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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Singer-Songwriter Dan Tyminski Discusses the Theme of His Latest Album, 'Southern Gothic'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 3:57 PM

While growing up in Vermont, country singer-songwriter Dan Tyminski used to attend bluegrass concerts and festivals. His parents, he says, encouraged his love for the music.

“Any live music they could hear, they went to see, so I got a lot of live exposure from my earliest memories on,” says Tyminski in a recent phone interview from his Nashville home. He opens for Brad Paisley and Hank Williams Jr. at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, July 5, at Blossom. “It ultimately turned its way toward bluegrass. We liked the bluegrass circuit on the East Coast. My parents took me everywhere. I got to meet people and play music from when I was very small.”

Tyminski would then move to Virginia to join the Lonesome River Band. That led to a gig with Allison Krauss + Union Station. Exposure from that gig put Tyminski on producer T-Bone Burnett’s radar. Burnett recruited him to sing the vocals on “Man of Constant Sorrow,” the hit song from the Coen Brothers flick O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack that Burnett produced.

In 2008, Tyminski had some time off, so he formed his own band and issued Wheels, a traditional bluegrass album.

“That was a way to best utilize my time off,” he explains. “I never pined to be a frontman or have my own band. I’ve been so happy with the band I’ve been with. I thought it would be good to play some bluegrass music with the guys I love. The record I made in 2008 was really built around the band I was traveling the road with. I didn’t necessarily need to make a record, but I wanted to have some product because at bluegrass festivals, it’s important to have albums with the band members in it. We wanted to stay true to form to that philosophy. I made a record with some guys who are some of the best in the field.”

Up until that point, Tyminski hadn’t ventured far from playing bluegrass and country music. But five years ago, his assistant received an offer to collaborate with the Swedish superstar DJ Avicii.

“It was a weird thing,” says Tyminski. “My assistant said we got an offer to do an EDM track. I had to ask what EDM was. I was so out of it. She explained it to me, and I said, ‘Thank you but no thank you.’ They sent me the song, and I texted my daughter to see if she had heard of [Avicii]. She knew he was a Swedish DJ and brilliant. She wanted to know why I was asking about him. I told her that he wanted me to do a song on his next record. She texted back one word and one word only — ‘Bullshit.’ She didn’t believe what was going on.”

Once Tyminski received the Avicii track, he realized he could provide some vocals. He sent what he calls the “dry vocals” to Avicii. The resulting track, “Hey Brother,” became a massive hit for the DJ, who passed away earlier this year.

“The version I heard had nothing to do with what eventually came out,” says Tyminski. “We sent tracks back and forth over the internet. I didn’t know what he was going to do. It blew me away when I heard what came back and how well my voice fit. It was an interesting growing period for me. It didn’t feel weird to hear my voice in that context, and it gave me courage to write some stuff that wound up being the new project.”

As Tyminski began to write the songs for what would become his latest album, Southern Gothic, he originally thought he’d just sell the songs to the label, so the people there could find someone else to sing them.

“To be as transparent and honest as possible, I had no idea I was going to make this record,” he says. “I had signed a songwriting deal. I got a publishing deal and just started writing songs. This record was born not of the desire to make a record but out of the desire to make music unlike anything else.”

The people at Universal Records liked the songs he sent their way but said they had no idea who to give the songs to, so Tyminski began to work with producer Jesse Frasure to sculpt the songs into a solo album.

“I started writing stuff that was in unoccupied real estate, if you will,” says Tyminski. “It’s totally different from everything else. I felt like after being given the opportunity to make a record, I had to look at the body of work and see what we were trying to say. The common thread is my voice. That’s true, but it also holds a mirror up to society. It’s not judge-y or preachy, but it isn’t your everyday mass appeal music.”

Tyminski says the "Southern Gothic" theme, which emerges in both the lyrics and the music, came about by accident. The album’s title track features clanging percussion and a shuffling beat that sounds lifted from the catalog of trip-hop star Tricky. “We got a church on every corner/so why does heaven feel so far away,” Tyminski sings on the haunted tune.

“I remember the day we came up with that song,” Tyminski says. “We started at 11 at night and worked later into the night. We decided to evaluate it, and we realized we were trying to dress up a turd. We were either going to quit or start something different. Jesse [Frasure] played some different music to change things up, and he played the bones of what would become ‘Southern Gothic.’ The first thing that struck me was that it was creepy and dark.”

Someone in the studio said, “It’s kind of Gothic.” Frasure responded, “If Dan is going to sing it, it has to be Southern Gothic.” The guys then all Googled Southern Gothic to see just what the term meant.

“What laid in front of us was a wealth of material you could have written 10 complete albums about,” says Tyminski. “We picked and choosed the parts we thought would help us make the song we were trying to make. I really wasn’t familiar with the literature until that day. It’s interesting how it unfolded. I didn’t expect this record to come along the way it did, but after I realized that I had this opportunity, I’ve had to honor that and that’s carried through into the band I hired and the shows we played. We’re playing this record as it sounds; we’re not doing bluegrass music. It’s been amazing to play with this much energy — it’s pretty far left for me.”

So would Tyminski ever record another traditional bluegrass album?

“I know what my career has been and what my fans see me as — I’m a bluegrass guy through and through,” he says. “At some point, there will be a straight-up bluegrass record, but I’m not in a hurry to do that right now. I don’t think it’ll be the next thing I do. I don’t think I’ll copy this record either. What I’ve discovered is that every time I’ve stepped outside of the box, I look back at what I’ve done with a high sense of pride. I think the next thing I do will be to again try to make music that’s unlike anything else.”

Brad Paisley, Hank Williams Jr., Dan Tyminski, 7:15 p.m. Thursday, July 5, Blossom, 1145 W. Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-920-8040. Tickets: $27.75-$111.50,

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