Diversions :: William Tyler / Out West (A Tour Diary, Pt. 1 of 2)

Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing. This week we catch up with William Tyler, who's been touring behind his second solo lp, Impossible Truth, released earlier this year via Merge. It's one of our favorite records of the year - instrumental or otherwise. Below, Tyler's stream of consciousness reflections concerning his late-Summer North American tour out west. Tyler is presently touring Europe -- look for more US dates beginning in October.

I'm sitting in a hotel bar in Cincinnati, listening to the menacing and comfortably familiar electric sitar of Dave Stewart on Tom Petty’s "Don't Come Around Here No More". It's a little hard to fathom that I was on these same highways a month ago, driving from Nashville to Columbus to begin my three-week cross-country trek. As I type this, my computer auto corrects " cross" to "crisis ". Nice.

When I returned the rental car this Monday, the odometer read 13000 miles. It had been 5000 when my dad and I rented it. It was a gray Camry, new car smell, satellite radio, proud and clean and anonymous and hardly aware of the intense trans continental journey I was about to subject it to.

The continental divide is the latitudinal point that decides where the rivers' paths are guided: to the Atlantic or to the Pacific. I would cross this twice on the tour. Fuck man, 8000 miles on a rental? That's more than most people drive in a year. My carbon footprint is like Godzilla. The only way to neutralize it is to walk everywhere and just eat parsley out of my backyard for the rest of the year.

I spent a year daydreaming about the end of oil, the sprawl of America, the lure of the sleeping seemingly dead places off the interstate and hidden on the ‘blue highways’. Ghost towns of old or towns that were fast becoming ghost towns. James Kunstler and Richard Heinberg and Mike Davis were my mental tour guides and all of them would be horrified at how environmentally unsustainable my trek was. But hey, I’m a working musician. We’re not quite dinosaurs yet but we are still fighting for relevance just as much in this insane world, still having to justify our existence. Those big old town cars that Detroit used to crank out back when we had cheap gas are just like the rock stars of thirty (shit, twenty!) years ago who figured the party would never end and people would still want to pay for “art” forever. Anyway I saw my trip as a cross between Lewis and Clark, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and  Two Lane Blacktop.

People ask me all the time how I reckon with the magnitude of this country.   I always compare the size and scope and population to our relevant colleagues and peers: China, Russia, India, Brazil…It’s useless to try to compare the USA to anything but those guys. We’ve got too much land and too many people. We are a country of illusions/ delusions. Never gonna run out of land, never gonna run out of sky, never gonna run out of soil, never gonna run out of trees, never gonna run out of people. Ever since World War 2 ended the people here have craved some sort of unifying edifice to keep the linear thinking going: the interstate, the sprawl of fast food chains, billboards, rest-stops.

True Fact: Anywhere in America right now, you can turn on your radio and find Rush Limbaugh or the Eagles playing. I’ve been testing this thesis for almost a year.

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