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For singer-songwriter Tyler Dial, left of center is how he has always felt – listening to country music growing up in Arizona, but wearing “faded Chuck Taylors” instead of cowboy boots, loving The Eagles and The Rolling Stones as much as George Strait and Garth Brooks.Tyler had been raised on music, with his father a concert promoter. Tyler learned to play his dad’s guitar strumming along to “Tequila Sunrise” and “Wild Horses,” as well as the hits he heard on country radio. A galvanizing experience was when Tyler’s mom took him as a kid to a Keith Urban concert – another early inspiration for what would become his “little bit country, little bit rock’n’roll” sensibility. If his initial releases can seem almost like baby picturesnow, Tyler’s upcoming six-song EP – Way Back When, due out later in 2022 – sets the table for his maturation as an artist, one who is finding his way in Nashville while remaining true to his Southwestern roots and individual, introspective outlook. The new EP even features a track called “Left of Center,” with the tune-rich, revealing chorus of “You can call me left of center/But last time I checked/That’s right where the heart is.”
Reflecting on his artistic evolution, Tyler says: “After just a few years in this business, I’ve realized that the best way to set yourself apart in music is by being your true, authentic self. I know that I’ve always gravitated toward musicians who are personal and bold, with an attitude that’s a bit edgier. That’s the kind of music that I want to make. I’ve grown more sure of who I am as an artist, which has made me freer in my writing. I’m not worrying about filling any previous molds. I’ve aimed for my new music to be more organic, more in keeping with the sound and spirit of my influences– and who I am.”
Tyler first started developing his chops as a performer in Austin while studying at the University of Texas, playing UT parties and bars on Sixth Street. His years in the Lone Star State naturally drew him to the vintage Texas country of Jerry Jeff Walker and Robert Earl Keen – but also contemporary acts like the Turnpike Troubadours and Randy Rogers Band. Blessed with big ears and an open mind, Tyler was also influenced by the pop/rock likes of John Mayer and Jack Johnson. Tyler’s debut single, “Damn Good Time,” came out in 2015, when he was still a college freshman. On the day he graduated, in 2018, he released the Repaint EP. The lead single from Repaint, “Truth in the Way,” led to him being named a Rolling Stone “Country Artist You Need to Know.” Featured on Spotify’s New Boots and Wild Country playlists, songs from Repaint have been streamed more than 5 million times to date.
By the time Tyler moved to Nashville after college, his ideas about the broader possibilities for country music had been further stoked by the examples of such figures as Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris and the Brothers Osborne. He wrote songs while working at an East Nashville bar and on a pontoon boat/party barge. One new song, “Electric West,” became a kind of “north star” as he explored the yin and yang of his new-era vision: night and day, acoustic and electric, traditional and progressive, city and country, Vans and cowboy boots. He even dubbed his recording imprint Electric West, releasing a beat-laced single, “About Last Night,” independently in 2019. Electric West will also be the title of his first full-length album– coming soon. Way Back When is a taster for that album, as well as the first release to be supported by a fresh-start team: Make Wake Artist Management, the WME agency, Virgin Music and publishing partner Top 5/Milk & Honey.
The first single from Way Back When is the infectious rocker“Runnin’ Downhill,” to be released on March 11, 2022. Tyler co-wrote the song with Melissa Fuller, Mike Robinson and David Hodges (the latter a hitmaker for artists from Evanescence to Carrie Underwood, along with being Tyler’s new publisher). “The initial inspiration for ‘Runnin’ Downhill’ came from a chapter in Matthew McConaughey’s memoir, which was about the idea of carpe diem – but don’t go too fast and trip yourself,” Tyler recalls. “My take on that is about having fun, seizing the day and living hard – but ‘you better hang on to your hat/when you’re running downhill.’ I had always wanted to write a song like The Eagles’ ‘Life in the Fast Lane,’ and ‘Runnin’ Downhill’ is that sort of fun, rockin’ cautionary tale, an ideal show-opener. Once we finished the song, we were so psyched that we went to get my first tattoo – and David even paid for it!”
Way Back When was produced for the most part by Andy Skib, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and studio ace fluent in the sound of rock and pop. He also helmed the full Electric West album(alongside co-producers Hodges, David Ryan Harris and Steve Solomon on certain tracks). Tyler co-wrote multiple songs on the record with Skib, including a standout track previewed on Way Back When: the irresistibly hook-filled “Damn, Denver.” It’s a song about losing a girl – to a city: “You stole her heart with that blue sky/You made her dream up a mile high/You took her breath and set her free/Made her forget about this town and me/How could I compete?/Damn, Denver.”
“ ‘Damn, Denver’ is about the first relationship I had after I moved to Nashville,” Tyler explains. “The girl ended up movingaway to Denver. I was a bit jealous of the city for enticing her away, but I understood it, because I think Denver is a great place, too. So,there’s a mix of the tongue-in-cheek and real feelings in that tune. Itwas the first song that I wrote with Andy, along with Melissa Fuller, who helped write about half of the album with me. It really kicked off my musical partnership with Melissa and Andy, putting some wind in my sails. After we finished it, I thought: ‘I do belong in Nashville.’ It has always been a hit when I play it at songwriters shows, and it’s gotten some attention on TikTok. I guess it’s kind of a feel-good, positive-minded breakup song, and I really love singing it.”
About his creative partnership with Skib, Tyler says: “Meeting Andy was a blessing for me. I had taken a bit of a backseat on my earlier recordings, but he and I were together and on the same page for this entire project. He’s a great musician, arranger and producer, as well as such a tasteful guitar player. I love everything about the vibe he brings to the music, and he helped me realize my vision in the studio.” The songs of Way Back When, and Electric West, are the result of Tyler truly following his muse – and bringing listeners along for the ride. “I’ve been thinking about how I grew up falling in love with tunes I listened to in the car,” he says, “so the idea of my music being a soundtrack for others is thrilling to me. I’m really looking forward to people taking these new songs out for a spin!”