TYLER CHILDERS FLEES APPALACHIA PURGATORY FOR AUSTRALIA
“Now God made coal for the men who sold their lives to West Van Lear/ and you keep on digging until you get down there/ where it's darker than your darkest fears/ and that woman in the kitchen she keeps on cooking/ but she ain't had meat in years/ just live off bread, live off hope in a pool of a million tears.” - Coal - Tyler Childers.
Appalachian singer-songwriter Tyler Childers jumped genres with a tasty flourish when the late culinary TV host Anthony Bourdain used his songs when he featured West Virginia on his Parts Unknown special in April, 2018.
Childers' soulful country-bluegrass-folk hybrid was a perfect soundtrack for Bourdain's special on Appalachian cooking and culture.
Tyler shares his Kentucky roots with fellow Coalminer's daughters and sons Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Patty Loveless, Pistol Annie Angaleena Presley and bluegrass reared prolific Grammy winning chart topper Chris Stapleton.
His mining tribute Coal explored fateful hard times of coalmining families on debut 2011 CD Bibles & Bottles.
He has also released two indie EP CDS Live On Red Barn Radio in 2013 and 2014.
Childers, 27, is now touring Australia with former Chicago postman and acclaimed singer-songwriter John Prine to promote his second album Purgatory that was released on August 4, 2017 , on Hickman Holler Records.
Tyler won best new talent at the 2018 Americana Awards in Nashville where cancer survivor Prine, 72, was voted artist of the year.
Prine, who played the famed Hanging Rock race course 25 years ago, is returning to promote his 25 th album The Tree Of Forgiveness.
Tyler toured the U.S. last year with Prine, recent Australian tourist Margo Price, Third Man Records label boss Jack White and Grammy winning fellow Kentuckian Sturgill Simpson who produced Purgatory with David Ferguson.
Childers was born and raised in Lawrence County , Kentucky , and lives south-east of Lexington with his singer-songwriter wife Senora May who inspired new song Lady May .
Tyler wanted to be a journalist or an English teacher but that changed when he started playing the guitar.
His grandfather bought him his first one and Childers took to writing.
Tyler 's writing is inspired by his Appalachian upbringing and the region's deep history of storytelling.
“I tend to write in little stories just because of my background and where I'm from,” Childers revealed on the eve of his tour.
“Storytelling is rich in Appalachian culture - sitting down and spinning yarns and telling tall tales and trying to one-up the guy who just told one. It's the people I grew up with, the experiences, the things I grew up doing. Just the lifestyle, the everyday grind, the hardships, the values.”
Childers' songs were covered by bluegrass peers Newtown and Town Mountain after he dropped out of college and installed flooring, built houses and landscaped while playing music.
“My first song was a hard-core knock-off of Tangled Up in Blue ,” Childers recalled.
“It was based on a story maybe I had heard before. I was 13. The woman died in the end - she was sleeping on the railroad tracks. Pretty edgy, you know.”
Although Childers music falls under the Americana umbrella he believes it's much broader.
“I have a hard time explaining to anyone what exactly Americana is supposed to be,” Tyler says.
“I haven't really bothered myself with trying to understand it, because first and foremost, I make country music. Not even really country music, just music that I feel. More often than not, that leans toward country. I do think that Americana , from what I've noticed, seems to have become this refuge for real country outcasts. But if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, and looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck and tastes like duck it's probably duck. It just seems like a lot of people that get taken in by Americana are really just country artists. Moses was in the desert for 40 years so maybe for the next 40 years we'll be in Americana .”
TYLER CHASES HONKY TONK FLAME
“I was out of my mind the first night we met/ I was feeling lonely and blue/ I just moved to the country to get me some rest/ the city put a hurting on you/ especially a fella from eastern Kentucky/ without a penny or a worth to his name/ wasting his life on a burning desire and chasing that honky tonk flame.” - Honky Tonk Flame - Tyler Childers
"The character in Banded Clovis , I've met that dude," Childers confessed about a song where a down-and-out man commits murder out of desperation.
"He might not have killed anyone, which is why he's still kicking around and among us, but I've met that dude over and over again.”
He also revealed the source of Universal Sound - a song he performed for years as a mournful solo-acoustic folk tune and rollicking bluegrass number.
Childers wrote it during a stressful time when he moved to West Virginia .
