You never know what or who you’re going to find in a little town. At the bottom of Live Oak County, just before the Nueces River meets Lake Corpus Christi, in Dinero TX is where you’ll find Tyler McCumber and his family; where they have lived for what seems like forever, in fact the land came out of a Spanish land grant. Now you’ve probably heard of Tyler, his first album Catch Me in 2006 was nominated for three 2007 Texas Music Awards and Mike McClure won Producer of the Year for his work. Not bad for a starting point.
STEAM How did you get into music?
TM My earliest thoughts of me and music are when I was three or four, standing beside my mama in the front of the car listening to the radio. Mind you this was back before seatbelt and child-seat laws. My parents work for some people that had a big venue, back when those were the big thing. It was in Skidmore TX and they had horse races, skeet shoots, rodeos and they also had big shows like Charlie Pride, Loretta Lynn, and Hank Jr when he was just getting started. I would be with them in the greenroom, on their buses; I even got on stage with Charlie Pride. I was always attracted to that and was given the access to that which I probably shouldn’t have been. I was kind of the pet of the venue owner, so looking back I was possibly forced on these people, but they knew I was OK from the get-go. There were return visits from those people and they would ask about me, so it was a pretty cool experience.
In going to high school and growing up in George West music wasn’t that important and carrying a guitar wasn’t macho, so I’m a late bloomer. In fact I feel I’m still learning to play guitar and I didn’t start writing music and putting the whole troubadour thing together until my early 30’s. It’s like learning to skateboard when you’re 30 – there’s a learning curve. There are so many guys now that are really good because they started at a young age, but you know when I was in high school a guitar tutor was $1,000 now you can get someone for twenty bucks.
STEAM Can you tell me about your latest album, the Saracene Sessions Tape 1?
TM Chisum Mills is a good friend of mine and he has introduced me to just about all the players I know and they are all high caliber players; Tony Saracene is no exception. When I met him about six years ago and he was living in a house-studio in San Antonio. This was after the “Catch Me” record, I had more material and I knew I couldn’t spend $50,000 on a new record, but I wanted to get my stuff recorded; that’s when Tony was recommended. We started with recordings at his house-studio and as time progressed so did our friendship and it was more feasible for him to move south with us. He lived with us for about two and a half years and the Saracene Sessions are a result of that time. There are 30 songs that we’ve whittled down to 20 and are releasing them in a two part collection. Tony’s playing with Ty Dietz now.
STEAM Who is the cute little kid pictured on the cover?
TM That’s my granddaughter, thanks for asking. When we put this record out we did it a little faster than I prefer – I had sold out a venue and really wanted to make sure we had a product to sell, so the picture is one I would have used anyway, but I would have made it so we didn’t need such big borders around it.
STEAM On track 10, Nine Days, how did you come up with someone crying for that? I ask because the first time I heard it I ran through the house looking for someone crying only to find out it was on the record. (laughing)
TM I don’t know, is it too much? That song was written when I was trying to get my music into movies. I was going along the lines of Willy Nelson’s Red Headed Strange album – I wanted to read a movie script and write towards that. Now you need to know that as a musician I’m rouge, not schooled, so the guy I was working with and I were having a communication problem – he thought I wanted to score a movie as in Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark when I really wanted to write a dark and spooky song. So I wrote Nine Days and we recorded it in one take and as you listen to the girl crying you can hear me counting off. When we finished and were looking for sound effects, her crying just seemed to fit in so we kept it. I was really just trying to show this guy what I could do and it worked because I did get some movie work out of it.
STEAM Where’s your next show?
TM I’m real picky where and when I play shows. I’m also not a fan of oversaturation, where people can hear you three or four times a week or month in the same area; I think people just get tired of you. So what I have done is put together a really good band and play what I think are good shows. We’ll be opening for Stoney LaRue in Junction TX on the 4th of July.
STEAM I would say opening for Stoney LaRue is a pretty good job.
TM It’s not a bad gig. If you are fortunate enough to be a draw to the listening public and the consumers that go to live shows you need to remember that you’re only in demand for a short time, so you need to release a new record every two or three years and do some shows or people will forget about you.
STEAM So tell me about the players in your band.
TM The interesting part about my band is that my daughter, Savanna Johnson, works with me. She’s been the bass player and is excellent at that. We’re looking to expand so that she can play acoustic guitar, mandolin, and cello. We play some weird stuff now and then – I try to keep it all fresh. She also sings all the harmonies, so we’ve got that family harmony sound and Savannah’s one of those kids that’s been playing since she was 9. The bass player we’ve got coming in for the Junction show is Rodd Daws, former bass player for the Pear Ratz. On electric guitar is Mike Luna, a well-known and seasoned player from the Corpus Christi area; he played with John Eric for a long time. On drums is a kid that went to school with my kids, Nick Rhodes, who is a real good study and a solid player. He gets it on the first run through.
STEAM Who are your influences?
TM I would say Steppenwolf, Steve Earle, and Credence Clearwater Revival. However, I am me and I don’t want to sound like someone else; people will either like me or hate me, but either way my job will be done.
STEAM Your songs are all good conceptual stories, where do you get your inspiration?
TM I need to be moved by something, like watching the news and seeing the same topic rehashed over and over it might influence me enough to pick up a pen and write. I can’t write about trucks, dancing or a tractor. It’s got to be something topical, I like to tell a story. I want to be taken seriously by other songwriters and I want to tell a story with as few words as possible, but get the whole point across. I’m not pretty and I don’t sing really well, so to get people to buy my products I put a lot of effort into my songs.
STEAM Well, we think you sound awesome!
How many albums have your put out?
TM I’ve released two; Catch Me in 2006 and The Saracene Sessions Tape 1 earlier this year, and I have The Saracene Sessions Tape 2 ready for release in August.
STEAM Where can people get your albums?
TM You can get my music on iTunes, CD Baby.com, my facebook page, and when the website is completed you’ll be able to order from there too. The website will be up in August – just watch my facebook for updates and links to it. www.facebook.com/tyler mccumbermusic