Tyler Boone opens up to DDW on songwriting, the music industry and, of course, his award-winning Boone’s Bourbon.
Tyler Boone — the small-town blues-rocker turned big city businessman is going places. He knows it, everyone in the room knows it — and yet he seems unfazed by it. It’s the first thing you notice when sitting down with Boone.
His rise has been meteoric, from playing small sets in Charleston, South Carolina to selling one of, according to Forbes, the top six bourbons in the world.
“There are three things that I do now and the one company that funds all of it is Artist Formula,” says Boone. Oh yeah — did I mention he cofounded bespoke record label and artist services company Artist Formula? “I am a songwriter and entrepreneur, man. It’s the music, the Boone’s Bourbon and the label — those are the three things that I do,” Boone continues.
His ambition is palpable — but Boone keeps it humble, he’s a down to earth guy and he takes the time to explain to me how his various pursuits and business ventures work — it seems he has his fingers in a bit of everything. “I’m not famous,” Boone tells me. Maybe not yet, I’m not so sure that he recognises his own success, or perhaps he knows that it’s still early days.
Boone was born in El Paso, Texas and grew up in the Lowcountry — Charleston, SC — where he became involved in the small club rock scene there. Since then, he has opened for numerous big-name acts, including Sheryl Crow and Old Crow Medicine Show, and regularly plays the American festival circuit.
He hasn’t released a full-length album, just a series of singles and EPs that have gained serious traction on Spotify and among his ever-growing fan base. Like many these days, he has eschewed the major label game — after signing a record deal that he claims he didn’t need, he bought back the rights to his music and releases it on his terms.
Boone’s newest single ‘Wicked Girl’ dropped March 18 — Boone says the tune is “very riffy” with a Jack White or The Black Keys kind of feel — I can say that description is spot on.
Crunchy riffs and edgy vocals are coupled with straight-up, simple blues lyrics — something you might expect from a song titled ‘Wicked Girl’. The track features Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Peter Keys on B3, a bluesy Hammond organ.
I ask Boone, what’s next for him musically? He grins — he has big plans for the future.
“Later this year, I’m going to be flying the band into Nashville and we’re going to do a 12-song album. I’ve never done that before. So that’ll be cool,” says Boone. Then I ask him the obvious question — how do you write your music?
“Always the music first and then the melody and lyrics second — that’s how I always do it. A lot of people write lyrics first but I find that weird — I guess I just want to have some cool and interesting music first. Not like typical G-C-D boring shit.”
Boone says he was influenced by Blink-182 — which one of us millennials isn’t? — and Metallica before getting into more classic acts like Eric Clapton. When he received a Fender Stratocaster for his High School Graduation, his songwriting career took off.
If Boone is anything he’s independent, he writes his own music and conducts his own business — so I ask him about the news that he had signed a record deal in 2019.
“Yeah man, so I had a record deal. And what’s a record deal, right? I learned a lot, I had to buy back my music for thousands of dollars. It was crazy,” says Boone. He realises now that he is more comfortable distributing his work in his way. “If you can get the best distribution, and the best services — if you can do that on your own and have a little bit of a budget, you don’t really need a major label,” Boone continues.
Many musicians are ditching the major label, and, like everything else, Covid has affected this. We now live in a DIY world where working from home and creating independently is becoming the norm.
“It’s a different world now, especially after Covid. Everything changed after Covid, everyone is looking at things differently,” says Boone.
So now that Boone is releasing music independently through Artist Formula — what does the service do? Boone explains it as a cross between a social media PR company and an independent record label.
“We do Spotify, we make huge third-party playlists with social ads — if you’re hiring somebody else with Spotify and they’re not telling you what the hell they’re doing, they are probably fake,” says Boone, “There’s a certain ad method [to grow your online presence] and I teach other artists how to do it. We do YouTube, Google ads — we do music push campaigns on Tick Tock, same with Instagram reels. We do verification on every social media platform, but only for artists.”
