Oxford, Miss.-based Ryan T. Miller took home top honors for the Jan/Feb 2020 Lyric Contest for his song “Asking For A Friend.” American Songwriter caught up with Ryan to dig a little deeper into the tune and see what he’s been listening to lately.
What was the inspiration for “Asking For A Friend”?
I think writing has become an incredibly helpful way of expressing things that would normally be much more difficult to communicate in other ways. Everything I write is either about something I’ve gone through, a life experience of people close to me, or some common denominator amongst all of us. Mental and emotional health is one of those areas that impacts all of us in some way throughout our lives, but is often something about which we don’t talk very much. The title of this song came from a friend making a joke during a conversation about relationships and emotions. He asked a difficult, and potentially embarrassing, question and followed it with the words, “asking for a friend.” Everyone laughed, but it struck me that we use this phrase often as a punch line or as a social media catch-phrase. In truth, we all need to ask these questions and we need friends standing alongside to support us as we do.
Does it take you a long time to finish songs? How long did this one take?
There are some songs that come together piece by piece over a long period of time. “The Captain’s Son” is a great example of a song that took me months and months to write. I guess you could say that my heart and mind wanted to process that one slowly. Once I heard my friend utter the words “asking for a friend,” I was kind of off to the races with this song. I wrote the lyrics in about an hour, and the tune came me to quickly as well. That’s how it goes for me. Some songs sit on the shelf for a long time. I enjoy staring at them and pining over them. Others end up slapping me in the face.
You recently recorded your first debut album. Can you tell us about that?
My album is titled It’s Been a Great Day. The album is a collection of twelve songs that kind of reflect my life. Heartbreak and loss are mirrored by redemption and gratitude. It was my first attempt to put my songs into motion. I learned so much about the recording process and the power of good production. I could have stayed in that studio forever. I got to create with great people. It was a fun project and I can’t wait to do it again!
You won the lyric contest back in 2018 for your song “The Captain’s Son.” How have you grown as a songwriter since winning back then?
I’m not sure about my ability, but I think it’s easy to say that my need to write has grown. Writing begets writing. The more I write, the more I need to write. I’m growing in my enjoyment of that process. It’s such a healthy way for me to express what is often hard for me to say.
What keeps you motivated as a songwriter?
I think the emotional benefit of writing motivates me. It’s just good for you. Writing has become a daily routine for me now. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be that “good,” I write something every day just to keep my mind moving. The fulfillment of telling a good story motivates me to musically capture the steps we walk. Being able to tell a story surrounding your life’s path is just too much fun not to do it.
Are there any artists or events that have especially inspired you lately?
I have been listening to Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Dawes, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Jason Isbell a lot lately. But I also have folks like Hal Ketchum, James McMurtry, and Gordon Lightfoot rolled into the playlist as well. That is, of course, until my daughters tell me to play Carrie Underwood. So, I guess I listen to Carrie Underwood.