Nashville-based country artist Ryan Kinder possesses a love and passion for music that takes him to another level.
Kinder first fell in love with the idea of creating music when he was a teenager as many do, but few actually build a life and career out of it. Inspiration first struck for Kinder when he heard a John Mayer CD playing in the car, and ever since, he has continually worked to produce his own great songs, and dedicate himself to his musicianship.
Being from Alabama and working out of Nashville as a musician, Kinder’s influence spans the southeast and beyond. His songs have a distinct Southern, soulful charm and are full of rich guitars and rock influences. With excellent guitar work and vocal talent under his belt, Kinder has built quite the successful career for himself. He has toured with the Zac Brown Band, and has had the distinct honor of opening for legends like ZZ Top (RIP Dusty Hill) and John Fogerty. Kinder has also experienced success in streaming with over 95 million streams total, and his song “Close” having over 38 million streams alone.
Outside of his music career, Kinder has dedicated himself to charity work and helping children nationwide; his charity, Kinder’s Kids, provides toys to children in the aftermath of natural disasters. He is also training for the IRONMAN triathlon race in honor of his friend who passed away from cancer and always dreamed of being able to complete the race.
We had the chance to discuss the album, his plans for the future, and much more in our interview with him.
I see you got your career started as a teenager in clubs in and around Birmingham, Alabama. Looking back, what might you say was a high and a low of that time that you still carry with you?
I think one of the biggest highs was getting my first opening gig at about 15. I had become friends with the owner of a place called Zydeco in Birmingham, and he was having me play the bar downstairs a few times a month. The opportunity came when Chris Knight came through town and needed support. He called me and I was thrilled. I was extremely nervous but it was a fantastic experience.
One of the lows was actually another high mixed with a realization of a low. I was 17 and I was recording my first LP with my friend Courtney McGukin at a place called Polymusic Studios in Birmingham. I had some shows coming up, so we had to get it done on what I believe was a Wednesday night. Courtney and I stayed up all night overdubbing and mixing and wrapping this project. We didn’t sleep at all, and come 7 AM, I had to be at school in an hour. I rushed home, grabbed my things and went to school. After having an awesome night of living my dreams recording an album, I had to go to school, and I realized exactly where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life. Having to go to calculus or biology wasn’t high on that list. That was a tough day of school to get through!
What drew you to the country rock-type genre, and what artists have had the most profound effect on the music you make?
I think I naturally gravitated towards it. I was in a cover band for years and we played a lot of southern rock/soul in our set so that bled into what I do naturally now. We covered two heroes of mine that I had the opportunity to tour with, John Fogerty (CCR) and ZZ Top and they guided me towards a music sensibility I think I carry with me today. Also John Mayer was a massive influence on me.
So your debut album, Room to Dream, dropped today, July 30th. What might you say is the primary inspiration and influence behind the album?
The idea behind the album was to have the ability to be me through what I grew up listening to, and what molded me musically and creatively. To have a space to swim between genres and try and be honest with what I love. Influences came from a lot of places.
What are some of your favorite or most memorable moments from the writing and/or recording the new album?
Some of my favorite moments were digging in and getting deep in the weeds with production with Luke Sheets. We tried a lot of incarnations of each song and it was an absolute joy finding ourselves while we were making this thing. It was a special time for us, and glad I got to do it with one of my closest friends.
So in 2018, you opened for and toured with your idols, ZZ Top and John Fogerty. That’s a big deal. Can you talk about that experience, and maybe any bits of wisdom learned while among such legends?
It was a life changing experience. Being alongside them on the road and backstage was something I’ll carry with me every day. From growing up listening to them to sharing a stage? Unbelievable. They showed such kindness to a kid they didn’t know. Both bands and everyone on the crew were very welcoming.
I had the opportunity to talk to Billy Gibbons almost daily and that was just unreal. Fogerty gave me some great advice after watching my set one night. “Don’t play to the empty seats”, he said. He was telling me not to care who wasn’t in the crowd. Play to the people that care enough to be there early to listen to someone they’ve probably never heard before. Great advice for any performer.
I see you also have a charitable organization called Kinder’s Kids. Could you tell us what that entails, and how it came to be?
Kinder’s Kids was started by me and my wife, Heather. We were fortunate enough to live through the tornadoes of April 27th, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, AL. It almost killed me and my friends. IT was a tough day. I remember running out to help people after it had passed and I saw a family standing on a slab of concrete which used to be their home and a child clutching to a teddy bear. It was the only possession she had left after the devastating tornado. That image stays with me to this day. We decided to try and help kids and families affected by natural disasters after that and we’ve been to many cities that were hurt and were able to bring a little Christmas joy to people that may not have had a lot of joy that year.
What does success as a songwriter and artist mean to you?
Success is being happy with yourself, where you are and where you are heading. If I am proud of the product I’m releasing and it’s resonating then I am happy. If I am able to do this my whole life then that is true success. If I can provide for my family and make music that I enjoy…that’s success.
What might fans expect from Ryan Kinder post-album release?
We will continue to release music on my collaboration project “Ontology” and I will have a Christmas song out this year! First one ever. I’ll be hitting the road as soon as possible and in between gigs I’ll get back in the studio and start album two!
Photos by Jake Kennedy