Pictured above: Tyler Kinch described his style as being somewhere between Cody Johnson and Justin Moore. Photo by Trae Roberts.


The line between fame and obscurity is never finite, but it is pretty clear central Arkansas country musician Tyler Kinch has garnered at least some local renown. With a couple of new singles, some major performances under his belt and more music on the way, the yet-unsigned Kinch’s fanbase is growing, and he is always just one song away from the big leagues.


“You don’t have to have a record deal anymore, but it’d be nice,” he said. “You’ve just got to get that one song.”


In a few years, Kinch went from playing acoustic shows at Little Rock venues such as Stickyz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack and the Rev Room to playing sold-out shows with Justin Moore, the artist responsible for top-10 hits “Backwoods” and “Point at You.”


Just this year, Kinch was named Entertainer of the Year at the Arkansas Country Music Awards. With well-polished songs and an enthusiastic stage presence, Kinch is not out of his element when it comes to show business.


“I don’t know that I’ve been surprised about anything, just growing up around it and kind of expecting the unexpected,” he said. “I guess the only thing I’ve been surprised by is my following and how we grew so rapidly without even trying.”


Kinch, who grew up in Lonoke, said his music career started about 12 years ago, and he has played with a full band for five years. The 33-year-old got his start at a young age.


“My dad played. He played in some rock bands when I was a kid, and I guess it just got me wanting to do it,” Kinch said. “He bought me a guitar at 4 years old and taught me three chords, and I took it from there.”


His father and his friends performed ’80s-style rock ‘n’ roll, Kinch said. The sole country musician in the family, Kinch said that his biggest influences are Cody Johnson, Luke Combs and Brooks & Dunn.


“I don’t know how that happened,” he said. “I’m a cowboy, and the rest of everybody else is just normal, I guess, but they all like country music, so that’s good.”

tyler kinch

He added that he grew up playing music with his sister.


“It was a poor family, so we had each other, and we played music to kind of cope with things growing up,” he said.


Now married with two sons ages 2 and 11, Kinch said his wife and sons are excited about his music success.


“They love it. They want me to be famous,” he said. “I tell them I wish I could be. They think it’s cool.”


The early days of performing were challenging, he added, but he has since become accustomed to playing in front of crowds that have swelled from 20 to 100 people to several hundred or a thousand.


“The first shows are always scary, nerve-wracking, but as the years went on, I don’t have nerves for that anymore,” he said. “I just get up there and do my thing.”


He described being on stage as “nothing short of amazing.”


“I just lose myself,” he said. “It’s a different me on stage.”


Kinch routinely opens for Justin Moore when he is in town and travels to Delaware twice a year to perform with him. Kinch said one of his biggest shows in Arkansas was when he opened for Justin Moore at JJ’s Live in Fayetteville. Kinch has also performed with Joe Nichols, Matt Stell, George Barry, Dylan Scott and Lonestar, among others. He said he does not mind being the opening act.


“Those are the best [shows]. I don’t have to try to pull the crowd, you know. There’s already people there, so it’s more energetic from the start,” he said. “It’s low stress. I love it. It’s a lot easier than headlining your own stuff.”


He added that the band started out as a casual pastime.


“It was just a group of buddies playing around campfires, and someone had the idea to try to do this,” he said. “It was just a hobby, and then the following kind of happened, and it took off from there. It was never really meant to try to do anything, but here we are.”


He said most of the members of his original band had rock ‘n’ roll backgrounds, which is evident in the more crossover elements of the first Tyler Kinch extended play, which was released three years ago and includes fives songs: “Barstools,” “Bullet or a Bible,” “Patience,” “Hollow,” and “Magnolia.”


The members of the band have changed within the past year and now include Drew Smith, drummer; Brian Batterton, bassist; Jackson Hagerman, rhythm guitarist; and Darren Barry, lead guitarist, Kinch said. As the frontman, Kinch sings and plays guitar.


Kinch, who described his sound as being somewhere between Cody Johnson and Justin Moore, was able to embrace his more traditional country style on his two latest singles, “It Should be You” and “Devil was an Angel,” which debuted earlier this year. Kinch, who co-wrote “Devil was an Angel” with Bodey Jackson, said the song is his favorite track so far.


The two new tracks have been a hit with fans, he said, adding that there is more to come.


“They love the new stuff,” he said of fans. “I’m getting more into the music I want to play. The first EP we released, it was more on the rock side. My original band was all rock backgrounds, so it was very hard to push them to play country music, but they love the new stuff, and I think we’re getting deeper into it with this new stuff that hasn’t been released.”


He said he has been recording at Five Points Recording in Nashville for two years and is working with producer Danick Dupelle, the lead guitarist of Emerson Drive. He has four unreleased songs and plenty of new music on the way, he said, but it is too early to announce his exact plans.


“We’re trying hard to figure out how to release it and what to release,” he said. “I’m kind of working with my artist development person in Nashville to figure all that out.”


Each recording starts with an original or pitched song that Kinch brings to Nashville, where the producer builds the tracks from scratch vocals. Kinch and his band decide which songs to release, then bring in session players and rerecord the vocals before the track is mixed and mastered.


He said his music career has taught him to trust himself when it comes to his work.


“Trust that what you’re doing is the right thing,” he said. “If you spend too much time trying to be like somebody you’re not [or] copy something just because it’s worked, it may not work for you, so just do what you do.”


Songwriting tends to happen organically, he added.


“Normally someone just has an idea, and then you sit down and try to work with that, whether it’s a melody or a line,” he said. “It just happens.”


He added that his goal is to connect with the audience through his songs.


“I always say I want to be able to write songs that you can make your own depiction of, whether that story is the same as mine or you can relate to it in other ways,” he said. “I guess that’s just a goal — put out music that you can relate to and feel.”


That storytelling aspect is precisely what drew Kinch to country music in the first place.


“It seems like no matter who you are, you can always connect to a country song,” he said. “It’s always got something that relates to you.”


He said he hopes to eventually be signed to a label and go on tour. He would love to write and perform music for a living, he said, adding that he is currently a project manager for Powers of Arkansas in North Little Rock, but even the band’s current progress is not something he anticipated.


“I never really dreamed this would even be happening,” he said. “We like to call it baby steps. I feel like we’re going in the right direction, but everything happens at a very slow pace when you’re working. I’m just a little fish in a big pond of artists. It just takes one song, and that’s what we’re working toward.”