Frontiers of Fortier: The rise of Eugene’s hardest-working new talent
By Dante Zuñiga-West
Tyler Fortier is a hard-working man who has put it all on the line for his passion, packing all of his belongings into a 10 x 10 storage unit and guerrilla-touring to play solo gigs up and down the West Coast. He has taken the plunge into full-time musicianship, and it’s starting to pay off in a big way. For Fortier (pronounced for-teer), it seems no other way will do.
“If I wasn’t doing this, I’d still be doing this,” he says of his decision to chase after professional musicianship.
After graduating from UO in 2010, surviving his post-collegiate quarter-life crisis, then deciding to commit to music full-force, Fortier has been producing and playing at a grueling pace.
In his studio space, you can feel the presence of his travels. Dusty cowboy boots, an old typewriter, well-worn pianos, much-loved tambourines — there is a copy of the obscure and wonderful John Fowles novel, The Magus, sitting in his bookcase next to an antique sconce, beckoning one to ask the obvious: “Where the hell did you find this stuff?”
Fortier appreciates rare and unique things, and he gives off a vintage flavor, although he is far too young to be of vintage status. True to form, his album And They Rode Like Wildfire Snaking Through the Hill ‘Neath the Scarlet Sun was a concept album made to sound as if it came straight out of the Wild West. He pulls it off.
Take Brett Dennen, mix it with just a touch of Ryan Adams, and push the whole thing into a jug-band aesthetic, but with more classically trained musicianship — that’s Fortier. He has a hangdog face, big eyes, a firm handshake, a voice like a blanket, and his guitar-playing sounds like it could be twanging and strumming to the scenes of a period piece directed by David Lynch.
Though Fortier’s honed talent is overwhelmingly apparent, he humbly attributes his success to this work ethic, which is precisely why he has what it takes to make it even further in the music industry. “There are probably a whole lot more talented people out there, but it’s about persistence and doing the work,” he says.
That work is not always gratifying. Though romanticism exists in the culture of listeners who believe every musician with a name and some publicity is living the dream, the stark reality of road life, the stumbling waltz of door deals, guarantees, promoters and gas money is taxing. It can become simpler and easier if and when one has a good booking agent. However, even then, it is a “mo’ money mo’ problems” type of situation.
Fortier does his own booking, his own promotion, his own lyrics and his own music. He is at the bottleneck of his career, about to push on through to the goodness — if he catches the right breaks. This is what’s so exciting about following Fortier and his music; you can tell he is onto something big that could explode into something even bigger.
As gas prices rise, making long-distance touring less and less of an option for journeyman troubadours like Fortier, it will be the squeaky wheel that gets its way. Fortier is doing everything he needs to be doing. “It’s baby steps, and sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back,” Fortier says. His awareness of the modern musician’s plights is precisely why his trajectory continues to rise. And though he claims to be making baby steps, it’s more like he’s on the verge of a quantum leap.