“This album is titled Rx because these songs are like medicine to me,” Ryan Beaver says of his consistently compelling new release. “Making this record was so much fun, and so therapeutic. These songs serve as a prescription for getting excited about music and life. And if they’re like medicine for me, maybe they will be for the listeners.”
Indeed, the 12-song set, the Texas-bred, Nashville-based singer-songwriter’s third longplayer, offers a potent mix of haunting emotional depth and resonant melodic craft. His insightful, infectious compositions and deeply expressive voice honor the artist’s deep country roots, while transcending the genre’s stylistic boundaries to incorporate a widescreen sense of drama that’s anchored by his lifelong love for raw, gritty rock ‘n’ roll.
The resulting album, which the artist co-produced with longtime compadres Jeremy Spillman and Ryan Tyndell, makes it abundantly clear why Ryan Beaver has already been widely acclaimed as an artist to watch. Rolling Stone recently named him one of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” and he’s received public acclaim from the likes of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Lee Ann Womack, with whom he’s toured as an opening act.
The surging, anthem “Dark,” Rx’s opening track and emotional centerpiece, makes it clear why Beaver’s work has generated so much excitement. A startlingly direct declaration of emotional perseverance, it’s a powerful anthem of hope and survival in the face of loss and disappointment. A comparable level of emotional gravity powers such memorable tracks as “Rum & Roses,” “Habit,” “When This World Ends” and the stirring album-closer “If I Had A Horse.” The artist reveals a more humorous attitude on “Fast” and “Vegas,” and pays tribute to one of his creative role models with “Kristofferson,” which he prefaces with a section of Kris Kristofferson’s own “Jesus Was A Capricorn.”
“This is my third album, but in a lot of ways it feels like it’s my first,” Ryan states, adding, “I feel like I’ve reached the point where I know what a good song is, and I have a clear vision of what I want to accomplish.”
Ryan Beaver’s forthright, personally-charged songwriting reflects the lessons learned over a lifelong creative journey. Growing up in the small Texas town of Emory, he began writing songs early in life, and began performing his compositions in local venues when he was just 17.
“Music opened up another world for me,” Ryan recalls. “I played in bands, on drums and guitar and piano, but I could never shake the songwriting thing. I didn’t sing for awhile, because I was kind of shy as a teenager, but I always found comfort in being able to write a song. Writing songs was my way of getting the world to make sense.
“I grew up in this really small town, 70 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth, 1500 people,” he explains. “There’s not a lot to do out there, so you had to be creative about how you spent your time. We had this amazing little scene pop up, where you could actually play your own songs. I was a trainwreck at first, but I worked at it and I got better.”
He moved to Austin and became a part of that city’s fertile music scene, and then relocated to Nashville, where he has immersed himself in Music City’s songwriting community and continued to hone his skills.
“I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of shows, primarily in the Southwest, but eventually I realized that I needed to go do this for real and build this thing. I loved Austin, but I knew that the best singers, players and writers are in Nashville, and that the bar was way higher there. It was the best thing for me. I wrote more songs and sang more in a year in Nashville than I would have in five years anywhere else. And the more you do it, the better you get at it.”
Beaver applied that pragmatic attitude to recording Rx, which he recorded on his own dime, without the benefit of record-company financing. The project was set into motion, he says, when he wrote “Dark” while mourning the deaths of his grandfather and a close friend.
“Writing ‘Dark’ really shook me, and really woke me up,” he says. “I think I needed to hear those words more than anybody, and I realized that if I felt that way, maybe others would. I got super excited, and I thought, ‘OK, I think I’m onto something here, this is a path that I want to take.’
“I’m a fan of all kinds of music, and I think that’s reflected on the album,” he continues. “We talked a lot about what we felt was missing from country music now and how we could bring some of that back, and at the same time, how could we push the envelope a little. That thought was always there: let’s see if we can take this genre to somewhere it hasn’t been before. But my main goal was to make a record that I would want to hear, with well-crafted songs that said something.
“Singing ‘I ain’t afraid of the dark’ is as simple as it gets, and anybody can understand what it means. That’s me trying to be an adult and trying to figure out how to deal with the real world. It’s really simple, but getting yourself to the point where you’re able to express things that simply is a challenge, and it something I aspire to. That’s what Hank Williams did, and it’s what Tom Petty does: express these complicated emotions in everyday language that everyone can understand. That’s my goal.”