See William Tyler's Haunting 'Highway Anxiety' Video - Rolling Stone
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See William Tyler’s Haunting ‘Highway Anxiety’ Video

Experimental Nashville guitarist and sister Elise captured the surreal side of America in a cross-country trip

Nashville experimental guitarist William Tyler’s current album Modern Country is a dreamy sonic account of his travels through America during several years of touring. That especially goes for the album’s nine-minute opening track, “Highway Anxiety” – inspired by a 2013 attack of agoraphobia that drove him off the interstates and onto back roads. Now that song’s mood has been rendered visually. Directed by Tyler’s sister Elise with cinematography by Zack Hall, the “Highway Anxiety” video shows Tyler running through scenery that is alternately stark and surreal.

Elise Tyler explains the concept of the video, a four-day shoot that took them through 10 states and three time zones:

“William and I embarked on a cross-country drive, winding through Tennessee across the Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas Rivers. Through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and finally California. We wanted to see the sand dunes, a foreign no-man’s land.

The concept we had was simple: a seeker in our weird new America trying to find familiarity as he journeys. As the song builds, the images grow more layered and distorted. After the crescendo, we are back to the simplicity of the seeker, who has arrived at the Salton Sea – a man-made lake meant to be a tourist destination in the California desert but whose salt content is so high that no life can survive its waters. The abandoned beaches are full of rotting fish, man’s vision destroyed by the power of nature.

Zack Hall, our editor and collaborator on this project, took what we filmed and weaved it into archival video of the American interstate projects of the 1950s. He elevated our footage to another aesthetic level, a tripped-out plane of memories from the collective unconscious of the nation, the development of the modern American experience. 

If you ever doubt why America is so uniquely important in this world, drive across it. You will be crushed by the vast open spaces, the shifts in landscape, the diversity of its people. That we are designated as “one” is either brilliant or insane – but we are. And the diversity is both our greatest strength and one of our biggest challenges.”

Tyler will be on the road this fall – in the U.S. through late October, then heading overseas for a run of European dates.

In This Article: William Tyler


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