Interview and Photos by Amy Nichole Harris
Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights is a Dallas-based rock band with a great southern rock sound. The band is made up of front man Jonathan Tyler, guitar player Brandon Pinckard, bassist Nick Jay, vocalist Emotion Brown, and drummer Jordan Cain. They have released one album titled Pardon Me that includes the acclaimed song Gypsy Woman.
We caught up with the band after their early Sunday morning rocking performance at the Voodoo Experience Festival in New Orleans last weekend. I have seen the band perform many times and they blew me away once again on this early Sunday morning revival. They were really a stand out act of the whole festival and brought an energized performance to the stage even after traveling all night from Florida to do the show. The band was excited to play and be part of the festival for the first time with an epic 2010 lineup of acts like Ozzy Osbourne, MUSE, and My Morning Jacket.
We talked about their upcoming Cincinnati area shows and how they got their start with Atlantic Records. They will be playing at Brick Street in Oxford, Ohio on Thursday, November 11th and Southgate House in Newport on Saturday night November 13th.
Amy: I read a lot of the articles about you guys from the Dallas newspapers. Is it true you guys got started by moving Kat Von D’s furniture and got hooked up with your record deal?
Jonathan Tyler: It was a long story. There were several people that we went through to get to Atlantic. The band was signed in 2007 by Atlantic Records partly through a chance encounter. While in Dallas in early 2007, through a series of connections, the band was volunteered to help future television star Kat Von D move to Los Angeles. In exchange for moving furniture for the now famous tattoo artist from LA Ink, her manager watched the band perform and got the wheels turning on the career of JTNL. She sent along the band’s demo and the band was met with a strong interest among many labels. The rest, as they say, is history and the band has become a very popular touring act spending most of the year on the road.
Brandon Pinckard: I don’t think we all moved the furniture. I don’t think he moved anything. (Pointing to JT)
Nick Jay: I think we did everything.
Brandon Pinckard: Jordan wasn’t there.
Jordan Cain: I sat on the couch while they moved it.
Jonathan Tyler: Something happened there.
Nick Jay: Kat’s sleeping on the couch. She wakes up and says “Oh my God there’s a bunch of cute boys in the house.”
Brandon Pinckard: It definitely wasn’t all through Kat Von D, but that event sparked something that led us on our path.
Amy: To the record deal right?
Brandon Pinckard: Some cosmic shit.
Amy: So you guys have your album Pardon Me that’s out right now. What’s the story behind the name of the album?
Jonathan Tyler: Well it’s the first song. It’s our first album out to public. It’s kind of like a handshake album. We’re kind of like “Hey, what’s up? We’re Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights.” It’s kind of like that kind of statement.
Amy: I thought you were just being polite.
Jonathan Tyler: It is polite.
Nick Jay: We’re very polite.
Jonathan Tyler: It’s just an introduction. It’s just like a “Hello, how are you doing?”
Amy: So are you guys working on any new music right now?
Jonathan Tyler: Not a lot. But we are starting to toss around some ideas.
Brandon Pinckard: (Laughing) I’ve got a techno band I’ve been working with. I play the computer. I play the Macintosh.
Amy: Is that going to be on the new record?
Brandon Pinckard: I hope we can work some of it in.
Emotion Brown: The concepts are definitely coming to mind. We have been thinking of concepts and small chords. Stuff is starting to develop. We’re kind of just focused on making this one happen.
Amy: When you write, what’s your process? Do you guys do it together or separately?
Nick Jay: It’s different for every song.
Jonathan Tyler: Usually we start with an idea like a guitar riff or a vocal line or melody or lyric. We start from that small idea and then build into a full song.
Amy: So what do you guys have up next? You guys tour a lot. You’re on the road what 200 days? 300 days a year?
Nick Jay: Between 200- 250
Brandon Pinckard: That’s pretty much what we have coming up. Just a lot of touring.
