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Bios

Ryan Sims - Singer/Songwriter

Is Ryan Sims the male Taylor Swift?

The question catches the blazingly talented singer/songwriter by surprise — for just a second. Then he laughs. Uproariously. 

Of course it’s a crazy thing to ask. He is a loyal son of Arizona, as comfortable in its arid splendor as Swift is in the blinding blaze of superstardom. Yet there is a connection. They both write songs that draw from their real lives. They share their pleasures and disappointments through lyrics that would be uncomfortably candid if not crafted so poetically and set to tunes that invite listeners so easily into their hearts.

And more often than not, for both artists that means drawing from relationships they’ve weathered. In fact, most of Sims’ brand new EP, My Side Of The Story, springs directly from a particular love gone bad. There’s no glitz or guile here, just rough-edged, hard-hitting songs, fed by a volatile blend of pain and ecstasy, anger and regret. 

There is also some extraordinary music happening around Sims’ vocals. With a voice that can range in an instant from whispered intimacy to high-impact emotion, he frankly demands a lot from his musicians. Which is why the lineup here packs an unbelievable amount of talent: Lady Antebellum’s guitarist Jim “Slim” Gambel, Elton John’s keyboardist Kim Bullard, longtime Rolling Stones bassist Darryl Jones and Kenny Aronoff, one of the greatest band and session drummers in the business, whose credits include John Fogerty, John Mellencamp and Bob Dylan, add to the already air tight musicianship of Mr. Sims.

“I got to make a record with my heroes,” Sims says. “If this band had formed in any situation outside of this project, it would have been considered a super-group, like The Traveling Wilbur’s or Temple Of The Dogs. How lucky am I to have recorded with them?” 

Available November 17th from High 4 Recordings, My Side Of The Storyfeels real because it is real. But that’s no surprise to a fan base that has proliferated throughout his home state and spills now beyond its borders. Sims can only do real. Luckily, he does it passionately and powerfully — and with an insight that molds his experiences into milestones that every traveler through life will recognize.

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 It dropped 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 stated paying serious attention to writers I really liked, not to jut 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 Bottle Rock Napa 2015 Festival on a bill that included Robert Plant, No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Imagine Dragons and Cage The Elephant.

And he kept writing, each song a step nearer to My Side Of The Story, Sims’ truest achievement to date, a delicate balance of sensitivity and soul, fiery grooves, slashing hooks and tender introspection. “This EP shows a vulnerable side to me I’ve never really exposed before,” he admits. “Every one of these songs is true. Every story they tell actually happened. I even questioned whether I should record some of them because they were so personal. But I did it because ultimately it’s not me but it’s the music that’s important.” 

We beg to differ. Important as these songs are, and as critical as they are in today’s parched pop landscape, they wouldn’t be here without someone who has the right combination of courage and craft to bring them to life.

That someone would be Ryan Sims … The new Taylor Swift?

Sims cracks up again at the suggestion but then adds, “Well, I’ll tell you this. Just like her, I’ve gotten into an argument with someone I’m involved with. Then I’ll stop, turn away, pick up my guitar like I’m gonna write about it … And she’s like, ‘You better not!’”

Actually, we’re glad he did.

Jay Poole - Lead Guitar - Vocals

 

Kris Johnson - Bass - Vocals

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