Things are definitely looking bright in the world of Warner Music’s Ryan Kinder these days. The Alabama native has just released his first single for the label, entitled “Tonight,” and has been recently named as one of “Ten Artists You Need To Know” by Rolling Stone. Kinder tells CMChatLive that his emotions upon hearing such words are hard to explain.
“That’s complete gratification from a magazine that I grew up reading. To be mentioned in that article was one of the most incredible feelings in the world. I really can’t think of the words at this point, because it is so cool to me. It’s validation – and not parking validation.”
When asked about the writing process behind the single, Kinder explained:
“Luke Sheets and I were writing with Keith Stegall one day, and he had to cancel. Luke and I had already done a little bit of writing that day because we wanted to have something to bring to the session so we didn’t look like we were amateurs. We finished that song in an hour. I came into the session with three separate melodies, and asked him which one he wanted to try. He said ‘Why don’t we just meld them all together.’”
Just as lyrics are very important to the singer, he also admits that there’s something about the sound of a guitar. He counts John Mayer as one of his biggest influences.
“I had never that kind of chord structure or comping in a song before. He inadvertently taught me how to play guitar, since I learned every song that he had ever written. That led me to Keith Urban, then back to Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as Eric Clapton and Jerry Reed. The list goes on and on.”
It’s one thing to talk Urban and Clapton, as a lot of guitar players do that, but give him points for realizing the instrumental genius of Reed.
“Man, his stuff was so incredible. Brad Paisley tips the hat to some of the things he did. He had so many great riffs, a lot of stuff that you really don’t hear anymore.”
The guitar wasn’t his first love – but he found it pretty early in life.
“I think it was a situation where I was a baseball player, and thought I was headed to the MLB, got cut in high school, and had a lot of time on my hands. I had taken some guitar lessons back when I was in the eighth grade and enjoyed it, but I spent so much time in my room playing and ripping apart albums. It occurred to me that’s all I wanted to do, so it became a passion of mine.”
A graduate of the University of Alabama, Kinder says it was an instant attraction once he stepped on campus at Tuscaloosa.
“I fell in love with the campus immediately. It was so gorgeous. I didn’t have the money to go out of the state. I had thought about Knoxville, but had grown up around Birmingham, and was around Tuscaloosa, playing all the time. I knew there was nowhere else I wanted to be, especially after seeing the campus when my brother went there. There’s such a feeling on game day, it’s so incredible.”
Kinder was attending college on April 27, 2011 – the day an EF4 tornado ripped across Tuscaloosa, killing 64 people, including six of Kinder’s fellow students. He says it’s a day he’ll never forget.
“I remember one of my friends and I had been off, and we were playing XBOX. They had cancelled school that day, and my girlfriend was doing something across town with her sorority. The meteorologist had predicted there would be tornado. When it came, it sounded like 30 freight trains just barely missed our house. I remember coming out of the house, turning around, and there was nothing there. I immediately packed a bag, found my girlfriend, went back to the house, and started helping people on the way. It was absolute desolation. We had about 20 or 30 people sleeping at our house, and we had a massive cookout – because ours was one of the few in the area still standing. There were no phones, no TV, just a fire, and we enjoyed being alive.”
As much as he loved being at the school, the tornado made him look at his life – and the direction he wanted to go – a little bit differently.
“That was the pivotal point. I knew that life was too short. I knew at that point I didn’t want to stay in school. I only had two semesters left – I think I’ll go back and get it one day, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I moved to Nashville not too long after that.”
After moving to Music City, Kinder soon found a record deal with Bigger Picture, and released his first single to radio, “Kiss Me When I’m Down.” The song was just starting to make some noise on the airwaves when the label unexpectedly closed.
“Needless to say, I was very disappointed. We had great traction at radio and had sold a ton of singles, but the rug was ripped out from under our feet. My manager and I went out after that and played a lot of shows that we had promised to stations when we were out on the radio tour. We spent all of our money trying to keep things going.”
He continued to make fans due to his live performances – including one very famous person.
“I was driving one day to have my car checked out by Uber, and got a call. It was Zac Brown. My manager does an impersonation of him, so I thought it was him. I hung up the phone, and didn’t realize until he called back that I did hang up on the actual Zac Brown. He gave me some great advice, and really did change the path of my career by taking me on the road with him.”
The exposure with Brown led to renewed interest from record labels – including John Esposito at Warner Brothers, who told Kinder that he was going to sign him. Kinder didn’t believe the label head.
“It’s hard to believe that when something like the label deal happens. I don’t know if I just wasn’t ready to hear it, or didn’t know or not if it would actually come true. He said he was going to sign me, and two weeks later, it happened. His passion and love of music, as well as everybody that he signs is a testament to everything that is Warner.”
Ryan Kinder is in the midst of a radio tour, but plans to hit the studio soon to wrap his first album for the label, slated for release in 2016.