25 in 2009: Tyson Ritter

Born: 04/24/84 In: Stillwater, OK Is: Musician

All-American Rejects lead singer Tyson Ritter is a free man. After being in long-term relationships since he was 15 years old, he's come to the realization that it's got to be all about the music. "Rock 'n' roll is number one in this life," he says. "I mean, holy shit, you have to take it from the Stones -- what is number one in that camp? Their music. I'm the same way with the Rejects. This is my number one, and you've got to realize that in order to devote yourself to something."

The All-American Rejects are a band made up of Oklahoma natives Ritter, Nick Wheeler, Mike Kennerty and Chris Gaylor, who first appeared on the charts in 2002 with their catchy tune "Swing, Swing," following the pop-punk bum-rush of the late '90s. Ritter, who at the time was balancing a relationship with his newfound success, likened his situation to that of a superhero with a dual identity, and explains that now, "It's just Superman. There's no more Clark Kent." And, as Superman, he's flying high. "I'm totally excited," he says. "I mean, I've literally sort of flipped my shit. I'm a little weird right now, like I'm drinking a little too much. I never drank. I'm just sort of really enjoying myself."

And he certainly looks the part. Tall, lean and tattooed, the model-pretty Ritter's fashion sense is in keeping with his "four food groups -- Mick and Keith, Freddy and Bowie. That's like my meat and potatoes." In fact, the night before this interview he'd had a "Ziggy Stardust moment" -- covering himself in glitter for a stop in British Columbia during the Blink-182 reunion tour. "I was giggling like a little girl," he says... giggling. "I loved it so much. There was glitter everywhere. It was like stripper glitter." Glitter may get you noticed, but talent gets you a place at the table, and year after year, the Warped Tour-affiliated band is at the top of the singles charts. Their fourth studio album, When the World Comes Down, was released last December and yielded the raucous single, "Gives You Hell," which hit number four on the Billboard Hot 100. "We've had, like, six one-hit wonders," jokes Ritter, who writes the acoustic skeletons of the songs and then hands them off to Wheeler. "I give Nick the paint and he's got the brush."

Aware of the snooty criticism reserved for rock bands with pop songs in heavy rotation, Ritter is nevertheless delighted with his success. "Everybody that puts their music on wax did it to sell it and get it out there, mainly for people to hear it," he says. "I'm not going to beat myself up for writing music that is popular and people like sometimes." He did, however, appreciate a recent trip to Germany, where the band is less well known. "We sort of have this underground following -- you feel a little bit like you have a bigger dick."

Even though Ritter has been in recording and touring mode "for so long," he still feels elated most of the time ("I have the fucking energy of a squirrel"), and recently had an OK-you-can-die-now moment when he had the opportunity to write with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer for their upcoming album. "I was playing Weezer songs when I was thirteen," recalls Ritter, "and here I am in a small cabin behind Rivers's house in Malibu while he's waiting for me to sing him something. It was just a really surreal day." And who better to share such a moment than with dear old mom back in Oklahoma. Ritter phoned her on the drive home: "I'm like, 'Ma, I don't have anybody to share this with but you, so I really want you to grasp the gravity of this right now, because I don't think you know.'"
Whitney Spaner

Wears: a shirt, shoes and tie by Louis Vuitton and pants by By Robert James

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