Tyler Childers - Rustin' In The Rain Album Cover
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‘Phone Calls and Emails’ by Tyler Childers - Lyrics & Meaning

September 8, 2023 11:01 pm GMT
Last Edited December 19, 2023 7:42 pm GMT

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Tyler Childers - ‘Phone Calls and Emails’

Label: Hickman Holler Records / RCA Records

Release Date: September 8th, 2023

Album: Rustin’ in the Rain

Producers: Tyler Childers & The Food Stamps

Songwriter: Tyler Childers

The Background:

Along with ‘Percheron Mules’ and ‘Space and Time’, ‘Phone Calls and Emails’ was one of the songs that Tyler Childers had tested out previously by temporarily including it in his setlist.

Once it was made available, the track was noted by fans and critics alike for its apparent straying from the retro, 50s-inspired aesthetic of the majority of Rustin’ in the Rain.

Even though Tyler's use of emails as a means of communicating with his lover would be anachronistic for that period - and even for the subsequent decade - it still feels dated when using today's methods of conversing online as a reference point.

As a result of this, ‘Phone Calls and Emails’ still fits neatly in front of the sepia-tinged, otherworldly lens through which Childers invites you to view this body of work. When listening to this track, the ‘Angel Band’ songsmith's charming quip to The New York Times that he's a “dial-up man in a 5G world” has never felt more pertinent.

The Sound:

‘Phone Calls and Emails’ takes on a similar texture to Childers' Kris Kristofferson cover, ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’, with both tracks opening with a simple vocals and keys combination.

The bass guitar hums subtly in the background, and the gentility and ease of this, coupled with the delicate piano, creates a peaceful, almost cheerful ambience.

This, of course, juxtaposes with the despondent lyrics, with the gradual introduction of the steel guitar throughout ‘Phone Calls and Emails’ adding a darker sense of yearning and longing.

Childers’ vocals are noticeably drawn-in, particularly when compared to the full-blooded nature of the song that precedes it on the album's tracklist, ‘Rustin’ in the Rain’, during which the Kentucky crooner's voice often cracks and strains with vigour.

The Meaning:

“Hello, good morning
I hope you’ve slept well
I hope that my message gets through
It’s so unnerving
To get no reply
To the phone calls and emails I’m sending to you”

Childers opens the lovestruck ballad by singing directly to his lover, who has stopped responding to his attempts at communication. From the uncharacteristically sparse scene-setting we get in the opening two verses, it appears this is a long-distance relationship, with the couple's future hanging by the thread of the telephone cable.

From the outset, both from the drawn-out rhythm of Childers' vocal and the lonesome lyrical structure, ‘Phone Calls and Emails’ feels reminiscent of the atmosphere created on George Strait's ‘I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This’ or Elvis Presley's take on ‘Always On My Mind’.

“I’m sure you’re busy
I’d say that you’re swamped
Lord knows it’s a long row to hoe
But if I’ve don’t something
That has put you off
I wish that you’d just let me know”

He confesses that if his lover is really as busy as her radio silence suggests, then they must be well and truly “swamped”. The listener gets the clear sense that any attempts to keep the flame referenced in the Rustin’ in the Rain title-track alight are entirely one-sided.

“We used to talk daily
You’d call to check in
I’d check in on you, I considered us friends
Now I’m second guessing
What I thought to be true
With these phones calls and emails I’m sending to you”

After worrying that he must've done something wrong, the ‘Phone Calls and Emails’ protagonist questions his lover's actions, as he pines for their dynamic to return to the way it used to be (“You'd call to check in / I'd check in on you, I considered us friends”).

“Are you preferring
I left you alone
Just answer with what I should do
I’m sorry I’ll quit now
With bombarding your phone
With these phone calls and emails I’m sending to you”

By the time the sinuous, enchanting track draws to its close, the icy reception being given to our protagonist seems to have finally had its desired impact, with Childers reluctantly agreeing to “quit now / With bombarding your phone”.

However, given how infatuated the main character appears to be at the start of ‘Phone Calls and Emails’, you can't help but feel that, under the guise of the white flag he suddenly decides to raise, he's still harbouring hopes of rekindling the romance.

What has Tyler Childers said about ‘Phone Calls and Emails’?

Although Tyler Childers has not spoken specifically about ‘Phone Calls and Emails’ itself, he delved into the creative impetus that drove Rustin’ in the Rain during a recent New York Times interview.

In this conversation, he explained the significant impact Elvis Presley's music had on the record, which can be felt throughout ‘Phone Calls and Emails’ in particular.

“I don’t know if it was me saying that, or the algorithm thought I was the guy to send it to, but all of the sudden there was all of this Elvis stuff around me," he explained. "So I played it like a Nashville songwriter, trying to come up with songs to pitch”.

For the full lyrics to Tyler Childers’ ‘Phone Calls and Emails’, see below:

“Hello, good morning
I hope you’ve slept well
I hope that my message gets through

It’s so unnerving
To get no reply
To the phone calls and emails I’m sending to you

I’m sure you’re busy
I’d say that you’re swamped
Lord knows it’s a long row to hoe

But if I’ve don’t something
That has put you off
I wish that you’d just let me know

We used to talk daily
You’d call to check in
I’d check in on you I considered us friends

Now I’m second guessing
What I thought to be true
With these phones calls and emails I’m sending to you

We used to talk daily
You’d call to check in
I’d check in on you I considered us friends

Now I’m second guessing
What I thought to be true
With these phone calls and emails I’m sending to you

Are you preferring
I left you alone
Just answer with what I should do

I’m sorry I’ll quit now
With bombarding your phone
With these phone calls and emails I’m sending to you

These phone calls and emails I’m sending to you”

For more on Tyler Childers, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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