Tyler Childers is celebrating his 30th birthday on June 21, 2021, and that’s reason enough for Outsider to celebrate. For the last dozen years, Tyler has been delivering his brand of traditional country music one note at a time—and gaining one fan at a time in the process.
The proud son of Kentucky hails from the same area of Appalachia as country music royalty Loretta Lynn and Chris Stapleton. Of course, Kentucky has a rich history of country music—names you are surely familiar with, like Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs. And names you surely should be familiar with, like Chris Knight and Sturgill Simpson. Tyler’s been drinking the same water as the aforementioned names, steeped in the stylings of traditional country, bluegrass, and folk with working-class songwriting chops to match.
In fact, Tyler crossed my musical plate back in 2016 thanks to a Pandora recommendation based on my longtime appreciation of Chris Knight. I’ve been listening to Tyler ever since. Fortunately, he’s been gaining steam with the rest of the music-loving world, too. An endorsement from Sturgill Simpson helped put Tyler on a lot of fans’ musical maps. Sturgill co-produced Tyler’s 2017 album, Purgatory, and his 2019 album, Country Squire, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
Tyler was named Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2018 Americana Awards. He also earned a 2020 Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance for “All Your’n.”
In honor of Tyler’s 30th birthday on June 21, 2021, I highlighted three of my favorite tunes that showcase TC’s range. From growing up in small-town Kentucky to being swallowed by the big city—and a love song for good measure.
‘Nose On the Grindstone’
“Nose on the Grindstone” was featured on Tyler’s OurVinyl Sessions in 2015. The three-song offering also included “Whitehouse Road” and “Follow You to Virgie.” Penned by Tyler Childers, “Nose on the Grindstone” serves as a fatherly warning for the Kentucky youth trapped somewhere between coal mining and pill mills: “Keep your nose on the grindstone and out of the pills.”
Tyler penned “Creeker” after an Uber driver dropped him off at the wrong intersection in Chicago. Hungover and tired, with only a five-spot in his pocket, Tyler Childers crept into the closest bar to regroup and recharge his depleted cell phone. “Creeker,” which was featured on Tyler’s 2019 album, Country Squire, is the result. A fish-out-of water tale full of lament: “When he was a kid / Lord, he’d never have dreamt it / All the ways that the city can bring a country boy down.”
‘Honky Tonk Flame’
Ah, the timeless tale: Boy is a screwup. Boy meets girl. Girl helps boy stop being a screwup. Tyler Childers peppers his albums with songs about his loving wife, Senora May (see “Lady May” or “All Your’n”). But “Honky Tonk Flame” from Tyler’s 2017 album, Purgatory, is my favorite. It’s got the best parts of both Merle and Sturgill. What’s more, it’s wholly Tyler as he re-imagines a classic-sounding honky-tonkin’ tune for the 21st century.