“I tend to put a breakup anthem or two on just about everything I release,” says San Antonio native and country singer/songwriter Mike Ryan. His new track, “Can Down,” fulfills the honorary role of heartbreak head-bob for his forthcoming fifth studio album, which is still in the works.
Though he penned the song several years back with Smith Ahnquist, Brent Anderson, and Will Weatherly, it fits nicely into the current context of things, following a homebound year. Pedal Steel whines into the first verse, where the songwriter masterfully paints a portrait of a heartbroken man, attempting to masquerade his hurt with beer-after-beer. Mournfully, he opens, I just don’t get it / Hell I just don’t see / How one five foot two blue-eyed girl / Could wreck a guy like me.
“It’s a song about the back porch phase of a breakup, doing some soul searching,” says Ryan over the phone. “Like many people this year who were also cooped up and dealing with stuff, I spent more time outside than ever, sitting on the porch and taking it all in, so this one really fits the current climate.”
Beyond the breakup ballad, Ryan’s lyrical content spans far and wide, covering topics ranging from new love to small-town shenanigans and fatherhood. He feels proud of the spectrum of influence the upcoming album boasts throughout the tracklist. As compared to his current discography, the artist says, “I’m certainly proud of these. I’m not venturing too far from what I’ve done before.” He continues, “Topically, I’m dealing with a lot of the same things. But as I’ve gotten older, I’m leaning further into those things with more life experience.”
The pandemic posed a challenge to his songwriting that “took a minute to get remedied.” Until last year, he did most of his writing in Nashville or on the road between tour stops. Creativity was not flowing well as two kids ran wild around his three-bedroom house. He says, “It’s not a lack of inspiration, I have plenty of ideas, but I haven’t had the space to write them down.” He started building a studio in his backyard and hopes to get to work “wood shopping” his writing in the new haven soon.
The artist’s sixth career No. 1 single arrived with “Dear, Country Music” in 2019. Leading up to that win, Ryan’s 2017 album, Blink You’ll Miss It, amassed 36 million cumulative streams and yielded a No.1 song, “Damn Good Goodbye” and a Top 5 “The Rewrite” ft. Brad Paisley. That same year, Ryan teamed up with his “Can Down” crew and Brad Paisley to co-write Paisley’s Billboard Top 20 track, “Last Time For Everything.”
Averaging over 120 shows a year, the artist relies on cross-country stages to propel his music career forward. A few weeks after Texas gave a green light for live music—with cautionary COVID-19 measures in place—Ryan is making up for lost time. He says, “people were really excited about being out. We’re cautious, trying to keep everyone as safe as possible. Everyone is happy to have a choice to come out, and folks are starting to show up. The vaccinations are happening about as fast as they can be.”