Mike Ryan Talks Growth and Finds Solace in “Longcut”
You would be hard pressed to find a skyscraper with a floor 13 or a gate of the same number at an airport. Thirteen is widely considered an unlucky number, but in just 13 songs, country artist Mike Ryan displays a decade of hard-earned skills on long cut. Luck has nothing to do with it.
Having spent over a decade building a career independently, Ryan’s growth as an artist and as a songwriter is evident in his fourth studio album. It’s packed with songs that paint from a wider emotional palette, full of melodies that blend playfulness with soul and heartache with hope.
These are tracks he could live with, some of which were written over several years. “We took our time with this one more than I have with any other record,” Ryan told American Songwriter. “It’s definitely one we’ve invested a lot in.” Ryan, along with his co-writers and producers, Bart Butler and Ryan Gore, put time, heart and soul into this album, resulting in songs that emotionally and sonically pack a punch, and cut through a path to the top.
“This record was a little different from what I’ve done in the past,” he admits. Following its release in 2017 Blink you’ll miss it, long cut is Ryan’s first album in five years. The dossier has an urgency and maturity that only time and a pandemic could confer. His usual brand of contemporary country has an undeniable edge this time around with 13 songs all carried by Ryan’s country-rock-tinged powerful voice.
“At first I felt like the stress and the pressure of the studio was enormous, and the first two records, not that they weren’t good, I didn’t necessarily have a lot of fun save them,” Ryan shares. .
As an independent artist, his early experiences in the studio were full of uncertainties. “I had no one to show me what to do,” he says. “It was just up to me to coach everyone and tell them what I wanted when I didn’t even really know myself.”
A turning point came in 2014 with his album Bad reputation, when he started recording in Nashville and getting studio help and advice from like-minded people. Every record since then has benefited from this change. “I feel like I’m more comfortable in that atmosphere and we’ve gotten better products from that,” he adds.
“The studio itself is much more comfortable for me and I feel like we can get in there and do some really cool stuff because I’m not just stressed or under pressure,” he explains. “I’m just excited about what we’re about to do.”
Having found solace in recording, Ryan’s songwriting never really had that problem. It was his writing skills that made Nashville stand out early in his career. It’s the same skill that, for a decade, earned him the respect of his peers for his boundless creativity and insane work ethic. It’s also why he’ll be making his Grand Ole Opry debut on Nov. 8, joining the ranks of the country’s other big names.
Although his songwriting process hasn’t changed much over the years, the content of his songs has. “I’ve had a pretty good career, so far, thanks to breakup songs and songs about the wrong side of love,” he says. “As I’ve aged a bit and had a few kids and found the one I love, it’s cool to write a bit more about that on this particular record.”
In addition to his usual co-writing, for the album Ryan also welcomed contributions from outside writers, some of Music City’s best. There are always songs a musician wishes they had written, he says, adding “We came across a few of these for this record and I just can’t believe I got the chance to cut them.”
Going into the studio with a “best song wins” attitude, what came out of it was long cut – Half Ryan and half Nashville, a mix of some of country music’s best songwriters. On long cutyou’ll meet the harrowing “Loser,” the honky tonk-textured “Gonna Take a Woman,” the swaggering country “Get Away With Anything,” and, in turn, reconnect with Mike Ryan, his newfound growth and confidence, l opening and all.
long cut is out now.
Photo credit: Nate Stibolt / Pitch Candy PR