Tyler Farr’s Nashville Story Is Original Thanks to Luck, Determination and a Blown Blood Vessel
Tyler Farr's Nashville story is one of hard work, determination, opera and a popped blood vessel. The 'Redneck Crazy' singer is a unique mix of polish and grit, like a dirt road sprinkled with diamonds. Few in Nashville can claim the vocal training that sent this kid from the Ozarks to Missouri State University on a vocal performance scholarship. Then, he blew it -- literally -- while on tour with Colt Ford.
All sorts of cliches about cigarettes and alcohol could be used to describe Farr's deep, gravely speaking and singing voice. They're not true this time. In 2009 he was picked to open for and tour with Ford. Farr played 30 minutes of his own music, then provided all of the choruses on songs like 'Dirt Road Anthem,' 'No Trash in My Trailer' and 'Ride Through the Country.'
"So I was singing two hours, two-and-a-half hours every night," Farr tells Taste of Country, thinking back on that 250-date run. "I think I had like strep throat and didn't know it."
"I couldn't just go to the doctor because I wouldn't be able to sing first of all, and I'd have to take off and it would affect his show," the singer continues, "and I didn't wanna do that so I just sucked it up and kept truckin' along and I sang through strep throat and along the way popped a blood vessel in my throat. And it actually scarred over. It scarred over and healed on its own."
Doctors at Vanderbilt Voice Center told him what had happened after the fact. They said they could do surgery, but (and only a doctor in Nashville would say this) that scar tissue was what gave him his distinct sound. He might be better off for it!
"It's weird how things work out," Farr says matter-of-factly.
Farr moved to Nashville in the mid-2000s with significant classical voice training and a love for the music of Hank Williams, Jr. and George Jones. His mother pushed the opera training while he was in seventh grade, and he took to it.
"It broadened my vocal range from the low register to the high register," he admits. "It allowed me to be versatile." While none of he 11 songs on his new 'Redneck Crazy' album qualify as vocal showcases, you'll find evidence of his impressive high end on cuts like 'Hello Goodbye.' He lives in thin air for most of that song.
Add in a stepdad who made a career as the Possum's guitarist and it's safe to assume Farr was confident when he moved to town, despite not really knowing anyone. His first job was at Tootsies Orchid Lounge. Pretty easy, right?
"It was Fan Fair, I remember that. And I was passing out fliers and it was about 110 degrees outside," the singer shares. "That was my first day in Nashville." Back home, his parents were breathing easy thinking he had a safe job at O'Reilly Auto Parts, a lie they later caught up to. "From there I went on to work the door there and flip burgers, do anything to make money. I think I was working for a landscape company on the side."
Two years later and Farr was back in Missouri, living with his aunt and uncle, working as a recreational therapist assistant at a children's rehabilitation center in the Ozarks.
"I was handed a big plate of humility by going down there and doing that and nothing really coming of it," he says. "I got some broken promises and promises made, 'We're gonna make you a star, this and that.' Didn't happen."
Farr was able to work out a gig playing covers a few nights a week at Tootsies, and the exposure would impress a few notable industry folk, like songwriter Rhett Akins, who called looking for him one afternoon. Two weeks later, Farr was back in Nashville.
Akins introduced him to the Peach Pickers, who introduced him to other songwriters. Record labels grew interested. Ford offered him a gig that would change his life and sound forever. It wasn't how Farr imagined his career would go when he moved in 2005, but it worked.
"I knew what I wanted to be but I didn't know exactly how to get there," he says. "I thought you move to Nashville, you sing downtown and someone discovers you and you become a country music star. I had no idea."
So it's taken the better part of a decade, but fans are finally getting to hear his music. His style reflects his upbringing in rural Missouri, he says, but the songs that made the final cut of the album were chosen because they work on many different levels.
"I think as an artist part of your job is being aware of what's going on around you and not selling out and not following the trend, which I'm totally against," the 29-year-old reveals. "A lot of these songs I wrote three years ago. I base my track-listing and what songs I pick by what my fans expect from me and what they want and what I think they want."
To figure that out, he does extensive market research, which means he plays them live a bunch of times. The title track got a great reaction and is burning up radio and single sales charts. People think it's about one of his ex-girlfriends, but that's not the case -- athough 'Hello Goodbye' is.
"'Redneck Crazy' is just one of those songs I heard. I didn't take it too seriously," Farr says. "Honestly, I've never thrown beer cans in the ex-girlfriend's window. I don't enjoy jail time. I did catch an ex cheating on me."
This fall, look for Farr opening up dates with Florida Georgia Line and then Lee Brice. He's good friends with Brice and Jerrod Niemann, having played the Higher Education Tour with them a couple years back. If you can make a show (find dates at his official website), think about wearing a vintage Hank Williams, Jr. T-shirt. Farr collects them, and he may work out a trade so you don't go home bare-chested.
Tyler Farr's 'Redneck Crazy' album is available now at iTunes.