14-time Grammy winner Dan Tyminski returns to Romp
Photos by Scott Simontacchi
When Dan Tyminski takes the stage on Saturday, September 18 at ROMP, he won’t be playing behind Allison Krauss, and he won’t just be the “Man of Constant Sorrow” guy or still riding the wave of popularity from the global pop smash hit “Hey Brother” (with Swedish DJ Avicii). This time, it’s his name alone on the program. He’ll be standing front and center on his own two feet, singing his own songs, with his own band backing him – which Tyminksi says is equally exciting and terrifying.
“Throughout my career, you’ve heard the Lonesome River Band version of Dan Tyminski, you’ve heard the Allison Krauss version of Dan Tyminski, you’ve heard the movie version and the pop version, but now you get Dan Tyminski’s version of Dan Tyminski. And in a very strange, weird way, that’s something new. I’ve always had that ability, but I’ve never had the time or the chance to veer off and do my own thing. I had the best job in the world for so long with Allison Krauss and Union Station. I loved it so much that I never wanted to do anything on my own. Now I’m at a place where I’m exercising that freedom I’ve always had.”
He’ll certainly have plenty of original material to choose from at ROMP. At a time in his career when other musicians might fade away or find a second career off the road and out of the spotlight, Tyminski is doubling down, simultaneously recording two studio projects at the same time.
After a year-long hiatus recovering from a shoulder surgery, followed soon after by the pandemic shutdown, Tyminski used the beginning of the COVID downtime to reassess and regroup for his next phase. But he didn’t sit idle for long. Instead, he built a studio in his home and got to work writing and recording.
“This is a new side of the musical spectrum for me because I’ve always performed, I’ve always been going fast, but I’ve recorded for other people. Now I’m doing the recording myself. I’m calling all the shots. It can get a little scary as things get close to completion and this new music gets released.”
He’s released his own solo records before, including American Gothic, a full-length country/pop album released on Mercury Records in 2017, which was described as an “American quilt of music” because it blended genres. But on his current project, Dan says he’s settling back into his first musical love.
“I cut my teeth on Bluegrass. These new songs have really gotten to the root of what I’m all about and are reminiscent of what got me interested in music in the first place. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited – or as frightened – about releasing music as I am with these songs because it’s the real Dan Tyminski coming out. In a way, writing music is becoming easier for me as I concern myself less and less with this imaginary vail that I held in front of me for so long so people wouldn’t know or see the inner Dan. But now I’m penning my own songs with my own thoughts and words; things that are funny to me and things that are tragic to me. When you do that, I think music sounds more like you.”
So with a batch of new songs written and ready to record, Tyminski handpicked some of his favorite musicians and booked a studio in Nashville that was big enough to record everyone together at one time. “We went in to record five to six songs and came out with 13 in two days. I think that’s just a testament to the proficiency and musicianship of these guys and the magic that happens when musicians play live together, rather than tracking separately.”
Now Dan is mixing and finishing up the songs himself in his home studio. The project is yet to be titled, but he says it will be in the style of Bluegrass he grew up hearing and first started playing.
Which brings us back to ROMP.
Although Dan credits the classic J.D. Crowe OO44 Rounder record he heard as a 12-year-old boy for setting him on his path toward performing Bluegrass, he already had an appreciation for the music and a deep love for the community atmosphere he discovered at festivals he attended with his parents in Vermont.
“I’m so grateful for festivals like ROMP that can create an atmosphere like this. There’s no better way to experience music than watching it be created live right there in front of you. I’m a big fan of recorded music, and a lot of what I do for a living is recorded music. But when people go to hear live music, the entirety of what you get in that community experience is absolutely vital to music’s survival, and that’s particularly true with Bluegrass music.”
Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum director, Chris Joslin, says Tyminski is the perfect “legacy” artist to bridge the traditional sound of Bluegrass music and the newer branches and subgenres that are typical at ROMP, as well, and Dan feels completely at home in that environment. “The beauty of an atmosphere like ROMP is you get the entire experience. There’s stuff that’s traditional, but there’s also some stuff that’s kind of out there, too. You want to party to it, but you also can pray to some of it. There’s so many aspects to that musical journey that a festival can give you that a single concert just can’t. And I think ROMP handles that in an amazing way.”
Even if his knees are a little shaky as he takes the stage at ROMP, his voice will be strong. He’ll be ready. With a grin on his face and a smile in his heart. “This is the most fascinating time I’ve ever had making music. It’s exhilarating. I’m going at it how I’ve always gone at it. I’m attacking the songs with the same passion, it’s just that now I’m connected to them more.”