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Fortune favours the bold: on the road with Tyler Thompson

It’s a typically crazy evening at Tipitina’s, the legendary music venue in New Orleans. Tyler Thompson, a 34-year-old who has produced movies on the order of Black Swan, Everest, and The Trial of the Chicago 7, stands on the stage. It’s solid rock music that gets your foot tapping and your mind moving.

A tour bus stands outside the door. Thompson simply decided to buy it, just like he decided during the pandemic to become a musician. The letter board at the entrance reads: “ONE NIGHT ONLY –ZERO FANS TOUR".

The lyrics of “Land of the Free” continue like this: “Yeah, we’re dreamers who believe we can turn nothing into something." This is already clear on the afternoon of the concert as we drive through the city in Thompson’s ivory-coloured 1963 Porsche 356 B, down narrow streets with live music on nearly every corner and past voodoo shops and funky restaurants serving fresh seafood. But then strangers start acting like friends. Thompson himself contributes to this feeling.

He then tells the story of how he got the idea of producing the movie Everest from listening to what guests in a hotel lobby were talking about. He overheard people discussing an expedition to the highest mountain in the world, joined the conversation – and presented the adventure film two years later at the Venice International Film Festival.

That sounds so simple, but let’s be honest: who really seeks inspiration by striking up a conversation with two strangers in a hotel lobby? Thompson is precisely that kind of person, and that’s why he can tell stories like the time he asked Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis to teach him how to surf, and Thompson nearly drowned. And that’s why he can make the following comment about his career as a producer whose films have earned over a billion dollars in ten years: “There was an awful lot of luck involved.” On the other hand, just about everyone who has known him for a while, such as his father-in-law, best friend, and band members, would add in his case that fortune favours the bold.

He succeeds because he has the courage to make the attempt and because he doesn’t hesitate to ask other people for help. He is constantly asking questions while at the same time listening carefully and seeking to analyse. Several times throughout the afternoon he calls his wife to find out how her day has been going – as if the two of them had not spent the entire morning together playing with their daughter and three sons.

"I saw the pandemic as an opportunity to fulfil my dream of becoming a musician,” says Thompson, who admits that he jumped straight into steps two through five of the process. He bought a tour bus, booked a recording studio, planned concerts, and hired Steve Jordan – who is one of the industry’s most coveted drummers and has produced music for Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and John Mayer, to name just a few – to produce his record. “Only then did I realise it’s important to take singing lessons – because your voice sounds different on stage than it does in the shower.” So he went back to the all-important first step and polished his vocal skills and songs. Then it became time to perform the works at this concert with no fans.

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Jul 05, 2021 at 16:56

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