Like most every musician, Tyler Childers has been mostly just stewing at home since he’s unable to tour due to COVID-19. But unlike some musicians, home is a special place for Tyler Childers, and in country music.
“I consider myself extremely lucky to get to go out on the road and play music for a living with my band who are my brothers and best friends. But at the same time there’s something to be said about being at the house,” Childers told the BBC in a recent interview. “I love it here. I’m a product of my raising, which is eastern Kentucky, the people here in the foothills.”
But recently Tyler Childers became very unlucky when he broke his collarbone in three places. Though he shared the news via social media (jokingly saying he broke his “clarinet”), the story behind how he broke it remained a mystery to most.
“I decided I would just take a break from clearing brush and sawing on the fiddle to get my motorcycle out and clean it up, go on a nice little ride,” Childers explains. “About halfway up the driveway I lost it on the gravel, and laid it down. And while I was doing that, I ended up breaking my collarbone, so I had to take a trip into town. It turns out I broke it in three different pieces, and the middle one being completely shattered, which has put my fiddlin’ on hold.”
That’s right, Childers recently picked up the fiddle as well under the direction of the fiddle player and guitarist for his backing band The Foodstamps, Jesse Wells. Nicknamed The Professor, Wells also happens to be an instructor at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music operated by Morehead State University.
Though the accident has put the fiddle playing on ice, Childers is celebrating the recent addition of his name to one of the signs on the “Country Music Highway,” also known as Route 23 that runs through eastern Kentucky region, and right through or near the birth or raising spots of some of country music’s greatest contributors, including Ricky Skaggs, Loretta Lynn, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, Chris Stapleton, Gary Stewart, and of course, Tyler Childers. The 28-year-old already had a display in the U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Museum in Paintsville, but the sign addition makes it special for Childers who’s been driving past this particular sign for years.
“I just want to be involved in the future of this place,” Tyler says. “I think it’s important for folks my age, folks older than me, folks younger than me, just folks from this area to start taking interest in this area again. For a long time we preached to the best and brightest that if they wanted a future that was worth having, they needed to relocate and go to other places. At the time that may have not been completely true, but over time preaching that again and again, it turned out to be true.”
“If you take the nutrients out of the soil over and over again, eventually you just got poor soil. And it’s time that we tend to our garden, tend to our spot, and really revitalize our communities. And I’m excited to be involved in that as much as I can in whatever way the world sees fit to use me.”
Tyler has seen fit to use his time to advocate for clean water in the region, among other pet projects he’s championed in the region, both public and private. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made just about everything more difficult to participate in.
“It’s got us hunkered back down at the house, tending to things that have getting put on back burner, or ignored for a long time,” Tyler says, who recently had to cancel his 2020 arena tour with Sturgill Simpson due to the pandemic. It also has Childers reconnecting to the region that has inspired so much great country music, including his own.