To call Tyller Gummersall a lifelong performer may be stretch – but not much of one.
The Bayfield-based musician got his start shortly after arriving in Durango in 1995 from Southern California with his parents, Jenny and Greg, at age 5. He started taking guitar lessons with Bar D Wrangler and flatpicker extraordinaire Gary Cook at age 8 and has never looked back.
“I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t singing and playing music,” Gummersall said last week after his most recent trip to Nashville, Tenn. He’s been making regular trips to Music City for the last three years and is becoming a familiar face in the de facto country music capital of the world.
“It’s kind of a small town once you figure it out,” he said.
Gummersall got his introduction to Nashville three years ago when he accompanied Cook and the Wranglers on performance visit. He got hooked on the scene as he lucked into one chance jam session after another. Now, he can describe each segment of Nashville’s musical stratification, from the hipster, alt-country scene of East Nashville to the classic Grand Ole Opry scene to “Music Row,” home to hundreds of songwriters as well as their corporate overseers, like BMI and ASCAP.
“I like to have my foot in all of ’em; my only preference is quality music, and you can find that on either side of the river,” Gummersall said.
On each visit to Nashville, he finds himself in listening rooms and house concerts, performing “songwriting rounds” with hopefuls and established musicians alike. Such opportunities have led to collaborations with the likes of Zac Brown of the band of the same name and Tim Dubois, who has penned five No. 1 country chart-toppers and opened the Nashville branch of Arista Records in 1993. Gummersall said even in the cutthroat music industry, he’s had many a door held open for him.
“There are sharks, of course, but musicians help musicians, and if you ask politely, they’ll help,” he said.
He also thinks his home state helps out. There’s a bit more romance surrounding a guitar player in a cowboy hat from Colorado than one who hails from, say, Boston.
“Being from Durango helps for sure – nobody actually wears cowboy hats in Nashville,” he said. “I’m the weird cowboy guy, but I also wear a tie when I’m there. I’m respectful of the scene and very proud to be there.”
He hasn’t made the permanent move to Nashville – yet – and stays in guest rooms and on a lucky couch on his frequent visits. In between, he comes back home to Colorado, where he just finished recording an album with Durangoan Chris Bettin. The two met last year at a Community Concert Hall event at Fort Lewis College and found common musical ground.
“We’re both Ryan Adams fans, and we both write lots of music,” Gummersall said.
Their CD, “Broken,” will be available locally and online in May. The pair recorded it at Cook’s Red Cliff Studio near Durango. It’s Gummersall’s second, following his solo “The Makings of a Man,” and he’s also recently gotten his music on Pandora Internet radio.
Despite whatever success he achieves, or doesn’t, either here or in Music City, he knows what he wants and he’s already gotten it.
“For a lot of people in the music business, it’s a game they’re trying to win, but I think they forget,” Gummersall said. “For me, the love is playing for the public, and I’m never going to forget that.”