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Tyminski goes dark

By Fred Frawley, December 2017

Dan Tyminski (known simply as "Tyminski" on his 2017 release "Southern Gothic") has traditional music roots and unassailable bluegrass street cred especially given his membership in Alison Krauss' Union Station. He is also a powerful songwriter and has been writing songs for himself and others for years now.

Not too long ago, Tyminski was in the process of putting some new songs in his portfolio to share with other artists, but a funny thing happened on the way: his package of songs was so distinct that UMG encouraged him to record and promote the songs under his own name. The result is "Southern Gothic," a dark, foreboding collection of songs, all co-written by Tyminski, that explore the not-quite-right ethos afoot in the culture these days.

"I never even looked at it as a project for myself until it went across the desk of Mike Dungan at UMG (Universal Music Group), and then a few people over there heard it and then reached out to Barry Coburn, my publisher, and asked if I would be interested in and maybe doing the stuff myself," says Tyminski. " Honestly, it was a big decision for me because I've never secretly pined to be in the spotlight, to be the solo artist. But I found myself with an opportunity to honor a bunch of work that I'm so proud of. You know I've never had anything that I've been this emotionally attached to as a body of music. That's really exciting for me."

Dan Tyminski sings

The theme of an ugly cultural underbelly is what brings these songs together: "These songs are definitely combinations of real-life experience and maybe some fantasy experience. You know, I can't speak for everyone" says Tyminski.

Take "Bloodline," the initial release from the collection. According to Tyminski, "That's just me looking at the world. I don't think you have to be from any part of the world to be able to just look around you and see the potential for absurdity in this world…We found a dark path I'm and just kind of chased down it."

"Southern Gothic" was one of the early songs in this project that set the tone. The song evolved suddenly, and unexpectedly: "What you hear on the record," Tyminski remembers, "was created, written, recorded, we sang it, put all the music down, everything that you hear on there was done in a three-hour period. We literally just mixed the demo...We had written from I think 11 a.m. until about 1:30 in the afternoon when we decide to evaluate and see if it was even worth finishing the song; we were all kind of struggling with it, and we decided I guess we'll just go home."

"Jesse Frasure (co-writer and producer) goes ‘you want to hear one more groove just in case we're inspired?' He went to the computer and he looks through a couple tracks he had been working on earlier in the day and just put down a basic beat of what are now the bones of ‘Southern Gothic.' I remember Josh (Kear, the other co-write on the song) saying, ‘You know well it's like really dark, and I was like ‘That's kind of creepy' and he said, ‘It's almost like as a gothic feel, it's very goth,' and then as a joke, I think Jesse said, ‘Well if Dan's gonna sing it, has to be Southern Gothic.' And we all looked at each other and we were like ‘Southern Gothic!' The title was intriguing."

Setting the title was only the beginning, according to Tyminski. "We ultimately realized there was a wealth of information and material within the margins of what you could call Southern Gothic. So, we felt like we were on the something."

The effect of the song persisted after its initial creation. "I've never driven home with a song like that and then be so jealous for it. I felt like it suited me, and I remember like signing off on the side like just thanking God for the song and thinking I don't want to have to give it up (to another artist), and I hope it has a good home…so when I came back around to the opportunity to do it, it was more than special for me."

"The Devil Is Downtown" chases further down the path of debasement. On the surface, it's about drinking and indecorous behavior, but in the end, according to Tyminski, it's a song about heroin addiction: As Tyminski says, "Downtown is a nickname for the drug. It's a heavy song, and I have experienced in my life people that I have struggled with that, and it'll give you another set of ears to listen to that song through."

As the recording progressed, "It became such a dark theme for the record. We went in in the later stages and wrote some positive music for the record; I mean good for your soul, and some of that was we just had to lighten it a little bit or we have to call the record ‘One More Song about the Devil'."

So, a song like "Temporary Love" seems, on the surface, more transitory and bright, but in the context of the whole record, it's not. Tyminski says: "I was looking through my phone. On my title page, I had something 'temporary love is not the same' I don't even know what that meant, but I remember Jessie saying ‘Well, I kinda like the sound of temporary love,' and I started singing along with the music beat....again we wrote this song which is disguised. It's essentially about a woman, but it's really about letting go of drug addiction; it's about cleaning up your act."

Tyminski has taken a deep plunge into the dark end of the pool, but he's not alone. His fresh, if pessimistic, studies of the world are potent and p