How Tyler Childers Writes a Good Country Song

You may or may not have heard of singer-songwriter Tyler Childers. Yet.

The singer-songwriter has been making “good country music” for about eight years, but sometimes it takes a Grammy nomination for you to become a household name. So now that his “All Your’n” has a Grammy nod for best country solo performance, suddenly everybody wants to get to know him.

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GQ did just that when they published a long Q&A with the outspoken artist. Much of it is devoted to the ongoing narrative of what country is and is not, how modern Americana is what used to just be countrier country, the dreaded pop-country that Childers says has infiltrated the genre, and how now it the time to take the lunch table back.

“It doesn’t hurt my feelings if you listen to (expletive) country music. That’s your fault. What I consider country music doesn’t make it the end all be all, but if you ask me my opinion, that’s what you’re going to get,” he says. “A lot of times, you’ll be flipping through country radio and there’s just no substance. Like I’ve said before, it’s all about props: Solo cups or whatever. It’s not about a dude’s work day or someone that lost a good friend or relative. There’s nothing to hold onto when you’re going through something. That’s what music is supposed to do. It’s supposed to help people out. Anybody can listen to what they want, I just don’t have the time or patience for it.”

And on and on and on like that. But eventually, somewhere deep in the story, Childers explains how he goes about his own kind of songwriting.

“It comes in spurts. You might get a melody or a couple lines you like. It’s ever-changing. You just have to be open to it. I don’t sit down and say, ‘Today I will write a song.’ I know a lot of people that do that,” he said, “but if I’m not in the mood, what’s the point of beating my head against the wall?

“Hank Sr. once said, ‘If you can’t write it in 10 minutes, it ain’t worth writing.’ I think I took that to heart at some point, because I appreciate the sentiment. There’s no point in trying to get something to come out. If something is genuine, it should come pretty genuinely. I may take more than 10 minutes, though.”

That Hank method is not new for Childers. He has said before, “Songwriting is telling short stories. But instead of 15 to 20 pages, it’s three to five minutes. It’s important to set up a scene as efficiently as possible — short, quick and to the point. You paint a picture and move on.”

Story-telling has become a lost art in the kind of country that’s played on the radio these days. So if Childers is the one of the artists who can bring it back, country radio may just not be the one to put out a welcome mat. And I’m guessing he’s okay with that.

Childers’ “All Your’n” will be up against Ashley McBryde’s “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” Willie Nelson’s “Ride Me Back Home,” Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country,” and Tanya Tucker’s “Bring My Flowers Now” at the Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.