Band represents Virginian music, brings a ‘unique’ concert

Jon Tyler Wiley is on tour with his band Jon Tyler Wiley and His Virginia Choir. Wiley will host the ‘One Night Only Songwriter’s Round’ at The Reveler in Carytown at 7:30 p.m. on April 18. Photo by Erin Wiley.

Bri Stevens, Contributing Writer 

When Jon Tyler Wiley’s Virginia-based band first started performing, their genre was an enigma, dubbing the band as “the country band who doesn’t play country music,” said Jon Tyler Wiley, the band’s lead singer and guitarist. 

The band, known as Jon Tyler Wiley and His Virginia Choir, is from Fredericksburg and includes Wiley, Brian “Piper” Barbre, Joanna Smith, Sean Mahon and Lonnie Southall, according to jontylerwiley.com. The band recently released an album called “Pictures in the Dark” and are coming to Richmond for their tour, according to bandsintown.com.

The “One Night Only Songwriter’s Round,” hosted by Wiley, will be in Richmond on April 18 at The Reveler in Carytown at 7:30 p.m. It will feature artists including Justin Golden, Brady Heck and Carrie Brockwell, according to the Reveler’s website.

The entire band will perform at In Your Ear Studios on April 23 at 7:30 p.m., according to Eventbrite.

The “One Night Only Songwriter’s Round” is a repeating show as a part of the tour, according to Wiley. The writer’s round works a little like artists playing catch — everyone takes turns talking about their songs and then playing them. 

“It was never intended to be a repeating show,” Wiley said. “A repeating show called ‘One Night Only,’ irony aside, we do things in the show to make each experience truly unique.” 

They have a fortune-style wheel that dictates the topic of each round, according to Wiley. 

“I’ll spin the wheel and it will come to, say, a broken heart emoji, then it’s time for a sad song,” Wiley said. “It could be a breakup song or a tragic story.” 

He likes to integrate a sense of chance into the show, which makes it more spontaneous and hard to prepare for, Wiley said.

“With that spontaneity, everyone ends up being a little more genuine,” Wiley said. 

Virginia isn’t known as a music hub state, but there are a variety of different genres that are prominent in the area, including bluegrass, country, R&B and punk rock, according to Wiley. 

“I wanted to represent all these different facets of Virginia music,” Wiley said. “Even on our newest record, there’s some noisy rock and roll, but there’s also some moments where the violin turns into a fiddle.”  

During the songwriting process, he comes up with the “bones” of a song, such as the lyrics, chords and melody — then he gives it to the band to tear it down and bring it back up again, Wiley said.

“Everybody gets to put a little bit of their DNA into the song,” Wiley said. “Everybody came into this band as playing with other songwriters and being told what to do. I love everybody having the chance to have creative freedom.” 

This approach makes each song individual and creative, and is almost Abbey Road-inspired, Wiley said. 

Jon Tyler Wiley & HVC work with an indie label called Caroline County Record Company in Bowling Green, according to cacoreco.com.

“The beautiful thing about this relationship is that the head of the label, he’s a musician,” Wiley said. “He gets it. He gives us a lot of carte blanche. We get to make the record, then we show it to him. He helps us get the music out there.” 

Wiley said many artists inspire him, including Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brothers Band and The Beatles.

“Jason Isbell, he is probably my North Star artist right now,” Wiley said. 

Joanna Smith, the bass player for Jon Tyler Wiley & HVC, said the new album has a unique sound.  

“It’s hard to describe, it’s rock and roll music with a fiddle,” Smith said. “But it’s not just your basic chord progressions, he adds an extra bit of musicality to it.” 

An inspiration for Smith is an artist based in Washington D.C. named Cat Janice, she said. 

“Seeing her career blossom is very inspiring,” Smith said. “I was able to play with her for a couple of years pre-pandemic.” 

“The Ending of the End” is her favorite song on the album because it is a good sing-along song, Smith said.

Smith is excited to see how the new songs are received, she said.

“We’re always well received when we’re seen playing live,” Smith said. “So it’ll be fun to share it with everybody.”

Brian “Piper” Barbre is the drummer and vocalist for Jon Tyler Wiley & HVC and he also helps arrange and compose the music, he said. 

He likes to make fun of Wiley for picking a band name that is 11 syllables long, Barbre said.

“Syllabically it is the longest band name that I’ve ever heard of,” Barbre said. “I like to make fun of him for it regularly.” 

When they previously played only for fun, the band used to call themselves Johnny Gator and the Trouble Trio, Barbre said. 

“It started with the three of us playing on sidewalks busking on the weekends for fun and beer money,” Barbre said.

Most musicians are involved in more than one band, especially if they want to make a career out of music, Barbre said. He is involved in two bands other than Jon Tyler Wiley & HVC.

“One is called The Transmitters, it’s a rocksteady reggae band,” Barbre said. “Then the other one also has a long band name, it’s called Midnight Spaghetti & The Chocolate G-Strings.” 

The Virginia music scene has significantly influenced his music, Barbre said. 

“Part of it is the friends network that we’re a part of,” Barbre said. “It’s also the earworms that have been placed in my ear for the past 30-plus years. That kind of stuff just kind of comes out.”

The band’s recently released album, “Pictures in the Dark,” is very diverse in genres, Barbre said.

“One thing that is unique about this album is that it casts the net very broad and wide when it comes to genres. I tried to make it more melodically percussive overall,” Barbre said. “It’s very polished and intentional — it’s a grown-up record.” 

As artificial intelligence starts writing more material, the music industry struggles, Barbre said. 

“Support live music with the emphasis being on ‘live,’” Barbre said. “That would be my plea —  if music touches your soul, and it doesn’t have to be my music, let those people know in any way possible.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the “One Night Only Songwriter’s Round,” hosted by Wiley in Richmond on April 18 at The Reveler in Carytown at 7:30 p.m., will feature artists including Frank Solivan, Karen Jonas and Justin Trawick. The copy has been updated to reflect that the show will feature artists including Justin Golden, Brady Heck and Carrie Brockwell, according to the Reveler’s website.

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