Entertainment Focus

Ryan Kinder interview

Credit: Warner Music Nashville

Ryan Kinder is a name that keeps cropping up everywhere and he’s on the verge of a pretty big breakthrough.

In 2017 he caught our attention with the singles Close and Still Believe in Crazy Love, and he’s amassed more than 40 million Spotify streams without even releasing an album. Recently Kinder unveiled his new single Leap of Faith ahead of his appearances at C2C: Country to Country 2018 and the C2C Roadshow which kicks off on Monday (12th March).

I caught up with Ryan to talk about Leap of Faith, find out what we can expect from his upcoming UK live performances, and to discuss the plans for a full-length album release.

Welcome to the U.K. This is your first time here. Do you have any expectations?

The fish and chips, I want to see how good they are (laughs). I don’t really have many expectations, I’m just excited to be here.

A lot of Country artists are surprised by audiences when they first play here. What have you heard in terms of UK fans?

Zealous. That’s the word that comes up the most… that so many fans delve so deep into someone’s catalog, that’s not even released! They’ll get on YouTube and learn all the songs that haven’t been recorded. They are just super fans… the epitome of a music lover, which is awesome. We played in Australia a couple years ago and I only had about two songs released, and people knew songs that I’d never played anywhere that much. They were just on YouTube and they knew every word. I hear that’s the same here. People are just excited about music.

I often hear that artists are surprised when audiences here sing every word back, even for songs they’ve written a few weeks earlier and they’re like ‘how?’…

Yeah! I don’t even know the words… how do y’all? (laughs)

Audiences here can be quite quiet. They settle down and listen which can be a bit unnerving…

That’s great sometimes and then other times you want them to get rowdy but they’re being so respectful, enjoying the music. That is a beautiful thing.

You just released the single Leap of Faith, along with the video. Where did the inspiration for that song come from?

We wrote that song probably six years ago. It was at the very start of an independent record label before I signed to Warner. It’s all about how the only thing that’s for certain is there’s no sure things in life. That’s pretty much the chorus. You have to take a leap of faith and go for whatever your heart is pulling you towards. There’s no reason to hold yourself back, just go for it.

Being an artist is one of those careers, more than any other, where nothing is a given. You never know if it’s going to happen and it’s a difficult path to go down. What’s your experience been like to get to this point?

I was on tour with Zac Brown one time and he said, ‘don’t worry it’s going to be a 10-year overnight success. It takes ten years to do the work. Then one night everybody knows your name. It takes so much work so much time and effort. One thing hits and then it’s like you showed up out of nowhere’.

It’s funny how a lot of people genuinely think musicians can be overnight successes. Is that frustrating or does it not really matter?

I don’t really care. If it’s a slow burn or a big explosion then the slow burn, just as long as it doesn’t fizzle out (laughs)… I think either way it’s fantastic. Just making it happen is the beauty and not to get cliche but it’s about the the path not the destination.

Before even releasing an album you’ve had more than 40 million streams on Spotify. That must be a sign that things are going pretty well right?

It definitely shows in the live shows. People are coming out and we’re selling out a lot of places just from a couple of songs from Spotify. It’s heartwarming and very encouraging to see that happening.

Credit: Warner Music Nashville

What’s your plan when it comes to thinking about a full-length album. Is that something you’re working towards or are you concentrating on singles right now?

We have half of the album done. I’ll record the rest as soon as possible. I’m not really sure how we’re going to release it but just I’m just focusing on finishing it right now.

There’s a lot of emphasis on streaming and it’s getting harder to get people to listen to a whole body of work. The whole landscape is changing so is that a challenge that you’re thinking about how best to overcome?

I think so. I think the way we might do it is one to two songs and build it into an album because like you said it’s the inundation of music. There’s so much coming out every day that you have to be very tactful in how you release every piece of work.

What can we expect from your C2C performances this weekend?

Loud guitars, some solos, lots of harmonies… a good old soul rock show!

Basically it’s going to be raucous and you want the crowd to get involved?

For sure. I mean we’re having fun on stage and if people want to dance and scream and yell and get rowdy, that’s fine with me because we’re going to do that onstage (laughs).

After C2C this weekend you’re going to be on the C2C Roadshow starting on Monday with Ashley McBryde. Is that going to be a similar vibe?

Yes. Tonight (a Warner showcase) is the only thing that’s going to be acoustic, then everything else will be a full band.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in your career?

