Music Row Magazine: Among the gold and platinum sales plaques lining the walls of peermusic’s Nashville outpost on 18th Avenue South are glimpses of the independent publishing outfit’s earliest days, propelled by the emergence of modern country music in 1927.
Rising singer-songwriter and Thayer, Missouri, native Michael Tyler signed with peermusic’s Nashville office in 2012. Tyler had been with peermusic for more than a year before Michael Knox, peermusic’s Nashville VP and producer for superstar artists such as Jason Aldean, learned of the heritage of the young man they had added to their writer roster.
During a visit to the peermusic Nashville office, Tyler’s mother noticed a photo of Jimmie Rodgers hanging on the wall. Rodgers was one of the artists recorded by talent scout Ralph Peer in 1927 during The Bristol Sessions. In 1928, Peer established Southern Music Publishing company, which would later become known as peermusic.
“She mentioned, ‘Hey, we have a musician named Jimmie Rodgers in the family,’” recalls Knox. “I asked if perhaps she meant the ‘50s artist, but she said, ‘Nah, he died back in 1933 or something,’ And I went, ‘That’s OUR Jimmie Rodgers!’ They did the research and it all came back that that is Michael’s bloodline.”
“It is a neat thing,” says Knox. “Very full circle.”
Despite Tyler’s country lineage, his early musical education came by way of rock ‘n’ roll. Tyler’s parents, rock music enthusiasts, bought their sons their first instruments while they were still preteens—a drum set for Michael and a guitar for his older brother Ryan, along with a copy of AC/DC’s Back In Black. Tyler was 13 when his music first caught Knox’s attention, by way of a MySpace message.
“I just loved his voice and what he was doing,” recalls Knox, who initially mentored Tyler long-distance. “I told him to write me a song a month. We did that for two years, and his songs got better and better, and he started having his own thing. I didn’t want to bring him to Nashville too early because then he would be co-writing and then he would follow somebody else. He was such a young kid at the time that he would follow, and so I wanted to make sure he grew into his own style. That can be pretty hard for a 15-year-old kid. They want the world right then and there.”
The patience and hard work began paying off. As he honed his performance skills, Tyler also absorbed the music from artists such as Alabama, Boys Like Girls, Jason Aldean, and Justin Bieber, sifting through musical palettes to uncover his own artistry and vision. Later, Knox invited him to play a show at Tootsies Orchid Lounge in Nashville for their first in-person meeting.
“When he showed up to play for me, he played nine Aldean songs,” Knox says. “Then he played four originals and that’s what killed me. This country guy had a Skoal ring in his back pocket, wore a ball cap, but he was singing like John Mayer.”
He also earned his first chart-topping single as a songwriter, with Dierks Bentley’s “Somewhere On A Beach.” “We wrote the song in like two hours,” Tyler recalls of penning the track with fellow songwriters Jaron Boyer, Dave Kuncio, Josh Mirenda, and Alexander Palmer. “We ran downstairs and played it for Knox. He liked it and was like, ‘We need to lock this down for you. No one needs to pitch this song, cause it’s on hold for Michael Tyler.’”
That is, until Dierks Bentley showed interest in “Beach” as a radio single.
By then, Tyler had seen one major label deal of his own with Sony Music Nashville come and go, and he was considering deals with new labels, on the strength of songs like “Beach.”
“He had three or four record deals sitting there after we left Sony, and two of them went away when we gave ‘Beach’ up,” says Knox. “That was an interesting situation to be in, but it was the right choice. We did talk to them and say, ‘Man, does Dierks love it more than an album cut?’ But we wanted to hear that from Dierks. And he was awesome enough to do that.”
When the opportunity came, Tyler had already learned from a similar experience. “Before I had signed to Sony, I had a song that an artist wanted really badly,” says Tyler. “I decided to keep it for myself. We signed with Sony and then a whole new regime and CEO came in, with different opinions, so we decided to look at other labels. So when Dierks wanted to make this song his single, I was like, ‘I’ve learned my lesson.’ Everyone was a little skeptical, but I was like, ‘Give it to him!’ because it’s Dierks and it would do nothing but help my career. And it’s changed my life so far.”
The decision paid off with a No. 1 single, and a recording contract with Reviver Records. “I chose Reviver because they believed in the whole package, not just a handful of songs,” says Tyler. “They believed in me as an artist and didn’t want to change anything. They believed in what we wanted to do as a team and why would we not want to sign with that?”
In addition to his first No. 1 tune as a songwriter with “Beach,” Tyler has earned cuts like “Laid Back” from Aldean’s Old Boots New Dirt, and “First Time Again,” Aldean’s duet with Kelsea Ballerini from his upcoming album They Don’t Know. Tyler’s labelmates LOCASH recorded a trio of his songs for their project The Fighters (“Shipwrecked,” “Ain’t Startin’ Tonight,” and “Moonwalkin’”).
For his own upcoming album, Tyler’s hearty, soulful voice wraps around narratives about Missouri farm towns, small-town first love, and raucous youth, all embedded in singable pop-inflected melodies. His new video for “Crazy Last Night” debuted this week on CMT.
Knox notes that though Tyler’s career is just beginning, he sees it following a familiar trajectory. “Just like Jason, we lost a record deal, and then got a new deal on an independent label. Then LOCASH gets a Top 5 and puts Reviver on the map. It’s kind of the same process, so I hope it keeps continuing like that.”