William Tyler brings the acoustic atmospheres of his new album to Horizon Records
There are musicians for whom the guitar is a means to an end; a tool for writing music and nothing more. And then there is William Tyler. Whether it’s with bands like Silver Jews or Lambchop or on his own solo albums, Tyler’s plays guitar like it’s an extension of himself, creating intricate layers of atmospheric sound that can be as big as the horizon or as intimate as a whisper. Rather than focusing on massive riffs or showy solos, Tyler works in more muted tones, using his six-string to weave melodic, evocative instrumental music.
“I like melodically driven music, whether it’s classical, jazz, or contemporary instrumental, I like melodic movement. I think a lot of singer/songwriters use the guitar it as a means to an end. It’s an accompanying instrument, not the driving force of the song, and as I move more and more into instrumental music over the years, the end in itself is the guitar.”
Up until this year, Tyler typically used an electric guitar to make said music, but with his just-released Goes West, he stuck entirely to acoustic guitar, which gives the music a delicacy that his previous album, Modern Country, didn’t have.
“I’d really been wanting to do an acoustic record, probably because Modern Country was such a psychedelic rock record,” Tyler says. “I was sort of longing for a chance to make a record that was more intimate.”
“Intimate” is a word that comes up a lot when Tyler talks about this album.
“There’s something so intimate about the acoustic guitar that extends to the way I write music with it,” he says. “I sit on my bed, or I sit around my house and strum aimlessly and sometimes a song comes out of it. You can’t do that with an electric.”
But intimacy isn’t the only reason Tyler switched to acoustic.
“I’d been running away from acoustic guitar for a couple of years because I didn’t want to be considered just an acolyte of (cult-favorite guitarists) John Fahey or Leo Kottke,” he says, “but that IS what my roots are, and I wanted to get back to that.”
There’s a practical purpose for bringing back the acoustic as well, though. It sure is easier to take this particular show on the road.
“My goal is to tour a lot more with this album,” Tyler says, “and it was hard to do that with Modern Country. It’s a lot easier to do it with this album.”
On Goes West, a set of songs inspired by Tyler’s move from Nashville to Los Angeles, the guitar playing is so lyrical that it sometimes seems like a singing voice, an effect he was specifically aiming for.
“On this record, as much as anything I’ve done, the acoustic guitar essentially IS the singer,” he says.
Tyler will play a solo in-store show at Horizon Records on Monday, and he says he’s looking forward to playing there because it’s a different atmosphere than a bar or club; things are a little more, you guessed it, intimate.
“I like non-traditional venues, if they’re comfortable for the audience,” he says. “There’s a certain lack of pressure that I think comes into playing shows where the audience loosens up a bit more. They’re not having to deal with having to go to the bar to pay for drinks. It’s comfortable; it doesn’t feel like a rock club. And the way Horizon does in-stores, the setup is a lot more like a listening room type show, which I really appreciate. Frankly, I’m sure there are lots of other great venues in Greenville, but for someone who does what I do, it’s better to do a show at a record store than to do a traditional type of show.”