Nick Jay: We just finished a three week tour with a band called JJ Grey and the Mofro and now we started headlining a tour this week for three weeks.
Amy: You guys have played some with a band that I know in Cincinnati, Grooveshire. They seem to fit your style a lot.
Jonathan Tyler: They do. They are great guys.
Amy: Did you guys play with them at Cincinnati before?
Keyboard: Both times
Jonathan Tyler: It was upstairs at…
Jonathan Tyler: Yeah
Amy: How did you guys meet them?
Jonathan Tyler: Just through playing there. We met them at the show.
Amy: What’s you favorite place to play in the U.S. or overseas? Where do you like to play the most?
Nick Jay: We haven’t been overseas yet.
Jonathan Tyler: My favorite places are Austin, Fayetteville, Chicago, and San Francisco.
Nick Jay: Lubbock… Lubbock, Texas is pretty fun.
Amy: Did you guys play SxSW?
Nick Jay: Here for the past three years.
Brandon Pinckard: A bunch of times.
Amy: Do all of you still live in Dallas?
Emotion Brown: Yeah, right now.
Amy: Small town vibe a little bit. Are you planning on going on the [Kid Rock Cruise] again? That’s the big one.
Jonathan Tyler: If we are invited we will. If we get invited we’ll go. We might have got ourselves permanently exiled.
Amy: I doubt it.
Nick Jay: It could have happened.
Amy: Why? What did you do?
Band (in unison): What didn’t we do?
Jordan Cain: Things that happen in international waters that you don’t need to talk about.
Brandon Pinckard: Things that don’t happen on the mainland…
Nick Jay: It’s the Vegas of the seas.
Amy: So what is your craziest Kid Rock story? You guys have gone out with him.
Brandon Pinckard: There’s way too many already. We haven’t even played that much with him and we’ve got a lot of them. Most of them don’t even involve him directly. They just involve us.
Jonathan Tyler: The first night on the cruise was pretty cool.
Emotion Brown: Oh yeah.
Jonathan Tyler: We had an open bar when we first got on the boat. All the bands were hanging out together and drinking drinks, shots, meeting new people in this certain section of the cruise ship. So we were hanging out in there for way too long. And we just decided to play at midnight. We were pretty much beyond… I was beyond….
Amy: But he came out and played with you didn’t he?
Jonathan Tyler: Yeah and it was really cool. The only thing I remember about it is the video and pictures of it. But that’s a cool story. We didn’t know if we were going to make it through the set.
Brandon Pinckard: Once we got everybody’s pants on and got on stage everything was cool. We took a minute and then we played. We made it happen.
Amy: So how do you define success?
Jonathan Tyler: Just getting to do what you want to do.
Emotion Brown: Being happy
Brandon Pinckard: Yeah, just as long as I don’t have anyone chasing me around.
Amy: Most people I talk to don’t say fame or fortune. It’s a lot of the people who just love to play music.
Jonathan Tyler: Success? Oh shit success? I want to live 90210 baby. Mansion in the hills. Bitches in the pool.
Amy: Like Nickelback?
Jonathan Tyler: Oh yeah exactly like that. (Laughing)
Amy: If you weren’t playing music, what would you be doing?
Nick Jay: Producing music
Jonathan Tyler: Maybe drinking somewhere in Peru.
Jordan Cain: I’d probably be an astronaut.
Brandon Pinckard: I’d be a rambling man. Just traveling around.
Nick Jay: I’d be working in Vegas as Jesus.
Jonathan Tyler: You know we haven’t really done Vegas. We have only gone there for a gig.
Amy: Have you played there?
Amy: Is there anything else you guys want to promote or coming up?
Brandon Pinckard: Nope
Emotion Brown: We’re just looking forward to the days ahead. Just looking forward to whatever is ahead. We are really excited that people are getting on board with the JTNL sound and that we are gaining new fans everyday. We just keep doing that and looking forward.