courtesy photo by Emily Davidson
The Talbott Brothers were losing money and playing to small crowds in a New Jersey winter, half a country away from home. Through it all, they faced a pressing question: Could they tolerate more?
“We had to come to terms,” says Tyler Talbott, one half of his Imperial, Neb.-bred, pop/rock duo with his brother Nick. “It strengthened our brotherhood. We’ve learned that we’re so different in so many ways.”
The brothers spent the better part of the winter touring after the release of their debut, Leaving Home, in November 2012. The trip provided the bulk of the source material they needed to follow up immediately. What came out was a kind of sequel record about what happens when being away from home becomes its own lifestyle.
“Everybody else that sees being on stage, they see it as glamorous or maybe even see the people on the stage as self-centered,” Tyler says. “No one sees the grunt work that you do. We wanted to start the [title] song out by saying, ‘It gets the best of you.’”
Earlier this spring, heading toward what would be a successful crowdfunding process, the seeds of The Road were already sprouting when Nick — who splits songwriting, singing and guitar duties with Tyler — auditioned a definitive track.
“He played it and I knew and he knew that that was going to be the title track,” says Tyler, noting that “The Road” felt so right he didn’t engage in the brothers’ customary editing and fraternal arguing over a new song.
In addition to the autobiographical details about the pavement and the highway signs, Tyler says he derives a more metaphorical meaning from the track, as well. The Talbott Brothers aren’t just singing about The Road with a capital “R,” but one road in particular: the path Robert Frost calls “less traveled by.” In the Talbott songwriting rulebook, identifying a universal message in what might begin as a personal song is as important as crafting the song in the first place.
“When we write a song, we ask ourselves a question: ‘Are we speaking for everybody?’” Tyler explains. “We don’t want to take three minutes and 30 seconds and talk about ourselves. We want to give a voice to everybody, so to speak.”
For Tyler, the broader resonance of “The Road” is posing the question of what a listener will do when confronted with his or her own challenging winter tour. When your bandmates leave to pursue other careers — as the two non-Talbott members of The Talbott Brothers did leading up to the making of The Road — is the reward of the road less traveled worth the strain?
“I think everybody in some small way does that in an area of their life,” Tyler says. “Nobody wants to be a number or be lost in the crowd.”
To release their album, which officially drops this Tuesday, The Talbott Brothers will return to their new homebase of Omaha for a show on Wednesday at The Waiting Room with The Deadly Gentlemen.
To preview, take a first listen to the title track from The Road, the song the brothers say best encompasses the record’s central theme:
Chance Solem-Pfeifer is Hear Nebraska’s staff writer. He’d like to live in a world where Cormac McCarthy did backup vocals on this album or banged a drumstick against an old shopping cart or something. Reach Chance at email@example.com.