New to Arizona, Country Artist Tyller Gummersall Is Finding His Place in the Music Scene
TOM REARDON DECEMBER 14, 2022 10:00AM
Country fans will want to take advantage of two opportunities to see Prescott-based Tyller Gummersall in Phoenix this week. The 32-year-old singer/songwriter will perform at Handlebar J’s in Scottsdale on Thursday December 15, and then at the Dirty Drummer in Phoenix on Friday, December 16.
With a bit of rockabilly twang and western swing in his sound, Gummersall is a breath of fresh air for the Arizona country scene. Strong of voice and with a real talent for writing catchy riffs, the Colorado native has called Arizona home for a little over a year. Earlier this year, he released two singles, “Flame” and “If I Had You to Hold” which followed up his excellent 2021 full-length album, Lucky Guy.
Gummersall stays busy, gigging around the state three or four nights per week and often it’s just him and a guitar, so fans have ample opportunity to join in the fun. We caught up with him over the phone early last week and this is what Gummersall had to say:
Phoenix New Times: Tell us about your band.
Gummersall: I’ve been pretty lucky since I moved here. I moved to Arizona last October and the bass player and drummer [Jim Kelly and George Lilley, respectively] I’ve pretty much been using since the beginning, which has been really cool. I wasn’t exactly expecting to find consistent guys.
I’ve kind of picked up a few different pedal steel and fiddle players, but for the most part, it’s the same group of guys for most of these gigs we’ve been doing and they actually, they went with me to Colorado [on tour] over the summer and we just recently down to Texas, too, which was pretty cool.
A good rhythm section is a good thing…
The drummer is George Lilly. He actually moved to (Phoenix) a couple of months before I moved. George is from Nashville and he’s a great drummer. Jim Kelly is the bass player, and he lives up here in Prescott. He’s an interesting dude, too, because not only is he an amazing bass player, but he builds amplifiers.
In that world, he’s fairly famous. He’s a very humble dude but his amplifiers are extremely sought after. They are very much boutique amps. A lot of guys have his amps; people like Merle Haggard use his amps and you can see some on those Austin City Limits tapings. But beyond that, he’s just a great bass player and he’s played in a lot of different kinds of bands over the years.
That’s wild. For these upcoming shows in town, who else is playing with you?
It’s going to be a really cool thing for me play Handlebar J’s on the 15th, because I’m going to have a guy named Craig Delphia playing fiddle. Craig moved back here to Arizona from Nashville where he was for 27 years or something. He moved back here with his wife a couple of years ago, and he’s a pretty great fiddle player. He played a lot with Trent Williams, but he’s also played with [country legends] Ray Price and Alan Jackson. At the Dirty Drummer, we will have Scott Smith on piano, along with George [Lilley] and Jim [Kelly].
How has the Arizona music scene been treating you?
It’s actually been great. I’ve spent a lot of time in Texas, and I’m from Colorado, originally, but it’s been really great on a practical level. Honestly, I’m able to make a living here. There’s enough places to play here and people are actually wanting to hear country music. I’ve been able to make a circuit, make a living, and I’m extremely happy to be here.
It’s also very interesting musically. There’s a lot of different genres of music around, which is also cool. Up here in Prescott, there’s a lot of really good blues players and blues bands. I’ve had fun, you know, going into some of those jams, because I love that music. It’s fun to go play some blues and meet people. All in all, it’s been even better than I expected. There is a great music scene here and some excellent musicians, so that’s been very cool and fun. I’m stoked!
Were you always interested in music?
I grew up with an interest in music from a very, very young age. My parents are both artists. My dad’s an abstract painter, and my mom’s a photographer. I have two older brothers who are in the entertainment industry. I was lucky in that I was always supported when it came to having a life in the arts.
My folks kind of fostered my musical interest and I started doing music contests when I was around eight or nine. Some local Durango musician dudes took me under their wing and one of the guys said, “If you are going to sing, you need to learn an instrument,” so I started taking guitar lessons with a guy named Gary Cook. He was a two-time national flat-picking champion and an amazing guitar player. He turned me on the western side of things like cowboy music.
You’ve been pretty blessed, it seems, to be connected to some great people. I really like your song, “Bruises,” which deals with physical abuse in a very thoughtful way. What has the reaction been like to that one?
You know, [abuse] is not an easy thing to talk about. I’ve had that song around for a long time and I hadn’t really played it that much, but then I recorded it last year. At the end of the day, that’s why I create music, you know, to help people either by giving them something to take their mind off things or by saying something they can’t say. [Abuse] is a subject that needs some light shed on it. I’m not a preachy person and I’m never going to impose my viewpoints on anyone, but if it’s something I think I can help with, I feel an obligation to put it out there.
Tyller Gummersall. 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, December 15, at Handlebar J’s, 7116 East Becker Lane, Scottsdale; and 8 p.m. Friday, December 16, at The Dirty Drummer, 2303 North 44th Street. Both shows are free.
View the article on PhoenixNewTimes.com
TOM REARDON has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He’s been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
CONTACT: Tom Reardon