Tyler Farr Interview: Singer-Songwriter Says ‘Hello’ to Life as a Country Music Star
The world was introduced to Tyler Farr early in 2012 when he released his debut single, 'Hot Mess.' His follow-up single, 'Hello Goodbye,' impacted country radio in August, and became the most-added single the day of its release.
While many singer-songwriters come and go, it's clear that Farr is here to stay. Taste of Country snagged a few minutes with the up-and-coming star to find out a little bit more about his musical background, how he's handling his rise to fame and what's to come for him.
Taste of Country: When did music become a big part of your life?
Tyler Farr: I grew up in a small town in pretty much the middle of the United States … Garden City, Mo. There’s about 1,000 people there. When you grow up in a town like that, you breathe and eat the country and that lifestyle [because] there’s not a lot to do. You either take over your family farm or you go work for the union, and you see some people go to college. It’s just a simple lifestyle. That led me to write about the things I’m writing about now. From an early age, I was infatuated with music. I always loved it and was always dancing or playing something. As I grew older, I started taking classical voice lessons and did classical music all through high school, which I know is hard to believe because it sounds like a smoke a carton of cigarettes every day! I sang all through high school, and then went to a college on a performance scholarship.
Tell us about your George Jones connection.
If there was a moment in my life it all changed, it was when my mom married George Jones’ lead guitar player – Dwayne Phillips. She married him, and I went on the road with George for a summer, not opening or anything. I was only 16. I would stand beside the stage and watch him sing every night. I knew that I had to do that. I thought it was awesome. That’s when I grew to really love country music, from watching him sing these songs. That’s when I started looking up Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Vern Gosdin, Vince Gill… I just fell in love with country music. I went to college at Missouri State University for two years, and I fought it all I could. Finally, one day I just packed it up and moved off. Everybody thought I was nuts. My parents still supported me, but deep down they thought I was crazy as hell.
You faced some challenges upon moving to Nashville. How did you keep inspired through it all?
I got here and started working the door at Tootsies, flipped burgers and did whatever else they needed me to do. Eventually I got up and sang one night. I played about three or four nights a week for a year and a half. I got to the point where I was not satisfied just singing covers. I loved singing and knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life, but I wanted something more. I was frustrated because my stepdad retired from George and he didn’t know the “in crowd” that was going on in Nashville. I was on my own. I moved here by myself with pretty much some clothes and luggage, and that was pretty much it. I didn’t know what direction to go in, and I was drinking too much. When you’re down in the honky-tonk environment, it will kill you. I probably lost 10 years off my life playing down there [laughs]!
But it was the best thing that ever happened to me, because to be a great artist and songwriter, you have to struggle and go through some heartache and hard times in order to write songs. We’re very passionate people, and you have to get through hard times in your life to portray them through music and be able to relate to them. That was a very good thing for me.
There was a time that you hit so much of a road block that you actually moved back to Missouri. Tell us about the phone call that turned everything around.
Every artist has a moment where they think about quitting music for a moment because it’s scary. I was 21 or 22 years old, and I wanted to have a family and a house and a good life. I moved back home for a summer. I just had to get back home to figure things ou … am I going to go back to college or am I going to do music? If I’m going to do music, how am I going to do it? What am I going to do next? I was so confused. By the time I was having even an ounce of doubt, I guess the good Lord called Rhett Akins and told him to call me because I needed it [laughs]. Rhett called me up and said, 'I want to work with you.' I have a couple of friends in town -- which now Nashville knows as the Peach Pickers -- back then they hadn’t had their bazillion hits yet. Dallas had written ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’ and Rhett had written a couple. I literally moved back the next week after he called me.
I went into the studio and he introduced me to Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip, which is very ironic, because they wrote my first single, ‘Hot Mess.’ It’s funny how God puts people in your life at just the right times. He doesn’t make mistakes; things are orchestrated very perfectly and in a very weird way. That a was a huge step for my career. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that call. I may be back home working at the Sonic or something [laughs]. That got me back to Nashville. I started working with them and got to see how well respected they were in the industry. They liked my style and what I sang about, and I liked the songs that they were writing… all that four-chord country that has made them a lot of money [laughs]! I just gravitated toward the music they were doing. That got me going. They did a few songs with me, and that’s what got the ball rolling that led to my publishing deal and also my record deal. That was a big turning point.
What has been the biggest adjustment you've had to make in your personal life or career since you started this journey?
I’m single, so I don’t have any kids. I have a 140-pound bloodhound at home that I named Cooter Brown. I have people who take care of him, but the biggest change is knowing your limitations and how hard you can go or how long you can go. Trust me… I’ve found this out several times [laughs]! Whenever I think I don’t have a limit, I get knocked on my butt and I get reminded real quick. It’s rough on the road. You’re singing a lot and talking a lot, and it’s just learning how to keep everything at a happy medium, like my grandfather used to say, 'Have a few beers here, don’t have a few beers here.' Everything needs to be done in small dosages. The radio thing is tough sometimes because you have to be up early. My voice already sounds raspy and nasty enough, but when you’re getting up that early, it really, really takes a toll on you.
So how do you make sure you keep a handle on all that?
I was talking to my buddy, Thomas Rhett, right before his single was coming out, and he hadn’t been on the road a ton. I told him to remember that water and sleep are your two best friends. I’d like to say that I’ve got the road thing down to a tee by now, because I am a new artist, but three years ago I did 210 dates with Colt Ford, and then I did a ton last year with Lee [Brice] and Jerrod [Niemann] and Miranda [Lambert], and Lord knows who else. Being out with all of them, I pretty much know what that was about. I knew that you can’t be partying tonight because you have this tomorrow, and just kind of keep it at a nice little pace.
Did you find yourself pretty confident going into the studio to work on your debut album after being schooled by guys like the Peach Pickers?
I’m a songwriter first at heart, and I’m a huge fan of songwriting. I’ve been listening to Rhett songs and Bobby Pinson songs and those writers for so long, that I knew the shape I wanted my album to take. I had some songs of mine. I only wrote maybe a little over half of the album. I wanted to pick not only the best songs I could find, but also the right songs for my first album. It has to match up. It’s kind of like a movie. That’s what my goal was. I think we pretty much accomplished that. I love the album. It’s like my child. I put a lot of sweat and blood into it.
What can country fans expect to hear on your album?
I’m one of the most random people you will meet. I like to joke, I like to be serious, I like to hunt, I like to read … I’m all over the place. I listen to Lil Wayne and then I listen to Merle Haggard. You never know what to expect. That’s kind of how my album is. You can definitely tell that I have a little influence from Colt Ford on it. You can tell Rhett, Dallas and Ben had a big influence in my writing. Those guys got me headed in the right direction.
The album is supposed to be like a musical journey. I’m a romantic at heart. I love a good heartbreak song, so I have ‘Hello Goodbye’ on there. That’s what it does. It will bring a tear to a glass eye [laughs]. It’s about a breakup I went through. There’s a song called ‘Chicks, Trucks and Beers’ that I did with Colt Ford. It will make you want to party and crack a beer. It just goes on. There’s some stone-cold country and there’s some stuff with 808’s on the album, for God’s sake! Songs that will make you laugh and cry, and then songs that are just for the mere fact to get someone to crack a beer and start a party. That’s what my goal was, and that’s what I did my best to create.