Ryan sims is a loyal son of Arizona, penning songs that draw from his years battling heartbreak and the road. He shares his pleasures and disappointments poetically through lyrics that would warm the coldest of hearts.
Sims has spent the least year working with Producer / legendary Radio Programmer Steve Smith, and some of the top writers and musicians in Nashville to craft a collection of hard-hitting songs, fed by a volatile blend of pain and ecstasy, anger and regret. The music is just as extraordinary as Sims’ vocals, which switch from whispered intimacy to high-impact emotion in an instant with a touch of blues.
From the first notes he strummed, sang and wrote, Sims has seen music as inseparable from emotion. As a teen, he performed all over Arizona in coffeehouses until he found success with EastonAshe, an award-winning act. He’s since found his own voice and has performed in the heat of Arizona and all over the Country. Arizona’s and Phoenix Magazine’s Musician of the Year, Sims can craft a song. In today’s parched music landscape, he’s offering courageous songs that tell everybody’s story.
“I can’t write a song based on fabricated situations. I have to write about what’s going on with me at that moment.”
From the first notes he strummed, sang and wrote, Sims has seen music as inseparable from emotion. He grew up in Indiana, one of three children raised by a single mother. Money was short; often they subsisted on food provided by their church. Not surprisingly, young Ryan began looking around for something to keep his spirits afloat.
He found it when he was about 3 years old. “I began to feel this strong urge to make music,” he recalls. “I can still remember listening to and understanding music even as a really small child. I understood chord changes and melody at some deep intuitive level. I never dreamed about being a policeman or a fireman or anything other than a musician.”
Sims didn’t act on that urge until age 10, when his mother remarried. Her new husband introduced Ryan to the guitar. When the family moved to Arizona, Ryan held even more tightly to his lifeline. That summer, as a high school junior in a wildly unfamiliar place, he found solace in writing. He performed in local coffee houses; he began booking them shortly after he turned 17. Midway through his senior year he gave up his spot on the football team to sing the lead role in the school musical.
Most important, he remembers, “I realized pretty quickly that being able to play guitar was a fantastic way to meet girls.”
Thoroughly enamored with music and these residual benefits, Sims plunged into performing right after graduation. At 21 he co-founded the band EastonAshe. Their debut album Can I Drive Itdropped in 2006 and quickly sold 10,000 copies without any label affiliation. The Los Angeles Music Awards singled it out as Independent Rock Album Of The Year. The group took first place in the LA Music/Hollywood Fame Awards’ Performer Of The Year category in 2007 and ’08. As the band’s lead singer, Sims earned the Phoenix Music Awards’ Singer/Songwriter Of The Year honors in 2009. His following exploded in 2011 when he was invited to participate in The X Factor.
These two experiences — his band and his run on a popular national reality series — impacted Sims in opposite but complementary ways. “Like me, most of the guys in EastonAshe were completely self-taught,” he observes. “So we had no rulebook to follow. Instead of worrying about whether we were using the right chord structure or whatever, we opened ourselves to endless possibilities in how we expressed ourselves.
“The X Factor was less about music than about learning the ways of the world,” Sims continues. “It did teach me how to calm myself and perform my best under pressure. But it also helped me understand that I could ever go on television and pretend I’m something I’m not just to win a competition.”
This extended in particular to his writing. “I can only write when I feel strongly about something that’s either really good or really bad that’s happening in my life,” he insists. “I mean, I was writing kind of crass and funny songs when I was 13 or 14 just to make my buddies laugh. But when I started having relationships that meant something to me, that’s when my writing matured. That’s when I started paying serious attention to writers I really liked, not to just copy them but to understand their processes.”
His skills expanded along with his fan base in and beyond Arizona. After cutting two albums with EastonAshe, Sims recorded a self-titled solo project in 2012. Gigs far from his home base filled his calendar: In 2015, for instance, his Ryan Sims Band appeared at the BottleRock Napa 2015 Festival on a bill that included Robert Plant, No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Imagine Dragons and Cage The Elephant.
After the Arizona sun set on EastonAshe,new opportunity quickly beckoned. Hearing that Sims had headed out on his own, his longtime friend Elizabeth Burns, President of Morgan Murphy Media and owner of Hive Records, signed him to her label. This marked a final pivot point in Sims’ ascension: “Without Liz’s guidance, support and love, I don’t see how this EP could have seen the light of day,” he insists. “Her involvement means everything to me.”
More recently, Sims spent 12 weeks driving 9,600 miles on a radio tour, which boosted airplay for the EP’s first single “American Things.”It also earned him raves from DJs, who hailed him for his “gutsy, refreshing voice” (Cameron Dole, KWKW, Altus, OK) and “an incredibly talented new artist who has the ability to connect with listeners with an edgy and emotional sound that the format much needs” (Mike Thomas, KWRE/KFAV, Warrenton, MO). Additionally, he crossed Canada, driving himself from show to show across vast prairies that afforded him time to think — and to conceive a new batch of songs to record in early 2019 for his next album.
Sims cautions this upcoming project won’t rehash My Side Of The Story. “It’s going to be a lot happier,” he says, with a laugh. “Life has been so good to me lately that it will definitely have a much cheerier disposition.”
What you can expect is that it will be disarmingly candid and musically irresistible, just like My Side Of The Story and every Ryan Sims release we’ll be privileged to hear. As for the year to come …
“Hopefully I’ll be six months into a lifelong tour,” Sims says. “The year ahead is the culmination of everything I’ve ever done with music — the writing, the recording and especially playing for people. I’m a creature of the road. I love visiting different towns and seeing America from a troubadour’s perspective.”
He smiles. “That’s how I’m supposed to live.”