With his brand new record, Ty Baynton offers up a tight set of rock-fuelled country songs custom cut for his high-energy live show and signature brand of ‘stadium-sized’ vocals.
Released in May of 2019, Rough Around The Edges, the record steps out lyrically and sonically from the Waterdown, Ontario-based singer/songwriter’s past efforts. That’s a product of the fact that his vision for the record was forged primarily during the past four years on the road. You’ll still hear echoes of Baynton’s long time influences like Tom Petty and Garth Brooks, but, he says: “Live, you inherently end up playing things differently over time. I was sitting back after a show once and realized that the band and I actually play rock, but I just happen to have a very country voice. So, going into this record I dug into what really gets me going musically, and a lot of it was 90s rock; very specifically pop/punk like Gob and Sum 41.”
To be clear, Baynton doesn’t sound like those bands, but he does channel their immediacy, compact arrangements and wide dynamic range on every track, partly because that’s a key element of his musical DNA, and partly because of the way he made the album.
While some of the record was tracked in Nashville at Blackbird Studios – with owner John McBride (Garth Brooks/Martina McBride) engineering and Baynton and his live drummer, Shawn Moore, producing – it was the initial sessions at Phase One in Toronto that set the tone for the record overall.
For those first sessions (produced by Nathan Ferarro and engineered by Jason Dufour), Baynton tapped guitarist Stuart Cameron, drummer Blake Manning and bassist Peter Fusco to back him up. Fair to say, as band mates in both The Heartbroken and Matthew Good’s band, the three not only know their way around rock and country intimately, they bring a chemistry to the tracks that, like Baynton’s vision for his sound, is rooted in countless days on the road.
“I brought them in to establish the sound because I knew I wanted that 90’s rock feel and I knew they played country as well. So those boys really helped shape the tone moving forward.” The final touch, he adds, was Cameron’s lap steel performances. “Once I heard Stu do a pass with lap steel on one song, that was it. That was the sound that I’ve been hearing in my head for eight years.”
Many of Baynton’s new tracks are preoccupied as much with the roads he has travelled – personally and professionally – over time, as with those he passed right on by. “Whether I’m looking back at what I’ve done or what happened around me, a lot of what I write about is my life. I don’t really know how else to go about it.” In looking back, however, Baynton, while thoughtful and reflective, is never maudlin or overly sentimental. “I’m just not a ‘woe is me’ kind of guy,” he says. Consequently, the brand of ‘what if’s’ Baynton’s lyrics deal with are never ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’, but more ‘done that, didn’t do that, and still wouldn’t change a thing’.
Whether it’s radio ready tracks like ‘I’ll Never Know’ or ‘Rough Around the Edges’, rip it up roof-burners such as ‘Old Small Town’ or ‘You Weren’t the One’, or epic standouts like ‘Roads I’ve Never Travelled’, Baynton tells his stories straight up; simply, honestly, and without regret. Along the way he also displays an ample and somewhat sarcastic sense of humour, and nowhere more so than on ‘She Was Wrong’ – a love gone wrong song with a twist that turns on the line, ‘She said you’ll miss me when I’m gone, but she was wrong’.
While Baynton generally prefers to co-write because it provides a deeper vein of perspective and experience to mine for any given song, he has a huge well of experience of his own to draw on, as well as significant talent as a songwriter – a skill he first started developing at age 15, the year after he first picked up his grandfather’s guitar. Since then he’s honed his chops as a singer, songwriter and performer relentlessly, spending an inordinate amount of time on the road, including a seven-year stretch where he played 200-plus gigs a year. Even now he’s away from home roughly ten months out of twelve and splits the remainder of the year getting in some down time and song writing in Waterdown and Nashville.
Over time Baynton’s done countless shows on his own and with his live band, shared the stage with the likes of Gord Bamford, Tim Hicks, Blake Shelton and many others, and performed at some of Canada’s biggest country festivals, including Boots & Hearts, the Manitoulin Country Fest and a variety of rodeos.
He has released records previously – a self-titled EP in 2012 and a full-length album, Good Ol’ Boy, in 2013, but this is the first time he feels he’s truly nailed it. “Before I didn’t have my head wrapped around what I wanted to do sonically, and until I did I didn’t want to jump back into the studio. Now I’m at the point where it’s like, ‘Okay, this is how we do it.’”
Although he always been a big rock and roll fan, he continues: “I gravitated towards writing country early on, partly because that’s where my voice sits naturally, but mainly because of the storytelling.” Beyond that, it’s fair to say that Baynton’s life reads a bit like a country song itself – from his roots as the third generation to grow up on his family’s farm and his lifelong passion for the outdoors, all the way through to his status as what rodeo folks call a ‘two-event cowboy.’
By way of explanation, that means that when Baynton’s got a rodeo gig he tends to do a bit more than just play and sing. For example: “Last Saturday at the Grand River Rodeo I played, but I also rode and won the saddle bronc event.”
Now, for those unfamiliar with saddle bronc riding, it goes something like this: “You’ve got a saddle and a rein you hold onto with one hand. Your free hand can’t touch the horse. The better you ride and the more the horse is bucking, kicking and basically trying to kill you, the higher your score.” In some ways it’s not unlike the music industry, he adds. “You’re going to get knocked down. You’re going to get the shit kicked out of you, but sometimes – with a song, a record, or a horse – you’re going to get lucky. You’ve just got to hang on.”