By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
It is a privilege to welcome Ryan Shupe to Jake’s Take!
This virtuoso musician is a fifth generation fiddler and mastered the acoustic and electric guitars and can play a mean mandolin. In addition to his accomplishments in music, Ryan started touring when he was just 10-years-old, which lead him to a recording contract with Capitol Records and appearances on E! Entertainment Television, Good Morning America, CMT, GAC and The WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.
In this edition of A Conversation, Ryan talked about the challenges he overcame after getting dropped from Capitol Records, his upcoming studio album: We Rode On and which artists he wants to collaborate with in the future.
Jacob Elyachar: When did you get interested in music? How did that passion lead to a desire to have a career in the music industry?
Ryan Shupe: I actually come from a very long line of musicians. I am in the fifth generation of fiddle players. In my family, if you could walk…then you could play the fiddle. When I was 5, my dad would get my siblings and me up before school and we practiced the fiddle 2 hours a day! (Laughs) When I was 10, I started playing in little Bluegrass bands. We played at the World’s Fair, across Europe and played all over the United States. While I played bluegrass music, I actually liked both punk and rock music. As I got older, I noticed that some people declared that they wanted to be a professional musician. I was always a musician! When I was in college, I wanted to start a band. I played with numerous folk and rock bands in the past, but I wanted to start a band of my own. My band is a hybrid of bluegrass and other musical genres. Originally, I was doing it for fun and I kept going forward in my career. As long as I am continuing to achieve accomplishments and be relevant, I will continue to do music.
JE: You were one of the lucky artists that received a lucrative recording contract from Capitol Records. What were some of the pros and cons about being signed by a major label in the recording industry?
RS: I always said that one of the best pluses of having a recording contract was getting a free wardrobe. (Laughs) Besides that, we had a great relationship with the Capitol Records staff. They were very supportive of our careers. The benefit of having a label like Capitol Records in your corner was that you could get their ear, which is getting more difficult in this day of age. The Capitol Records staff have a lot of connections and muscle behind them. Unfortunately, a lot of our huge backers left Capitol Records halfway through our recording contract. While it happens a lot, it is the risk that you have to take if you are going to sign with a label like Capitol Records. On the other side of the coin, Indie artists have their ears to the ground and know what’s going on because the artists are on the front lines. There is not a buffer between you and what is currently going on in the music industry. By not having a buffer, artists can adapt, change and have a better understanding on what their fans want.
JE: What were some of the challenges that you faced after Capitol Records released you from your contract? How did you overcome those challenges?
RS: (Laughs) To be honest with you, I thought that we were doing well. However, when some of our supporters left the label, we did not have the same amount of support that we had when we were first signed. Being dropped was fine because you do not want to be at a label where not everyone believes in you. It is hard enough to get a band of five guys to be on the same page creatively and artistically. Then, it gets more difficult to convince 10 to 30 record label staff members to share your dream. When I found out about the drop, I stated that it was fine and I always viewed a musician’s life as a journey. A lot of people would have just given up their dream after being a dropped from a label, however, I viewed it as another stopping point on my journey. We have a lot of great fans who follow us and believe in us as musicians. In my opinion, I enjoyed my time at Capitol Records. It was a great learning experience and now I am going to use the same knowledge that I learned at Capitol and apply it to my new Indie label.
JE: Let’s talk about your latest project: “We Rode On.” This album marks a huge turning point soundwise. For this album, you shifted from bluegrass to pop rock. Why did the band decide to change your sound?
RS: First off, I think the band always relied on both musical genres. When we went to Nashville, our group unanimously decided that we did fit the country genre. We always knew that we were different from other bands. When we signed with Capitol Records with the hope that we would be the “Dave Matthews Band of Country” or the next Zac Brown Band. Since we were signed, the whole music landscape shifted underneath our feet. Now, the band is closer to the edge of rock music than we ever have been before. There is so much more acoustic stuff in rock these days that matched up with what we do. This is how I envisioned the band-acoustic rock with a bluegrass twist. It seems that the stars are starting to align. What separates We Rode On from our past albums is that we featured tracks that showcased our takes on multiple musical genres. It was like releasing five different concepts onto one album. I decided that this album should not only be cohesive, but also focus on one musical genre. When I am normally in the studio, I throw tons of songs around. During the We Rode On recording process, I narrowed in on songs that represented the sound that I was looking for.
JE: If you had the opportunity to collaborate with any singers, songwriters or producers for a new project, who would it be and why?
RS: (Laughs) I think I am so used to creating music on my own. When I started out, I originally wanted to only write songs. But, who would perform my songs? It is a long process to pitch songs. Then, I decided to just jump in and do it. There are so many people in the music industry that only talk and do not release a thing! I probably think more on who I want to collaborate with. However, I believe that there are some really cool bands in the industry that I would like to collaborate with in the future. If I was in possession of a genie lamp and the genie gave me the wish to collaborate with anyone I wanted, I would first pick Imagine Dragons. They have released some cool material and I really like what they have done with incorporating some kind of acoustic mandolin sounds into their music. Another band that I would love to work with is American Authors. In addition to their positivity that is showcased throughout their songs, I do enjoy how they tap into acoustic music and merge it into their rock tracks. I also enjoy Jason Mraz’s music. I would also like to work with the Zac Brown Band, because of their jam mentality. As for music legends, it would be so cool to sit in a room with Sting or Bruce Springsteen. Both men are insanely talented and I think that I would learn a lot from them.
JE: How has social media played a crucial role in your music career?
RS: Social media leveled the playing field for everyone. Truly, you do not need to have a giant company behind you if you happen to have a product that people like. For instance, if you happen to come across songs and you put them up on YouTube, it is possible that it could catch on and become huge. The distribution model becomes minimized in a way because it helps out independent artists. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow the artist to connect with people on a much more regular basis and you get instant feedback rather than putting up a bunch of posters about an upcoming show. Back when I first started, you crossed your fingers that people would come to your show. But on social media, you can see what how people are talking about your material or respond if they are coming to your event. I also noticed how labels like “the untouchable artist” are gone! You cannot be that guy anymore, your fans want to know you and interact with you. If artists do not do that, the fans will ignore you and move on to someone else who is embracing them.
JE: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring bands who want to work in the music industry, what advice would you share with them?
RS: Anything can happen in the music industry! It is an extremely difficult industry to go into and stay relevant without burning out. But, my advice is to follow your gut instincts. Your gut is going to be your best guide on how to navigate through the industry. If you talked to a guy who seems shady, he probably is shady. If you sign to a record label and they do not have your best interests at heart, they probably do not have your best interests in mind. You know best! You just have to follow your gut and it is meant to be, then you are going to be on the path that you are meant to be on.
Want to see Ryan live? Ryan will be playing at Gilbert, Arizona’s Higley Center for the Performing Arts on January 15, 2016 and the Valli Theatre of the Arts in Tucson on January 16, 2016.
To learn more about Ryan and his upcoming album, visit the website!