He headed to Cranberry Glades of eastern West Virginia with his dog, tent and Ram Dass's book on meditation, Journey of Awakening, and found new ways of thinking.
"Place is important but getting away from your place and getting outside of it and looking at it from a bunch of different angles is equally important," Tyler said.
"In my opinion, with political and religious views, how can you 110 percent, full-hearted say without a shadow of a doubt say that this is how I feel, and this is where I want to be in my life, if you haven't looked at it any other way than just one angle?"
Childers recorded debut album Bottles & Bibles in a friend's backyard studio.
It reflected an alternative to how the media and rest of the world, outside his community, portrayed Appalachia and blue-collar America.
Childers started writing songs about what life was really like in those hills - the struggles to raise families and put food on the table with one foot in the coalmine and one in the grave.
HARD TIMES NO MORE
“I bought a house at the mouth of the holler, a ring at the pawn shop, and a crib for the kid/ I heard some word there was work up in Hindman/ I'm going tomorrow and hope that there is/ my sweat and my wages they don't seem to weight out/ I'm getting more aches than I'm gaining in gold/ whoever said you could raise you a family just working your ass off knee deep in coal? - Hard Times - Tyler Childers.
“Hell's probably better than trying to get by,” he lamented on Hard Times where the character compares his plight to a desperado shot in an armed hold-up at a Texaco petrol station.
Childers was a teenager but wanted to tell the world what existed beneath the narrative and tell people who lived there he understood their plight and would tell their truth.
“There is a lot of tragedy, if you want to look at it that way, but there is hope,” Childers explained.
“There is a sense of family, and a sense of looking out for your own.”
Childers has written a swag of songs for his third album.
“I'm always writing,” Tyler confessed.
“That's my main focus. It always has been. When I was a kid I wanted to write novels. I decided I didn't have the fuel to write 400 pages, so I started writing three-to four-minute songs and sketches. With Purgatory the way we've been pushing it and touring it behind it, it's hard to carve out time to get into a studio. So I have some time set aside. Hopefully, if it all works out, we can get in the studio for a week by the end of the year and do it the same way I did Purgatory . I walked in with 50 or 60 songs I was proud of, songs I was serious about and ready to put on an album. Then we picked 10 of them. And I've been writing since. So I've got those old songs, and I've got new songs, and then I'll go in here at the end of the year and pick out nine, 10, 11 and do it again.”
PRINE, PRICE AND PRINCE PURGATORY
“Will you pray for me/ when the roots of the oak and my ribcage are braiding/ if I can think/ Lord knows that I will fondly pray for you/ high on the hill where the fox horns blow/ and down in the grave where they lay me low/ Catholic girl, pray for me/ you're my only hope for Heaven.” - Purgatory - Tyler Childers.
So where did the Childers-Prine affinity start?
In eighth grade, when spending most of his time on the bench on his baseball team, his coach David Prince started playing John Prine.
The Kentucky-based teacher and musician performs under the moniker of “Laid Back Country Picker”
Childers remembers the moment vividly.
“I turned to him and said, ‘What is that?' And he said, ‘You mean you have never heard John Prine?' Ever since then, I've been blaring him, and he's one of the first songwriters who had a big influence on how I wanted my sound to be.”
Prince has vivid memories of Childers embryonic musical roots.
“A lot of kids like music, but Tyler was into Bob Dylan,” says Prince.
“He liked to write songs, and they were phenomenal for a 14-year-old kid. I remember him asking, ‘Do you know who Jack Kerouac is?' I said, ‘Yes, sir.' I'd never had a kid ask me about Kerouac before. He was an old soul.”
When Childers opens for Prine on tour he joins him for versions of Paradise and Please Don't Bury Me.
Prine praises Childers: “He's wonderful fella, a really good writer, and my audiences love him.”
Another inspired Childers fan is Mid-West Farmer's Daughter Margo Price.
“Tyler Childers is one hell of a songwriter,” says Margo Price.
“He's a down-to-earth dude who doesn't care about anything but writing well crafted, honest songs. The world needs more musicians like him.”
Price recruited Childers to open two of her May headlining shows at the famed Ryman where he was joined by Simpson and Prince the Laid Back Country Picker .
The crowd offered a standing ovation only two songs into his set, rising to their feet while Childers stared at the audience, just clutching his guitar.
Childers and Prine play Brisbane Tivoli March 5, Palais Theatre, St Kilda March 7 and State Theatre, Sydney March 9.