Musician Tyller Gummersall had great people in his corner when he was a kid.
The Allison-raised Gummersall had musical aspirations since he was a child, which began with singing in local choirs around the region. When he started showing an interest in music at around age 7 or 8, local musicians Gary Cook and Tim Sullivan gave the boy some direction. Sullivan, who knocked around the area as a solo artist for years, invited the young Gummersall to join him on stage to sing at a show at the Spring Creek Hall east of Ignacio. That was 1998, and singing wasn’t going to be enough.
“Tim said if you’re gonna do this, and you wanna do this, you need to learn to play an instrument,” Gummersall said. “So, I was very lucky, I always had an interest in music from a very young age, but I also had some awesome support to help me grow that interest.”
Enter Cook. Cook is an guitar instructor, record producer, past winner of the flatpicking guitar contest at both Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield Kansas, and most notably, longtime member of Durango’s own Bar D Wranglers. Gummersall became a student of not only the guitar, but of music history. Gummersall was a fan of country, Cook introduced the Western.
“He had that Western music influence, that was important,” Gummersall said. “He turned me on to Hank Williams and all the stuff that was formative. The basics, which I feel lucky about.”
Gummersall was then in full-on, country music boot-camp. Cook pushed him into learning how to play lead guitar, and soon after, he was playing local jams, then playing lead guitar in Wild Country. He was still a teenager.
“There were cool jams in Arboles, and that was a cool education. I just kept working at it,” he said. “I started trying to put bands together, and I also started playing in other bands like Wild Country – I played lead guitar in that band when I was 15, and that was a great education in playing covers and learning songs. So, I kept it rolling in my teenage years.”
Gummersall then started knocking out some records locally, which included solo recordings as well as a duo record he made under the name “The Wrecking Balls” with Chris Bettin.
He also was dipping his toes into the waters of Nashville but was urged out of Music City and toward Texas. Gummersall’s music isn’t quite the pop and polished “country” music that comes out of Nashville; while clean and slick, it also carries more of an old-school flair, where the locomotive drum beat lives under a twangy Telecaster.
So, he pulled what music industry professional Mark Dottore calls a “Willie.”
“He said, ‘You need to go to Texas. You’re going to keep running into the same thing Willie ran into in Nashville, you’re too country for Nashville. You don’t want to play the game, and you’re not rolling in that direction. Screw it, go to Texas, and people will love your music. The people that want to hear your music are in Texas.’ And he was right. Man was he right,” Gummersall said.
Currently, Gummersall is living in an RV, with his house “parked in Texas.” It’s a fitting locale for an aspiring country musician whose main songwriting influences are some of the great Texas songwriters: Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen and Townes Van Zandt. He’s also submerging himself in the whole scene, from learning all sides of the business to hosting podcasts and country music radio shows, to recording. His latest release, “Heartbreak College,” dropped earlier this year. Playing, however, remains the bread and butter – Gummersall will spend this summer attempting to play as much as possible between Texas and Southwest Colorado.
“I’ve been doing different things, but my main thing is getting out and playing for people,” Gummersall said. “That’s been the really big deal for sure.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.