Elvis in Walk the Line, sure, but it's hard to believe Tyler Hilton played surly Murphy in the 2007 indie flick, Charlie Bartlett. Hilton played the school bully, complete with mohawk and fisty-cuffs at the ready. Don't get me wrong, Hilton's acting was great, but you couldn't find a nicer actor out there, and especially one who's also a singer/songwriter who doesn't just pen his own music, but who writes uplifting, the-world-is-your-oyster lyrics to boot.

Hilton was here in Salt Lake Friday night, and after newcomers and tourmates Dion Roy and Josiah Leming warmed the crowd with easy-going sets, Hilton came out and got a real response. Roy and Leming were solid; this is no slight to them. But the crowd at um, Mo's Grill??? was seated and subdued. They were young and polishing off sodas and wings. (Mo's Grill is not the best concert venue, or hardly a venue at that. The sound was mediocre, though I'm sure their wings were OK.)

When Hilton came out, he had the crowd laughing and smiling at his jokes. He introduced his new band members as A, B and C and took crowd requests for songs. He played a pretty quick set, actually, and included some covers, like Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down and John Waite's classic, Missing You (watch the video, below). Hilton's husky voice suited both songs well. His own crowd favorites, Sunset Blvd. and The World Will Turn Your Way produced their usual uplifting effects and then poof, Hilton was back on the bus, ready to hit the road for Denver, their next stop.

He did (as usual) personally greet all of his fans, sign autographs and pose for pictures beforehand, though, and he also took a moment to talk to me:

LR: The last time we met you had a van and a trailer, and now you're in a big tour bus. How has life changed?

Hilton: Life is good. This tour has been a lot crazier for sure. We're playing more shows and working a lot harder. It's taken me a while to catch up because I've been at home, writing. You know, even if I was at my busiest at home, compared to being on the road, for some reason--it's like a 24-hour thing. Right off the bat I couldn't believe how lame I was; I got sick.

My bunkmate was sick, though. Don't cuddle with your guitar player. Rule number one on the bus! (Joking) And I broke that rule. And I got sick.

LR: How do you keep your energy up with all the travel, and especially with a mellow crowd like we had tonight?

Hilton: I try to rest a lot during the day and change things up every night. I never really know what the crowd will be like until I get on stage. I was watching Tom Petty videos on the bus, to pump myself up tonight.

LR: What's your favorite song you played tonight?

Hilton: You'll Ask For Me was fun and sounded good; that was fun. And Won't Back Down was really fun. Just for the sheer excitement of it... (Note: Friday was the first time the band played the Petty song together.)

Bassist Josh Nyback: I felt like we were all riding one motorcycle and we were about to fall over. Like those clowns... (They all laugh.)

Folks, they didn't fall. They didn't crash. They actually rocked Mo's Grill, most likely like Mo's has never been rocked before.

Here's a clip of Hilton and crew playing Missing You: