Singer-songwriter Mike Ryan talks to C&I about his new album, Blink You’ll Miss It, out October 20.
Three years after the release of his critically acclaimed album Bad Reputation, which produced a trio of No. 1 singles on the Texas music charts, San Antonio-born musician Mike Ryan is moving on to the next chapter of his career with the upcoming release of his next album, Blink You’ll Miss It.
Out on October 20, the album is already making its presence known on Spotify with the lead single, a classic-country breakup song called “New Hometown,” and on XM The Highway Find with his second single, a piano-driven ballad about love lost called “Sad Song.”
Singles like “New Hometown” and “Sad Song” offer only a small taste of the overall talent displayed on Blink You’ll Miss It. Ryan, who currently has a hit on the country music charts as a writer on Brad Paisley’s “Last Time for Everything,” recruited several other songwriters — including Chris DuBois, Brent Anderson, and Smith Ahnquist — to contribute. The result is a diverse album filled with relatable stories and an exploration of different musical genres.
Cowboys & Indians: What do you hope your fans will get from your new album, Blink You’ll Miss It?
Mike Ryan: My goal for this album or any music that I put out is that it makes people feel something. Whatever emotion that may be. This album lets you in on how things were for me growing up, through stories, mostly true, about family, friends, love — how some things change and how some things never do.
C&I: Where did you gain inspiration for this album and how do you think it stands out from your last two, Night Comes Falling and Bad Reputation?
Ryan: The process for this record was a little different than the last two. With Bad Reputation and Night Comes Falling, I didn’t necessarily have a collective theme from the beginning; I just had some songs that were ready, so we put them all together and released a record. But as we were wrapping up Bad Reputation, we ended up writing a song called “New Hometown,” which alludes to the significance of hometowns and family roots. I didn’t plan it to be this way from the start, but as I continued writing over the next year or so, that theme started to naturally develop with the other writers that I was working with.
C&I: How do you go about songwriting? Do you start with the melody or the lyrics first?
Ryan: That process is always different for each song. Some days I feel like coming up with melodies; others its lyrics or sometimes just a good idea. I’ll write them down or record them somehow and see what the other guys think when we get together. If it’s good enough, we’ll write about it for a while. I’d say melodies come first most of the time when I’m writing on my own, but co-writing tends to be more random.
C&I: As a self-taught guitarist, how did your process of learning the guitar developed into songwriting? Did you always want to be a musician, or did you fall into it?
Ryan: I didn’t have any real dreams of pursuing music as a career growing up. There were plenty of musicians in the family, so the background was there. I ended up finding my voice pretty early on and started singing all the time, but it wasn’t until college that I started to write. It just seemed like the next step in the process. Once I learned how to play guitar, I figured I’d better come up with something to sing about. At first I went about songwriting the same as I did guitar. I would just sit there and work it out by myself until it sounded good. I was working at a bar at the time, which was great, because after we finished up each night we’d all sit around and have some drinks and I’d pull a guitar off the wall and play them my newest songs. After a while the owner started booking me to play there. So I put a band together, and before long, that was all I wanted to do.
C&I: Is there a song on Blink You’ll Miss It that you are most proud of?
Ryan: I would have to say “Sad Song” is the one I’m most proud of on this record. We wrote it and recorded it that same night and I probably listened to it about 150 times over the next day or so. It was like I couldn’t believe that had all come out of us, so I had to keep hearing it to let it sink in. I wrote it with Brent Anderson and Clint Lagerberg and recorded it as a piano-vocal. Brent recorded the piano part for the track because I had no idea how to play at the time, but as soon as I got back home I started learning. I’ve never had a song inspire me to learn something new like that, but after writing it that way, that was the only way it was ever gonna be.
C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make the album that we can expect sometime in the near future?
Ryan: Yes! It seems like every time I get close to finishing up an album, I’ll write a couple more songs and then I’m stuck putting them up against one another because there’s not room for every one. This time, we made a smaller batch than the last time so that we can get the next batch out sooner.
C&I: What can we expect in terms of touring? Any places you’re excited to play?
Ryan: You can expect us to continue going out and playing as much as we’ve always played, bringing our brand of original country music as far away as we can, then back again. Touring life is full of highs and lows and I welcome all of it.
C&I: Lastly, as a musician from San Antonio, what are some of your favorite Texas hot spots?
Ryan: There are all types of places around Texas for folks to take in a good show. That’s one of the many reasons I’ve been so grateful to live here and grow with the scene. Floore’s Country Store in Helotes, Texas, is an iconic venue that’s been bringing in the best music around since the 1940s. Just down the road from there, you’ve got Gruene Hall, the oldest continuously operating dance hall in Texas, which has been doing their thing for over 100 years. Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, House of Blues in Dallas [and] Houston, Cheatham Street [Warehouse] in San Marcos, Lubbock, College Station, Stephenville, and about 100 others in between. You don’t have to go very far to find country music down here.
For more information on Mike Ryan and his upcoming tour dates, visit his website.