10 Questions with ... Ryan Kinder
April 10, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Ryan Kinder is a singer-songwriter residing in Nashville, TN. The Birmingham, Alabama native has a very different Country feel with a guitar-heavy slant on many of his original songs. Kinder sites guitar gods from every genre as his inspiration and has garnered praise for his own guitar chops, which highlight and bolster his singer-songwriter approach to Country music. Kinder's single, "Tonight," is the lead from an album that he is working to release later this year.
1. Tell me about where you grew up. What were you like as a child?
I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then we moved to Birmingham, Alabama when I was about three years old. I went to the University of Alabama, but never finished - I moved up here after three years, so I'm still in college, technically! But, as a child, I was really quiet, because my sister talked all the time. She always talked for me, so I just sat there and smiled. I was told I was a very good kid, because I never made any problems - because she did! I'm the youngest. I have a sister older than me, and a brother who is the oldest. He has actually played covers with me since I was about seventeen. We were playing fraternities and sororities and weddings, stuff like that, so he played with me up until he went to law school, and now he's a lawyer in Birmingham.
2. So, playing those gigs with your brother as a teen, was that when you started to think music might be your thing?
It wasn't ever really a question. That was just always what I wanted to do. There was never really that moment of, "Oh, is this what I want to do?" It was just - that's all I did and all I wanted to do.
3. And you started playing guitar at a fairly early age, correct? When did you start playing?
How old are you in 8th grade? Like twelve or thirteen? I think when I started playing, I was about twelve. When I really, really got serious, I was about fifteen or sixteen.
4. Did you participate in any school band or music programs? How did you learn guitar?
Well, I took Music Theory in high school and almost flunked out! So, I can't compose my own symphony, but, you know...! I tried to do choir for a while, but it wasn't really my thing. I wanted to do my own thing and hated singing exactly what they told me to. I really just wanted to improv and do my own thing. I also took piano for a while, but it was kind of the same thing - always just wanting to do my own thing. We had keyboards all around the room, and the teacher had headphones and could click a button and listen to what everyone was doing. She would always yell at me, because I was just doing my own thing. But I do know when not to use parallel fifths!
5. So where did the early influences come from, then, as you were exploring music and learning to do your own thing?
My mom used to play Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and the Eagles. I listened to all of that kind of stuff, and it just branched out in to Lou Rawls and Al Green, which in turn led me to Marc Broussard and all of today's kind of soul singers. Then, I found John Mayer. That led me to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Keith Urban, and all of those kinds of guitar guys. Which led right back to Freddy King, Stevie Ray, Clapton, Buddy Guy, BB King.
6. So, while you were in college, going back and forth to Nashville, what was the spark that made you decide to make the leap and give Nashville a try permanently?
Honestly? I was tired of driving four and a half hours every Sunday and Monday! I could probably name every exit on I-65 between Tuscaloosa and Nashville. I just got sick of doing the drive, and I knew I had to be here in order to put the time in and write with everybody I wanted to write with. While I was going back and forth, I was only really getting to write with one person a week, because all I could do was a Monday appointment.
7. We know you have a long history in Nashville and had a previous deal elsewhere. But when that ended and you started the next chapter of your journey, what was it about Warner Music Nashville that felt like the right place for you to call your label home?
Espo. John Esposito. Espo! His passion and his love for music just made me excited to be in this building. And then I got to meet everybody else in this building, and they were so excited and all-in because of his passion and excitement. Espo's whole being seeps in to everyone in this building.
8. We know you've written with a lot of people around town as you hone your craft. As everything ended with your first record deal in town and you were between label homes, did you ever consider throwing in the town on the artist side and just focusing solely on your writing career?
I actually had a conversation with Keith Stegall before I signed my first, original deal. He said, "Well, what do you want to do?" And I told him, "I want to play music. And I want to write." And he said to me, "You really need to focus on one. You're either going to do one or the other, because it's really tough to do both. Once you get successful, you could very well be a writer for other people, but don't spend all of your time splitting your time." So I picked the artistry. I get to keep all of my songs for myself! And since I've moved here, I've realized that I'm not going to out-write the great writers in this town, so I would be remiss not to listen to outside songs. It kind of hurts you if you don't. I was very against it for the longest time. I was hard-headed. "Oh, this is my music!" But, that's just stupid!
