Hear the story behind this song on Episode 61 of the Taproot Podcast.
Tilford Sellers talks about his roots music inspirations on his most recent release, What You’re Doing To Me, how he writes smooth sounding lyrics, and shares a cut from his most recent recording session.
Tilford Sellers Interview Transcript:
Calvin Powers: Speaking of great music, tonight I’m happy to have as my guest on the show Mr. Tilford Sellers. His current CD is called “What You’re Doing To Me” and I’m really enjoying this, it’s got that classic honky tonk feel to it but it’s got a lot of lively energy and feels really good for the times. So I wanted to ask Tilford to join us on the show tonight and talk a little bit about that CD and some of his upcoming projects. Tilford, welcome to the Taproot Podcast.
Tilford Sellers: Hey, good to be here, Calvin.
Calvin: So, how did the songs for this CD come together? Is this one of those things where you go into the studio and just kind of make them up all at once or did you put these songs together over time? How did this collection come together?
Tilford: Probably, I think I wrote them maybe in about a span of three months. All the songs are about two years old now. I just started writing one day and they all kind of came together. All those songs I hear were really fast too.
Calvin: Who are your song-writing inspirations these days? Any particular musicians that you look to for guidance on songwriting?
Tilford: Yeah. I mean, I love the old songwriting teams like [indecipherable 1:13], O’Bryan, of course I did a lot of the Everly Brothers.
Tilford: I love a lot of the Everly Brothers stuff. Of course, you got to mention Hank Williams, right?
Tilford: People tend to forget Georges Jones as a song writer. I think he really wrote a lot of really great stuff in the late 50’s.
Calvin: Got you. Well, let’s give people a taste of this CD. What shall we play first tonight?
Tilford: How about the title track, “What You’re Doing To Me?â
Calvin: “What You’re Doing To Me,” all right. Is this a biographical song? What’s the story behind this one?
Tilford: No. It’s kind of funny. I had a friend and his [inaudible 1:54] was really mean to him. It’s an inspiration for the song. This one was like a lightning rod song. It just hit me one night and the lyrics and the music came real fast.
Calvin: One thing I can say about that song, with no reservations, is Hank Williams would definitely be proud, there.
Tilford: Well, that’s great. Thanks.
Calvin: Now, you’re based out of Indiana, is that right?
Tilford: Yeah, Southern Indiana, town called Columbus.
Calvin: Columbus. Tell me what the roots music scene is like down that way. We don’t usually think of it as a hot bed of a honky tonk, but maybe we’re wrong about that.
Tilford: Well. There’s a town a little bit south called Bloomington; Bloomington, Indiana. There’s three or four of us now and it’s starting to pick up pace. There’s a guy down there called Davy Jay Sparrow and His Well-Known Famous Drovers. It’s kind of a western swing thing. A band called the Empires is doing some kind of [inaudible 2:59] rockabilly kind of stuff.
Calvin: Very cool.
Calvin: So what are the big venues out there that you like to play?
Tilford: There’s a place called the Bishop. It’s just kind of your standard music bar type of place. We usually get a good crowd and good response out there. Speaking of Indiana, but you know, people don’t think of this either. You’d think that kind of music would be further south, but northern Indiana actually… it seems like we’re topping in Fort Wayne Indiana.
Calvin: That’s cool. So let’s play another track, what should we play next?
Tilford: Let’s do “Get Ready.â This song’s about having fun. I actually wrote this, I got a DUI . . .
Calvin: Like you do.
Tilford: I wrote this song after the… events leading up to it, shall we say.
Calvin: All right.
Calvin: Song’s, “Get Ready,â off of Tilford Sellers most recent CD, “What You’re Doing To Me,” and that’s got kind of that Everly Brothers feel to it, doesn’t it?
Tilford: Yeah, yeah. That, and I think maybe a little Johnny Horton.
Calvin: Ah, OK.
Calvin: So is this the sort of music you listened to growing up? How did your musical history pan out there? Did you go through the phase most of us do with the rock-and-roll thing?
Tilford: Oh yeah, of course. Basically, growing up, that’s the music that my grandfather always played and listened to. He had a closet right next to his television set that was top to bottom of B-Westerns and tapes that he had taped of the Grand Ole Opry on TV.
Calvin: Oh wow, that’s cool.
