Ryan Follese took some time out of a very busy week to talk with NECM recently about his transition to country music and his debut self-titled EP. While you might not recognize his name right away, you most almost certainly know his work. As the front man for pop-rock band Hot Chelle Rae, Ryan toured the world, including arena dates with Taylor Swift and wrote 3x Platinum single, ‘Tonight Tonight.’
What you might not know is Ryan grew up in Nashville as the son of two amazing country song writers (a few of his parents’ hits are Tim McGraw’s ‘Something Like That,’ Faith Hill’s ‘The Way You Love Me’ and Lady Antebellum’s ‘Long Gone’). Given his pedigree we asked why he didn’t start out in the country genre. He explained, “You know I feel like I was fighting it. I wanted to be in a rock band to start, I wanted to die my hair black and not do what my parents did, exactly. I wanted to write songs and all that, but all the while I didn’t realize how awesome it (country) was.”
Ryan says his transformation to a country artist wasn’t exactly planned, but rather a natural progression. “I wish I could say I was sitting on the couch one day and was like ‘you know I’m gonna go do country music’ but I don’t feel like that happened. I feel like it chose me. All the songs I was trying to write were coming out a certain way and that sandwiched between some real life stuff that happened and I’m back in Nashville and I’m making a record with my family, which is kinda crazy, but it has been the best year of my life.” Ryan really means it when he says he is making a record with his family. His parents and brother (who was also in Hot Chelle Rae) co-wrote all the songs on the EP with Ryan.
This past summer Sirius radio debuted ‘Float Your Boat’ as Ryan’s first country release. “When that came out I gotta say I was just a tick nervous, but the reception on it was just overwhelming. Very few artists go viral on Spotify charts and things like that. To only get played on Sirius and to go as well as it did was really cool. It was important that that song be the song for me that came out first, because it’s not just about being on a boat and having a good time, it’s about doing what makes you happy and that has been a staple of this entire process for me.”
‘Put A Label On It’ will be Ryan’s first official single. The craftily written song really stands out from others. “That song to me is all about the ‘D.T.R.’ the defining the relationship. I don’t feel like a lot of guys are as privy to that as women are. I happened to find myself in that situation when I heard someone say ‘the D.T.R.’ and I was like ‘what’s the D.T.R.?’ They said that’s the defining the relationship, that’s everything. I was like ‘holy crap that’s an awesome song idea’ and on top of that I was about 2 months away from myself being in that position. I think it’s different because to me guys usually aren’t the ones who want to define the relationship a lot of the time. Especially in the media and on tv and in a million different ways it always seems like it’s the girl. In my position, it was me who wanted to define the relationship and it just so happened it turned out to be a good song. Based on my girlfriends reaction, I don’t know, other than marrying them, what better thing you can say than that you want to be with them?”
Ryan added that he would love to get up to New England to play a show and catch a football game. He’s currently on a radio tour promoting ‘Put A Label On It’ but says he loves playing live “if by Spring I’m not on a stage at least 3-4 nights a week, I’m gonna be an unhappy camper.” While he has played a ton of shows with Hot Chelle Rae all over the world (he says some of the most memorable were in Japan and New Zealand), he says some of his favorites have been his recent country shows.
One fun fact about Ryan is that he wrote ‘Thug Story’ a parody of ‘Love Story’ that Taylor Swift and T-Pain performed for the 2009 CMT Awards. We had to ask how he got involved in the memorable, viral sensation. “I just got a call from a close friend of mine who’s in the industry and it was a week before the CMTs and this concept of ‘Thug Story’ had come together really fast. I was someone who they knew if they were like ‘hey write a song about how green this tree is’ I could write it if they really needed it. So they hit me with this concept, I got together with this buddy of mine. We threw it together in about an hour, got word back from Taylor that she really liked it and the next day we were in the studio with Taylor and T-Pain. Taylor rewrote the whole thing with us and T-Pain came in and tweaked the hook. The week after it was on the awards show.” Ryan added that working with T-Pain was an incredible experience: “Dude he’s so good man, he is a master of auto tune and people don’t recognize how difficult auto tune is. He basically knows auto tune, like a saxophone player knows a saxophone and he can sing his butt off. It was truthfully masterful to watch.”
Ryan says that country is “what (he) was born to be doing” which based on what we’ve heard we would have to agree with. The EP has a very natural and comfortable feel to it. We wish Ryan the best of luck as he kicks off the next stage of his already tremendously successful music career!
You can get a copy of the Ryan Follese EP here. ‘Put A Label on It’ hits country radio soon, so if you like it call your local station and request it!
Main Photo Credit: Joseph Llanes