Quick Stats: Tyson Ritter, The All-American Rejects lead singer
Daily Driver: 1993 GMC Rally STX (Tyson's rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: in Stillwater, Oklahoma
Car he learned to drive in: 1975 Ford Maverick
First car bought: 1941 Willys
There are people out there who still have their first car, either because it has sentimental value or because the thing just won't die. The lead singer of The All-American Rejects, Oklahoma-native Tyson Ritter, is one of those people.
Ritter's daily driver is the band's first touring van, a 1993 GMC Rally STX. "I sowed many oats in this van and I also grew in the damn thing," he says. "I've been driving it since I was 17 and it just won't die. And it's got all this history on the wall, we wrote all over it."
By now, it's also rare, he says. "You know what's great about 1993 -- it had all the moments before computers that made people surprised when they got in, 'Oh, power windows?'" muses Ritter. "It's a gem, it's a rarity. I don't even think they put out a big run of them. I imagine it's at most 100. Every time I see one I want to burn it down to just to make mine a little bit more beautiful. Mine won't die."
Ritter finds it ironic he's had a GMC for so long. "My dad's a mechanic, I was born under a Ford. He totally resents me for driving the vehicle," Ritter says. "He drives a Chevy truck to work everyday too -- it's his embittered curse. We're Oakies, he's an Oklahoma man, and his high school car was the Mustang. It's the one that sits out in the field and you sit on the back porch, chew the fat and talk about dreams of when it's going to run again. It's a romantic anecdote for the working man - the back porch car in the field and the dream of when it can run again."
Although his dad drove a Ford when Ritter was growing up, the car was soon replaced by a work truck and he then he bought a Chevy. "He had a 402 and a Chevy that always drank so much f-cking gas, but it wouldn't die on him," Ritter says.
"The same with my '93," he continues. "The starter went out the other day and my front driveway has a beautiful hill on it, so I just parked at the angle and said, 'Damn it, there is nothing that's going to kill this thing.' Luckily, I just pushed it back five feet, Pep Boy'ed it up, and got a new starter for it. It took 20 minutes."
Ritter thinks he might always have the van because he knows how to fix it himself. "That's the problem -- I actually know what I'm doing with a car that doesn't have a computer," he says. "Until I can't operate it, I'm going to get buried in this f-cking thing."
The other day, he took it to the car wash and a piece of the grille fell off when water was sprayed on it. "I was like, 'Aw, damn it.' I bury everything that falls off, a sacrifice. We have a ceremony for it," he says as he laughs. "No, I just threw it away."
The van also has rubber bumper protectors. "This thing is impervious to car wrecks! I did that whole city train thing, where you bounce into two cars and I was the caboose," he says. "It just doesn't even scratch. It's like grandpa lost a toe nail, what are you going to do? Rub his feet and hope it gets some blood circulating there."
With all the memories the van holds, Ritter gives it a perfect 10 rating. "It's my girlfriend, it's the only lady in my life who has not left me," he says.
First car bought
Despite his dad's feeling about Ritter's GMC, the two have found a car project which will keep them busy for quite a while.
"I stilled his knuckle-biting resentment because this year, we started building a 1941 Willys and we're sparing no expense on it. This is our father-son car build," he says proudly. "Of all the bitching he's done to me and all his historical angst towards the cars that we drive, we're finally doing it right. It's a glass body but it was poured really thick."
He bought the basic shell and chassis for $25,000 and predicts that it will become quite an investment. Fortunately, a friend of theirs who is a painter and builds cars on the side has agreed help them.
"This guy Rick McCubbin, who lived down the street from me when I was a kid and my dad was always like, 'That's the guy who can build a car.' Finally I went to him last year and said, 'We're going to get a beautiful motor for it.' We're just really excited to finally justify all the labor and painstaking waiting for something with a shine on it."
Now that Ritter and his dad have been working on the Willys for about a year, he anticipates they have two more years to go on this labor of love, their "one day car." "We're taking care of the things that mechanics can take care of," he says of the work he and his dad are doing, while their friend will do the bodywork.
The Willys is the first car Ritter bought himself. The band bought the 1993 van and a friend's dad had to co-sign on the loan.
Car he learned to drive in
Ritter was born and raised in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where the All-American Rejects is from. There, he learned to drive in a Ford Maverick.
"I was bequeathed a 1975 Ford Maverick driver that my great-grandpa gave me," he the boneyard."
Ritter learned to fix cars at an early age. "It sucks when you're a 16-year-old and you can't drive because you're working on your car," he says.
From age four to six he started to watch his dad fix cars. "Every day after school, I'd take the bus all the way to the end of the line, which was right next to my dad's mechanic shop," he says.
"You learn a lot when you sit around a mechanic shop and don't have anything to do," he continues. "I kind of grew up in a garage and truthfully, I learned how to drive when I was 12 or 14 because my dad would pick me up from school and he'd have a Coors light and Stillwater has a very navigable dirt road system."
The two would drive on a dirt road, where his dad would teach him how to drive. "He'd jump over and I'd just be tall enough to get the clutch all the way in and he'd shift for me. So I would jump on the clutch with both feet, he'd shift, and we'd listen to Black Crowes and go down a two-hour stretch of road to get four miles," he says, with a chuckle.
The two would drive in his dad's old Chevy. "That was some Chevy truck with a 402 in it. We put glasspacks on it too. It was ridiculous."
Favorite road trip
On the outskirts of Stillwater, Oklahoma, there was a road called Spillway Road that's since been filled in and it elicits many memories for Ritter.
"It was a road that drove straight to the lake and you can sort of watch the whole world rush over the edge of the big lake that's the water supply," he says. "When I was a kid, we'd drive to the end of that spillway. They had a rope on the end of a tree and you could jump into this torrent of a whirlpool. Without that rope, it would be a bad 'Stand By Me' sequel of children dying. But when you had that rope in your hand, you had this massive struggle of just pure concentrated childhood joy."
They had many moments of jumping into this little lagoon, hanging on the rope for dear life over the six-feet wide whirlpool. "You'd jump right into that whirlpool and have it suck you to the bottom and pull yourself up," he recounts.
"Kids in the Streets"
"Kids in the Streets" is the new album by The All-American Rejects and Ritter is proud of this new album.
"As where I'm from in Oklahoma, it reflects on moments like when we would drive to the Spillway and lose ourselves in a wild, racing night without headlights down a dirt road while everybody is screaming," says Ritter, describing the album. "It's a record about a guy who reflects on his past and realizes that the person he is today is because of the past that he lived."
He says the first single, "Beekeeper's Daughter," is part of a story this album incorporates that ebbs and flows from grand themes to soulful themes.
Some might hear soulfulness in "Beekeeper's Daughter." "It's just got a swing," he says. "It's the first single off our record and it's about this guy who, like I, went through an adventure in Los Angeles. It's an insensitive lyrical song about a reflection of the modern dating scene. It's a dog-eat-dog world sentiment."
He feels like he's been growing up in front a record button since he was 17 and now that he's 27, this album reflects that. "I think this is a very adult and realized sound for The All-American Rejects," he says. "If you've heard our band before, this collection of music is our strongest one yet. It's our first record where I feel like we're really comfortable as a band and I've made a record that justifies that."