Ty Herndon Returns to Familiar Sound With New Album of ‘Honest Songs’
Throughout his 16-year career in the country music industry, Ty Herndon has accomplished many accolades that some artists only have the chance to dream about. His first single, ‘What Mattered Most,’ shot straight to No. 1 on the country singles chart in 1995. He went on to chart 17 singles, including two more No. 1 hits — ‘Living in a Moment’ and ‘It Must Be Love’ — and four additional Top 10 singles (‘I Want My Goodbye Back,’ ‘Loved Too Much,’ ‘A Man Holdin’ On (To a Woman Lettin’ Go)’ and ‘Hands of a Working Man.’
Herndon is chipping away at a new collection of songs, which he hopes to have available for his fans later this year or the first part of 2012. He is also readying a Christmas album for later this year, which he will follow up with a full-blown Christmas tour. Taste of Country was able to catch up with the singer between his projects to get a sneak peak of what we can expect from him next, as well as reflect back on some of his memorable career moments!
Can you give us a little teaser about the new music you have in the works?
I’m about halfway done with it. Once again, I’ve taken on the role of producer and songwriter. It seemed to work out pretty good with the ‘Journey On’ CD, and I think we grow and move forward as artists. When you start singing your own stuff and producing your records, you are at a point in your life/career where you know what you want. I turned into a bossy little thing [laughs]! I’m working with some great people and with some amazing songs and songwriters. I’m just kinda sticking to the recipe that has worked for me over the years and trying to re-invent a little bit of what you hear on the radio today. I’m sticking with really honest songs about positive things in life. Like ‘Living in a Moment,’ ‘What Mattered Most’ and ‘Loved Too Much’ … all the songs that make people feel good. That’s what I like to do so, I’m sticking to it! It’s not broke, so I’m not trying to fix it [laughs]!
Have you always been a big songwriter at heart or is that something new that you’re doing with this new album?
I’ve always dabbled with it, but with all my years at Sony, I never had the confidence to walk in and say, “Hey, I wrote this song … it’s great.” When you’re working with great songwriters like Gary Burr and Victoria Shaw, and they give you such amazing songs, it makes you feel a little shy about that. Especially when you aren’t signed as a singer-songwriter. So I had to fix that. When I came off the road about seven years ago, I spent the next two or three years just hanging out at coffee shops and writers nights. I really started paying attention, and I kind of put myself through songwriting school. I’m glad I did that. It opened up a whole new space in my heart to say what I need to say, from not only my own life but from observing other people’s lives and hearing their stories. With country music and music in general, that’s the key to it. People have got to believe and be able to put themselves in the song. Lord knows I’ve been around long enough to have plenty of stories [laughs].
Your last album, ‘Journey On,’ was an inspirational collection of songs. Why was it the right time for you to release an album like that?
My grandma was very influential in the making of that album. She had her own radio show for 40 something years on WPRN down in Alabama. It was pretty much an inspirational hour. So from the time I was 5-years-old, I was standing on Coca-Cola boxes singing on her show. So my grandma Myrtle always taught me to give back, and one day maybe I could do a record that speaks about my own experience in life and God. I just remembered that, and it was time to do that. So basically I was fulfilling a promise to Grandma. I was actually going to do a hymns album, just a specialty record. I started doing that and thought, “No.” I noticed I was hanging out with these amazing Christian songwriters who were my friends. I had all these great songwriters around, so I thought let’s do this record and just see what happens. So ‘Journey On’ was born, and it’s a very personal album. It speaks about my experiences being in recovery, going through bad things in life, and coming out of it with love and respect, with people who were there to hold my hand and hug me and teach me. You’ve got to be a really willing student to make changes in your life. That’s what I kinda teach today. Not preach, but teach. You have to be willing to make change and make your life better. A willing spirit is a winning spirit.
Do you feel a sense of freedom by doing projects like ‘Journey On’ and the album you’re currently working, as you are doing it on your own, without the help of a major label?
It’s a lot more freedom, but it’s also a lot more work. You’re so used to having a team at a record label who most of the time are a well-oiled machine, and things just kind of fall into place. But when you do it independent, a lot of that stuff falls into your lap. So again, I’m in this position where I have to learn a lot. This is a digital age, and the album I made is a digital album on a digital label. So now doing this new album — and this is a bunch of technical business talk — but we’re moving our digital label into a bigger arena. We’re gonna be out there with a country album on country radio so we need to make sure we have all the correct people in place to get the music out there. So we’re learning and growing!
When can we expect to hear the first single from the new project?
I’m certainly trying to make the initial noise about it by October. It takes a lot of time to set up this stuff, takes a lot of homework and time. So October is our goal.
What are some of your favorite moments you’ve experienced throughout your career?
Well, my first time on the Grand Ole Opry was amazing, and I’ve done the Opry many times since then, but one of my top favorite moments is standing on the Opry stage and having Roy Acuff introduce me. My Grandmother was there, and he introduced her. It was her birthday, and the whole Opry house stood up and sang happy birthday to her so that was an extremely memorable moment for me.
Of course getting a recording contract, and then 14 weeks later being on the charts. Then another 10 weeks later, having a No. 1 record for the first time was unbelievable. I’ll never forget … I had been on the road, and I didn’t even know that my song had gone No. 1, but it was Sunday afternoon, and I was driving down music row. Lon Helton was doing the countdown and said, “Now here is Ty Herndon with his No. 1 record…” and it was just so surreal. I was driving down Music Row, and I hear that I have a No. 1 record ?! Yeah, so I got out of my truck, stood on the hood and cranked it up [laughs]! It was amazing. Over the years, there has been so many amazing times. The most recent is having the Grammy nomination. That’s really the pinnacle … the ultimate. That is something you can never plan on. You are nominated by your peers so, the stuff that I’ve been through in my life that was extreme full circle … coming back to a place of ultimate respect with people in the music business. So that’s cool.
What is something you’d still like to accomplish in your career?
Well, I’ve never done a movie soundtrack, so I’m working with some folks that try to place some songs in movies. I’ve always thought that would be so cool. I love movies. I go to a lot of them. So I thought, “Wow … I need to have a Ty Herndon song in a movie!” So that’s one thing. I’m still at that place where I’m thinking I wanna go out on a tour where we are selling out 10,000 seats every night. So I’m working really hard to get that new single out there and make enough noise. There’s a lot of new country fans. Country fans start at 5-years-old now [laughs]!
Do you have a lot of shows planned for the summer months?
We are doing about 120 shows this year. The last four or five years, I’ve done maybe 30 or 40 shows here and there. I’m at a place in my life where I want to go out and work a lot. My whole band has so much fun. That’s the only requirement! You have to have a good heart, take your job seriously and have a good time out here. You have to because this is a blessing to get to do this as a living. I mean, come on!
Watch the Ty Herndon ‘What Mattered Most’ Video