Michael Tyler is unlike any small-town country boy you've ever met.
His eclectic musical influences slowly began to come together in a fresh, unique way -- intriguing enough to catch the attention of acclaimed producer Michael Knox, the man behind artists like Kelly Clarkson and one of Tyler's heroes, Jason Aldean.
Together, Knox and Tyler set out to create a debut album fully encompassing every nuance from every part of Tyler's musical experience, and they nailed it. Listening to the project, you get a clear sense of where Tyler came from and who he is -- a young soul who is wise beyond his years.
317, is a solid mix of melodies and messages. Sure, there are your fun, feel-good songs like "Here's To The Nights" and "Play That Party Song," but there's also a wide range of emotional depth explored in songs like "They Can't See," "Songs About Missouri" and "Interstate," the powerful closing track to the project.
For Tyler, that's one that hits home. When he talks about home, he recalls a carefree, rural upbringing with his family and friends, where life was good and easy.
"We always had something to do, you know? We could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted," he told CMT.com. "I went from sleeping with the window open, listening to crickets, to listening to the interstate."
The interstate and all it symbolizes would become a key player in writing process for this record.
Raised in a town of about 2,000 people, Tyler has witnessed the changes that time and progress bring to places. The day he sat down to co-write with Grammy-winning producer Nathan Chapman, he quickly discovered he wasn't alone in that experience.
Chapman brought in an idea called "Interstate," and was talking with Tyler about growing up on his grandfather's tobacco farm. Chapman eventually grew up and moved away, but the real story began when he tried to go back years later, Tyler remembers.
"Down the road, [Chapman's] parents passed, he had kids of his own, and when his kids got older, he wanted to take them to the farm and show them where he grew up, knock on the door and ask if we could walk around," Tyler recalled. "When he was on his way there, he said he got turned around and lost and couldn't figure out how to get there. It was a big thing to him. He finally realized he was on the property on this brand new interstate. They'd taken the tobacco farm and put an interstate right through the middle of the it."
A similar incident outside of Missouri drew a personal connection for Tyler, so together, he and Chapman set out to write the song for Chapman's grandfather.
And the passing of time isn't the only subject matter tackled on Tyler's debut. The collection's lead single "They Can't See" speaks to the personal pressures and struggles young girls and women face in today's society.
Didn't see that one coming from a 23-year-old guy, did you?
But that's the kind of guy Tyler is, and was raised to be -- a true gentleman.
"I had a good mama," he said with a sincere smile.
So it makes sense that "They Can't See" is his personal favorite song on the project.
"I feel like it's the most 'me' song deep down on this record," he added. "It's the most positive song to me. Growing up in a small town, you get taught the things they were teaching 50 years ago, a hundred years ago. And one of those things is to treat a woman like a lady."
Now, he's on to other lessons about music and life on the road. Fortunately for Tyler, he's had a few excellent teachers. For starters, the duo LOCASH, who've had Tyler on their tour since November, 2016.
"It's been nothing but great times every night," Tyler says of the tour. "They're always positive. They try to make the room smile everywhere they go. I've gotten so much motivation out of their story, just knowing how they've been hammering away for fifteen to twenty years, and now they're killing it and selling out shows and topping the charts."
Another lesson in perseverance comes from one of Tyler's biggest influences, ACM Entertainer of the Year Jason Aldean.
Tyler remembers the first time he heard Aldean's Hicktown and calls it a turning point in his life.
"When Aldean came out," he said, "I was like, 'Holy crap. That's what I want to do.'"
The music helped him hone in on his own sound. And now, Aldean is a friend and mentor.
"He told me, 'You just have to keep doing what you're doing. Your stuff is cool. Believe in yourself and just do it," he said.
Tyler already has a No. 1 smash as a songwriter with Dierks Bentley's "Somewhere On A Beach," a SESAC Song of the Year (which was supposed to be Tyler's debut single, but you don't say no to Dierks).
Life is one big "Is this my life?" moment for Tyler right now. He travels the country doing what he loves, he hangs out with his hero at awards shows.
"Of course, I'm so thankful," he said. "It does feel like a dream a lot of the time. Especially last week when were riding back from the ACMs. We'd celebrated with Aldean for a little bit after he'd won Entertainer of the Year, and on the way back, I said, 'Dude, we just celebrated with Aldean. This is the guy that got me into the music that I'm doing now.'
"This is the dream," he continued. "This is what I moved to Nashville to do. This is all I've ever wanted to do my whole life, and it's happening right in front of me. It's hard to take in sometimes. I think you just have to be confident in your music and believe in your craft."
And use it for good, which is what Tyler is aiming to do. For him, the most important thing is for his fans to feel the positivity.
"Definitely positivity," he says confidently of his musical purpose. "'They Can't See' for example is a very positive message for women and young women and whoever else is feeling the weight of society the way it is right now. Everyone just has to remember that it's not about the way people perceive you. It's the things people can't see that make a person a person."
He smiles and says, "I want the songs to leave them feeling awesome, feeling good and ready to take on their day."
Mission accomplished, my friend.