You would think being the focal point of two massive but stylistically opposed hits as well as a longstanding member in one of bluegrass music’s most cherished ensembles would be plenty for Dan Tyminski. But that was before he started penning the tunes he put his singing to.
For his 2017 album, “Southern Gothic” (credited simply to “Tyminski”), he started writing compositions with a host of Nashville collaborators after years of interpreting songs that leaned largely to bluegrass-based acoustic music. Then noted producer Jesse Frasure (whose recent client list has included Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line and Lauren Alaina) was enlisted to mix Tyminski’s rootsy intuition with a few touches of pop flourish. The resulting sound may have been born in bluegrass, but it sailed to another plateau altogether.
“I never thought of myself as a songwriter, so it’s weird now that the bulk of my time here in Nashville is devoted to making up songs,” said Tyminski, who closes out the inaugural Concerts at the Castle series with a solo acoustic performance at the Kentucky Castle on Thursday. “Every time you finish a song that wasn’t there when you woke up that morning … I can’t explain how that makes me feel other than I’m excited in a different way than I’ve ever been excited about music before.”
“Jesse, obviously, is the mastermind behind the musical ideas. In his vision, the common thread through the record was my voice, so I really tried to reach outside of traditional bluegrass stuff and work in other forms of music. I trusted his overall vision of how the songs should sound and let him have his way.”
How audiences have recognized Tyminski before “Southern Gothic” depends largely on demographics. The bluegrass contingency knows him as co-lead vocalist and guitarist for Alison Krauss and Union Station. Tyminski credits the band for developing and defining his musical voice.
“Imagine you’re musician and you go, ‘Okay, who is my favorite person on each instrument and could I be in a band with them?’ Well, I’ve had that for 25 years. I’ve been spoiled beyond what I can even understand by working with Alison and Union Station. They were my favorite band before I joined. Take me out of the equation, and they are still my favorite band today. I would not be the musician I am without them.”
During the Union Station tenure (which followed his first professional gig, a five-year stint with the Lonesome River Band), Tyminski found himself at the center of two landmark recordings that sounded as if they were crafted in different universes.
His recording of the mountain music staple “Man of Constant Sorrow” for the 2000soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” — as the vocal stand in for native Kentuckian George Clooney — was the catalyst for a massive roots music revival, earning Tyminski a Grammy in the process.
“‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ has easily been the biggest song that I’ve encountered in my career. To get to be a part of something that has the power to change a demographic of an audience is mindblowing. I couldn’t appreciate how big it was while it was going on.We’re sneaking up on 20 years now since we recorded that song and I’m still figuring out the kind of impact it had.”
The other hit was, if anything, a bigger surprise. Tyminski served as the rustic voice for the 2013 electronic dance tune “Hey Brother” by the late Swedish DJ and producer Avicii. The tune became hugely popular, especially in Europe.
“I got a call one day asking me if I was interested in doing a song with this guy Avicci. Honestly, at the time, I didn’t know who Avicci was. I texted my daughter and asked if she had ever heard of him and she texted right back saying, ‘Dad, you’ve got to be kidding me? Is this a joke? If you don’t do this, I’m out.’ I don’t know what that means when my daughter tells me this.’ I had no idea what I was getting into when we did the song, but it just ended up being so big.”
Curiously, a career that took Tyminski’s voice to worldwide dance charts owes an initial nod to Kentucky via a copy of “J.D. Crowe and the New South.” At age 12, Tyminskiwas introduced to the vanguard 1975 album by the Lexington/Nicholasville banjo player and a soon-to-be-all-star lineup that included dobro pioneer and future Union Station bandmate Jerry Douglas.
“Trust me, that record is one of the things that excites me about playing again in Lexington.”
IF YOU GO
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18
Where: The Kentucky Castle, 230 Pisgah Pike