At Work: Tyler Ramsey

Justin Jacobs on August 16, 2019
At Work: Tyler Ramsey

Man of the Woods

Tyler Ramsey may create the type of gorgeously rustic folk most appreciated by adults wearing flannel and sipping bourbon, but much of the inspiration for his latest opus, For the Morning, came from a decidedly more kid-friendly source—the 1984 children’s book Grandfather Twilight.

“My wife and I read that book to our daughter; Grandfather Twilight lives out in the woods and, every night, he walks to the shore and releases a pearl into the sky that becomes the moon. I wanted to recreate that image, so we headed out to the Blue Ridge Parkway,” says Ramsey from the front porch of his home on a 14-acre patch of woods outside Asheville, N.C.

Sure enough, the cover of For the Morning splices a shot of Ramsey and his dog at dusk with the twinkling night sky. It’s an apt representation of the LP’s 10 songs: one foot dug into the earth, one floating among the stars. The album is Ramsey’s first since he and longtime bassist Bill Reynolds left Band of Horses—the indie-folk project he worked with for a decade—in 2017 and it finds the singer/guitarist meditating on life’s big questions through slowly rocking, glimmering folk tunes. He doesn’t waste a moment.

Ramsey opens the record asking: “Have you lived your whole life regretting some decision that you made at a time when a choice was needing to be made?” Later, he sings, “Watch what you leave behind/ Look out for your wandering mind,” with a melody that swirls like campfire smoke.

As a songwriter, Ramsey’s always been vastly impacted by his surroundings—and the plot of earth he calls his own sinks deep into For the Morning. Robins chirp above him as he speaks; he glances at a stack of hay bales that just served as the entertainment for his daughter’s birthday party; he describes how “the blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are going pretty crazy right now.”

His first album since 2011’s The Valley Wind, For the Morning presents the songwriter’s most fleshed-out tunes and lushest arrangements, laid out with brambles of finger-picked acoustic guitar, winding pedal steel, wide-open electric riffs, softly hovering piano and airborne harmonies. It’s a peaceful album, handcrafted for contemplation and looking out over the treasures of the world. But don’t let the title mislead you.

“People might be confused because it’s called For the Morning,” laughs Ramsey. “But you can listen to it any time of day.”

This article originally appears in the July/August 2019 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.