Photo by John Shearer
“I feel like I just try and live my life – I’m gonna try to see if I can put this analogy to good use – like a whale shark,” artist and songwriter Mike Ryan says of his songwriting process with a laugh. “They swim through the ocean with their mouth open all the time and they collect plankton and it’s never big bites, it’s always just tiny little things,” he continues. “So I’m taking these things in through daily life and that’s just conversations that I have with anybody, TV shows I watch, other songs I hear, just daily living, and I filter all that stuff out. Every once in a while something comes out and enough of those things pile up and I get an idea for a song.”
It’s a process that works – the Texan, signed to Sea Gayle for publishing, has a strong sense of lyric, turning out songs that are both compelling and relatable. Since signing to Sea Gayle, he’s spent time co-writing in particular with Brent Anderson and Chris DuBois, with impressive results. Most recently, their efforts have been recognized by Sirius XM’s The Highway, with Ryan chosen as an “On The Horizon” artist.
“I didn’t realize how much co-writes can just open doors and as far as songs are concerned,” Ryan says. “Starting with nothing and then ending with a finished product. When you have anybody whatsoever to just bounce ideas off of you come up with cool stuff but when you have guys that are that caliber… I feel like I kind of stumbled into a gold mine with this guys ’cause they’re incredible writers and great people and I just have so much fun whenever I go to town and write with them and hang out with them. I consider myself very lucky to have that opportunity to write with those guys.”
“At first I was about as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” the Fort Worth resident says. “I didn’t know what I was getting into ’cause like I said, my writing experience was just about 100% solo, I’d never written with anybody.”
The collaboration clicked, for an outpouring of songs that are incredibly compelling on all fronts, with fresh lyrics, strong vocals, and engaging melodies. One such collaboration is “New Hometown,” Ryan’s latest single. The song features a strong tempo and Ryan’s compelling vocal, delivering a lyric about just getting out of town and away from it all.
“It tells a story about this guy that’s just struggling post break up,” Ryan says. “Break ups are never an easy thing, but they’re especially difficult on folks from small towns ’cause all those places that you went beforehand with the other person, there’s only so many of them in a small town and you just see them everywhere you go. It’s hard to shake it sometimes, you just gotta find a new hometown altogether.”
“I started playing [guitar] when I was a senior in high school,” he says. “I’d grown up my whole life singing; I was in a couple of different choirs and just even outside of choir I was always singing, I was either whistling or singing mores than I was talking so that just kind of came naturally to me. After I learned to play guitar in high school I moved to college and started playing some open mic stuff and that’s kind of when I started writing too. I put a band together right around 2007, released an album in 2010, and then from there just continued playing shows. The guys in my band now have been with me between two and five years so we’ve had a pretty solid core for a while now and it’s really a lot of fun.”
Connect with Ryan on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.