Photo | Courtesy of Emily Richey
After dabbling in rock music, Ryan Dyer recorded an eponymous country album that includes a collaboration with Gary Stanton of Muscadine Bloodline.
Band: Ryan Dyer
Date: Friday, June 29, 6 p.m.
Venue: The Flora-Bama, 17350 Perdido Key Drive (Pensacola), www.florabama.com
Tickets: Call 850-492-0611 for more info.
Mobile’s country music scene may be small, but a few artists are steadily creating a broader presence. Local country duo Muscadine Bloodline, for example, has ventured into Nashville and beyond, and Zachary Thomas Diedrich, when not playing locally, stays on the road with an intense touring schedule.
Ryan Dyer is a relatively new addition to the local country music scene. When this millwright by trade isn’t working a shutdown or turnaround, Dyer fills his nights with local performances. While he believes he and other artists are nurturing Mobile’s country scene, Dyer says this aspect of local music has yet to reach its full potential.
Country music on the northern Gulf Coast “is growing slowly, especially in Mobile. It’s a really different thing,” Dyer said. “There may be places that play country, but there’s not a whole lot of it going on when it comes to original stuff. Most people do alright and are really good, but there’s not a whole lot of it. I think the people that do it are in their own little thing. There are cover bands out there, but as far as original music goes, I feel like it’s a hidden thing.”
Dyer’s dirt road to the country world started when he began writing songs at 13. He admits both his songs and his songwriting method were “very basic and super green.” In those early days, he said he was inspired by car rides with his parents. His father’s radio blasted the rock lineup of WTKX 101.5 FM while his mother preferred the country sounds of WKSJ 94.9 FM. Even though he enjoyed both stations, Dyer leaned more toward the rock world, as reflected in some of his early original songs.
“They were pretty easygoing melodies and very repetitive, because it was some of the first stuff that I ever wrote,” Dyer explained. “It was so different from what I’m doing now.”
After attending concerts and witnessing the electrifying environment of the live performance setting, Dyer knew he wanted to dedicate his life to music and entered the studio to record his first album, “What’s Genre?” His debut release lives up to its title, providing an excellent portrayal of a young, developing musician on an experimental journey through the worlds of rock and country. The album is dominated by acoustic-based rock in the same vein of such artists as Jack Johnson and John Mayer.
However, Dyer’s love of country could not be denied, as evidenced in songs such as “Fishin’ in Heaven.” Eventually country won his creative heart.
“I liked all the instruments and how country music sounded, and I liked how true it was,” Dyer said. “Every genre of music has people that sing about girls and cars and money. I felt like I could explain my life the best through country music, and I like storytelling. I’m not necessarily a storyteller writer, but I’ve always liked that. It always spoke to me.”
Since then, Dyer has been working long hours as a millwright to support his music career. While the life of a millwright includes intense manual labor, Dyer said there are many advantages to this day job, and it doesn’t hinder his creative process.
Songs sometimes come to him on the job, Dyer said. Once he has a song in mind, he has to find a quiet area, break out his phone and record the melody. Working as a millwright also allows him to focus completely on his music for long stretches.
“It’s really cool, because I can go out on a job and work 12 hours a day, seven days a week,” Dyer said. “Four months ago, I worked a 21-day job, and I’ve been off for four months. I’ve been playing straight for four months; that’s the longest that I’ve ever done that. It works out really well with music. I can go do a job, save money and put it back into my music. Then I can play music until I run out of money. Then I go back and do it over again.”
Last year Dyer released a self-titled album dedicated to a country style that should please fans of mainstream and traditional country alike. Compared to his debut, this collection of songs, with its smooth, rich vocals and heartfelt, narrative lyrics, demonstrates Dyer’s maturity as a songwriter.
Dedicating an album to country music did not prohibit him from experimenting in other ways, especially with the song “Tell Me.” For this track, Dyer combined musical forces with Gary Stanton of Muscadine Bloodline. Even though he had co-written songs with other artists, Dyer admits he was intimidated by the possibility Stanton would take more of a Music Row approach to helping him complete “Tell Me.”
“I’m not used to sitting down in a room with three or four people and writing that way [the Nashville method],” Dyer said. “It was a whole different style of writing for me. I’m used to sitting around a bonfire at the house, and somebody has an idea and grabs a guitar. It was more kind of scheduled and prepared in a way. I actually came to him with half the song already, and I was stuck. He said a few lines and helped write the bridge. It was easy at that point. He’s a really great writer.”
Dyer currently is promoting the release of his latest single, “Cowgirl.” He also revealed he has another single, called “Whiskey Kiss,” ready to drop before the end of the summer. Asked for a description of this new single, Dyer said “Whiskey Kiss” will be “super different and super out of my element,” with ‘90s rock nuances mixed with country lyrics. Until then, audiences might catch a preview of “Whiskey Kiss” and other originals at Dyer’s live shows.