Ty Herndon Embraces Life With New Album, House on Fire

Singer-Songwriter Counts the Blessings of Coming Out and Being “Authentic”

It’s not something you notice the first time around. But on your second or third listen to Ty Herndon’s new album, House on Fire, it dawns on you that you’re not hearing any gender-specific pronouns — no “he” or “she,” “him” or “her” — -even in the love songs.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that two years ago Herndon announced he was gay?

Indeed it could.

Herndon’s co-producer and longtime guitar player, Erik Halbig, co-wrote all 12 songs on the album, and Herndon chipped in on seven of them. So the collection clearly has the ring of a personal statement.

Herndon says it wasn’t something he aimed for when he began writing and collecting songs for the project.

“About half way through [the process],” he explains, “Erik said, ‘I don’t know if you’re meaning to do this, but the record is somewhat gender-free.’ And I’m like ‘What!’

“Honestly, that was not intentional at first. Then I got to thinking about it, and with everything going on in my world and my life today, I wanted the music to be universal for everyone. That’s what we ended up doing. So whatever walk of life you’re from, you can put this record on and put your own story into it.”

The more immediate genesis of the album was a road trip Herndon, Halbig and songwriter Drew Davis took to the 30A Song Festival in Florida in 2014, the year he decided to come out.

“There was so much going on in my life then,” Herndon says. “I was like, ‘How am I going to reel myself in enough to talk about some tough issues and also make a product of music that’s commercially appealing as well?

“I’ve had a history of doing that — of recording love songs that were commercially successful and then closing an album out with something spiritual or emotional I was feeling. But to be able to do an album just as myself — authentically me — I never had the chance to do that. I put a lot of pressure on myself in the beginning, and it really stalled me, because, you know, writer’s block, artist’s block. … All of it was coming down on my shoulders.”

That’s when Halbig and Davis began applying the tough love.

“They just gave me a talking to on the seven-hour ride [to the festival],” he says. “It was kind of like, ‘Dude, you just need to take a breath and be the artist you want to be.’

“They said, ‘Look, man, let’s just go and write in unity on this first one and maybe write a beach song. I said, ‘I don’t want to write a beach song’ — just fighting it tooth and nail all the way. We ended up coming with this little hook, and I got into it. So we wrote ‘All Night Tonight’ [which is a beach song]. We wrote in on the 29th floor of my friend’s beach condo.”

“Over the next month, the three of us ended up writing the first six songs that got me started on this record,” Herndon explains. “We closed it up with the sixth being ‘House on Fire.’”

Heartbreakingly autobiographical, “House on Fire” is about as far from a breezy, good-time beach song as the mind can reach. The house of the title is a house of worship as seen through the terrified, puzzled and self-loathing eyes of a gay kid:

I still replay those words, and hate is what I heard from that loving church
And there’s no salvation on the road you’re taking, and a kid like you ain’t worth saving

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