The singer-songwriter began taking piano lessons when he was six years old, and like most boys decided that sports and girls were more important when he was going into high school. When he told his mom he was quitting piano, she made him take choir. Though 14-year-old Rusty was completely devastated, he now reflects on that choice with gratefulness. Choir galvanized his love for music and made him realize he wanted to share his gift with the world.
After high school graduation, Rusty took his newfound love for singing to new levels by studying Opera in college, though it didn’t last long. In school, Rusty came to the conclusion that he preferred writing his own music and playing in bands. He ended up getting the most general music degree Washington State University had to offer and moved to the Midwest, where he started several jazz rock bands.
Oddly enough, it was moving back to the West Coast that made the young musician fall in love with country music — a genre he used to make fun of.
Fate took Rusty on tour with his friend Doug Cameron’s alt-country band Stranger Neighbor for six months, where he realized this sound’s melodic nature was perfect to play on the piano and also fit the way he was feeling. After a big move to L.A., Rusty played piano in the country rock outfit Von Cotton for eight years, covering the likes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and George Straight. He was officially hooked on country.
Now, years removed from that starry-eyed twenty-something, Rusty Tinder is stepping into the spotlight for the first time in his career.
“I’ve been in the situation before where I get the fire started and I let the fire die,” he says about starting a solo project. “This time, I’m not letting the fire die.”
Rusty credits his son as the reason for making his own music the priority this time around. “I’ve thought, What kind of legacy do I want to leave for me and for my son?” he says about the new chapter in his career. “What do I want to put out into this world, and what is it going to take?”
With a rotating cast of talented musicians, the singer-songwriter has been hard at work creating music that’s deeply personal to him. The result is his debut solo album—a collection of songs that call to his sonic past and see him dissecting his love, fear, and sorrow.
“My songs are my honest expression from my own personal emotion,” he explains, and that genuineness is present throughout his debut album.
The album’s lead single, “Don’t Grow Old in Hollywood,” may sound like a jangly, tongue-in-cheek sing along on the surface, but at its core, it mirrors Rusty’s real-life trepidation of keeping his family in L.A. forever. “From the Start” calls on contemporary folk and saloon piano as Rusty longs to rekindle the spark in relationships, while “Passing You By” is rooted in the folk greats of old as he talks of eliminating toxic people from his life. At the slower times, the focus is magnified on Rusty’s piano playing and vocal prowess. The haunting, sparse ballad “You’re Still Mine” finds the seasoned musician processing the grief of losing his father. Simply put, writing music is his therapy.
And he hopes it can be therapeutic to others, too. Through both his live show and recorded music, he wants to take listeners on a journey. He wants to give them an unforgettable experience and hopes they come out the other end changed in some way. More often than not, they do.