Kid Rock protégé has major label release and Tuesday show
Published: March 14, 2012
Ty Stone is standing out in the alley behind Molly Malone's Irish Pub on Fairfax near Wilshire in Los Angeles. He's taking a break from his gig flipping burgers, smoking a cigarette. He thinks about how difficult this whole city is on songwriters, on guitarists, on musicians, on the heartbroken. You don't stand a chance. The singer-guitarist thinks about how he's a dude from Michigan, from Lincoln Park, who followed a girl out here — and to make something happen in music, just like what a million other Midwestern dudes have done.
And after nearly three years, he's about to get kicked out of his apartment, and he's literally flippin' burgers, just like what happened to a million other Midwestern dudes. What did he expect?
Then immediately, as if on some kind of crazy miraculous cue, his cell phone rings. Stone tosses his cigarette and answers. "Hello?"
"Is this Ty Stone?"
"Yeah. Who's this?"
"It's Kid Rock."
"Listen, Ty, I heard your demos. I think they're great."
Stone wonders which of his friends from back home is playing a cruel joke on him. He's never met Kid Rock, nor talked to him, much less given him demos.
"Who is this, really?"
"Dude, it's Kid Rock."
"It is. Your demos blew me away. Let's get your ass back to Michigan and make shit happen."
Turns out one of Stone's friends slid a demo into Rock's hand at a Detroit Pistons game. Rock actually listened to it and really was blown away by what he heard.
The whole thing is a Hollywood tale in reverse: Stone gets the call that lands him on a major label and could make him famous. Stone didn't need much persuading and Rock got him home to make shit happen. That was six years ago, and Rock stayed true to his word; this week, Stone's debut album for Top Dog/Atlantic Records, American Style, has finally been released.
Ty Stone is a guy who appears, in first conversation, to let all the troubles in the world, including his own personal demons, bounce off him. He's laid-back, easy to talk with, and is one of those guys who can immediately put a person at ease, like someone's ebullient beer-drinking uncle.
Plus, Detroit rock 'n' roll isn't American Idol, and Stone's the least glamorous musician in the Motor City; he looks like he just wandered out of an east side sports bar after a hard day's manual labor. He's a dude whose collar is a deep blue hue. And there's no denying that Stone's a big man.
"I guess for a long time it hurt when people had pre-formed ideas of who or what I am before they knew me or heard me," he says. "People would talk or write about my weight before my music. That's nothing new — people have always looked at me funny. I like to think that now, though, I'm above all that."
Stone says he's always had a problem with being unhealthy, especially on the road. "I eat terribly unhealthy food and drink way too much booze, and basically go on the road and gain 30 pounds over the summer," Stone says. "But over the years, I've gotten much more conscious of trying to take care of my body, and honestly learned to become more disciplined if I want my voice to function at an elite level. I feel like my voice, when functioning at 100 percent, is like a high performance racecar, and if I don't put the right fuel into it then it's like putting regular unleaded in the machine, and it performs like shit."
The 35-year-old was born and raised in Lincoln Park. ("I am a Railsplitter," he says.) His family wasn't exactly living in the lap of luxury, so he summered at home. There were a few summers when Dad bought a camper that the family kept out at Devil's Lake in the Irish Hills. With his mom and sister Tonya in tow, they'd spend the hot months at the campground, while his dad would commute to McLouth Steel in Trenton every day, which, Stone says, is a true testament to the spirit of the man. The image of his factory dad wound up in Stone's song "Down River" — Mom said you could see daddy working when the red fire fills the night.
Stone's dad is, in fact, an amateur musician, and has been one of Stone's biggest influences through his life and career. Dad would sit in the basement with a guitar, a microphone and an amplifier plugged in, and he'd play '50s and '60s rockabilly music. "He was my idol and I'm sure I picked up my love of music from him," Stone says. "My parents were divorced for a long time though, and they finally got back together recently, so I like to spend as much time with them as possible. Now I can go back with my beautiful girlfriend, and it's family time, like when I was a kid."
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