Tyler makes the most of good fortune

Kim Webber, March 1998

On first read, the bio accompanying Kris Tyler's debut, "What A Woman Knows," seems almost too good to be true. First, she writes a letter to Mary Chapin Carpenter, asking for advice, and then gets an answer. She takes a television job after college and wins an Emmy.

Later, a friend passes her demo tape to Robert Reynolds of The Mavericks, his wife Trisha (as in Yearwood) hears the tape and calls Tyler on a Saturday morning to encourage her to come to Nashville. Her debut album is produced by industry heavyweights Emory Gordy Jr. and Tony Brown. It's the stuff of a mini-series or blockbuster novel. And it's all true.

Tyler has made a well crafted, well written debut album. The lyrics reflect a literacy, maturity and integrity missing from a great deal of the work current mainstream artists, both male and female. Make no mistake, this is not Americana or alt.country. It's a country record not unlike the early work of George Strait. It's an affirmation of Tyler's skill as a writer that veterans like Gordy and Brown let her work shine through instead of loading it with songs by sure-hit Music Row writers.

CST: How did it come about that you ended up with not one, but two of country music's top guns as producers on your debut record?
Tyler: "Well, of course I wanted to work with Emory. He's head of A & R at the label (Rising Tide). While we were working on the record, he got sick. Tony was available, and I was thrilled to be working with him. I mean, these are the guys who made Steve Earle's "Guitar Town." I feel like I really benefited from fate."

CST: Speaking of fate, how did Trisha Yearwood end up with your demo tape?
Tyler: "It was interesting. A friend of mine passed the tape to Robert Reynolds. It was such a long shot. For a while, nothing came of it. Then, one Saturday morning, the phone rang, I answered, and it was Trisha. She called from the phone number on the demo. It was so encouraging to hear what she had to say. It was a validation. I was really wondering if I was doing the right thing, trying to figure out if I was going in the right direction. I commend her for doing that, she didn't know me and didn't have to call."

CST: Seems like the ball really starting rolling after that.Tyler: "It did. I ended up signing with Rising Tide. I started coming to Nashville every six weeks or so to write."

CST: All of the songs but one are either written or co-written by you. What was that like?
Tyler: "I tried to learn while writing songs for this record. Writing with Sharon Rice was like going to school. She has such a great body of work, it was a really cool experience. She seems to really be hitting her stride again."

CST: What about writing with Gary Burr and Tom Littlefield?
Tyler: "Gary really knows how to write songs. Again, he was a big part of my learning process. I really hope to write with Gary again, as well as Tom and Don Schlitz. Tom and I wrote several songs that are great, they just didn't fit this record. And of course, Sharon. I feel like you need to go back to the people you have success with."

CST: Seems like (Carpenter's) "Hometown Girl" was a major influence. What are your thoughts on that now?
Tyler: "There hadn't been a female artist to hit me like that since Roseanne Cash. It was well written. I wrote her the letter after listening to it, asking if I should move to Nashville. She said to live where I was comfortable, I'd write better songs that way. I think her heart is now in the folkier stuff."

CST: "Guitar Town" was an influential record with me, in that I started listeningto country music again. How about you?
Tyler: "Definitely. I was already listening to country music, but it was when I started buying again. And, Steve Earle's new record is great."

CST: Rising Tide seems to be developing as an artists label. What are your feelings about that?
Tyler: "I think you can attribute that to Ken Levitan. His work with Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett really brings attention to the fact that he knows how to work with artists. I think that Rising Tide does care. I think that they believe in what I do. They've been patient, and they've been meticulous. I should be around for five records with them."

© Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher • countrystandardtime@gmail.com