a heightened reality—actual events, actual people, actual quotes. Some would say it is biographical to a fault.
RO: Musically, are there any artists that you draw from or are influenced by?
TS: I tend to wear my influences on my sleeve to a fault. In the past when I had musicians that I adored, I started to write like them, sound like them, etc. These days, I've pulled away from being a music listener and have adopted my role as a music maker. I've found the less I listen to other artists, the more true to myself I can be.
That said, I'm not living under a rock and I can still enjoy an album from time to time. I've been influenced by James Taylor, Josh Ritter, Adam Duritz [Counting Crows], Jason Ross [Seven Mary Three], Damien Rice, Bob Dylan, Garth Brooks, Ryan Adams....
RO: If you could team up with any artist dead or living, who would it be?
TS: Josh Ritter. I've always admired his style and his career path. I like that he has balanced poetry and accessibility. I like his brand. I like his venue choices. I like his timeless approach and his obvious love for his music and profession. "I'm singing for the love of it; have mercy on the man that sings to be adored."
RO: If there were a sandwich made in honor of Tyler Stenson, what would it be called and what would it be made out of?
TS: This is a difficult question to answer considering I'm clinically insane when it comes to French dip sandwiches. It has been described as a nervous tick (by my friends) ... If I go to a restaurant and see French dip on the menu, I don't need to look any further.
That said, I would be made of red meat, cheese, onion and something involving garlic. They would call it the "Look No Further Dip."
Interview with Tyler Stenson
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Thinking about a "singer/songwriter"... I picture someone sitting on a barstool with a guitar, pouri...Thinking about a "singer/songwriter"... I picture someone sitting on a barstool with a guitar, pouring his life experience into a microphone. This pretty much defines Tyler Stenson. He's been making noise in our town for some time now with great success and we finally caught up with our Performing Songwriter of the Year to ask him a few questions.
Singer/Songwriter Tyler Stenson - Portland, Oregon
Born in Wyoming (yes, people live there), he's a self-described cowboy... only he happened to win the Portland Songwriter's Association Performing Songwriter of the Year, twice (2007 & 2008). With the recent release of his new record "See That Gleam", he's shown himself to be one of Portland's great musical talents.
We spoke with him and got the lowdown on how he got started musically, where he's headed, and what life was like prior to moving to such a diverse, music-rich scene.
PC: "You describe yourself as a cowboy. How did growing up in Wyoming shape your songwriting? What kind of influences did you have growing up?
Tyler: "When I call myself a cowboy, I make no claim of owning livestock, land or knowing the first thing about shoeing a horse. It simply means I'm in love with the west. I'm in love with the idea of a simpler time, rivers, campfires, dust, landscapes, struggle and grit. Growing up in Wyoming means I never knew the city until later in life... I like to think it crafted an old soul inside of me and I try to let that shine in my writing. As it says in my bio, I like to picture myself as an old gruff Midwestern poet, rocking in my rickety chair on the front porch and looking out over my fields as I write.
I suppose growing up in Wyoming taught me to slow down and to keep things simple and true. The state has the lowest population in the union and the most land per capita so I think it's safe to say my influences are my memories, the landscapes, nature and the simplistic spirit of the west."
PC: "How does that compare to life in Portland & what influences do you have today?"
Tyler: "Cowboys speak simply. Portland no doubt brought out the artist inside of me and drove me to eloquence. Living in the city has me looking back and reflecting on those simpler times with perspective and romance. Life in Wyoming gave me a pool of experiences to draw from but now the city has me putting those thoughts together in abstract and creative ways. Portland is a breeding ground for creatives and those that think outside the box- I like to believe that it's the fine-tuned elegance behind my simple craft. "
PC: "How old were you when you picked up your first guitar? Was that before or after you wrote your first song?"
Tyler: "I have been singing my entire life. Thanks to my mother, music is deep in my bones and rich in my blood. As long as I can remember she's had me buried in the music (in one form or another) and she was no doubt the first to acknowledge my voice and grow my confidence.
At some point I started believing my mom when she said I could sing, but since I wasn't in choir, my voice was useless without accompaniment- a cappella in my bedroom had no appeal; therefore, my senior year of high school (18) I picked up a guitar and started teaching myself basic chords with the hopes that my guitar skills would one day match my voice. It was four chords later when I decided to tackle my first song... Her Song. I wrote it in the Spring of 2000 and have been hopelessly addicted to the craft ever since.
PC: "Congratulations on winning the Portland Songwriter's Association Performing Songwriter of the Year again. What was this experience like, both being surrounded by talented songwriters and being chosen as the favorite?"
Tyler: "The best word to describe winning the PSA Songwriter of the Year is pure validation. The music I write is deep, highly personal and easy to ignore in a crowded bar because it requires your attention. I've always believed my writing was strong but it's easy to get down on yourself when you're talking to the walls. The shows I was playing were at loud and rowdy bars that required X amount of cover songs and upbeat "dancing" music- both are pretty foreign concepts to my nature. I had fans and people that believed in MY music and MY albums but they were few and far between at midnight in a party town. My original music wasn't cutting through and it was discouraging to say the least. I questioned if I was the only one that could appreciate my craft and the thought that went into each song. I questioned my talent, my style, my stage presence and every other element that makes up a successful performer. I was deflated when I stepped on stage at the PSA competition because if history was any guide, they would ignore me too. The pool of performers was highly talented and intimidating and (as the last to perform that evening), my nerves were shot. I played Babysitting the Cowboy and Better Be Us All and literally felt the room shrink to size. I've never played for such an attentive audience and I've never felt such love. Because of the pure talent that surrounded me, I had NO expectations of winning so my heart hit the floor when my name was announced. It was pure validation on an otherwise lonely road and a shot of confidence to my cause. It simply confirmed that I was on the right path."
