Cale Tyson is easy to pick out in a crowd. You can’t miss him: just look for the tall guy in a Stetson hat and classic western wear. Put two and two together and it isn’t hard to guess that Tyson has a hand in country music. His latest EP, Cheater’s Wine, is a six-song goldmine of classic country songs and features Robert Ellis on guitar. Ellis got involved with the project after sitting in with Tyson’s band at a local dive bar during one of Tyson’s weekly performances. “My friend suggested I just go up and ask him if he wanted to work on the EP, and he said ‘yes.’”
Before he was hanging out with Robert Ellis and performing internationally (he has a run of U.K. shows planned for spring), Tyson was an intern at American Songwriter, where he first formed his sensibilities about the songwriting world. “I had to transcribe a lot of interviews, which really sucked, but it helped a lot with my knowledge of music and songwriting. Being able to delve into the music industry and listen to artists I probably wouldn’t have listened to before was really helpful.”
Tyson applied for the internship after getting a tip from a friend. “I decided to intern there after talking to Joseph LeMay about it,” he says. “Joseph told me I should do it and said he’d put in a good word for me.” LeMay didn’t warn Tyson about the size of the AS office, which, at the time, was a tiny space tucked away in an upstairs unit above PLA media on Music Row. More chaotic than creatively inspiring, most of the office was filled with stacks of books and magazines, and staff members often had to work in close quarters. It certainly wasn’t the most glamorous of work spaces. “The intern room was so small. Sometimes all three of the interns would be in that room at the same time, and it would be so cramped in there. It was rough.”
Though he mostly handled the magazine’s social media, Tyson got a few chances to write for the website. He recalls one piece in particular that he really enjoyed working on. “Caine [O’Rear, the editor] let me test gear every now and then. One time a PA came in and he told me to take it home and have rehearsal with it and write a little blurb about it afterwards.”
Tyson’s time at AS ended up coming full circle in an unexpected way. “When I started the internship, Rachel Briggs was working there doing graphic design. I didn’t really know her at the time, but a year later, she ended up doing my first album art.”
While he didn’t meet Briggs until after his internship ended, Tyson made some connections at the magazine during the internship that he still cherishes. “The best part about my internship was getting to know Caine and Jamie. She’s one of my best friends now.”
After his internship ended, Tyson found himself featured in the magazine’s pages. Since then, he has been featured on the AS website several times. Tyson premiered both of his EPs with the magazine, which he says really helped him grow his fanbase. “It definitely got a lot of people to listen to it that I couldn’t have gotten on my own,” he says.
“I did an interview recently with 650 AM and they actually brought up American Songwriter. They mentioned that they had read some press about me and told the listeners to check out the magazine because it really focuses on songwriting, which no one else is really doing right now.”
This article appears in our January/February 2015 “30th Anniversary” special issue. Subscribe here.
Cale will perform at American Songwriter’s 30th Anniversary Party at City Winery Nashville on January 8, along with Jason Isbell, John Oates and many others. Go here to purchase tickets.