- All Ages
Ryan Kinder with opening guest Sam Grow
- Ticket Price: $10.00
- Door Time: 5:00 PM
- Show Type: Country
With the instruments out of the picture, Kinder put the focus solely on his voice, wringing a complex set of musical influences and a ton of emotion out of a one-of-a-kind set of pipes.
Not every artist could – or should – take that kind of a risk at such a sacred venue, but for Kinder, it was an ideal showcase. There’s a singular sound to his voice, one that’s enriched with country, soul, pop, rock and gospel. And Kinder expresses those myriad influences with a unique texture, a way of relating his words with a ferocity and conviction that sounds like no one else.
It’s the kind of individuality that’s found in many of popular music’s most identifiable singers – Elton John, Garth Brooks or Reba McEntire – and he backs it with a from-the-gut power.
But that vocal prowess is only part of the story for Kinder, whose art relies similarly on vulnerable songwriting and nimble guitar playing. It’s been displayed in “Close,” “Tonight” and “Kiss Me When I’m Down.” A bedrock hit in Spotify playlists, the success of “Close” prompted the streaming company to request that he hold off releasing a new single.
Born in Knoxville, he was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, a sort of crossroads of the South that connects Nashville’s country and Muscle Shoals’ swamp-rock with Mississippi’s blues, Atlanta’s R&B and New Orleans’ gospel-inflected gumbo. He put his first band together in high school and continued practicing that passion while attending the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After two years of travelling back and forth between Alabama and Music City to chase his dream, he finally quit school and moved to Nashville, where he could pursue his craft fulltime.
The Nashville creative community took notice, and executives with Warner Music Nashville were already scouting him when he played at the annual CMA Music Festival. The crowd tripled in size during Kinder’s set; Warner Nashville president/CEO John Esposito, who plays drums and guitar, liked what he saw and signed Kinder shortly after.
His musicianship and especially his songwriting has evolved in a way that combines his influences with his personal outlook and experiences. Kinder’s beliefs, his history and his future are wrapped up in his songs.
“Josh Osborne (“Body Like A Back Road,” “Merry Go ‘Round”) said most people tell a story, but in Nashville, we tell the back story,” Kinder recounts. “That really resonated with me. It’s all about where, why, who, when that really grabs you in a song, and that’s still with me.”
Kinder is co-producing his first complete major-label album, putting all of his influences into the songs, the musical bed and the guitar playing. The sound draws on a huge tapestry of American culture and finds its way into the world through a one-of-a-kind voice. The vowels and the consonants bend a listener’s ear, but it’s the heart behind his words that makes them lean in to hear him the way the fans did when he sang a cappella in that first Ryman performance.
“We don’t give the public enough credit,” he says. “When it’s not the real you, they can smell it. So I don’t worry about where my music fits or predict how it will be received. I do what makes me happy, put out the best music I can and just let it happen.”
Music has been part of Sam Grow's life ever since he took his first breath, so it comes as no surprise that 30 years later he is burning up the charts with his latest self-released EP, The Blame. Born in southern Maryland to a blue-collar powerline worker, Sam's first taste of music was none other than the King of Rock n Roll, Elvis. “He had me when he was almost 40, so that's the kind of music I grew up on – old school music,” Sam explains.
His infatuation with music only continued to grow as years went on and his family relocated to Winfield, Kansas due to his father's traveling occupation. Sam was always envious of his father's Elvis-like singing voice and his older sister who excelled at playing piano and singing. So the natural progression led the Grow family to the Winfield Baptist Church, where 5-year-old Sam was able to dabble around with music on a more serious level. “The ladies who did the music there would let me strum on their guitars or play on the piano,” reflects Sam. “I wanted so bad to be like my sister because she knew how to play all this stuff already.”
It wasn't long until young Sam was able to take a shot at his first performance at the small-town church. “My dad wanted me to sing 'Amazing Grace,' and I failed. I couldn't do it. I got too nervous,” Sam recalls, laughing. “So the second time I did it, I got through it and people clapped. I thought this is awesome! So I decided then that I wanted to play music for a long, long time.”
