Beaufort’s Campfire Tyler takes his music from backyard to the studio

6 mins read

By MIKE McCOMBS

It was roughly at this time a year ago that Tyler Littlejohn made a discovery.

Born and raised in Beaufort, the longtime food and beverage worker was employed at Panini’s in downtown Beaufort when he decided to put everything into his music.

“I found out you could get paid for singing at a restaurant,” Littlejohn said, “… and then they’d still feed you at the end of the night.”

That was enough for Littlejohn, who began performing under the name Campfire Tyler, to finally kick the food and beverage industry and take a chance on himself. He began busking, first at Panini’s, then Hemingways, and eventually achieved a milestone of sorts when he made performing his sole source of income.

On Friday, Littlejohn, 27, will reach another milestone of sorts, when he releases his first album.

Early on, Littlejohn aimed to make his shows really personal, “like we were just hanging out in the back yard,” he said. “That’s where the name Campfire Tyler came from.”

He says the process of both writing and recording an album really coincided with yet another milestone in his life. When he quit drinking.

“(The songwriting really) started as a way to keep busy when I quit drinking,” Littlejohn said.

Most of the seven originals on Campfire Tyler’s self-titled release were started in July but finished after Littlejohn quit drinking in September.

“I was just holding myself back. I was masking a bunch of things by drinking,” he said. “Sometimes, we just need to get out of our own way.”

Still, it’s not like Littlejohn wrote a handful of songs and an album appeared. It took a chance meeting to put Campfire Tyler on the path to his first professional recordings.

Littlejohn took his 7-year-old daughter to see a kids show put on by Jevon Daly, a longtime local musician, at Coligny Plaza on Hilton Head Island. It was when he chatted Daly up about a song he had performed that Daly, in turn, steered him toward Kyle Wareham.

Wareham recorded and produced Campfire Tyler. After the initial tracks were recorded in November at Shelter Recording Studios on Hilton Head with Littlejohn and his guitar, Wareham fleshed them out, adding other instrumentation and polishing the product. Recording wrapped up in February.

Littlejohn says Campfire Tyler has “an earthy feel. It draws from a lot of influences … bluegrass, hip-hop, rock and country. All kinds of music.”

And he says in some way, all of the songs are based on what was happening before and during his recovery. Littlejohn is particularly happy with the track Hot and Cold, his favorite song on the album.

“The song itself helped me get through some things,” Littlejohn said. “It helped me say some things I couldn’t say at the time.”

Though he enjoys performing, Littlejohn says he’s found the best part of the process is the songwriting. “I love performing,” he said, “but songwriting is a way to express myself.”

If you’ve grown to enjoy seeing Campfire Tyler performing around town though, have no fear. He won’t be giving it up anytime soon. He will continue to mix his dozen or so originals in with an eclectic group of cover songs, from Shaggy to a mash-up of Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time and Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game.

From Boondocks to Hemingway’s and Bricks to Rosie’s, Littlejohn will be busy. He has even locked up a regular summer gig on Hilton Head, playing every Thursday night at the Frosty Frog from the first of June through August.

In the meantime, Littlejohn plans to put any proceeds from his recording back into promotion for his live gigs and keep plugging along.

“Sometimes you’ve got to get out of your own way.”

Want to go?

What: Campfire Tyler album release.

When: 6 p.m. Friday, March 13.

Where: Island Tattoo, 115 Arrow Road, Hilton Head Island.

About it: There will be food, discounted tattoos and Campfire Tyler’s self-titled release will be available for $10 on all digital platforms and compact disc (if they ship on time).

Above: Campfire Tyler performs on the patio at Hemingway’s Bistro on Sunday, March 8. Photo by Mike McCombs.

 

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