Boone says the company can also provide label advances to artists — provided they have revenue —and help with releasing albums and music distribution. “I can release your album,” says Boone matter-of-factly.
Boone’s Bourbon has taken the industry by storm — it is becoming successful and fast. So, let’s shift gears here and talk about one of my favourite things next to music — bourbon.
“So, I had just turned down a record deal in Nashville, and, the funny thing is, I used to work at a venue, it was like a bar — and they [people from the record company] came in and I had to serve them onion rings and beers. It was a shitty day,” Boone remembers, “I tell you that story because there was a lot of buzz going on around the deal and my friend’s dad told me ‘With all the shit you have going on, you should start a spirit with your name on it, I’ll fund it — you figure it out.’ ”
“We drank Jameson you know what I mean? I didn’t know what the fuck Bourbon was, really. Nashville is close to Louisville, Kentucky — so I thought it should be Boone’s Bourbon. I had my friend design the label, I paid her like 100 bucks to do it — we’ve paid her more since,” Boone laughs.
Boone says it took him a while to navigate America’s notoriously complex alcohol distribution laws but eventually got his state license for South Carolina. After that, Boone and his father launched Boone’s Bourbon.
“It was only ten grand — ten grand was all we had together. We launched it — 223 cases were a lot for us — we sold it locally and then through me touring we were able to get it into other states. Now we are in 28 states,” says Boone, “At the beginning, we didn’t know what we were doing, I would just walk into a bar on King Street [Charleston, SC] and ask if they wanted to stock my stuff. They would tell me — ‘get the hell out of here.’ ”
Since then, Boone’s Bourbon has changed the bourbon landscape. In 2020 Forbes listed it as one of the top six bourbons in the world after it received double gold at The New York International Spirits Competition. The test is blind — meaning that judges don’t know what bourbon they are trying — something which delights Boone. I asked him how it feels to win awards for a bourbon with his name on it.
“It’s cool you asked that because we are just a father and son thing, and you just got to keep your blinders on keep working. Then eventually you get an award and you are like — ‘what the fuck?’”, says Boone, “I’ll just randomly google Boone’s — one day I was lying in bed and all of a sudden it said ‘Boone’s Bourbon‘ on Forbes because we won the double gold — I didn’t even know we had won it yet.”
“I was freaking out,” Boone continues, “I was jumping up and down calling my dad — ‘did you see this shit?’ Now that we have won that, people always take notice — even though it’s the same product as four years ago. It’s kind of like when you get mentioned in a magazine as a musician and people go ‘Oh look at you’ but it’s the same music.”
Cool and collected as ever, Boone takes the awards in stride and keeps on keeping on. He tells me that he is working with Holy City Brewery — in Charleston — to release a new ‘Boone’s Beer’. Beyond that, they are working on expanding the Boone’s brand to more states — and countries. I ask him when I will be able to go to my local store in London and grab a bottle of Boone’s Bourbon — he tells me it’s in the works.
“We are working on that — the UK. We almost had it, we are about to get to Canada. You can’t make bourbon in the UK it has to be made in the US, but the issue is the bottle. You guys don’t have 750-millilitre bottles you have 700s, so it’s a little bit smaller. We would have to buy different glass for it and a different label. So probably not this year, maybe the year after.”
Looks like I’ll have to keep bringing back Boone’s Bourbon from my trips to the US for the time being.
So finally, I ask Boone what he wouldn’t want to die wondering about.
“Travelling the world, I’ve only been to Canada and Mexico other than the United States — that’s why I told myself — ‘dude just do it’ I don’t want to have only stayed in my hometown,” says Boone. Ironically Boone is based in Los Angeles, far from the Holy City on the east coast where he grew up — Charleston, SC. This kind of comment encapsulates Boone, a man who is incredibly successful and still rising — but whose ambitions have also just begun.
One thing’s for certain, he is welcome to visit the UK anytime, especially if he brings a couple of bottles of Boone’s Bourbon with him.