Tyler Ramsey prefers to stay mum about the "little bit of a dark time" that preceded For the Morning, the singer and guitarist's first album since leaving Band of Horses in 2017 after a 10-year run. But a track like "Firewood," premiering exclusively below, reflects on coming out of that time.
"It's about trying to remember that there is light and better things coming up," Ramsey, whose wife gave birth to a daughter while the family moved to North Carolina leading up to the album, tells Billboard. "A lot of dynamics were going on in my life at the time with some people I was having to keep coming with. I'm trying to dance around the subject a little bit ... 'cause, really, I'd love to let people decide for themselves what it means to them."
That said, "Firewood" -- with its ringing acoustic guitars, spare arrangement and elegiac melody -- also shows off the spirit of musical adventure Ramsey wanted to apply to For the Morning. "It's a song I worked on for a while," he explains. "It's a story and a cohesive piece, but it's got a lot of levels to it for sure. I always appreciated Paul McCartney or people like that -- their songs came out of nowhere with a new part or new idea. I tried to apply that to [‘Firewood']; it kind of builds steadily and then has this big ending that takes you in a different direction, which is fun to do in a song."
Ramsey started writing the songs on For the Morning -- due April 5 on Fantasy Records -- while he was still in Band of Horses, compiling "fairly thorough demos at home" before taking them into La La Land studios in Louisville. He populated the session with both friends and musicians he hadn't met before, including Russ Paul on pedal steel and Paul Nathan Salsburg and Gareth Liddiars (The Drones) on guitar, while Joan Shelley, Thad Cockrell and Molly Parden provided backing vocals.
"One of the goals was to have people come in and play on it a little more than I'd done in the past," Ramsey explains. "I really wanted some harmony vocals from other people, so I had a great cast of characters come in and sing harmonies and some great instrumentals come in and play. It really elevated the songs, at least for me; when I listen to them, I get super excited about the parts they did. It turned out really cool and was definitely what I hoped to accomplish."
Ramsey is in the midst of a U.S. tour that started back in February and will include performances at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. He then heads to Europe for dates starting May 20 and has signed on to play at Mountain Jam on June 15 in Bethel, N.Y. And while his departure from Band of Horses is "another touchy subject," Ramsey is clearly happy to be the master of his own destiny now.
"This was just something I had to do," he says. "I was in that band for a decade, which is a long time. I wanted to move in a direction where I felt a little more like I was doing something that felt creative. Even boiling down to scheduling with people when you're in a band with five people is hard. It's hard to say no to anything at that point because you don't ever want to take work away from your friends. But after my daughter was born, I wanted to be more selective with my time. So that and wanting to feel more creative made me go in this direction where I'm at now."
Watch the video below.