Tyler Childers: “We’ve Not Fixed The Problem of Bad Country”

photo: Brad Coolidge

Tyler Childers is getting ready to release his major label debut Country Squire on Friday, August 2nd, and ahead of the release, he’s doubling down on both his distaste for much of modern country, and his criticism of Americana as a distraction from the deeper issues facing the country genre. In a new interview with The Guardian, the Kentucky native did not mince words about what he feels the issues that are facing much of modern country music.

“The problem with country is we’ve turned the props into the play,” he says. “Let’s not just Solo cup and pickup truck it to death. Let’s handle this in a smart way. Nobody is thinking about lyrical content, or how we’re moving people, or what’s going on in the background of their minds … It doesn’t make sense to move to one of the biggest-growing cities in the nation (Nashville) to sit in a room with 12 people and write a country song. They’re all singing songs about ‘the place down the road’, but what is that place now?”

Tyler Childers has been able to build a grassroots audience and put major label support behind his career by being the authentic voice missing in most of today’s commercial country. As Childers says, “There are different pockets of the rural US and each one of those has their own color, their own language, the things they’re worried about. They’re so different.” But the homogenization of country, and popular music at large has drained most of the regional character out of the music, making the songs and stories of Tyler Childers feel especially vibrant and unique to ears hungry for variety and regional texture.

Some may recall last September while Childers was accepting his Americana award for Emerging Artist of the Year, he said, “As a man who identifies as a country music singer, I feel Americana ain’t no part of nothin’. It is a distraction from the issues that we are facing on a bigger level as country music singers. It kind of feels like ‘Purgatory.'”

In the new interview, Tyler Childers also doubles down on his charges against the Americana distinction, calling it “a place to recognize people being ignored by their own genres, but now it’s a hindrance. The stuff we used to call ‘good country’ is now getting called Americana. We’ve not fixed the problem of bad country.”

Tyler Childers has certainly been doing his part in the effort against bad country, and now with the muscle of a major label behind him, will likely reach and even larger audience with the new album Country Squire.

The 28-year-old from Lawrence County, Kentucky started playing music when he was 13, and learned how to sing in the church choir. After graduating from Paintsville High School, Childers attended a few semesters at a community college while pursuing a music career, releasing his first record at 19 called Bottles and Bibles. Appearing throughout Kentucky and West Virginia, Childers became a regional phenomenon, and was given a major boost when the drummer for Sturgill Simpson, Miles Miller, introduced the two. Soon Childers was signed to Thirty Tigers, and became one of the fastest-rising artists in country music.

Childers regularly sells out live appearances, and is headlining numerous festivals in 2019, including Pickathon in Portland where he will appear Friday and Saturday night (8-2 and 8-3). It was announced in May that Tyler Childers had signed to Sony Music division RCA Records in a partnership with his own imprint, Hickman Holler Records.