Imagine the road to fame as more of a mountain climb. While there are some who can take a shortcut and coast all the way to the top, the journey is long and hard for most people. A majority of intrepid dreamers will dare to climb their way to the top, only to realize how difficult the climb truly is. Some revel in it; others don’t make it very far. Uncle Ryano has not only made it to the top once but he’s daring to take that arduous journey once again. This time, he’s doing it on his own terms.
Uncle Ryano is an old name in country music, but his mainstream career began in the mid-90s when he signed his first publishing deal with Hayes Street Music. Though this contract only lasted for two years, this was the foothold he needed to begin his climb to musical acclaim. Uncle Ryano makes what he likes to call “real American music” with tunes that make listeners want to jump, cheer, and howl when they listen. However, despite what one may think, his music appeals to a broad spectrum of people across all walks of life no matter where they are in the world.
During his contract with Hayes Street, Uncle Ryano also partnered up with Imprint Records to release his single “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind”. His single was in the nation’s Top 4 behind Alan Jackson, John Anderson, and Wade Hayes, and his music video for the release was the Hot Shot Video on CMT for eight weeks in a row. Unfortunately, Uncle Ryano’s first stroke of bad luck came when Imprint Records shuttered during the single’s circulation.
The next ten or so years make Uncle Ryano’s climb to the top both incredibly rewarding and personally exhausting.
On one hand, he witnessed a number of incredible things during his time making music. He released his album Cowboy Up with PRCA by Edel America. In 2002, he won a SOCAN Song of the Year with Lisa Brokop for “I’d Like To See You Try” and was nominated for another one in 2003 for “Whiskey and Wine”. On the other, he joined other titanic music labels only to witness contract mismanagement and in-fighting up close. One such incident of in-fighting led to the freezing and subsequent termination of new artist contracts.
Then we jump back to his success. Uncle Ryano is writing music that ends up being placed in several movies and TV shows. Matt Rossi called him up in 2003 letting him know that the Boston Red Sox were using Cowboy Up’s titular song as a rallying cry, and he was flown out to Fenway Park where he saw “Cowboy Up” spelled out via the skyscraper lights. He had a chance to perform the song in front of his wife, mother, and step-father where he performed the song in front “55,000 of his closest friends”. He also ended up making the band “Abel Kane” a year later where he really delved into making his own sound.
Unfortunately, on the other side of that success, his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and his grandfather passed away. His grandfather’s passing was the first of a string of losses he would suffer in the coming years.
Hits and misses, triumphs and downturns are commonplace in the music industry, but everyone has their limits. Even though Uncle Ryano made it to the top, the losses in his personal life and the corruption within the mainstream machine finally wore him out. At a loss, Uncle Ryano called it quits and made his descent from the Music Mountain in 2008.
For most, that would be the end of the story. Uncle Ryano was no different. That would have been the end for him. Even though his wife and newly adopted daughter were constantly trying to encourage him to return to his music roots, he felt no real desire to return back to the scene. From his point of view, there was nothing left for him there. He spent his years focusing on his family, finding himself, and working other jobs that had nothing to do with music.
But fate had a funny way of intervening once again. Just as Uncle Ryano got that life-changing call from Matt Rossi all those years ago, he picked up the phone again in Fall 2021 and received some amazing news from his accountant. Billy Ray Cyrus was interested in a couple of his songs. Unable and unwilling to turn down this opportunity, Uncle Ryano connected with Billy Ray, and that chance meeting began a domino effect of fulfillment and inspiration. Old friends began reaching out to Uncle Ryano, and he was hit with the creative spark that he hadn’t felt in a long time.
“BRC and I got together on the phone and began discussing alternate lines for one of the tunes,” Uncle Ryano reflects. “One of the lines that came out of that exchange was ‘twerkin’ with a twang.’ Within a day or so, [a song] was written. That old part of my brain had reawakened and was arcing blue lightning!”
Not too long after, Uncle Ryano was working with new and old friends to make his album Voices in My Head, which he released under his own label Bottle Rocket Records. DJ KO from Atlanta helped on “Twerkin’ With a Twang”, Ira Dean played on “My Mama’s People”, and Kim Keyes joined with background vocals.
These days, Uncle Ryano is all in on his music, and he’s preparing his next release New West. Thinking about all he’s endured, he comments, “The music machine is filled with people who want to get close to people who don’t want to make music but want to be close to success. Fighting against it while also trying to preserve myself burnt me out, but after reuniting with some old friends and making new friends, I’m reminded that there are passionate folks in the industry still fighting the good fight.
“Not only that, but I’m damn good at what I do! I learned that when you hit a wall, stare at it long and hard until you find a light in the cracks. Dig for it— dig and bash and kick your heart out until that light just drowns you. Even when it feels like the end, there’s always something better waiting. I’m happy to be on a new leg of my journey. And the best part is my family gets to join me every step of the way.Uncle Ryano’s first album Voices in My Head released April 23rd and is available now wherever music is streamed or sold. His next album New West is set to release July 2023.