On the Edge: Ryan Beaver

photo courtesy Ryan Beaver

The “Red Dirt” subgenre of country music is often a catch-all used to describe the more rocking sounds coming out of Texas, Oklahoma and other parts of the country where the soil is a reddish hue. Ryan Beaver is quickly becoming one of the most impressive acts on that circuit. Though still young as a recording artist—Ryan’s first album, Under the Neons, came out in 2008—he’s been quietly honing his craft in his Emory, Texas, home since he was a boy. 

“I grew up with a lot of music around me. My mom played piano and my dad is a huge music fan,” Ryan tells Country Weekly. Suffering from asthma and allergies as a child meant spending more time inside—where he had access to his father’s immense collection of vinyl, 8-tracks and, eventually, CDs. “One of my first memories is my dad putting on a Guy Clark record and hearing ‘Texas, 1947’ or ‘Nickel for the Fiddler,’ all these great songs,” he recalls. His dad also exposed him to artists like Jackson Browne, The Band, Bob Dylan and Radney Foster, all artists Ryan still admires and studies. “I think listening to that stuff, I was like a sponge. It just soaked in.” 

Writing may come relatively easy for Ryan, but performing wasn’t a cinch. “I had taken a few guitar lessons one summer and the guy asked me if I’d open a show for him,” he remembers. “I bombed and I thought, ‘I’ll never do that again. I’ll never get on another stage.’ But you get back up on the horse and see if you can get better the next time.”

And that’s what he’s been doing. From Under the Neons to its follow-up, 2011’s Constant, Ryan continues to challenge himself, both as a songwriter and a singer. “The cool thing for me is when I listen back or hear one of my songs on the radio. I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve gotten better,’” he says. “I’m really opening up and getting confident in what I’m doing.” That developing confidence is evident on Constant, where his thoughtful, introspective and extremely well-crafted lyrics, combined with an authentically gritty and soulful vocal, lend themselves to a wide and diverse range of songs. From the tenderly lonesome heartbreak ballad “How About You” to the kiss-off rocker “Hate” to the romantic Wade Bowen co-write “One More Song,” Constant is an impressive sampling of all that Ryan is capable of—as well as an intriguing teaser for what is to come. 

Ryan already has his sights set on his third album. “To get to do a couple of albums has been great, and things have just gotten better,” he says. “I’m in Nashville a lot writing with great writers and meeting everybody. I think it’s just opening up the possibilities for the next project.” He’s also maintaining an intense tour schedule—yes, he did get back up onstage—throughout the southwestern United States. But he’s looking even further ahead. 

“As a writer and artist, you have to progress.” He pauses before he goes on to say, “I guess you don’t have to, but for a guy like me I’ve never been good at staying in one place. Complacency scares me. I think you’ve got to keep pushing because that’s when all the amazing stuff happens.” 

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