Erm… that’s a fantastic question! I think American Country radio… it’s strange navigating those waters because the delineation of the sub-genres in the genre that America calls country is too eclectic and some programmers will call it not country but it is country. That’s the whole problem. I have a problem with genres because there is no true genre anymore. I feel like if it’s good music, it’s good music and if people want to hear they’re going to go and find it and listen to it. That was the thing with Close. We’ve had 32 million streams now and US Country radio said it wasn’t country and we’re here saying, ‘clearly it is. Look at the response it’s getting’. I think that’s been the hardest thing, trying to convince somebody, ‘this is what it is’.

It must be really frustrating because surely as a radio programmer it’s your job to put on a variety of sounds not just what sounds like everything in the charts right now? There’s a big debate generally with Country music fans and they tend to jump to, ‘this is Country, this isn’t Country, this is traditional Country’ etc…

Who cares? If it’s good, let’s just listen to it. If people are responding then let’s play it.

I always think as long as there’s a good story at the heart of a song, surely that’s what Country has always been about?.

Yeah, exactly.

See, we just figured it all out in a couple of minutes… (laughs).

(laughs) We just figured out the whole thing!

What else do you have coming up this year after C2C?

I’ll be playing a bunch of festivals. We’ll probably do another headlining tour of our own later in the summer or later in the fall. Finishing the album is my focus after C2C.

Do you think you’ll get back to the UK for some headline shows?

Of course, I think we’re hoping to come back before the end of the year. I will be back for sure!

Credit: Warner Music Nashville

Listening to your music I can hear a lot of different influences. Who has helped to shape your sound?

I grew up listening to a lot of Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt , Al Green, Freddy King, Eric Clapton, I loved John Mayer, Dave Matthews… I could name about a million. John Mayer was really the foray into me wanting to be a guitar player. Listening to him, I’ve tore apart his catalog and then learned who he loved and who he looked up to and went to work and tore apart their catalog and kind of went from there. He was kind of the genesis of the music for me.

Are there any contemporary artists that you’re a big supporter of right now?

Anderson East, I love his stuff. Absolutely love the stuff. Obviously (Chris) Stapleton. A guy named Jon Bellion, he’s a fantastic producer and singer-songwriter… everything. PJ Morton, he’s the Maroon 5 keyboard player but he does his own stuff on the side and it’s fantastic. There’s a rap artist called Odyssey, please check him out. He has one of the best bands. He’s fantastic! I could name a million more if you want me to? (laughs)

Let’s talk about your songwriting. What kind of songwriter are you? Do you write every day or focus your writing in blocks?

It’s a little bit of both. Sometimes it’s sporadic, sometimes it’s every day. It just depends if I’m feeling inspired to write something. Right now it’s very meticulous every day because I’m trying to get the right sound to fit this album. I’m not trying to write for radio to get the single. I would like to write a body of work that sticks together and is our sound, not just, ‘I’m writing this for a radio hit’.

What’s your relationship with social media, as it provides instant feedback whether you want it or not?

The over saturation… well that’s the problem, there is no such thing as over saturation now because people are always on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. Connectivity is an all-time high and I love being able to talk to people through that. It’s just non-stop. It’s part of the job, which is fantastic because you have a direct line with your favourite artists or fans that enjoy your music. I do enjoy that part.

Does it inform the decision you make about your music if you get feedback after trying out new songs live?

Oh of course. We have a new song called Blame and a YouTube video went up and people come up and ask, ‘why can’t I buy this yet’. Well I wrote it two weeks ago sorry (laughs). That’s a fantastic thing that I can get that response so quickly and that goes to the top the list of what we need to record.

There is this real demand now for instant gratification, if people hear something they it now. I guess that’s flattering but is it also frustrating sometimes?

Both I guess. It depends. Me having a song that people want to hear right now is very gratifying. I’d love to be able to get it out but it also helps with the hype I guess because people can’t wait till it’s is out.

What one piece of advice do you wish that you had been told when you first started out?

Keith Stegall told me when I first moved to Nashville don’t be them, be you. There’s already thousands of them. I wish I had listened more intently because there was a time in my career I was chasing that hit radio single, that’s all I would ever write trying to get that under three-minute super hook that would go straight to number one on radio. That kind of kills the artistry of what I wanted to do. I wish I had listened more intently.

Things are working out for you now that you’re following your gut and recording the music you want to record…

It just took a little while for me to remember.

Ryan Kinder’s new single Leap of Faith is available to stream download now. He will be performing at C2C: Country to Country 2018, which takes place at The O2 in London from Friday 9th to Sunday 11th March, and he’ll be touring the UK as part of the C2C Roadshow kicking off at The Borderline in London on Monday 12th March.