Frontman Tyler Connolly Spills the ‘Truth’ on Theory of a Deadman’s New Album
Theory of a Deadman found their groove on their 2008 release ‘Scars & Souvenirs.’ The album sparked nine singles and became their most successful album to date. Wanting to build on that momentum, the band released their follow up ‘The Truth Is..’ in July of this year and it debuted in the No. 8 spot on the Billboard 200 chart, surpassing all expectations.
On ‘The Truth Is…,’ Theory of a Deadman mastered the art of combining tongue-in-cheek anthems with explosive power ballads drawing a definitive line right down the middle between love and hate. The sound follows in the vein of ‘Scars & Souvenirs’ and builds upon it, providing some special moments like the military inspired ‘We Were Men’ and the rock 'n' roll love story of 'Easy to Love You.’ For those looking for signature Theory of a Deadman look no further than the infectious chorus of ‘Lowlife’ or their ode to the ex-girlfriend in ‘Bitch Came Back.’
The band is currently on the road with 3 Doors Down and Pop Evil, and we recently caught up with Theory of a Deadman frontman Tyler Connolly. In addition to defending 'Bitch Came Back,' Connolly discussed ‘The Truth Is…’ and everything else going on in the world of Theory of a Deadman.
You’ve said that you’ve finally found your place in rock ‘n’ roll and that in the past you struggled, not within the industry but within yourselves; what did you mean by that?
Well, I think when we started out, we never saw this as a business, and we literally were these four kids that jammed in my basement. We didn’t play a lot of live shows, we enjoyed riffs and cranking our amps up but beyond that we really had no idea what we were doing. We went out on the road, we toured, the label almost killed us, but we really didn’t know what we wanted to do. If someone had asked us what we wanted out of our careers, we probably would have responded, “I don’t know.”
I think it really took us some time before we actually figured it out. By the time we got to the third record, we became more confident, we were able to start creating songs that made sense for us and for our band, it clicked and it all came together. We were really happy with the record and I think our fans were, and I think that’s probably why.
‘The Truth Is…’ as a whole was influenced a lot by your recent divorce. Now that you’ve let it all out there through the music, has it been therapeutic, and is it a challenge for you to sing the songs every night?
It was definitely therapeutic -- for sure. I feel a lot better now; I was right in the midst of serious turmoil. There wasn’t a lot of anger, I think it was more or less just the feeling of what was I going to do with the rest of my life just because you can’t just have your job, you can’t just have music, you have to be able to go home to something. You have to be able to call someone to tell them how great the show was or how you won an award -- you have to have somebody in your life. I think at that point, when we were writing the new record, I didn’t have that. And so, I was just in this rotten place and topics just came out. I guess I feel a little bad about it at this point but unfortunately it’s out there now and now it’s the people’s songs. It’s theirs to have, it’s not mine anymore.
Let’s dig into some of the songs, ‘What Was I Thinking’ talks about life on the road; is it a personal tale?
Well it’s kind of personal, but it’s more or less about making a big mistake. Having this wonderful girl at home and being out on the road touring and partying and maybe sleeping around. That’s pretty much what it’s about; I just personalized it by making it about me. It really just goes through a night of debauchery and making a big mistake and realizing you just effed up, I think we can all relate to that to some degree.
‘We Were Men’ has a pretty serious message as well and addresses the military, why was that song important for you to write?
That song is really old; I remember jamming that with Dave years ago, but there was no place for it yet. I think I had enough courage on this record to write something a little outside of the box. Theory is kind of known for writing these kind of tongue in cheek, fun songs like ‘Bad Girlfriend,’ We’ve never really dealt in the territory of 3 Doors Down, they write a lot of military-esque songs and ‘We Were Men’ is just that, it’s a military song. It’s about maybe being misunderstood, maybe about going over and fighting and then coming home to a world that they don’t know how to settle back into it, and get back into society.
I was a little nervous writing it because it was so literal and it was about something I don’t have a first person idea about, I’m writing about my opinion, which sometimes can get you into trouble. ‘We Were Men’ is the highlight for me on this record because it is something different, I really felt that we did a good job communicating what we wanted to say and interjecting my opinion but at the same time it’s kind of a sad song but it makes a statement.
Have you received any feedback from members of the military on the song?
I have, we had a meet and greet a few weeks ago and there was a fan there who’s in the Air Force and he made a comment about the song. He thought it was really great that I had written the song about the military and the work they do, whether what they’re doing over there is right or wrong, it’s about them, it’s not about what they’re doing. It was cool because I was a little nervous, I didn’t know what to expect.