Tilford: Yeah, that stuff was always playing anytime I was over there. One of my first memories I remember was seeing Bill Monroe on TV over at their house. Bill Monroe was playing the mandolin and I asked them, “Hey, why is he playing such tiny little guitar?” “No it’s not a guitar, it’s a mandolin,â “Well, it looked like a guitar to me.”
Calvin: And if you’re like me in those early days, you’re thinking “Oh, that music’s hopelessly square,” and then about a decade later you’re like, “Wow, that’s so cool.”
Tilford: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah, I went through that phase. There seems like a lot of people playing honky tonk or just roots music in general now. They all went the punk rock stage, and I definitely did that. Yeah, I don’t know, it just struck me one day and I said, “What have I been doing?”
Calvin: Very cool. Now, I understand that you’ve been in the studio recently?
Tilford: Yeah, that’s correct. I think we finished up, let’s see, Saturday.
Calvin: Terrific. And you’re going to share a cut with us tonight?
Tilford: That’s right. Yeah, you’re first to hear it.
Calvin: All right. So this is a world exclusive on the Taproot Podcast, new music from Tilford Sellers. What are we going to hear tonight?
Tilford: It’s one called “When My Master Called,â inspired by songs like “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Lost Highway.â I really like the poetry and stuff in those songs. Also, they’re really grim and dismal, but then, well, “Lost Highway” doesn’t, but… “Wayfaring Stranger” offers some hope at the end.
Calvin: Yeah, exactly. All right, “When My Master Calls.â
“When My Master Calls”, brand new music. World exclusive here on Taproot Podcast from Tilford Sellers. Thank you for sharing that with us.
Tilford: Hey, no problem. Thanks for playing it.
Calvin: Very smooth, easy-rolling lyrics there. That’s one of the things I noticed in all the music that you have. You’ve got very smooth lyrics that work melodically with the song and so I was just curious, how long have you been writing original songs?
Tilford: I started playing guitar when I think I was twelve. That was always something that interested me right from the start, so I was thirteen, fourteen. I probably didn’t get any good until somewhat more recently, but yeah.
Calvin: Fair enough. Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
Tilford: I don’t really. Yeah, I have no idea.
Tilford: Unfortunately as I’ve moved on, I’ve forgotten a lot of those things that I have written unless I’ve written down it or recorded it.
Calvin: Yeah, fair enough, fair enough. Any advice you have for aspiring songwriters that would help them write songs that are as smooth as yours?
Tilford: I think it’s really important to keep it simple and not overcomplicate things with words. Sometimes it seems like the best songs are written with the least amount of words, trying to capture…
Calvin: So true.
Tilford: … what you want without being too wordy.
Calvin: Yeah, that is so very true. That’s very good advice.
Tilford: I think roots music is good about that in general. And that’s kind of the idea… it’s supposed to be music for everybody; you don’t have to be an intellectual to understand it.
Calvin: Right, right. Makes sense. So you’ve just spent a few days in the recording studios, so I guess you’ll be working on putting out another album coming up soon?
Tilford: Yeah, right. We’re just putting the final touches on that, mastering and stuff like that. Probably coming out pretty soon, I would say as soon as February.
Calvin: That’s terrific. Any plans for a tour behind that?
Tilford: Yeah. We’re actually doing a week or so with the guy out of Kansas City, you may have heard, Adam Lee and The Dead Horse Sound Company.
Calvin: Yeah, OK, cool.
Tilford: See, they’re on the soundtracks for that Red State movie, I think.
Calvin: Oh, I didn’t know that. OK.
Tilford: To anybody out there, if you haven’t heard this guy, you got to check him out. Amazing stuff. That’s Adam Lee and The Dead Horse Sound Company.
Calvin: All right. We’ll see if we can entice you to come down to the southeast where it’s a little bit warmer in February so…
Tilford: Oh, definitely. Yeah, I think we’re going to try to do that.
Calvin: Sounds good. I sure appreciate you being my guest and thanks for sharing your new music with us. We’ll have a link to your website on the show notes page at taprootradio.com and we’ll look forward hearing more music from you.
Tilford: Yeah, definitely. More coming in the future. Thank you so much for having me on, Calvin.
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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.
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On What You’re Doing To Me, Tilford Sellers revives the early days of American music where country/blues/rock where still basically the same music. You can hear strains of the Grand Old Opry and Hank Williams. You can hear echos of Charlie Feathers and Buddy Holly. It’s feel-good honky tonk music that’s refreshingly simple, direct, and fun. Highlights for me are “Get Read” and the title track, “What You’re Doing To Me.”