There’s a proud history of guitar-slinging stars in Nashville, and with Ryan Kinder the next generation has arrived.
Pairing soulful Southern vocals with electrifying guitar heroics, the young Warner Music Nashville artist is bringing his instrument back to the forefront of the genre – and he’s doing it with a vision that’s all his own.
“I feel like playing is equal to singing,” Kinder explains. “In fact you can sing through a guitar like it’s another voice, and that’s what I want – for people to forget what they’re hearing.”
With his sexy, swaggering new single, “Close,” country fans will forget more than what they’re hearing – they’ll forget their troubles, forget their inhibitions and forget how to keep from singing along.
Raised in Birmingham, Alabama, with dreams of launching home runs in the major leagues, Kinder soon found that sliding up and down the guitar neck and scoring hits of the heart was his true passion. Early inspirations were found in John Mayer’s bluesy pop rock and Keith Urban’s effortless country cool, and before he was out of high school Kinder was playing weekend gigs all over the Southeast – still too young to legally be in the bars he was rocking.
Following a path to the University of Alabama, Kinder sought a backup plan in case his Nashville dreams didn’t pan out, but all that changed in the spring of 2011 with a flash of terrifying destruction. As a massive tornado barreled through Tuscaloosa and took 64 lives with it, Kinder experienced a moment of transformation he’ll never forget.
“The tornado hit Tuscaloosa and almost demolished our house,” he describes matter-of-factly. “That was the moment of ‘What do I really want to do with life? It’s too short, and I almost lost it here.’ I moved up to Nashville as soon as possible.”
Kinder didn’t arrive in Music City unannounced, though, quickly earning the support of acclaimed producers like Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band) and Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks, Lady Antebellum) who guided his first two singles, and Ross Copperman (Dierks Bentley, Brett Eldredge), a boundary-pushing force of nature who has joined the rising star to carve a spot in Nashville for edgy romanticism.
His sonic approach, on the other hand, was completely unheard of – a genre-defying mashup built on the shoulders of guitar-shredding giants like Stevie Ray Vaughn and the gritty emotional complexity of Matchbox 20, with a raspy, full-throated vocal that slips between light and dark like the flipping of a switch.
“I’ve been playing long enough that I know what I want. It’s a story on top of a great feeling groove,” Kinder says before adding with a mischievous grin, “and then a very loud guitar solo.”
In “Close,” he hits his mark, pushing country across its borders and into late-’90s rock territory with a red-hot solo he can only describe as “so freaking cool.”
Written by Kinder with Jeremey Stover and Lindsey Rimes and produced by Copperman, “Close” is a hookup anthem flipped upside down, all about wanting more but knowing love at first sight is usually reserved for fairytales. Full of urgency and confidence, Kinder convinces his girl that even if they don’t fall head over heels, they can sure get close.
Calling the sound a graduation from the murky intensity of “Kiss Me When I’m Down” and “Tonight,” Kinder says “Close” is the most progressive music he’s ever made, and a snapshot of his real life.
“I’m in every bit of it,” he explains. “I feel great playing it every night because I believe it. When I first met my wife, that’s how I felt – ‘All I want to do is get close. I don’t want to screw it up by trying to put a label on it too soon.’”
That personal connection is the final hook in the newcomer’s breakout single, one that’s poised to put guitar slinging and soul shouting back on the Nashville map. And just like the music of his heroes, he hopes those hooks never let go.
“There are probably five records I’ll never get rid of, because when I play them I can remember where I was, how I felt, and that whole time in my life,” he says. “Those are like the soundtracks to my life, and I want to make a soundtrack to somebody else’s. … I think that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do.”