You’ve said that having grown up as a guitar player the lyric writing was a learning process for you; do you feel that you’re in a comfortable place now when it comes to writing lyrics?
It’s definitely better now, it came later on. I didn’t start singing until I was around 20, and I started playing guitar when I was a kid, so I had all these years of guitar playing and I really wasn’t a singer and I had to figure it all out. Of course when you become a singer, and then come the lyrics. But it was just like guitar playing, it took time to figure it out. Now, I love both – I love writing lyrics and I love playing guitar.
You’ve worked on some songs with songwriter Kara DioGuardi – have you taken anything away from those sessions and how is writing with someone else different from writing songs on your own?
She’s just really talented, I found that the reason I went back to her is because we have very similar styles of singing. She’s a very bluesy singer and a lot of the melodies she has are very bluesy and that’s kind of how I sing. It felt really natural when we would come up with ideas, we just meshed. I’ve written with some other people and it hasn’t worked out, it’s like going on a date. It feels like you’re on a date sometimes and you feel like you have to get the hell out of there. Sometimes I go into songwriting sessions and I’m thinking that, but then working with someone like Kara is a dream come true, I’ve found the person that gets my songwriting. She’s amazing.
The first thing I picked up from her, which is really cool, I don’t really do a lot, but I can see from her standpoint where she’s writing every day, she would ask me, “Well how do you feel?” Which I thought was really important because you don’t want to wake up in the morning, feeling like shit, and go write a really happy song. It’s that simple, if you just got off the phone with your Dad and you hadn’t talked to him in awhile, and you wished he said he loved you – well, how do you feel, maybe write a song about that. That’s something I took away from her that I thought was very smart when it came to starting that type of a song.
Here’s another quote that I wanted you to expand on for me: “When I write, I either want to kiss someone on the lips or punch them in the face. Anything in between is boring.”
I’ve been punched in the face and I’ve been kissed on the lips, they’re both pretty exhilarating. I’ve also kissed people and punched a few in the face and it’s so true. Nowadays I’m hearing a lot of the boring in between stuff on the radio and people are starting to notice that I punch people in the face with my songs. There’s some group called something like “Angry Mothers Against Rock” that I guess have a problem with one of our songs.
But if you think about it, It makes sense, I think you should make a statement with your lyrics and speak from the heart, even sometimes onstage I have some off color remarks or things some might deem inappropriate, I believe you should be who you are – don’t hold back.
Talk to me about working with producer Howard Benson again, in talking to many bands he seems to be one of those guys that bands either love or hate – what’s your working relationship with him like?
He focuses on certain aspects of the process where I could see some people hating that. If you’ve got a guitar player who wants to have someone coaching them through a whole session, they’re going to hate it because Howard’s not there. But, being a singer, he really focuses on the vocals and when we do vocals it’s just me and him – there’s no one else. There’s no band, no engineer, and I think it makes a huge difference. I could see why some bands might not like working with him and why other bands love him.
With us, we enjoy the freedom. When Dean plays bass, I think he enjoys going there and playing and not having someone look over his shoulder picking it apart, he can just go in and play until he’s happy and if he’s happy, Howard’s happy. The vocals are a little different; we’ll spend a lot of time on a song. ‘The Truth Is...’ is a really simple song but we spent so much time on every single word. I had to sing each word over and over to make sure it’s perfect and at the end it sounds great and that’s all that matters. I think that’s why I love working with Howard; it’s all about the end product.
The song ‘Lowlife’ left me wondering, what are some of your own personal guilty pleasures in life?
I like to go out wearing flip-flips with socks on, is that a bad thing?
That’s kind of bad, yes.
I just bought this piece of s--t scooter and sometimes I’ll just get on it and drive through the city on it. It’s got a tail light hanging on by masking tape and it’s blowing blue smoke. Seriously, I’m not even exaggerating. I get so many stares driving my old beat up scooter and I love it, it’s great.
So finish this sentence for me: ‘The Truth is…’
‘The Truth Is... I lied about everything’! Nah, the truth is, I just have fun, and that’s pretty much what Theory of a Deadman is. The name is pretty misleading because Theory of a Deadman equals having fun.
Editor's note: Tyler Connelly also shared his thoughts on some of the backlash surrounding Theory of a Deadman's current single 'Bitch Came Back.' Click here to see what he told us about the song.