"I still don't know why you want to talk to me," says Denver singer-songwriter-producer Bob Tyler. "I don't feel famous."
Perhaps not, but he certainly is busy. When it comes to Colorado's music scene, Tyler's got his hand in more pies than Marie Callender. He hosts the Swallow Hill Music Association's monthly "Triple Play Showcase" for local and touring talent, and has recently produced a sampler CD of Denver-area singer-songwriters as part of a series issued by Fast Folk Musical Magazine. And his apparent reluctance to assume the spotlight notwithstanding, he may soon find himself back on the other side of the microphone. After a representative for Chicago's Folk Era, a small national label and catalogue house, caught his set at last summer's Rocky Mountain Music Association MusicFest, the company expressed interest in leasing a master recording from him. He'll know more in March.
In the meantime, he's hardly sitting by the phone. Between his own gigs at such haunts as Pasquini's Blu Luna Room and opening slots at venues like the Vail Amphitheater, Tyler found time to turn the knobs for one of the region's hottest country releases of 1993, singer-songwriter Celeste Krenz's Edge of the Storm.
Tyler, who lives with Krenz in addition to serving as the lead guitarist in her band, jokes about being "the man behind the woman," yet the couple's artistic pairing preceded their personal one. The two met while playing Denver's open stages. When Krenz hit a roadblock with her first producer, Tyler was tapped in midstream. During the recording sessions, he did his best to stay out of Krenz's way and let her performances speak for themselves. "That's pretty much my approach whenever I do production--[to] listen to the artist, the way the artist plays, the way the artist structures his melodies and lyrics, and build it around that" rather than change a performer's sound. Still, he adds that he's not one to drag along dead weight on a project: "I try not to close the door on anybody," he says. "But you can tell who's dedicated."
Born in Massachusetts, Tyler came to Denver via Nashville, where he spent most of the Eighties honing his chops as a sideman. After a series of near-misses with his own material, Tyler turned his talents toward painting and drawing. The next thing he knew, he was designing jewelry and being hired to paint seventy-foot murals.
It was the craft-fair circuit, in fact, that first brought him to Colorado. He arrived in May 1991 with no money, no car and, he says, "no idea" what he was going to do--until a visit the following January to a Swallow Hill open stage rekindled memories of time spent at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe. Soon afterward, he wrote his first three songs in years and became a regular at the venue.
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As a writer and performer, Tyler's lyrical inventiveness and refusal to take himself too seriously bring to mind Randy Newman with a guitar and a better voice (albeit a less distinctive one). Even at their most earnest, Tyler's tunes favor slice-of-life observations over big-ticket bombast. For example, "This City Could Be Diamonds," an eight-minute opus about small-town dreams, avoids the desperate escapism that's fueled many a Top 40 anthem by embracing such cornball notions as sticking around and working things out.
In part because Tyler himself follows this ethos, representatives at Fast Folk Musical Magazine--a New York City-based, not-for-profit publication formed over a decade ago by a group of songwriters--saw him as the perfect choice to produce a sampler on the Denver scene. One of Tyler's songs will be included in the package, and he has commitments from Krenz, Chris and Maggie, John Magnie, Stephen Allen Davis and Chuck Pyle to appear on the currently untitled disc, which is set for a spring release. Additional artists should be confirmed soon.
If fame and fortune continue to elude Tyler the performer, he probably won't mind. Between gigging and producing, he says, "I wish I had time for a day job." Not that he really wants one. "Music is all I can do," he continues. "The thing about music is, you've got to know when to rush and when to lay back. There are points in the business when it doesn't look like anything's happening."
And there are times when things start moving fast. For Tyler, that time is now.