Country Music People magazine highlighted La Plata County’s own Tyller Gummersall in its February issue with a full feature covering his decade of independently making country music.
The feature, by Duncan Warwick, followed Gummersall’s career, his days growing up in the ranching community near Allison, his first forays in the Nashville music scene and his decision to “pull a Willie (Nelson)” and head to Texas.
It’s not his first time being featured in the award-winning, international magazine. The first review in 2020 happened organically – it was a fun surprise, he said.
“I honestly don’t exactly know how they found out about my music,” Gummersall said. “It was a nice reward for focusing on making music.”
The magazine’s January issue lauded him for a song called “Heartbreak College,” saying Gummersall is “continuing to prove himself one of the brightest new traditional names.”
Gummersall is known for his traditional country style, which he describes as neo-traditional or Americana rooted in songwriting with acoustic instrumentation. He said he draws writing and instrumental inspiration from Hank Williams Sr., Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Guy Clark and Robert Earl Keen.
“When you say country music, oftentimes people will think of what’s played on popular radio, which is not necessarily what I do,” Gummersall said.
He recorded “Beer and Rose” in 2011 with his “Nashville Dream Band,” made up of members from Ryan Adams’ and John Prine’s bands. His third studio album, “Long Ride Home,” was produced by Grammy Award winner Lloyd Maines.
His sound has been influenced by the Ignacio area, where he grew up in a ranching community and was exposed to a unique Western and bluegrass sound.
“That’s what I know, so that’s what I write. I’m lucky that I like country music, too,” he said.
He got his start when he was 8 years old, sitting in with bands at Spring Creek Hall, east of Ignacio. There would be a family dance in the wintertime where everyone would get together, dance and hang out, he said.
Gary Cook, the twice-named national flatpicking champion guitar player of the Bar D Wranglers, was his guitar teacher. Cook said he saw Gummersall grow up, quickly catch on with the guitar, compete in talent shows and take on the music industry.
“From a young man, it was obvious to me he had great talent and a passion for music,” Cook said. “It’s just been a fun journey for him I’m sure. ... To work with him in the studio, then see him go to Nashville and Texas, his talent just continues to grow. His songwriting is on par with what we’re hearing on the radio.”
He has also collaborated with Chris Bettin, a musician and Durango City Council member. Bettin and Gummersall met every week for two years to work on their collaboration, The Wrecking Balls. They’ve continued collaborating even as Gummersall’s career has moved forward, Bettin said.
“He doesn’t have to do any of that stuff, but he cares about music and the people that make it,” Bettin said. “He has every talent in the world – he could do anything – he’s picked his chosen art form because it reflects his lifestyle. He doesn’t just dress the part, he is the part. That’s really refreshing.”
Pandemic and next stepsBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, Gummersall was living in an RV in Texas, with his girlfriend and their two dogs, and playing four to five shows a week. When touring went away, so did a lot of his income-making opportunities, Gummersall said.
“There’s a lot of negatives out there throughout this whole thing. Artists have been hit very hard,” Gummersall said. “The silver lining has certainly been that it’s forced me to be more creative and find creative ways to keep creating music.”
He started releasing a song a month in July. He needed a way to keep his creativity going and “let people know I’m still alive.” As an added plus, the new releases have helped boost his streaming audience by 300%, according to the Country Music People feature.
He has also continued to do collaborations with musicians from Texas and Nashville – at a distance because of the pandemic. He has a new duet with Kinsey Rose, a singer-songwriter from Nashville, coming out soon.
“It’s good for you to take a second to reflect and think about what you want to leave here with the world in terms of recordings, and also how you want to get back to work when it comes to playing out, playing live,” he said.
This weekend, Gummersall is playing his first gig since last summer at Motel SOCO in Pagosa Springs.
Although his work might take him out of the La Plata Mountains, Gummersall said the mountains never really leave him.
“I get weird when I’m in places that are flat for too long. ... There’s a familiarity to this area that is super strong, that I love,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to be able to know these roads. ... Living here is special, and when you travel, you definitely don’t take it for granted as much.”