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Given that he had a very promising US college baseball stint, it seems fitting to use a sporting metaphor to describe the ongoing career ascent of Niagara region-based country music artist Ryan Langdon.
After paying those proverbial dues on a college team, and diligently working on his craft as a vocalist and songwriter, this charismatic performer has proven himself ready for the major leagues. In 2019 Ryan was nominated for a CMAO Rising Star award and, beginning with his 2020 EP Lit In The Sticks and its breakthrough title track (almost 4 million plus streams on Spotify), he has since delivered a series of Top 40 hits that have now placed him in the top tier of emerging Canadian country acts.
That status will be reaffirmed with the release of a new EP on Hidden Pony/Slaight Music that Langdon is currently completing for release later this year. The new material is the result of writing and recording sessions in Nashville and Toronto with an A-list team of creative collaborators, and Ryan is thrilled at the results. “I think we now have a direction as to who I am as an artist, and, with the label backing that, the sky is the limit,” he confidently declares.
A key part of Langdon’s artistic identity is his versatility. “I believe it’s super important to show your fan base that you can adapt to different styles within the genre while being yourself at the same time,” he stresses. “You need to have songs that make people want to move and get excited, but you also need songs that generate feelings they can connect with.”
A diverse range of influences and inspirations have helped mould Langdon as an artist. His signature booming baritone voice neatly meshes with the traditional country stylings of such inspirations as Trace Adkins and Chris Young, while also suiting the rock tones of contemporary hitmakers like Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert.
A similar hybrid approach permeates the sound of Ryan’s material, with such classic country instruments as banjo, steel guitar, and harmonica fitting snugly alongside searing electric guitar and a big rock-inflected production sound.
That is showcased on the killer new Langdon cut, “Bad Choices,” a co-write by Ryan, Jim Witter, Andrew “Marty” Martino and Steve Molella (Finger Eleven), who produced. “It has been real helpful to have Jim Witter, a Slaight Music writer, in the house,” Ryan explains. “He has a knack for writing hits with strong melodies, and then Steve and Marty’s production gives it a different vibe. Rock and country can go hand in hand, and my having a lower bottom-end kind of voice feels right for that.” This high-energy track is a playful tribute to the bad boy, with such lyrics as “If you’re looking for chaos, I’m your man.”
On the other side of the emotional spectrum is the poignant “Always Leaving,” a ballad showcasing Ryan’s ability to dig deep as a vocalist and songwriter. It is a co-write with Jim Witter and notable Nashvillean Eric Arjes (Eli Young Band, Eric Church), who produced. “That’s a song idea and title I’ve had for a long time,” Ryan recalls. “It is about being with somebody in a relationship and always sensing that person wasn’t 100% invested in it. I’ve had my share of those relationships!”
“We Were There,” a song co-written by Bryan White (Jason Aldean), Corey Crowder and Cary Barlowe, has a radio-friendly midtempo vibe, and the small-town setting of the tune perfectly fits the Langdon life story. Hit Canadian songwriter/producer Dave (Dwave) Thomson (Lady A) produced, and he and Langdon have collaborated successfully before.
Another new track that’s a candidate for the next EP is “Soul and Sanity,” a tender ballad saluting a life-affirming relationship – “It’s like I’ve been thrown into a fantasy, but this ain’t make believe.” The song features a staccato beat that shows Langdon is not afraid to take sonic chances on the production side.
Considering he has been recording music for just six years, Ryan Langdon’s rise to the major leagues has been a rapid one, but he has been dedicated to his music much longer. “I’ve been doing music for 12 years, playing the bars around home, and going through the wringer of playing late at nights, then getting up early to make a living.”
A deeply-instilled blue collar work ethic kicked in when the pandemic put the careers of Ryan and just about everybody else on hold. Rather than lamenting the situation, he went straight to work at a day job in a warehouse. Recalling the situation with a chuckle, Ryan says “it was all country people coming to this store. Sometimes they’d back up while listening to my song, with no idea it’s me. Weeks later, they might find out, and they’d go ‘Are you kidding me? ‘Lit In The Sticks’ is one of my favourite songs!’”
Prior to his full commitment to music, Langdon shone as a baseball player at the collegiate level in the US. He reminisces that “entertaining was always my favourite thing, though. I was the kid who’d jump onto a table at a party, dancing and singing. My dad tells me that the point where he could see I had changed my mindset from sports to music was when I started playing guitar, at around 17. I was going to a baseball tournament and I forgot my glove but not my guitar! He could see I was finding a new love.”
Baseball’s loss was Canadian country music’s gain!