B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Ramsey: Black bear – I’ve had multiple vivid dreams that involved a black bear guiding me through the wilderness and helping me through obstacles in my path. I also spend a lot of time in the woods here in NC and relate to them in their wandering and solitude.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Ramsey: Music has always been a direct path to a deep and centered part of me that I don’t find anywhere else. I’m not sure I would function without it.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show?
Ramsey: It’s a mysterious thing – the performer and the audience can both show up expecting a great experience, but nothing about it can be forced. A truly great show is in the stars or the direction of the wind.
B&L: I haven’t stopped listening to your records since your self-titled debut, came out in 2005. There have been two since, but the last one, “Valley Wind,” came out in 2011. What’s cooking? When can we expect something new?
Ramsey: Thank you! Yeah, there is a new album and release plans are in the works now – just working out the small details.
B&L: What’s life like, post-Band of Horses? What have you been up to? Are you excited for this foray into trying your hand at your solo career “full time,” or are you walking down a completely different path outside of music that I don’t know about?
Ramsey: It’s been about a year since that last band tour. We sold our house in Asheville and bought an old horse farm out in the country. I’ve been doing a lot of work fixing up the barn and outbuildings, and built a small studio building last summer with a good friend of mine. I’m spending a lot of time in there now, writing and recording. Enjoying being with my wife and daughter, and the downtime, but I’m also looking forward to touring this new record!
B&L: When you’re out there playing these solo shows, do you play material that you wrote for Band of Horses such as, “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone,” or do you leave that stuff alone?
Ramsey: Any of the songs I’ve written in the past can end up on the list – I love playing those songs and they still hold plenty of meaning for me – maybe more now.
B&L: Speaking of walking down paths, I read on your Facebook page that you’re raising funds in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and are about to embark on a 28.3-mile hike. Tell us about that…
Ramsey: That is coming up in May! I heard about this fundraiser and immediately decided to do it. My daughter had some serious health issues after she was born and we went on that horrible roller coaster ride of ER visits and doctors and specialists that young families get thrown into. When I saw the opportunity to help give a little break and some joy to children and families that are going through these things, there wasn’t a question about it and I signed up. So if they want, people can donate to the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge and then on May 19th I, and a bunch of other people from western North Carolina will be hiking 28.3 miles for the cause!
B&L: Let’s trace some roots: What led you to pick up a guitar at the outset? Who were your earliest influences?
Ramsey: I latched on to the guitar when I heard Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges when I was a kid. That led into country blues and I am still digging and finding new inspiration all the time. There is such a cool finger style guitar scene happening now – so many players moving in every direction…
B&L: When did you decide, ‘yup, this is something I ought to try for a bit…’ with regard to playing music as a means of earning a living?
Ramsey: I played in bands all through junior high and high school. I tried to go and study classical guitar at school but wasn’t focused enough and ended up just traveling and joining up with a band that was doing ok. That lasted a couple of years and then after that it just seemed like one thing led to another and I was just playing all the time and had forgotten to come up with a back up plan!
B&L: Do you feel more vulnerable playing in a solo setting without a band around you to fill in some cracks/holes, or are you totally comfortable going it alone?
Ramsey: I absolutely love playing solo shows – there is an opportunity to connect with an audience that doesn’t exist in a band setting. I’ve always tried to write my songs in such a way that they seem complete with just a guitar or piano and voice. To me that is the sign of a decent song – something that can stand on its own.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Word Barn on April 7th? Do you have any experience with New Hampshire? Have you played/hiked here before? Spent anytime with the Old Man of the Mountain?
Ramsey: Folks can expect to hear songs off of any of the records I’ve put out and quite a few of the new ones. I always try to expand the guitar instrumental sections and give the songs their own life in that moment. I hope I have a second to get out and walk somewhere – I don’t have a ton of experience with New Hampshire!
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Ramsey: I’ll take a dozen better answers to these questions!
Tyler Ramsey makes his debut New Hampshire performance at the Word Barn on Saturday, April 7th. Tickets and information can be found here.
To donate to Tyler’s Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge initiative, click here.