Theory of a Deadman's Tyler Connolly Talks 'Heavy and Gnarly' New Album, Shares Thoughts on Southern Rock 'Resurgence' (Exclusive)

Theory of a Deadman is dropping their eighth studio album, Dinosaur, this week, and frontman Tyler Connolly is ready for fans to hear how "heavy and gnarly" it is. had a chance to chat with Connolly recently and he offered insight into how the album came together. Connolly also shared his thoughts on the current alt-southern rock resurgence happening in mainstream rock and country, which Theory of a Deadman helped to pave in the early 2000s alongside bands like Nickelback and Three Doors Down.

In the past, Connolly has been forthright about when Theory of a Deadman albums share commonalities or are meant to be extensions of one another. When asked how Dinosaur fits into that structure, Connolly explained, "It's a bit of an amalgamation I think with a lot of records. I think when writing it, there definitely felt like there was a connection to some older records like Scars & Souvenirs (2008). Even a song like 'Sick' feels like something that could have been off of The Truth Is..., our fourth record. A song like 'Sideways' felt like something could have been on maybe Scars.

Connolly then offered a candid explanation as to how the band's creativity was able to percolate in a manner that led them to wrote the songs featured on Dinosaur. "I think honestly, it all came from this downtime of COVID," he said. "I didn't feel creative. I think we had a year and a half to two years of just sitting around. And then I think as soon as we saw the light, we saw this kind of the end, touring starting to pick back up. I started getting creative. I think my first creative moment was... 'Dinosaur' [the album's title track]. I think it was something that was raunchy and heavy and gnarly and it felt great. It felt like a rebirth in a way.

Dinosaur is a standout album for the near-cinematic feeling it gives the listener as the band paints vivid musical pictures from song to song. This effect is quite intentional, and Connolly explains that his songwriting talent and sense of track flow is something instilled in him from movies he watched as a kid. "I love movies. Me and my dad would watch movies to the point where we would know the lines before they would speak the lines... it was a game." he shared. "My dad used to illegally copy movies back in the day, remember? They had VHS. We'd rent a movie. My dad would have two VCRs and we'd copy it."

Connolly continued, "I remember, my dad printed off the book. It was an alphabetical book of every movie we had A to Z. And my friends would come over like, 'Hey, you want to watch a movie?' And I give them a book. They're like, 'Holy s—, what the hell?' I'm like, yeah, 'My dad pirates movie, dude, my dad pirates movies.' 

Explaining how the passion he and his father shared for film helped to shape him, Connolly said, "So when it comes to writing songs and even putting albums together, there is a bit of an ebb and flow and arc in a sense where you feel like, 'Oh, this definitely feels like the beginning of a movie. And this definitely feels like we've kind of wrapped it up. This is where it should definitely end.'"

He then revealed, "This album was a lot longer, had 14 songs and we trimmed a lot out because even our A&R guy was like, 'let's just make this short. Put the songs on here that fit, that make sense.' It's just making a three-hour Steven Spielberg movie and we cut it down to an hour and 45 pretty much."

While Dinosaur is Theory of a Deadman's eighth studio album overall, it is their third with producer Martin Terefe, who also worked with the band on Wake Up Call (2017) and Say Nothing (2020). "I learned a lot from him, to be honest. If it was a great three records with him so far," Connolly said of working with Terefe. He also shared how, who Terefe behind the soundboard, the band was able to cultivate a sound that is "raw" and less polished than what is widely available these days.

"That was our purpose," Connolly admitted. "I felt like a lot of the stuff that we were hearing on the radio, it felt very, very meticulous. It felt like everything was in perfect tune. Everything, like I said, felt very cut and pasted. Everything was very auto-tuned and it definitely has its place. But for us, we were like, "nah, nah, nah, let's go raw. So when we record a song, what you hear, that's the four of us playing. There's no punching in verses and courses. If someone is a little flat, that's it, it's kept, we don't go in like, 'oh, the guitars a little flat' and we don't go in and punch in."

Sharing a specific example from Dinosaur where the band went as straightforward as possible, Connolly revealed, "There's like one song called 'Get In Line,' where what you hear is that's just one take of us. Boom. Done. That's it. We played it one take. What you hear, that's it. So it's really cool." He then quipped, "I love telling that story cause it makes us look like we're really good."

While Theory of a Deadman is not attempting to emulate anyone, they are honest about their influences, with Connolly revealing that he kept returning to one legendary rap-rock track for inspiration. "I remember the song that I tried to envision for the record was 'Sabotage' by Beastie Boys. I remember, that song... It sounded like it was recorded in the basement, and it just felt sloppy and flaky, kind of lo-fi. And I'm like, 'This is the sound.'"

Connolly went on to share, "I remember we got a mix of Dinosaur from one mixer, and it was really awesome. We all loved it. And our A&R guy like, 'Nope, no, no, it's not right.' We're like, 'Why not?' He's like, 'It's just too slick.' And it was too slick... We agreed... And then we got another mixer and it sounded a lot more raw and a little more lo-fi, and this is it."

The singer continued, "You need everything to sound kind of... like it was recorded in the seventies or something. I think people will be able to hear this record and respect that. I think even the engineers or musicians and people in the biz would be like, 'You know what? I kind of respect this band for doing something that wasn't so Protooled to death.'"

Finally, we asked Connolly his thoughts on the rising trend of southern alt-rock coming back to the forefront of mainstream music, with artists like Hardy and Jelly Roll paving new ground in the genre. "It really feels like a resurgence," he said. "Our older stuff was much more Southern rock. Our first record, especially every song had either... lap steel, slide guitar, banjo, our second record had banjo, lap steel, slide. I think of our third record, even 'Bad Girlfriend' has [southern sounds]. So yeah, our first three records... had a lot of country kind of thing."

For fans wanted to know of this type of sound will return from the band in the future, Connolly has good news for you. "People are even asking if we're going to do that again like, 'You guys go back, do more of an acoustic country thing.' I think we will, to be honest, I think we will," he said. "It's been 20 years, so let's do it."

Connolly then added, "I've definitely been paying attention. I definitely heard some songs and I'm like, 'Oh, this song's blowing up on country. It's massive. This is a rock song, man.' I like that Hardy stuff. I mean, at the end of the day, it's still got to be well written and he can really write a song. Same with Jelly Roll. Very Southern at a point, but I mean, you still got to be a good writer.'

Dinosaur releases Friday, March 17. Fans can click here to pre-order or pre-save the album at your streaming service of choice. Additionally, Theory of a Deadman is currently on a massive headlining tour, with ticket links available here, at the band's official website. Keep it locked to Pop for more great music news, review, and interviews!