19 Sep Country Singer Tyler Childers Makes a Powerful Appeal to Ru…
Country singer Tyler Childers has released a six-minute video statement in which he urges fans, particularly those who share his Appalachian roots, to empathize with the anger and despair being expressed by the Black community in the wake of a wave of deaths at the hands of police.
He says he reluctantly recorded the speech as a way of contextualizing the title track of his new album, “Long Violent History,” which received an unpromoted, surprise release Friday. While the album otherwise consists of string-band instrumentals, it concludes with a vocal number in which the critically acclaimed singer and picker lyrically wonders how he and others like him would feel if they had to live with the same fears of law enforcement encounters turning deadly that Blacks do.
“At the risk of mistakenly analogizing two groups of people, I would ask my white, rural listeners to think on this,” he says in the video. “What if we were to constantly open up our daily paper and see a headline like ‘East Kentucky man shot seven times on fishing trip,’ and read on to find the man was shot while fishing with his son by a game warden who saw him rummaging through his tackle box for his license and thought he was reaching for a knife?
“What if we read a story that began, ‘North Carolina man rushing home from work to take his elderly mother to the ER runs stop sign and is pulled over and beaten by police when they see a gun rack in the truck’? Or a headline like ‘Ashland community and technical college nursing student shot in her sleep’? How would we react to that? What form of a people would that create?
“I’d venture to say, if we were met with this type of daily attack on our own people, we would take action in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia. And if we wouldn’t stand for it, why would we expect another group of Americans to stand for it? Why would we stand silent while it happened or, worse, get in the way of it being rectified?”
Continues Childers, “Life is hard enough without being worried about the smallest interaction with a public servant. So what can the rest of us who feel seemingly outside of these issues do? First, we can use our voting power to get rid of the people that have been in power and let this go unnoticed. Chances are the people allowing this to happen are the same people keeping opportunity out of reach for our own communities that have watched job opportunities shipped out and drugs shipped in, eating up our communities and leaving our people desperate in what some folks would deem a food desert.”
He adds, “We can stop being so taken aback back by Black Lives Matter. If we didn’t need to be reminded, there would be justice for Breonna Taylor, a Kentuckyan like me, and countless others.” And, Childers says, “We can start looking for ways to preserve our heritage outside of lazily defending a flag with history steeped in racism and treason.”
Childers has said that 100% of net proceeds from the new album will to go to underserved communities in the Appalachian region via the Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund. The entire “Long Violent History” album can be streamed or purchased here.
The lyrics to the album’s one vocal number include verses like:
In all my born days as a white boy from Hickman
Based on the way that the world’s been to me
It’s called me belligerent
It’s took me for ignorant
But it ain’t never once made me scared just to be
Could you imagine just constantly worrying
Kicking, and fighting, and begging to breathe
Watch his entire video statement, above, or read our transcription of it, below:
In June when I wrote the song “Long Violent History,” it was my original goal to continue to make fairly legible sounds on the fiddle and put this album out with no announcements or press. I’d planned to package it as an old time fiddle album and let the piece make a statement on its own, taking the listener by surprise at the end.
However, there has been concern that the album could run the risk of being misinterpreted if not given some sort of accompanying explanation to set it in context. A writer can write an essay, but the writer can never predict or control how that essay is interpreted by the reader, be it in a tone of level-headed calmness or a preachy, holier than now, condescending way. As a recovering alcoholic who has drunk and drugged himself around the world playing music for the better part of 11 years, and now has six months of sobriety. I can say with clarity that I have no soap box to stand on to talk preachy to anyone on anything, be it the word of God or the condition of the world. But as a person who has been given a platform by providence, luck, support and working at it, I feel undeserving of the grace this world has given me, and I would find it a waste were I not to try and use it to make some good.
Long Violent history is a collection of instrumental pieces intended to create a sonic soundscape for the listener to set the tone to reflect on the last track, which is my own observational piece on the times we are in. COVID has been a strain on all of us in some form or fashion. People have been cooped up and quarantined. People have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. People have lost their family members. The country is feeling a general angst. All the while, we’ve all witnessed violent acts of police brutality happen around the nation that have gone unaddressed. In response, we’ve seen protests turn to riots, and riots culminate in acts of violence and destruction of property. From the outsider’s perspective, it’s hard to see where all this visceral anger is coming from. What I believe to be one of the biggest obstacles in pinpointing the cause of this is our inability to empathize with another individual or group’s plight. In the midst of our own daily struggles, it’s often hard to share an understanding for what another person might be going through.
With that in mind, at the risk of mistakenly analogizing two groups of people, I would ask my white, rural listeners to think on this. I don’t mean to imply that many of you aren’t already doing good self-examination on this issue, but I have heard from many who have not.
What if we were to constantly open up our daily paper and see a headline like “East Kentucky man shot seven times on…