Sophisticated Redneck: Tyler Farr on Heartbreak, Withdrawals and Many, Many Influences
How many guys with a bloodhound named Cooter Brown own an ab roller and listen to Andrea Bocelli? The count may rest at one, and his name is Tyler Farr.
Farr is so simple, it's complicated. Fans and maybe even friends struggle to reconcile the "Redneck Crazy" singer with the Celine Dion fan. He's an avid hunter — Jason Aldean says he has a great duck call — but grew up in the opera.
“I was classically trained," he says, righting the opera rumor. "It doesn’t mean I was wearing horns.”
Fair enough. But the question remains ... how can one be the other? It's like if Bugs Bunny hunted squirrel, or Carrie Underwood endorsed McDonald's Big Macs.
I’d like to be — whenever I’m done and they put me in the ground — one of the best vocalists or one of the greats. It’d be nice to be known that way.
“I think Michael Bolton sings his butt off," Farr tells Taste of Country. What the ...?!?!
Farr says growing up, his interests were scattered. His mother introduced classical training, and he took to it. His stepfather played guitar for George Jones. At home he'd listen to anything he wanted to. Well, almost anything.
“I remember my mom busting into one of my Bone Thugs-n-Harmony CDs because she came in and heard all this garbage and the devil music," he says, "and cracked it.”
These days, if he's gonna listen to rap — and he does — it's going to be hard-nosed, edgy rap from artists like Tupac. “I’m kind of black and white. I really don’t put myself in a box. I know what I like, and I like it.”
Fans wanted to put Farr in a box after the success of "Redneck Crazy," the revenge anthem that talks about showing up at 3AM, with friends. That's not his story, but the song he released just prior to it is. "Hello Goodbye" is a painfully sad ballad that tells the story of a girl that took his heart, stepped on it, put it in a grinder and fed it coyotes. It's there one begins to tie Farr's yin and yang together.
"Some of these songs (from his new Suffer in Peace album) I’ve put myself back in that unhappy place that I don’t like to be but you have to put yourself back there,” he says. The title track, "Withdrawals" and "I Don't Even Want This Beer" are three that bleed. "A Guy Walks Into a Bar" does too, but there's some sense of bittersweet in that story.
Farr wants to be known as a vocalist, and he proved it on "Hello Goodbye." He proves it again on "Withdrawals," a ballad that starts higher than many female singers dare. The Josh Kear co-written song is the most memorable of the 11 songs on Suffer in Peace, and it's a safe bet for future single.
"I’d like to be — whenever I’m done and they put me in the ground — one of the best vocalists or one of the greats," Farr declares. "It’d be nice to be known that way."
Does his fanship of Dion or Bocelli make a little more sense now? If not, no worries. His friends don't get it either.
“I’ve never heard Aldean be like, ‘Crank up that Andres Boccielli or Josh Groban,’” the singer says.
Farr was down to his last strike when he released "Redneck Crazy" in 2013. His first two singles bounced like silly putty from the radio. The decline of "Hello Goodbye" was particularly painful, as the song meant so much to him. Somewhat surprised to get a third chance, he says he pushed to go for broke or to take a homerun swing with the edgy "Crazy." Not everyone on his team agreed, but naysayers finally conceded.
“I kind of came with a vengeance after those two," Farr explains. "I wasn’t mad at radio or my label or anything. I’m just one of those people that’s zero or 100. And if I’m gonna do it, then by God I’m gonna do it and go down swinging.”
The song's climb was turbulent, but ultimately successful. Success breeds confidence, he says, and he started to define who he was as an artist. That meant stepping away from his biggest hit somewhat. He started by making it clear in interviews that he didn't write a song some were calling a stalker anthem. The next step is this album, his second for Sony.
"Damn Good Friends," a duet with Aldean, will steal headlines, but the gems are in the heartbreak ballads, an area of the genre Farr admits he's a sucker for. The song "Suffer in Peace" was written by Phil O'Donnell and Aaron Barker, inspired by O'Donnell's wife leaving him.
“I listened to it one time," he admits. "If a song gives me goosebumps, I’m probably gonna cut it.”
The opening track "C.O.U.N.T.R.Y" leans into what fans of "Redneck Crazy" appreciate, but it's alone. "That's Why I Live Here" is the other bookend. It's a military tribute you may not even realize is a military tribute.
“I don’t like to do it just to have a military song, red white and blue and smack you in the face with it," Farr says. "I wanted to be a respectful ‘Thank you.'”
“Every album I do I try to look at it as a painting and try to have different varieties of stuff on there for everybody," he furthers. "You don’t want an album that’s all sad or all happy, because you’re not always sad or you’re not always happy.”
Farr will continue touring with Aldean this summer. The two are good friends — Tyler walked Aldean's daughter Keeley down the aisle at the singer's wedding in March — and and one does a great impression of the other. Both are pretty happy these days. Farr has a new longterm love, but says marriage isn't in the short-term plan. When it's time to slow down with that girl on a Friday night, he chooses yet another talented vocalist: Randy Owen of Alabama.
“What’s that Alabama song that works every time?" he asks. "‘Feels So Right’ or ‘She’s Close Enough to Perfect for Me.’"
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