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William Tyler shares new song "Sunken Garden" and talks to Best Fit about Modern Country

19 May 2016, 16:00 | Written by Laurence Day

William Tyler is sharing new single "Sunken Garden" on Best Fit as he gears up to release new LP Modern Country.

We had a talk with Tyler about the track and the album - specifically about how it all came together and what it was like moving from his usual workplace of Nashville to Mississippi and Wisconsin.

"Sunken Garden" oozes chill, with sunbeam melodies skimming off the surface of warm bass and trundling drums. Tyler creates an entire world of hazy afternoons full of yellowing grass and rippling tarmac - it's gorgeous, uplifting, and tinged with moments of clarity.

Check out the track below, and find out why Tyler calls his songs "underdog hymns" after.

Can you tell us a bit about the track "Sunken Garden"?

It was inspired by the Debussy piece “Sunken Cathedral”, although I don’t think it bears any direct sonic resemblance to it. The title is a reference to a style of garden that was popular in the South for a while. There’s a large one in Florida, one in Virginia. It’s a nod to the arcane, architectural ghosts, and the kind of scenes you would see in old postcards. With the band during the recording it definitely evolved from a rambling acoustic number to something that sounds like '70s French film music or Bill Withers.

How does it fit into Modern Country?

The album is about where the country is today and what we have lost, from roadside attractions to abandoned industrial towns.

How did Modern Country come together?

Most of the songs were completed in Oxford, Mississippi where I lived for a month in the spring of 2014. We recorded the record the following January in the countryside of Wisconsin. The highs would be in the single digits Fahrenheit and everything was covered in snow and we would rehearse and record all day and into the night. Definitely a contrast from the pulsing humidity of North Mississippi.

What do you wish you knew when you started making it?

It was the first time I had left Nashville to work on songs and also the first time I had recorded my own music outside of Nashville, and with an ensemble of musicians. I also was working with Brad as a producer and the collaborative aspect of all of that yielded something much richer in hue. I can’t even say when I ‘started’ so it’s hard to know, but I always know more at the end of a project than I did at the outset.

It's the first to not be recorded in Nashville - what was it like moving so far away from where you normally work?

A focus on the process, and no distractions. It was such a gift to be somewhere for a week that was unfamiliar and inspiring.

How do you convey complex themes and ideas using instrumental music?

Partially in constant melodic movement, major to minor shifts, different time signatures in different sections, a lot of the classic compositional tools. As far as the ideas behind the songs, I think that’s a lot more subjective to the listener. I try to present some things like evocative titles and reference points and occasionally I am granted the platform to make more of an artist statement. But it’s like that Arthur Dove painting, “Chinese Music” - does it really ‘look’ like the way the music sounds? Maybe, but I will always pair the two.

You've said it's "a love letter to what we're losing in America..." - could you elaborate?

A lot of the ideas come from the fact that rural America, industrial America, small town America, all of this is being pushed further and further away from the conversation. People have lost jobs, people are working harder for less than they ever have. The promise of security that my parents’ generation was guaranteed is gone and it’s being replaced by more and more corporatism, predatory capitalism, big city media bias, all that. These are what I call “underdog hymns”.

What do you love about America? What do you dislike?

The landscape, the variety, the optimism. I dislike the violence, the greed, the worship of celebrity.

What are your plans for summer?

Stay cool, read, and try not to overdose on political coverage.

Modern Country is released via Merge on 10 June.

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