With his most recent studio album, 2017’s Sturgill Simpson-produced Purgatory, Country/Folk singer/songwriter Tyler Childers has become a darling of critics and the Americana set. But Greater Cincinnati fans have been greeting him like a superstar for a few years now. Thanks to consistent visits over the years, his relative proximity to the area (he’s from Eastern Kentucky) and some of the finest songwriting being done by anyone in music today, Childers has built up enough of a local following to sell out shows regularly, including a two-night stand at The Southgate House Revival in 2017.
And when Childers opened for the legendary John Prine at Taft Theatre last year (where, in a sign of mutual respect, he joined Prine during his headlining set on a few songs), the singer/songwriter’s fans helped create an intensely electric atmosphere, one rarely felt during a support act’s performance. Rootsy, intimate and whisper-in-your-ear or smack-you-upside-the-head honest, Childers’ songs have a magical quality that allows him to connect with listeners immediately.
Perhaps that magic comes from a higher power. Or, in Childers case, maybe it ’s higher powers. Before his sold-out Newport, Kentucky shows in 2017, Childers talked to CityBeat about his unconventional spiritual/philosophical journey, which was informed by ’60s spiritual mystic Ram Dass, offering a good example of his unique worldview and artistic outlook.
“East Kentucky, Baptist good ol’ boy, eighth grade and I was reading these books by this guy who was raised Catholic but created his own personal belief system with Catholicism meshed together with Buddhism,” Childers said of his discovery of Dass. “(It) turned me on early to the idea of taking an honest assessment of your heart and if it doesn’t jive with the culture around you, then maybe the culture could be wrong.”
Childers’ latest local shows begin March 25 at Covington, Kentucky's Madison Theater, where he’ll be joined by a pair of Cincinnati acts he’s gotten to know on the touring circuit — Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound and Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle. The show kicks off an unprecedented three-night stand at Madison Theater (he’ll also play March 27 and 28), but you’re going to have to search the secondary resale market for tickets (carefully — beware of scammers). Unsurprisingly, all three shows sold out weeks ago.
Childers might have to play at U.S. Bank Arena or Riverbend next time to accommodate his legion of area fans.