BY BRE CURA
Ryan Warnick brings a new wave of sound to listeners with his soulful mix of pop, acoustic folk and R&B. The 21-year-old from Tupelo, Mississippi is currently an Interpersonal Communications Major at Mississippi College. His unique phrasing and melody combined with vulnerable lyricism has produced tunes that perfectly capture his technique. Well versed in guitar, piano and drums, Ryan not only plays most of the music you hear within his tracks, he also writes his own lyrics as well. Inspired by artists such as James Bay, Ben Rector, Chance the Rapper and Drew Holcomb, Ryan’s methodology is evidence of an eager readiness to produce original content.
How did your journey in the music industry get started?
Ryan: “I grew up in church and have led worship at my home church in Tupelo since I was young... that’s when I got my first opportunities to play music and I played whatever was needed from drums to bass to even banjo. I rarely played music outside of church in high school other than an occasional talent show, but once I came to college I started to get opportunities to play music at different events on campus. I started writing my own songs and started recording them in my friend’s dorm room for fun. One day he introduced me to Distrokid and said he thought I should put them out, so we decided to! They started to do really well and get lots of streams and that’s really where we are now! Since I put the music out I’ve had a few awesome opportunities to play locally in Jackson and am in the process of recording my first studio album!”
What would you say your style is?
Ryan: “I’m not exactly sure…. somewhere in between soul-pop and acoustic folk singer-songwriter stuff. I feel like the easy thing to do would be to just say folk because I write my own songs and play an acoustic guitar most of the time, but I think my music isn’t just that. I love soul, jazz, and R&B and it definitely shows up in the newer music I’ve been writing.”
How does your songwriting process work?
Ryan: “I have pulled inspiration from everything from books, conversations with my mom, documentaries on Netflix, to things my professors have said in class. The notes app on my phone is outrageous and overflowing with random song ideas that I write down throughout the day. Most of them never turn into anything substantial, but you have to take every opportunity to write a song and tell a story well. All of the songs I have released so far I wrote in my dorm room, and a lot of the songs about to be released I wrote in my car... I wrote down a song idea and then sang it into existence while I drove from Tupelo to Jackson which is about a three hour drive. During those drives I wrote significant parts of six of the songs on the new album. Probably not the safest route, but it’s how we’ve gotten here and I wouldn’t change anything haha.”
Have any of your songs really stood out to you, some you’re proud of?
Ryan: “There are a few songs off of my new album that I’m extremely proud of. Lyrically, a song called ‘A Letter To Myself’ is a song about self-awareness that came out of a situation where I was mad at one of my friends about being super narrow-minded, and I realized I was the one who needed to chill out and listen better. Musically, a song I wrote called ‘Slow’ uses some jazzy chord progressions that have pushed me and helped me grow in my songwriting.”
Can you tell us the story behind your song “To Be Honest”?
Ryan: “I dated one of my best friends in high school for almost two years, and right before I left for college we broke up and it hurt so bad. I went to school for a year and started to move on but every time I got to a point where my friends thought I was moved on, I couldn’t shake the feelings I had for her. She came to the same school a year later. In April, I finally mustered up the courage to tell her that I still had feelings for her and it was so awkward and we were so uncomfortable, and her boyfriend was mad and I had it coming haha. We went the whole summer and when last fall finally arrived we were both single again and decided to get back together, and we’re still together today.
It’s crazy and it doesn’t always work out like that, but it did. The first half of the song is how I felt for the year we saw each other all the time, and the second half is about the conversation we had. And then the end rap-thing is me trying to process through everything that had just happened in dealing with people’s opinions, perceptions and seeing my personal growth through the whole situation.”
Have you played any live shows?
Ryan: “I played in Jackson at a house show with a band named Oh Jeremiah, at Duling Hall with another songwriter named Sam Mooney, and at two different benefit shows. This spring I opened for Jordy Searcy which was definitely a huge highlight of making / playing music so far!”
Is it hard to be a full time college student while pursuing a career in music?
Ryan: “Yes. This has been incredibly difficult. I live in a dorm room, and have a meal plan, and eat in a cafeteria 14 times a week. I have little to no money and I can’t practice music super late at night because of quiet hours in the dorms. I have tons of other commitments related to school that also take up a lot of time, so I have to work practicing around that and other lessons for my music minor. I know I’m not the only one, but it’s so difficult to balance all of this and try to be a musician. Especially with trying to play shows and find time to record songs.”
Have music streaming services impacted your journey in the industry — like your success on Spotify?
Ryan: “It’s definitely opened some doors and helped me make some connections with a few people who have been making music longer and have given me a lot of good advice. I’ve been able to open for a few artists when they have come to Jackson and play a few more shows which has definitely helped! Also, I’ve been encouraged by the amount of listeners and feedback to make more music and keep trying to make this a career, so every listen has definitely been encouraging!”
Can listeners expect new music soon?
Ryan: “I have my first studio album coming out in the fall (hoping for an August release date!) I have 6-8 other songs ready to record and will hopefully start working on those at some point once I wrap up college next spring!”