Tyller Gummersall’s passion for music began at an extremely young age. Growing up in an artistic family on ranches in Southwest Colorado (where he still rides and helps at branding, and roundups), Gummersall got his first guitar and won his first talent contest at age eight - and from there, there was no looking back. Gummersall started taking lessons from national flat pick champion Gary Cook, fronting his own band and traveling to and from Nashville to sharpen his craft. Recently, he released his fourth album, Long Ride Home, which was produced by Lloyd Maines. Tyller graciously took the time to call and chat about his musical roots, working with a legend, the album and more.
At age eight you got your first guitar, and your path just seemed totally set.
(Laughing) I was singing since I was a little kid, like a song or two here and there with an adult band, then, when I was eight I started taking guitar lessons, and at fourteen or fifteen started playing in country cover bands and writing my own songs.
I always knew music was what I wanted to do in life, I just needed to figure out how to do it. I come from a very artistic family; my dad is an abstract painter, my mom is a photographer, my one brother is an actor and my other brother is a producer. I grew up in that type of artistic environment, so when I showed interest in pursuing music I had plenty of support to chase that dream. Not every family is encouraging in that way, so I feel very fortunate to have that.
The new album is traditional, and for being so young it’s like you have an old musical soul. Did you grow up listening to classic country?
I identified with the rural lifestyle and the rural music that went along with it from a young age, but I grew up listening to lots of different stuff. In the studio, my Dad would listen to B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, and Miles Davis….my middle name is even Miles. My brothers listened to Tom Petty and The Beach Boys. In terms of country, Garth Brooks, George Strait and Hank Williams Senior are huge influences; “Hey Good Lookin” was one of the first songs I learned.
At fifteen you started having experiences that most people only dream about. Lessons from Gary Cook, working with members of Ryan Adams’ and John Prine’s bands and being mentored by Tony Arrata; all leading up to working with Lloyd Maines. How did this all come about?
Between the ages of fifteen and twenty, I really started going for it as a professional singer-songwriter. I kept going back and forth to Nashville, and meeting people like Tony Arata [Garth Brook's "The Dance"], who became a mentor to me. My mom took photos of Robert Earl Keen for Cowboys and Indians magazine when he played Durango, and we got to talking with his manager, asking her who were the good guys in the business to work with. She gave us Lloyd Maines' email and we started a correspondence, which has been going on for six years now.
I kept checking in with him while I continued to work on my songwriting and travel back and forth to Nashville, where I did a lot of songwriter’s rounds. For a little while I thought maybe I just wanted to be a songwriter, so I inserted myself in that scene. But at the end of the day, what I wanted to write wasn’t necessarily what was getting played on country radio, and if you want to write in Nashville, that’s what you have to do. So I decided I could say what I wanted to say better being an artist and performing my own material. Then about a year ago, Llyod asked me to send him some songs. I sent him thirty, and he picked out eleven, which was a huge deal to me. From there we started the process of moving forward and making a record.
Being such a young artist and working with someone so revered, was it exciting, nerve wracking or a mix of emotions?
Working with Lloyd was just on a whole different level. I practiced every day before I went to Texas [to make the record] because I knew this was a big honor, and I wanted to be ready. I wasn’t necessarily nervous, but I was definitely excited and aware of what it meant to be working with someone like him. He gave me so much guidance and I learned so much from him and all of the musicians that he brought around. Both Lloyd and Pat [Manske], who played percussion on the record and engineered it, are just laid back super cool guys who were a great hang as well as incredible musicians and well put together artists. I wanted to find the good guys who do a great job, and they’re both of those things. I feel really lucky.
So the new album, Long Ride Home, is available now. It contains eleven tracks all that were written by you. Are they all drawn from personal experience, others or a bit of both?
I think a bit of both. It’s very funny because all of the songs have bits of truth from my own personal experience for sure. Some are more personal than others, but most end up being an amalgam of personal things, observations or thoughts on a subject. Writing is such a funny process; you’re allowed to have artistic license, and the great part is that you can spend it wherever you like.
The closing track, “Long Ride Home” is also the title of the album. What is the story behind the song and the significance of having it as the title?
It was pretty fitting for the title because it was a long path to get to this collection of music. It’s a big moment in my artistic life, and I felt that it was fitting.
The story of the song basically comes from driving to town, looking at all of the cars and thinking about what it was like before all of that was here. It can also be taken as a metaphor, observing how my life has been compared to the kids I grew up with who are now settled down with a family and a job while I’m pursuing this thing.
And for the most part, you are pursuing this dream as an independent artist?
It’s definitely wild and crazy being an independent artist. I’m doing everything myself, including immersing myself in the business to become proficient at it, which is not necessarily the most fun, but these days you really do have to learn about that stuff. At the same time, I have been assembling a great team. Gary and Tony are great mentors; my brother Josh who has worked in the entertainment industry for more than fifteen years and is currently partners with Adam Levine [running their TV/Film 222 Production Company] has spent a lot of time discussing how to proceed in business and creating a Business Plan. Also, long time family accountant Saul Lipson and Nashville attorney John Strohm have been great counseling me as to how best make it all work. I also have Radio DJ friends, my voice coach Raven Kane Campbell [Beck’s Stepmom/ back up singer for Neal Diamond/wife of Willie’s orchestra conductor David Campbell] and of course Lloyd.
It sounds like you definitely have surrounded yourself with good people.
What’s ahead for you and the music in the coming year?
The near future involves using the great response from radio and press to get the music out to a wider audience and then to make plans for playing in the Rocky Mountain Region from Arizona in the South to New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana this Summer and as Lloyd says “Onward”.
I have done cds before and have been fairly happy with them, especially my acoustic album, but I feel like this is the first time I have something I really believe strongly in and am proud of. I’m excited to get it out to as many people as I can and am just going to keep pushing.
For more information, and to purchase Long Ride Home, visit his official website
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