Ryan B. Case was born in the waning days of the Jimmy Carter Administration in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. When he was five years old he moved to the heartland of the American South where he spent the remainder of his early life. He picked up the guitar over one summer in his teenage years, an event he recalls on the new record with his song Hank’s Grave. Soon after he formed his first band.
Right out of high school Ryan did the conventional thing in not so conventional manner. He went to college. “I was enrolled in like two classes but spent all my time and energy writing songs and booking gigs.” He says. “I put together a band and we played all the little college bars and frat parties in Auburn, Alabama.” The money was good and the living was easy but after four years and no degree he felt it was time to move on. “I mean we were having a lot of fun but it did not seem like the place to be to become a professional songwriter.”
After a brief stint in Athens, GA where he did some recording and more playing of bars and frat houses he made the move to Nashville in late 2004. “You know, I guess deep down I always knew I would end up in Nashville. I almost came here right out of high school but was too intimidated looking back I guess.”
In Nashville, Ryan formed a country-rock band and they called themselves The Victrolas. “Nashville was different town back then,” he recalls. “We rented this house right off music row, The BMI building towered above our driveway. The house had been used as a studio at one point so it was set up perfect for a band. We played all the time and when we weren’t gigging we were sitting in the driveway drinking and blasting Bruce Springsteen. It was a real fun time.”
The Victrolas released an album entitled Drop the Needle in 2007. They played everywhere and anywhere they could for the last half of the twenty first century’s first decade. But as they say, all good things must end. “Everybody just started growing up,” Ryan recalls. “Marriage and babies and all of a sudden a four day run of shows that might net us all a hundred bucks each just wasn’t so appealing.” It is not a story new to anyone who follows music. The big dreams of a young mans twenties often give way to reality in his thirties.
Ryan was not giving into reality just yet though. “I decided to just take my guitar and see what I could make of it on my own. I had been playing with a band my whole life and so much of the music I grew up on is really acoustic based, so it kind of seemed natural.” Ryan went into Fry Pharmacy studio and recorded an all-analog EP titled No Big Surprise. “I still love that record,” he says.
Ryan loaded his guitar in his old Volvo station wagon and did what he knew how to do to support the record. He did eighty some odd shows all over the southeast and Texas in 2011. Around mid 2012 he just stopped. “You know I had been doing the same thing my whole adult life and it didn’t seem fun anymore. I think in order to create you have to be able to unplug and step back. I never intended for it to take so long but that is just how it went. ”
For the next five years Ryan was all over the map, literally. He drove accross the country, through the Cascade mountains and down the PCH. He watched a lot of baseball and read the history books piled up in his office. He went fishing and he finished that degree he had not given much thought to a decade earlier. He turned his attention to all sorts of things that had taken a backseat to his drive to “make it” in music.
When the music bug bites though, you live with the sting and in late 2016 Ryan committed to making a new record. “I had all these songs piling up and just thought it would be a shame if my dog was the only one who ever heard them.”
So he linked up with Daniel Dennis at Prime Cut Studio in East Nashville and went to work on his new record. “It is a hodgepodge of a record I guess. I have songs about economics and the mentally ill mixed with musings about the nature of existence, not exactly the stuff hit records are often made of,” he adds with a wry smile. That may be true, but this record is the mark of an artist finding his sound and coming into his own.