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Durango native Tyller Gummersall set for homecoming show this weekend at Tico Time


Country music performer looking forward to returning to Four Corners

FARMINGTON — By his own admission, Tyller Gummersall barely knew what he wanted from his country music career when he released his album "Long Ride Home" in 2016.

The disc was a significant step forward for the Durango, Colorado, native, in that it was produced by the highly regarded Lloyd Maines, father of Natalie Maines and producer and sideman for many of the more well-known acts in the Americana realm. "Long Ride Home" was, in many ways, a turning point in Gummersall's career, setting him on a trajectory toward not just greater commercial success, but helping him build connections with several well-positioned music industry insiders who have offered him advice, counsel and perspective over the last six years.

All that has helped Gummersall — who will perform at the Tico Time Country Festival this weekend — achieve a degree of clarity he didn't necessarily have earlier in his career, he said.

"I didn't even know what I was thinking about then," he said, laughing. "But I knew I always wanted to make a living at music. I feel like I've finally reached that point, and I'm playing enough gigs to do that. But I also realize I've got a lot more to say, songs that I want recorded."

Gummersall appears to have plenty to say these days, having released a slew of EPs and full-length albums over the past several years, with many showcasing tunes he cowrote with Maines or legendary singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale, whose material has been covered by dozens of country, rock and pop artists, including Elvis Costello, the Chicks, Vince Gill and Patty Loveless.

"He knows how to have a good time while we were writing, that's for sure," Gummersall said, recounting how Lauderdale always found a way to break the tension whenever the two reached an impasse in a song they were working on. " … He brings some levity to it. He also is good at finding, 'How can you say more with less?' He's a genius at finding the melody and finding you way around the melody."

Because of experiences like that, Gummersall's work has matured considerably since his early days, though it retains his trademark hardcore, honkytonk sensibilities, much of it soaked in steel guitar and fiddle. Gummersall's sound — paired with the catchy, clever turns of phrase that mark his lyrics — is simply too authentically country for country radio these days, which remains mired in the same unimaginative, overly slick, pop rut where it has resided for years.

It was Mark Dottore, the manager for Sturgill Simpson, Kathy Mattea, Marty Stuart and other well-known country artists, who advised Gummersall to leave Nashville behind several years ago and find a more receptive market for what he was doing.

"He said, 'You need to pull a Willie (Nelson) and move to Texas," Gummersall said. "In Nashville, I kept bumping up against the commercial thing, where what I wanted to do isn't necessarily what they do."

Taking Dottore's recommendation to heart, Gummersall relocated to Texas, where he soon found himself gigging four or five nights a week, feeding that state's seemingly inexhaustible appetite for a more adventurous and thoughtful brand of country music. The move served as a creative wellspring for Gummersall, whose songwriting output increased at a pace with his performance schedule.

Just as suddenly, it all came to a halt with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Gummersall was forced to abandon the road for a year and a half, but rather than sulk, he retreated to his home studio and began recording some of the material he had been writing over the past few years.

He also took time to examine the big picture and figure out how he wanted his career to serve his life goals.

"The one nice thing was, by being forced to slow down and take a second, is I realized that when you play so much, it gets really intense and that begins to feel normal," he said. "But it's important to take some time and goof off, give yourself some breathing space. I like to remind myself of that now when the world starts getting busy again."

That didn't mean Gummersall found life as a homebody entirely agreeable. The other major realization he experienced was that he couldn't wait to start performing again.

"I love playing music for live crowds, and if I'm not doing that, I go a little bit crazy," he said. "It affirmed that's what I'm here to do."

A subsequent move to Prescott, Arizona, in October 2021 allowed Gummersall to return to his Western roots while living in another state with a strong country music infrastructure where he can make a living. This will be Gummersall's first show in the Durango area since moving to Arizona, and he said he is looking forward to seeing some friendly faces.

Gummersall will perform at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Tico Time River Resort, ¼ mile south of the Colorado border on the east side of U.S. Highway 550. Call 970-903-0681 or visit ticotimecountryfest.com for ticket information.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.