The sound of Right About Now is the sound of triumph.
This comeback collection by Ty Herndon is a ringing reaffirmation of his status as one of country music's most powerful vocal interpreters. From the silvery falsetto notes in the CD's title tune to the soaring, fiery and muscular vocals on tracks like "Someday Soon," "You Still Own Me" and "We Are," these are performances that electrify the senses.
"Love Revival" and "Mercy Line" are tinged with blue-eyed soul. Ty simmers with conviction on the uptempo "If I Could Only Have Her Love Back" and "Love Revival," while "Hide" and "In the Arms of Someone Who Loves Me" showcase his ability to get inside lyrics of substance. The collection concludes with his slow, tremulous, intense rendition of the gospel-infused "There Will Be a Better Day."
"My greatest talent is to interpret a song, put it on tape and make it believable," says Ty softly. "That's why I love to do this.
"I can do that to a crowd. I can make them believe me. I've done it so many times. And I want to do it on a different level this time, a more honest level, a level that I truly believe in."
Ty isn't boasting. He says all of this with sincere humility. But it is a fact that this man has proved time and again how charismatic a vocalist he is. Hits such as "What Mattered Most," "Hands of a Working Man," "Living in a Moment," "Loved Too Much," "It Must Be Love," "A Man Holdin' On (To a Woman Lettin' Go)" and "I Want My Goodbye Back" made him one of country music's most consistent radio favorites of the 1990s.
In addition to being a country chart-topper, Ty has also been a national television star, an ad-jingle vocalist, a model, a talk-show host, an actor and a theme-park entertainer. Right About Now returns him to what he has always done best, singing.
He has been doing that since age six, when he began singing in churches and at talent contests around his hometown of Butler, Alabama. He attended high school in Decatur, Alabama, and when he was 15, he became a member of The Song Masters gospel quartet there. At age 17, he auditioned and was hired to sing at Nashville's Opryland U.S.A. musical theme park. There, he joined The Grizzly River Boys, the group that eventually evolved into the hit country band Diamond Rio.
Representatives of TV's "Star Search," the "American Idol" of its day, spotted him at Opryland U.S.A. He became a male-vocalist winner on the series, which led to singing on a number of cable variety shows, including specials starring such greats as Johnny Cash and Porter Wagoner. Ty landed a job as the host of "Countryline," a home video featuring his interviews with Ronnie Milsap, Earl Thomas Conley and other music-video stars. By the time he turned 21, he had already acted on such programs as "I-40 Paradise" (TNN) and in the Jerry Reed TV movie "Diamonds, Gold and Platinum" (TBS).
In 1986-87, Ty became a cast member of the nationally-syndicated television series "You Write the Songs." He toured internationally for the USO. He sang song "demos" for the big publishing companies in Nashville.
Despite these accomplishments, Ty was a frustrated young man. No one on Music Row would give him a recording contract. One executive even told him. "Son, you go back to Alabama, get on your little red tractor and stay there." His father died while Ty was chasing Nashville stardom. Shady show-business hustlers took the green kid for a ride. As a result, his mother lost her home in Alabama.
"I was getting beat up. I was fed up, angry and bitter. I had no direction. So I went to Texas and started my honky-tonk education. I thought, 'If you are not gonna get a record deal, at least there you'll be able to make music'" and the money to pay his mother back. For the next six years, he learned to become a real vocalist and entertainer by toiling nightly in Dallas nightspots. But that education came with a price.
His first marriage lasted barely six months. He wed again in 1993, the same year he was named Texas Entertainer of the Year. That honor led to interest from Music Row at last. He recorded his debut album in 1994, and in early 1995 its first single, "What Mattered Most," rocketed to No. 1. It won Song of the Year at the annual Music Row magazine awards. He was named Best New Artist at the 1995 Country Radio Music Awards.
"The sad thing is, by the time I had a No. 1 record, I don't even remember having it. That's what breaks my heart the most. My brain was fried."
In the summer of 1995, the singer's problems became public. After an arrest for drug possession he went through rehabilitation at an Arizona facility and then resumed his career.
The barrage of hits that ensued, led to a 1997 American Music Award and a Contemporary Achievement honor from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. His What Mattered Most and Living in a Moment albums were both gold records. During the late 1990s he sold more than four million discs. His blazing live-performance style made him one of country music's finest concert attractions.
But by 1999, Ty had relapsed and this time his career would not rebound from his self-destructive lifestyle. After 2002, he vanished from radio popularity charts and concert stages.
"I just stopped making music completely," he recalls. "I was dead inside. I got divorced. I just lost all desire to take care of myself. I gained 75 pounds. I literally wanted to die. I thought I had no reason to live. I didn't have the music anymore. I was ashamed. I was humiliated. I could not hold my head up."
When he didn't emerge from his Los Angeles apartment for days on end, alarmed friends intervened, bought him a plane ticket and brought him back to Nashville. After a month getting sober in a basement apartment at his mother's home, he entered drug rehabilitation treatment at a Middle Tennessee center. This time, he meant business.
"It ends with me," says Ty. "My father was an alcoholic, and it killed him. This disease took him. I did not want to be next."
Friends, Nashville songwriters and fellow stars like Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes and Wynonna Judd rallied around him as he turned his life around, regained his health, lost the excess weight and began to sing again. Ty returned to the stage with a Music City nightclub showcase in the summer of 2004.
"Songwriter Darrell Brown asked me to come to the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville two Christmases ago. He said he had a song that he and Michael Peterson had written that he thought I could sing really well. And that's 'Right About Now.' The crowd just came to their feet when I sang it. And I can honestly tell you with all of my heart, it was at that moment that I thought, 'I want to make music again.' After I sang that song, that night, I started to think I wanted to do a new record. I had a real vision."
Brown has co-written such hits as Keith Urban's "Raining on Sunday" and "You'll Think of Me." He has also produced records for such artists as Russ Taff and Radney Foster. When he volunteered to work with Ty, the singer eagerly accepted, co-producing four of the tunes that Brown brought to the project. Top session musician Jonathan Yudkin was eager to make the transition into record production. Ty enlisted his aid for five more of the album's tracks. Ty co-produced "Mighty, Mighty Love" with Dennis Matkosky, one of its cowriters. Recording artists Kim Richey, Bob Bailey, Emily West, Marcus Hummon and Joanna Cotton provided background vocals to the richly textured collection.
"The people who believed in me and my talent made me even more serious about this. There were so many songs that fit where I am at emotionally right now, and I wanted to sing about that. Three years ago, I couldn't sing the way I used to. I can sing these songs now. My throat is clearer than it has ever been before, and that feeling is just awesome. Isn't this a miracle? I have a light in my eyes. And this is a happy place to be.
"To tell you the truth, I had a lot of spiritual experiences making this record. I am very, very proud of it."