Mike Ryan’s musical story began in the Lone Star state, his first exposure to music was from his grandfather, who directed the Texas National Guard Band for over 30 years. He became one of Ryan’s biggest musical influences, first learning the clarinet from him – among other instruments.
“I found out after one short lesson with my grandfather that there was way more to this music thing than I had ever realized before. My grandfather was able to make people fall in love with music in a way that no one else could. I was very grateful for that growing up.”
“The way I learned was mostly by listening to the radio to figure out chords. I would lock myself in a room and play for hours. I would play my G, C, D, and if it didn’t sound right, I would just move the capo up, until I figured out the right chord. I taught myself how to play the way that it worked for me. Maybe learning from other people could’ve made certain things easier, but I think learning it my way might’ve helped make it stick. I think sometimes if you learn things on your own, you learn them better.”
Besides the hit records, Ryan’s resume also includes winning New Male Vocalist of the Year at the Texas Regional Radio Awards in 2015. The list of sold-out venues he’s played around the country continues to grow. He’s also headlined several times at Billy Bob’s Texas an iconic nightclub in Fort Worth, admitting that it’s a special place.
“Growing up in San Antonio, I really didn’t hear that much about it. It wasn’t until I moved up to North Texas that I started seeing all these bands I loved coming through there. It’s so huge. It seems like the kind of place that even if folks aren’t too familiar with the band that is playing, they go there because it’s Billy Bob’s. They have a good time there, and it’s a good family atmosphere. You can bring the kids. That’s a little bit different than other venues that you don’t get to see that often. To see the looks on some of these little kids’ faces, when you walk by them – and they get this wide-eyed stare because they think you’re some kind of famous person, it such a cool vibe all the way around. It’s a great place – aside from the historical significance of it. It’s just a great place to play because of the people that show up and the energy and the electricity that exists in the building.”
Billy Bob’s proved to be a critical spot in the career of Mike Ryan – without him even being there. Renowned songwriter and producer Chris DuBois, who co-founded Sea Gayle Music Publishing in Nashville, said it was at the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk” that he first became aware of Mike and his music in 2013.
“We had two of our artists playing there on back-to-back nights,” says DuBois. “I was hanging out back in the green room, and I ran into Robert Gallagher, who had been the backstage manager at Billy Bob’s for years. We sat and talked a little bit, then the next night, he came back and said ‘I’ve got a CD I want to give you. I see a lot of artists pass through here, but this guy has something special. I stuck it in my pocket, and brought it back with me to Nashville. I get a lot of CD’s, and with all due respect to Robert, my expectations were not super-high. But, when I put the CD in my jeep, I thought ‘This guy is really good.’ So, we set up a meeting the next time he was in Nashville.” DuBois offered Mike a publishing deal with Sea Gayle right there on the spot.
With the number of discs that DuBois receives in an average week, what was it about Mike Ryan? DuBois says, “I’ve been in this business for going on twenty-five years, and when you hear something that is different, you can’t describe what it is that strikes a chord in you. You can just tell. He just had that thing in his voice that made him great. I just heard that special quality, and he had written all the songs on that first CD. That said to me that he had skills as a writer.”
With the release of his newest single, “Damn Good Goodbye”, Ryan is hoping to make more music that his Texas audience loves, but he also wants to take his music all the way around the world. “I consider myself very fortunate to have the support from Texans that we do. We’ve actually been playing in the surrounding states for the past couple of years, and we’re getting further and further away from home all the time. I just want to keep making music that I am proud of and that I believe in. Texas has a lot of great fans, and I know the rest of the United States does as well. I’m ready to take it to them!”