Tyler Childers is know to many as a mercurial, genre-blurring maverick who knits together fabric from Americana, folk, bluegrass and cosmic country to create a sonic tapestry unlike any other.
However, this isn't necessarily a description Tyler himself would endorse, with the Kentucky singer-songwriter repeatedly distancing him from any alt-country or Americana categorisations.
According to Tyler Childers, he's making country music - plain and simple - and by siphoning off artists into other categories, he argues, we consolidate the idea that our modern conception of ‘country’ is interchangeable with ‘commercial country’.
He undoubtedly has a point, but at the same time, Tyler's eclectic compilation of styles and sounds undoubtedly feels as though it defies any singular definition. As a result, the ‘Lady May’ songsmith has emerged from the shadow of his pioneering forefather, Sturgill Simpson, to become one of the most influential figures in today's landscape.
Partially due to him being situated - seemingly unwillingly - on the outskirts of the modern country ‘in-crowd’, Tyler Childers enjoys the intense loyalty and reverence of a cult following.
He has established himself as standing on the forefront of country music's contemporary wave of artists, who aren't afraid to take on issues such as police brutality and LGBTQ representation.
As well as challenging and tackling the zeitgeist around him, Tyler is celebrated for his ability to look inwards and powerfully convey his struggles with addiction and mental health.
Despite the openness with which Tyler Childers crafts his music, the more successful he's grown, the more enigmatic he's become, epitomised on his hugely experimental and mind-bending 2022 triple-album, Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?
To help bring a little clarity, background and context to country's groundbreaking megastar, we've compiled answers to some of the most widely asked questions about Tyler Childers.
Tyler Childers was born in Lawrence County, Kentucky.
His mother was a nurse and his father worked in the coal industry, and the unseen hardships and difficulties of his father's lifestyle is something Tyler has touched on throughout his music, particularly on ‘Coal’ from his debut album, Bottles and Bibles.
Tyler Childers was born one June 21, 1991, making him 32. Having released Bottles and Bibles in 2011, Tyler has been musically active in a professional sense for around 12 years.
This is the ever-elusive question. Tyler Childers is one of the few artists where a fan, a critic and the artist himself would all most likely have entirely different answers.
Tyler regularly argues he should be considered a country artist, underlining in an interview with World Cafe, “Everybody always talks about the state of country music and puts down commercial country and [says] ‘something's gotta be done’ and ‘we need to be elevating artists that are doing more traditional country’. But then we're not calling those artists country artists, they're getting put into this Americana thing”.
Even so, Tyler infuses his sound with an assortment of neo-traditional and alt-country styles, with his 2020 project, Long Violent History, for instance, being a bona fide bluegrass album.
Yes, Tyler married to fellow singer-songwriter, Senora May, in 2015.
The couple announced they'd welcomed their first child on May 14, 2023, in a rare Instagram post offering a snapshot into family life.
Religion has always been a topic of interest for Tyler, with virtually all his albums exploring spirituality and faith in some shape or form.
He does this most viscerally on his 2022 triple-project, Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven? It contains numerous nods to Aldous Huxley's Universalism - often called ‘Omnism’ - which refers to the idea that truth can be found in all religions.
Tyler grew up in a Baptist household, but on ‘Angel Band’, he doubles-down on his message of harmony, envisioning a multi-faith afterlife (“There's Hindus, Jews, and Muslims / And Baptists of all kinds / Catholic girls and Amish boys / Who've left their plows behind”).
Although much of the album is presented through the lens of Tyler Childers’ Christian upbringing, when speaking about the Hounds project, he underlined, “I think that ‘Angel Band,’ especially being the first song out the door, lets people know that God is bigger than all our gods”.
Yes. On September 18 2020, Tyler Childers released a video expanding on the message of his new album, Long Violent History. In doing so, he shared that he had stopped drinking alcohol and taking drugs six months prior, and it appears Tyler has remained sober ever since.
Prior to this, references to alcohol and drug use featured in Tyler Childers’ music on a variety of occasions, perhaps most prominently on his Purgatory cut, ‘Whitehouse Road’. On this track, Tyler sings “Get me higher than the grocery bill” and “We've been sniffing that cocaine”.
By contrast, on the gospel-tinged ‘Way of the Triune God’ from Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?, Tyler Childers expresses how his faith has been strengthened since going sober (“I don't need the pills you take / Just to feel the spirit movin'”).
The song was accompanied by a heart-rending music video, which follows the love story of two male lovers during the 1950s, starring Colton Haynes and James Scully.
Tyler Childers single-handedly wrote the vast majority of Bottles and Bibles, Purgatory, Country Squire and Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?, with a cover sprinkled in here and there. Tyler's new single, ‘In Your Love’, was co-written with Kentucky singer-songwriter, Geno Seale.
The outlier is Tyler's 2020 widely acclaimed album, Long Violent History, which consists of one original, self-penned song and nine fiddle-driven covers of classic, old-time tracks.
Although it was written around ten years ago, ‘Jersey Giant’ remains a fan-favourite among avid follows of Tyler Childers. The track has never been given an official release, much to his fans’ chagrin, and Tyler has underlined he'll never drop a studio version of the song.
Despite this disheartening revelation, fans can listen to Elle King's version of ‘Jersey Giant’, which was released in 2022. To coincide with King's single, Tyler shed some light on why he didn't want to record ‘Jersey Giant’ himself, “I wrote “Jersey Giant” over ten years ago and only performed it for a short period of time. I was pleased with how it turned out structurally (it even has a bridge, which is rare for me), but I was over performing it pretty fast. I reckon that’s just how songs go sometimes. They can be like that coat you saw and had to have, only to get it home and think, “Why gah, I ain’t never gonna wear this thing.” Or, one that you got from an ex which you would rather just toss out. But that’s not saying anything against the coat, it just doesn’t fit me anymore and hasn’t for some time”.
Tyler went on to emphasise how thankful he is that his tour-mate, Elle King, had decided to record her own rendition of ‘Jersey Giant’, “I’m super excited that Ms. King has dusted this old song off and given it a new life. I’m extremely grateful for her seeing the potential in this tune, and wish her the best out there on the road”.
In addition to his explanation, ‘Jersey Giant’ was written for a woman that is not his wife, Senora May, and it also references drinking alcohol. Given the fact that he's been sober for a number of years now, ‘Jersey Giant’ doesn't align with Tyler's current personal and musical space.
Phonetically, ‘Tyler Childers’ is pronounced ‘Tai-luh Chil-duhz’. Many people make the mistake of saying ‘Childers’ as though they're referencing an infant (‘Child-uhz’).
For the perfect pronunciation of Tyler's last name, listen to the opening lyrics of ‘Flying or Crying’ by Zach Bryan, an artist who regularly cites the ‘All Your'n’ hitmaker as one of his main musical idols.
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Featured photo by Laura Ord