PC: "You recently celebrated the release of your new CD, See That Gleam. Describe the road you took both writing and recording the songs. How has it been received so far?"
Tyler: "After winning the PSA honor, I was approached by Daniel Work, creator of IndiependenceMusic.net and urged to post Better Be Us All as a song for download on his music site. When he found out that I had not recorded the song yet he insisted that I come to his studio and see it through. After successfully finalizing Better Be Us All, he asked if I had any more songs where that came from...
See That Gleam was four years in the making. Though the recording process itself spanned 14 months, a couple of the songs were written many years before and put on the shelf. As my first official "songwriter" album since the PSA accomplishment, my goal was to put forth a disc that showcased the storyteller. I've recorded five albums with full bands in the past, so this time around I chose a number of songs that were already written but never recorded because I had kept them for myself- free from heavy instrumentation. They are stories. They are the songs that were written as whispers at 4am. I think the name of the album is appropriate because although the songs are somber tales of nostalgia, loss and heartache, there is an undeniable sweetness involved... a gleam.
So far the album has been received with great acceptance and respect. It is another page in my journey and another face that my listeners haven't seen before. What makes it so different is the fact that I used all acoustic instruments (nothing electric) and featured an outstanding upright bassist for the first time- a sound that my songs have been begging for all along. See That Gleam is warm, raw and the beginning of a new Tyler Stenson."
PC: "With all your successes through the years, what has been your proudest moment as a singer/songwriter?"
Tyler: "Being dubbed the PSA Songwriter of the Year!!! VALIDATION!!! My second album (The Low Ceiling)... this album was the first PROFESSIONAL recording of mine and one of those moments that puts a tear in your eye because of the overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment involved. What a moment."
PC: "Finally (and most importantly), with the wide variety of themes in your songs, ranging from growing up to loss and regret... what percentage of your songs are about girls?"
Tyler: "I pride myself on the fact that I've never written an emotionally generic song... meaning, I don't write something if I don't mean it. If it didn't actually happen, it doesn't get mentioned. I don't write about heartache if my heart is whole. I don't write about losing my job if I'm employed. I don't write about being in love if I'm not. Does that make sense?
With that said, I've loved and lost many times. I've praised women and I've hated them. I've been left before and I've done the leaving. To answer your question, easily 70% of my songs are about women/love/matters of the heart."
A Lilt of Lyric Smiths
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Last up was an intense Tyler Stenson, accompanied by Jeremy Seitz on harmonica and vocals from Stens...Last up was an intense Tyler Stenson, accompanied by Jeremy Seitz on harmonica and vocals from Stenson's group Lander. Stenson describes his music as "epic folk. Folk rock with dramatic sincerity and a heavy heart."
Whether by coin toss or other means, Stenson won and Sean Garcia was second.
Performing last might have had its advantages with the judges, but it was difficult on Stenson, who is 25. "I was sitting with some friends and not talking to them. I had to go take a walk for a while; it was too nerve-racking."
Winning the contest was important to Stenson. "My passion is songwriting. I love the craft. I plan on bragging about it."
WW Pick (CD Release)
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[SINGER-SONGWRITER] Like salt water lapping the side of a sunset-bound sailboat, barefoot feet in wa...[SINGER-SONGWRITER] Like salt water lapping the side of a sunset-bound sailboat, barefoot feet in warm summer grass and the smell of a lilac on the cowboy prairie wind, Tyler Stenson is a cliché that's still lovely: a talented, small town-cum-Portland folk singer/songwriter who makes beautiful songs reminiscent of all the aforementioned things. Must we compare him with other artists? Well, alright: This Wyoming native sounds like a less spiritually rah-rahed Cat Stevens meets a pre-African chant Paul Simon...with a healthy side of twang. ANNIE BETHANCOURT. 8:30 pm. Lola's Room at the Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., 225-0047. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+.
Orange Chrome Sky
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Singer/songwriter Tyler Stenson's band, Lander, delivers his heartfelt songs with a rare, understate...Singer/songwriter Tyler Stenson's band, Lander, delivers his heartfelt songs with a rare, understated elegance. Embracing folk, roots rock, country and Pink Floyd style space rock, simple chord progressions evolve into soaring arrangements that bring a sense of drama to cinematic lyrics. The songs evoke images of Stenson's upbringing in Wyoming (Lander is the name of his home town there), romance, and always, the ever-changing sky. Like a sunset, Lander's music offers a beauty which is dynamic, spacious and undeniable.
1-2 hours of award-winning original music, insightful storytelling and jubilant presence. Choice cover songs are tastefully sprinkled throughout but not a staple within any set.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.