Tyler Hilton is loving being a father and raising his daughter in Canada.
“Here she is! She just woke up!” Hilton gushes mid-interview as his wife, Megan Park, brings their adorable 6-month-old girl, Winnifred Hilton, into the room. Since his “ultimate” Christmas gift arrived on Dec. 20 (“She was due Jan. 2 but was like, ‘I have a feeling 2020’s going to suck, so I’m coming in 2019,”) the musician and “One Tree Hill” star can’t get enough of his little girl – singing lullabies at bath-time, changing diapers, powering through sleepless nights, then stealing some moments for a beaver-spotting, evening kayak.
The idyllic Canadian quarantine came after Hilton, 36, and Park, 33, faced their biggest decision as new parents – if and how they should leave Los Angeles and head to Park’s native Ontario earlier than planned (having previously filled ET Canada in on plans to split their time between America/Canada) amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic in March. With Hilton’s Canadian residency approved, they packed up the motorhome he uses for touring and spent four days trekking north – a journey with “all the makings of a disaster” given that Winnie was tackling the dreaded four-month sleep regression some babies experience. However, the trip was smooth and she even shared her first giggles in-between naps.
It was a stark contrast to the cross-country road trips Hilton once enjoyed, back when his tour bus was littered with tequila bottles instead of diapers, and the wee hours were spent raging rather than cradling Winnie to sleep. Yet, it’s this diaper-changing, lullaby-singing, doting dad who finally reflects “the real me.”
“I always wanted all this – the art I’m making, the writing I’m doing, the music, getting married, having a kid,” Hilton says. “But [it all] takes a certain mental capacity that I didn’t have for a long time. I was single-minded, ‘I f***ing love to party.’ It was so much fun.”
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We made it to Canada 🇨🇦!! Baby Winnie is wondering why she’s getting so much attention… no complaints so far tho. Probably thinks it’s normal for Mommies and Daddies to never go outside. We walked to the end of the driveway earlier tho, that was a blast. Other than that…. Tiger King, The Queen s3, The Splendid and The Vile (Book), and I can now do 30 push-ups without stopping (shut up). Also, I’m chipping away at my next album, a musical I’ve always wanted to write, a children’s album, and learning DIY RV maintenance. Aaand I’m fluent in Mandarin now. Still, miss the old world… I can’t believe I’m saying this but when this is all over I may just go to a mall and walk around without a care in the world. Ah the old world. That was nice. 😑 Miss everyone!
“I didn’t know there was an opportunity cost – so many things I wasn’t able to do because I could only do that,” Hilton continues. “I thought that was who I was and that not drinking would mean I wouldn’t be me, but that actually wasn’t me at all! I got wrapped up in this whole [persona] who 10-year-old me wouldn’t have recognized. This tracks with who I’ve always been, but that was what people knew of me… and what I thought I had to do so people dug me.”
Hitting rock bottom in 2014, Hilton turned his life around. Opening up about getting sober in 2019, he detailed how he had overhauled work/social circles, released his best music with 2019’s City on Fire and wed actress/director Park – their gorgeous 2015 wedding documented in the new video for his sweet ballad, “When I See You, I See Home.”
The couple decided to start a family last year. “Then Megan got pregnant right away and we were like, ‘Oh sh**!’” Hilton laughs. “We couldn’t believe it. I still feel like we should be on “Teen Mom” because we feel too young to be parents even though I’m in my late-thirties!”
With friends, including Hilton’s “OTH” co-star Hilarie Burton, having faced fertility struggles, Park felt “so grateful” to conceive quickly. And Winnie’s arrival was just as rapid, with Park giving birth in under an hour! “She had dark hair and I had black hair when I was born, so that was a nice surprise,” Park recalls. “Tyler kept saying she looked like an organ! He was like, ‘What is that? A baby?’”
“I thought I’d care more about the gender, but when she came out, I was just relieved she was okay,” Hilton adds. “I ran down the hallway crying and screamed, ‘It’s a girl!’ Then ran back and held her. It was wild.”
Remaining in hospital with jaundice, Winnie made it home for Christmas, an extra-special holiday given both Hilton and Park’s families were in town. “It was the best Christmas gift,” Park says. “To have her home was this magical blur, and she was a great sleeper, so it wasn’t that hard of an adjustment. I had been so worried, like, ‘What does it feel like to have a kid? There’s a person in your house who never leaves!’ Then once we brought her home, it was her house – like she was supposed to be there all along. Now, it wouldn’t feel the same without her.”
Just days old, Winnie was even able to enjoy a neighbourhood Christmas parade – something Hilton says feels “so old-world” now.
Indeed, parades are a distant memory amid the pandemic, as are the concert crowds Hilton’s usually playing. The couple are instead utilizing downtime by “writing our asses off.” Park’s short film, “Lucy in My Eyes”, won a Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Austin Film Festival and she’s now preparing for her feature film directorial debut on “The Fallout”, starring Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler. The production will commence with strict pandemic filming protocols, like directing actors from a different room.
With tour dates postponed, Hilton’s meanwhile staying connected with fans through Virtual Coffee with Tyler sessions and Sunday kids’ singalongs. He’s also working on new music, including a kids’ album tentatively titled Tyler In a Tree, to benefit hisT.H. Books for Kids charity.
The “Walk The Line” star says his new music has been impacted by fatherhood, as has his entire outlook. “It takes the focus off me. Anything that helps me get out of my own head is beneficial because even if I wasn’t selfish or narcissistic – which I’m sure I am a little, being an artist – my whole business is, ‘Tyler this, Tyler that. What should we put Tyler’s face on? Tyler, Tyler, Tyler.’ It’s so cool, but makes it hard to make decisions without thinking the world revolves around you.”
“With Winnie, I’m not thinking about me at all,” he continues. “I don’t want to kiss her cheeks all the time just because I think they’re so cute. I want to be aware of what she digs, enjoys and finds funny. Everything’s selfless. And, there’s so many smaller versions of my sobriety struggle that I’m becoming better with because of her – organizational things, responsibility things, life things, retirement things. Everything’s looked at through this lens of, ‘How can I make Winnie’s life better in the long-run?’”
With his eye on Winnie’s future, Hilton’s also busy soaking up the last of family time in Ontario before heading back to L.A. for Park to get to work on The Fallout. “We’re right on this river and it’s light until 10 p.m., so after dinner I go on an 8/9 p.m. kayak ride,” he says. “It’s so peaceful and there’s beavers everywhere. I go by different dams they’re building and every night they’re a little better. I’m like, ‘What is this life?’ I love it up here!”
As for Winnie, she’s well-adjusted to pandemic life. “She’s not phased when we mask up,” Hilton says. “She knows who everyone is with the mask and hasn’t even met Grandpa without one. A true quarantine baby!”