9. So, speaking of your own music - Country as a format is really wide-open right now. There are a lot of different styles melding together to create the current sounds we hear collectively on Country radio. As an artist finding your own lane, if you were to meet someone in an elevator and had thirty seconds to explain the Ryan Kinder brand of Country music, how would you explain your sound and where it fits in the current landscape? And, as you're working the single, "Tonight," to radio, are you in the process of making an album? What is going on behind the scenes right now that you can share with radio?
If John Mayer, Gavin DeGraw, and Rob Thomas all grew up in Alabama, melded together and played guitar, I think that would be Ryan Kinder. As far as what's happening with the music, pre-radio tour, I had been writing for four to five years specifically for this album. Before that, I had been writing for a completely different album, because at one point, we were talking about signing with MoTown Records, so I was writing that kind of song for a long time before I realized that Country really is the market for me and is where I want to be. I went in with Keith Stegall and started cut some stuff, then when we signed to Warner, we went in with Paul Worley and cut four tracks. We're still finding songs and writing songs and trying to find the right stuff to really round out a full project.
10. So, you're working on a full project, and you've been out on a radio tour. As you're out there meeting programmers and building relationships at Country radio, what is it that you're sharing with everyone, and what do you want those who haven't met you yet to know about you and your music?
This is actually my second radio tour. I was on one with my first label, too. But these relationships really are everything. That IS radio. I wish I could go see every single radio station...but there are so many, and I'm pretty sure my wife would leave me if I were gone that long! But, then maybe I would get an Adele album out of it! But this music is real. It's coming from my heart. This is all I've ever wanted to do in my life, and getting to go out and meet all of these friends at radio is just the biggest blessing. I get to go out and meet all of these people who have the same passion as I do, just on the other side of the radio. And that's a skill in itself that most people just don't understand - radio is a really tough job! And they don't get enough credit, so - THANK YOU! I can't wait to go out and meet more friends at radio - it's one of the most fun parts about this job. You really get to meet people who become great friends and wonderful business partners.
1. So, you're a guitar guy. Does that mean you collect guitars or gear at all?
I did, until I ran out of money to do that. It's a very expensive hobby! But my favorite guitar is one that I have had a while. My uncle lent me money when I was 18 to buy my first guitar and amp. I was still gigging, but I was paying for a car to get to the gigs, plus gas and all of that. So I didn't have enough money. It was a 2001 American Stratocaster. It's beat all to hell now - scratches and scrapes and worn out - the neck is dirty-brown from playing it so much. That's the only one I've ever named, and probably the only one I ever will. Her name is Jolene.
2. Do you remember your first gig here? Where was it?
Yeah! Here in Nashville was at 12th & Porter. It was with my cover band, but we were playing my original tunes. It was the first time I played in front of Keith Stegall and my manager, Nick Garvin. It was with Keith's daughter, Jen Kettner, and with Kree Harrison, who was on "American Idol." That was the very first gig I ever played here. I think the second one was at Puckett's in Franklin - talk about two very different gigs!
3. And, we know you have a lot of guitar heroes in your life. You talked about a few of your influences earlier. But, if you were putting together the ultimate all-guitar touring band with four other guys, what four guitar dudes do you want to jam on stage with every night?
So, no drums or bass or anything? Just guitars? So it's like "Spinal Tap," where they're like, "And, on lead bass... And on rhythm bass..." Okay, well, this is epic. Guitar Guys is obviously the band name here. And the first two Guitar Guys have to be Keith Urban and John Mayer. John Scofield is in there, so that's three. So I've got Country, Blues, and Jazz/Funk represented. Now I need Jonny Lang, maybe. Wait, can I have living ones and dead ones?! If we can bring people back from the dead, I've got a totally different list! Jerry Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddy King... We'd just have to jam! I think we'd just get up there and rock out to "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder.