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Singer Tyler Hilton flexes his acting muscles on ‘One Tree Hill’
When popular recording artists make concert stops in cities across the country, fans not lucky enough to score tickets often turn to calling their local radio station in the hopes of still seeing the show. Every music fan has done it once or twice in their lives and most come up empty when searching for last minute seats. For 21-year-old Californian Tyler Hilton, that artist was Johnny Lang, and instead of snagging concert tickets when calling local DJ’s, Hilton ended up with a record contract from Maverick Records.
“I called into them to get tickets when I was a kid for a Johnny Lang concert and I played them a Johnny Lang song and they were like, ‘wow that’s cool, do you write songs too?’ I played them some of my songs and they had me all over the radio, it was really cool. They were awesome about it,” Hilton recalls, of his initial performance that put Maverick on notice.
While lunching at a sidewalk cafe in San Francisco recently, Hilton took time to explain, in a telephone interview, his recent successes as a recording artist and an actor on the hit WB series “One Tree Hill.” In addition to songs from his debut release, “The Tracks Of…” surfacing on local radio airwaves, Hilton has also gotten the opportunity through a recurring role on the show, to be seen in homes across the country. Starring as musician Chris Keller, Hilton is able to showcase his own material while gaining credibility as an actor. On the show, his character entices series regular Haley (Bethany Joy Lenz) to leave her husband to pursue a musical career as part of Keller’s fictional tour.
For Hilton and Lenz, who is also a musician, life has since imitated art. “One Tree Hill” creators have crafted a nationwide tour that mirrors the one portrayed on the show. Also featuring The Wreckers and Gavin Degraw on select dates, the month-long tour makes a stop at Foxwoods Casino on Thursday.
Acting, Hilton says, is something he definitely enjoys, but music will always be his first love. He is grateful for the exposure he has gained from the TV show and continues to get excited when live concert audiences sing along to his material.
“I’ve been a musician for a while, so that’s what I know best,” Hilton said. “Playing one song on the show was a little bit different but its fun because it gives me the chance to be able to burst out songs that people know throughout the (live) set. They know more than one song because I’ve played them on the show. It’s exciting to play for an audience that knows who you are.”
In addition to performing material from his own album, Hilton takes to the stage with tunes from the “One Tree Hill” soundtrack, one of which is a duet with Lenz, originally performed by their characters on the show. Stepping into the role of Chris came quickly for Hilton, who remains tight-lipped as to the future of his character in upcoming episodes.
“(Producers) were just looking for a musician on the show and someone asked if I’d like to try out…I read the script and I thought the (character) looked really funny so I went in and tried out for it. There happened to be casting agents that I had known from before, so they kind of helped me out and worked with me…(I found out) the weekend before I was supposed to be filming that I was supposed to be out there,” he said.
After stumbling onto the “One Tree Hill” set, Hilton continues to flex his acting muscles, this time for the biopic “Walk the Line.” In theaters November 18, Hilton portrays a young Elvis Presley, starring with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny and June Carter Cash. This new project gave Hilton the opportunity to indulge in his hobby of following Presley and his work.
“Elvis rocks,” Hilton says. “It’s crazy because I was such a fan of his so it was just an excuse for me to be even crazier about it and just collect his old interviews and listen to the way he talks, read about his life, that kind of stuff.”
With “Walk the Line” in post-production, Hilton continues touring with the “One Tree Hill” show. A relative newcomer to the Hollywood scene, the performer says he quickly learned two seemingly simple things that keep him going while on the road living his dream: getting sleep and learning his schedule. A schedule, at the moment, that is packed solid.
“Recently someone just told me make sure you know your schedule. And get sleep. It sounds easy, but for some reason I never really thought of those things,” he said.
Hilton will have to grab sleep while he can, as his tour in support of “One Tree Hill” is on the road through the end of the month. When Hilton and crew hit Foxwoods, concert-goers may just catch a glimpse of the singer on the casino floor, taking a break from his performance duties. “If I’ve got time I might do some high stakes $5 Blackjack, you never know,” he joked.
Tyler Hilton appears with The Wreckers (Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp) Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. Tickets are still available by calling the Fox Theater box office at (800) 200-2882.