Once you listen to House On Fire, the forthcoming disc from Ty Herndon, you might be struck by somewhat of a different sound from what you’re expecting from the singer of such hits as “What Mattered Most” and “Living In A Moment.” The singer tells Sounds Like Nashville that one of the most iconic performers in the genre’s history once told him he would need to shake things up a bit in order to stay fresh.
“I remembered starting this journey of making the new record, and going back to something that Reba McEntire told me years ago – I was going to constantly be re-inventing myself. I really didn’t know what that meant at the time. Working with great engineers and producers in putting these sounds together that people haven’t heard on a Ty Herndon record before. For me, that made it very current. I also played around with the way I sang a little bit, which made for a very fun experience.”
The resulting factor is an album that is as fresh sounding and as cutting-edge as such artists as Sam Hunt and Chris Lane, both of whom are topping the charts with their unique blend of Country, Pop, and R&B.
But, he didn’t totally abandon the sound he’s known for, either. “That Kind Of Night,” the album’s lead single, definitely feels like it could be played right alongside of such Herndon classics as “Loved Too Much.”
“When you take a look at the album as a whole body of work, you’ll definitely hear some Ty Herndon songs on this record,” he emphasizes. “That one is one I probably would have cut in the mid-90s, and would have been tremendous. I loved the way the journey it takes you on. It’s a real feel-good song.”
One of the songs that Herndon experiments with more of a 2010’s sound is “All Night Tonight.” He said that was one of the first songs written for the album. Herndon had a hand in penning six of the songs on the disc. He says he wished he could have written more, but “I got busy, and I said ‘I can’t be one of those selfish writers who tries to write a whole album because that would just delay the process. Luckily, my producers, Eric Halbig and Drew Davis are both great songwriters, so we pulled from other catalogs, and I actually ended up tailor-making some of the songs for the record, changing this or that. We were able to complete the story of this album by pulling in some great songs from my friends who might have had some similar stories in their own lives. It was very important on this record for me to be authentic with the stories.”
The singer – who announced the fact that he is gay to the world in an October 2014 interview with People – says that one unique factor about House On Fire is that the album’s lyrics are gender-free. He says that wasn’t the plan, but it worked out well.
“I wanted fans from all walks of life to be able to put their life into the music, no matter what it is or what it’s about,” he admitted. “Eric heard some of the stuff we were writing and said ‘You know, you’re going gender-free with this. Are you ok with that?” I said ‘That may be a great accident. Let’s go with it.”
He says that he so far, the reaction to the new material has been amazing. “It’s just important to me that people can come hear me sing, and go ‘I have an expectation now of Ty that I have seen these songs live.’ People that have heard my hits for years are singing those songs at the top of their lungs, but it’s awesome to be able to get the new music out there. Just last week in Indiana, we did ‘House On Fire,’ and it was a good two minutes before I could start the next song. When things like that happen to you as an artist, it really catches you off guard – and makes you realize that the people really heard it. That was an unbelievable feeling. To have them stand on their feet because they love it so much is an incredible feeling. As a matter of fact, it’s brought me to tears more than a few times,” he confesses.
Perhaps the biggest departure on House On Fire is the in-your-face feel of “If You.” He admits it’s very different for him, but once he heard it – it was a no-brainer. “My buddy Walker is one of the writers on the album, and I heard him do it at a showcase. I thought ‘I love that song. I’ve got to record it,’ and I didn’t even know why. But, I loved it that much. My management team thought it might be a little too edgy, and I said ‘No, No. We’re going to cut it. Just trust me.’ When we finished the record, it became clear to me why I had to cut it. In my life, I’ve had a career of love songs or songs about heartbreak and loss. We’ve all had relationships that didn’t work out, and we might want to be a little sassy about. This was the song where I found a sense of humor about one that didn’t’ work out.”
On the other end of the emotional spectrum is the warm and tender “Stick With What I Know,” which is pure Ty Herndon from start to finish. “I thought it was very important in cutting that song that I gave the fans an opportunity to remember the songs I did in the past. The feel of that one is very familiar. It’s a song that, for me, I can walk on stage and it’s so natural for me. It fits like a glove, my voice, and my personality.”
The album ends with “Fighter,” a song whose lyrics Herndon can identify with. “When I heard this song, I knew I had to close the album out with this song. It has such a strong message. I know when I go out and speak at schools or at different events, one of the things I tell people is ‘If you believe in something, and you want it, you’ve got to fight for it.”