The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Tayler Holder and The Backyard Bar Stage and Grill Channels Faith and Country in Waco

Waco Music Series: February

5 months ago

By Skylla Mumana

From big-name acts, such as Snoop Dogg to our own hometown rockers, Waco has proven time and time again that any musician, regardless of genre or popularity, can find a home in its walls. This month, this city opened itself up to some soul-stirring country at The Backyard Bar Stage and Grill.

The Backyard Bar Stage and Grill

Although it officially opened in 2015, The Backyard Bar Stage and Grill, located at 511 S Eighth St., was first known as Cinema Lounge. Started by Brian Brown, Chris Cox, Russell Clay and Chris Braziel — four Texans from various backgrounds — it was a place to bring together great food, music and fun to Waco. Unfortunately, this original mid-sized venue failed to bring in the acts and revenue the quartet wanted. Eventually, they scored its current 1000-capacity venue, fit with a restaurant space, multiple bars and an outdoor courtyard venue. Since its rebranding and reopening, The Backyard has evolved and has since featured acts such as Nelly, Bailey Zimmerman and Steve Wariner, just to name a few. And it’s added a new name in the country scene in its lineup— Tayler Holder.

Tayler Holder

About an hour north of Waco is Alvarado, Texas. With a population of about 5,111 people, this rural city is known for a handful of things: its age, its small population, its county and Tayler Holder.

When most people think of Tayler Holder, their minds usually gravitate towards social media. With 5.1 million followers on Instagram and 19.6 million on TikTok, it’s hard not to. Holder started posting on social media when he was 16, but ultimately he later cemented his status as an influencer in 2020 after moving to Los Angeles at 18 to join The Hype House, a TikTok content creation house with a joint account amassing over 20 million followers. During its prime, the TikTok supergroup had big-name influencers in their ranks, such as Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae. With that said, Holder notes that the fame he garnered at a young age took its toll.

“I didn’t understand it at first,” Holder said. “You see these other guys from behind the screen and it looks so cool — like you’re rich and famous and have all these people freaking out about you and it looks like the coolest life in the world. I failed to realize what it actually came with and the weight that it actually brought with it.”

With that said, social media was a lucrative career. According to Forbes, sponsored content and paid advertisements allowed for popular influencers to charge big for their posts. However, after living and working in Los Angeles for seven years as an influencer, Holder found that despite the money, he wasn’t being true to himself or his passions.

“It wasn’t even me,” Holder said. “I was doing all of these dance videos and being a goofball on the internet and it wasn’t what I loved to do. I was just doing what worked and what fit the algorithm.”

While in LA, thanks to his success with content creation, Holder had a chance to rediscover his passion for music.

“Being out there and having some success, I was able to meet different producers and songwriters and get in the studio and see the creative side that went into actually making a song that I never understood before,” Holder said. “I just fell in love with the process of actually getting to make music. I was like ‘This is something that I really, really want to try and I don’t know where it’s going to go but I really want to try it.’”

Holder earned himself an opportunity to fly out to Nashville in 2022 for CMA Fest, an annual four-day country music festival that hosts tens of thousands of fans from all over the world. Here, Holder performed alongside fellow country music artist Reyna Roberts. Since his success there, he’s had the opportunity to write with Shay Mooney, one-half of country duo Dan + Shay, go on tour with country pop singer Dylan Scott, and he’s gotten to perform with country music star Parker McCollum.

“It was all basically from that one trip I took out to Nashville. It was never more clear that this was where God wants me to be,” Holder said. “After seven years in LA, I realized that this was what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. So, I went back 30 days later [from Nashville] packed up and left.”

Now residing in Nashville, Holder has committed to pursuing his music full-time. He describes his sound as pop-country, but often finds himself dipping into the realm of Christian-country as well. He often finds strength in his Christian faith and feels that it plays a large role in both his music and his day-to-day life.

“At a young age I always said that I was Christian because everyone else said they were Christian,” Holder said. “Being out in LA, I hit rock bottom. I started losing contact with my friends, with my family. I just didn’t recognize what was going on until I took a step back and decided to really pursue my faith in God and really understand what it felt like to walk right with God.”

Fans and curious spectators lined up at The Backyard to see exactly what Holder was made of, and they weren’t disappointed. Holder’s hour-long set was filled with an array of songs, from fun infectious covers to unreleased originals and rhythmic love ballads. Mia Pope, a loyal Holder fan, has been following him since his early social media days. When she saw that he was venturing into country music, she got excited, yet she also noted how daring he was to do so.

“I’m super proud,” Pope said. “I feel like, especially coming from LA and being in California, no one really wants to admit that they like country music or be super into it. So, him coming from that general area and deciding ‘No, I’m gonna go do this, what I actually love’, it’s super amazing. It takes a lot because a lot of his fans aren’t really into it. So, they didn’t come over with him.”

Over the course of the concert, Holder gained a substantial crowd. Die-hard fans like Pope recognized some of his more popular hits, such as “Goin Out Sober”, “Drive” and “Someone You Knew”, all of which feature intricate chord plucking, and timeless lyricism. Holder later rocked the stage with electric covers like “She’s Country” by Jason Aldean, which he played with friend and fellow Alvarado-born musician Andrew Sevener, who is also known by his stage name, Sevy. He also played a few unreleased songs, such as “Climb My Way to Heaven”, an ode to his renewed faith and devotion to God.

In the future, Holder hopes to create more music and is looking to expand and perform more live.

“Just tons of new music, and way better music,” Holder said. “I love the stuff I got out but it’s only getting better and better. We got festivals and fairs coming up, and hopefully some big touring at the end of the year. We got a great team behind us going into this new year.”