Before he was a husband and father, Tyler Ramsey used to do a lot of his songwriting at night. While living in downtown Asheville, he’d go to his little basement studio and work through melodies and lyrics as he found his musical voice.
Though he’s still up fairly late while out on tour, Ramsey enjoys being able to return to his current home life, including early wake-up calls courtesy of his young daughter. The shift in schedule has become so thorough that it’s made its way into the title of his new solo album, For the Morning.
“Part of what inspired that song ‘For the Morning’ was the desperate feeling … of change and kind of going with it,” Ramsey says. “When you become a parent, you kind of lose yourself, so that had a lot to do with it. Not really the sleep schedule part as much, but it’s part of it.”
Now based in Candler, the longtime local resident plays what he calls “a proper local hometown album release show” on Saturday, May 11, at the Asheville Masonic Temple, sharing a dreamy, sonically rich set of songs that he’s elated to give the attention it deserves. That journey began in 2004 with his self-released, self-titled album, which he followed with 2010’s A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea, his first collection to come out on a label. He feels that his sophomore record’s release got off to a strong start with “an energy around it” and reviews and articles in national and international publications. Immediately afterward, however, he joined Band of Horses.
“My touring ability fell off, and my focus shifted a little bit. And then I was fully in the band, and we were writing and getting ready to do Infinite Arms,” Ramsey says. “That was a great phase and a creative time for me. I think that was kind of a shift for that band, too, because it was me and Bill Reynolds contributing a lot of ideas and a lot of energy to that record.”
When he put out his next album, The Valley Wind in 2011, he didn’t have any time to tour it because he was immediately back on the road with Band of Horses. Released on Fat Possum Records, the album received decent attention, but with Ramsey unable to play solo shows or radio stations, the album all but evaporated from the cultural consciousness.
“I’m still kind of disappointed that I allowed that to happen,” he says. “At the time, I kept with the band, and it was starting to taper off as a creative outlet. And by the time I had [For the Morning] starting and I started to feel like I had the energy to create a new record, I realized if I do that again, it’s a waste of my time to put a record out at all, as well as a waste of other people’s time.”
He continues, “If some label or a booking agent is waiting on me to do something and they’re excited about it and I’m unable to give it the time — I didn’t want to do that again. I didn’t want to have this record disappear again. All of it felt like a massive shift in what I wanted to do with my time and who I wanted to spend my time with. It was a big change, but it was time to make it.”
Ramsey’s For the Morning demos were fairly fleshed-out. He also did some planning with Black Mountain-based musician Seth Kauffman (Floating Action), who rode up with him to La La Land studios in Louisville, Ky., in Ramsey’s gear-filled van. But mostly, Ramsey let the duo’s sessions with engineer Kevin Ratterman take a more natural course.
“I always feel like it’s better to kind of spring things on people,” Ramsey says. “I like the energy of someone hearing something and working it out a little bit more closer to the moment. [Seth] did have a couple things that he’d loosely charted out, like bass lines for songs. But I think everything kind of came together when we were actually in the room working on the record.”
While on tour playing these songs, Ramsey has built in various visual cues to strengthen his bond to the material. For example, the “White Coats” line, “You went out across the river to lay down in the sunlight where it filters through the pines,” is a visual image from Ramsey exploring his Candler property.
“It’s a way for me to connect with the song again if I’m performing it. I really, really feel strongly that if you’re performing in front of people, you need to do whatever you can to make yourself feel that the meaning of the song that you’re singing or put yourself back in that moment of why that song was written,” Ramsey says.
“Because that’s performance. That’s what you’re doing in front of an audience. If you’re just up there singing words and playing chords, that’s probably fine with some people, but I really do feel that for the songs that I’m singing, I like to be in the moment of the song so I can create a really cool atmosphere in a live setting and draw people into the song.”
WHO: Tyler Ramsey
WHERE: Asheville Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway, tickets at thegreyeagle.com
WHEN: Saturday, May 11, 8 p.m. $20 advance/$25 day of show