via Free Times
Amidst the hustle and bustle of a grueling show schedule at South By Southwest, Tyler Ramsey is happy to take a break and just chat music.
The Austin, Texas, multimedia megafest serves as the launching pad for a three-month tour in support of For the Morning, Ramsey’s first full-length release since 2011. Eager to escape the madness, he’s set up camp about 45 minutes outside of town, commuting in daily for shows.
“It feels like we’re out in the middle of the hill country — it’s quiet,” Ramsey says. “So you get a little balance there.”
A search for balance contributed to the Asheville musician’s decision to leave his role as lead guitarist and co-writer for Band of Horses in 2017, wanting to take a break from the road and spend more time at home with his family. The irony of being back out touring a new record isn’t lost on him.
“Having a family and having a daughter, I wish I could stay home and write soundtracks for movies and just send them out to people,” he chuckles. “But this is what I’ve chosen to do.”
Ramsey is the master of his domain for the first time since joining Band of Horses in 2007. No longer is he beholden to the schedule of playing in someone else’s band, allowing him to dictate his own creative timeline. It’s led to more structure in his writing process than he’d previously been comfortable with.
“I always relied on that kind of thing happening whenever it happened … getting a song whenever it happens to show up,” Ramsey offers. “It’s been kind of fun to set some time frames — or try to at least — and get down to my little room down there to work and write. Even if it’s just playing piano or something. It’s been a different pace that’s been rewarding so far.”
For the Morning was born from the time Ramsey was able to carve out of his day-to-day being a father and husband. He spent hours recording demos in the small studio he built on his property at the foot of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina, then headed to La La Land studios in Louisville to track the final product. The resulting album uses warm piano tones as a through line, evoking the pastoral beauty of the nature surrounding Ramsey’s home.
“Your Whole Life,” the album’s opening track, finds Ramsey at his most pensive. “Have you lived your whole life / Regretting some decision / That you made at a time / A choice was needing to be made?” he asks the listener. It’s easy to construe the line as a musician’s self-doubt, grappling with the hectic life they’ve made for themselves as a result of pursuing their art. But Ramsey insists the lyric isn’t overly autobiographical.
“I’d always rather have people interpret things the way that they want to,” he says with a laugh.
Ramsey’s country influences are dotted across the record, yielding some of its most rewarding moments. “Evening Country” is a gorgeous reworking of “Evening Kitchen”, one of his writing contributions to Band of Horses’ 2010 album Infinite Arms. This version sets itself apart through outlaw-style strummed acoustic guitar, while the vocal harmonies anchor it securely to the source material. “Breaking a Heart” features pedal steel swells that wring tears from the premature end of a relationship, while a 10-second pop hook at the end of each chorus provides a brief respite from the song’s emotional weight.
The lead single, “Firewood”, shows Ramsey further exploring the push and pull between sadness and contentment, both sonically and lyrically. The first two-thirds echo the preceding instrumental, “Darkest Clouds”, establishing a somber mood through haunting layers of fingerpicked guitars. The final minute and a half sees the tempo shift to a groovy time signature, as lead guitar lines sear through the mix. Ramsey sings, “Don’t forget that spring will come back, don’t forget the sun is gonna rise,” entering the song’s final act, allowing a small ray of positivity to peek forth from the darkness — something he tries to focus on in both his writing and life.
“I always want to find that the clouds break and everything is fine forever and ever,” Ramsey says. “But I’ve lived long enough to know that there’s ups and downs … constantly, and you roll with them.”
Friday, March 22
New Brookland Tavern