By the time Sam was in his teen years, the family once again moved back to Maryland where he enrolled at La Plata High School, focusing on music and his second love, football. He knew one crucial piece of the puzzle was missing for him to further his musical talent, so Sam went to his father, asking what needed to be done in order for him to get his first guitar. “He told me I had to show him that I was going to put an effort into learning guitar, but he also said if I came back and played him Green Day, he wouldn't give me anything!” he laughs. “It had to have substance, and coming from my dad, that meant guys like Elvis, Sam Cooke and Willie Nelson.”
Sam was certain if he could learn one of his father's favorite Elvis Presley songs, it would be a shoo-in. So he borrowed a guitar from a classmate and perfected Elvis' “Unchained Melody” to play for his father. “I sang it to my dad, and in the nicest dad way, he was like, 'No. Go learn something else. That was terrible. Don't ever do Elvis again. Just stop.'”
He tried once again to gain his father's approval after learning soul singer Sam Cooke's “Bring it on Home.” “I played it for him, and he was like, 'Let's go get you a guitar.' To this day, I still play that song.”
Just a couple of years later, Sam set the football down and made music his full time priority. He began touring and playing shows anywhere he could, including local bars for tips on Wednesday nights. “I would have to sneak in because I was definitely not old enough to be in there,” grins Sam. “It was such a small town that I don't think people really cared all that much if there was a little kid in a bar playing songs. As long as you're playing what they want to hear, you're good!”
His passion to make music was cranked up to another gear after the birth of his daughter in 2008. Rather than hanging up his dreams, Sam was more determine than ever to see success with his career in music. “I didn't want to be one of those guys who said, 'Yeah, I wanted to be a singer, but I had you, so I couldn't do it,'” he says. “I didn't want to be that story. I wanted her to say, 'My dad wanted to be a singer, and that's what he is,' just like if she wants to be an architect or an artist or whatever, she can go do it. She really changed my whole perspective on life.”
Part of the refocus on music included packing up his bags and making Nashville his permanent home in 2013. Sam wasted no time creating contacts and building relationships with key people within the music industry, including hit producer Matt McClure (Lee Brice). That friendship opened many doors for Sam, including one with John Ozier at ole Music Publishing who inked the Maryland native to his first deal writing songs. “It's just been such a wild ride since I've been here and just an eye-opening experience with music,” smiles Sam. “Getting into the songwriting community has been a big change for me. It's like college for musicians when you come to town. I get to be a sponge. I will always be grateful for what Matt and ole did for me as a songwriter, because I got to meet so many people and learn so much. It's like a crazy dream.”
Sam released his debut self-titled EP in 2014, gaining him chart success when the project landed at No. 8 on the iTunes Country Albums chart. His follow-up and most recent compilation of music, The Blame, succeeded that charting position when it made its charting debut at No. 5 on iTunes. The Blame also gained charting attention at No. 8 on Billboard's Current Country Albums chart and No. 2 on its Top New Artist Albums chart following first week's sales of 3,383 units sold.
“I hate the word 'fan.' It's my least favorite word in this industry,” says Sam, as he thinks about what they have done for him this far in his career. “Those are real people who work hard all week and then give you the money out of their pocket so you can play music. They're not fans; they are family. They take care of my family, and they take care of all my bands' families. It's a really amazing community of people, and I try really hard to know every single person who is willing to come out and support us.”
And luckily for Sam, his high-octane stage show keeps the crowds coming night after night. Sam prides himself on his passion for performing and helping wipe away any stress or worries that may be happening in his audiences personal lives. “Playing live is literally the reason I do this,” Sam says. “I feel like music and shows take you away from real life for a minute. For me, that's the best part. You have no idea what you might have done for a person. I know what they do for me, because every time that I walk on stage, I don't remember or care about anything else. It's my time to forget, and hopefully that translates to everybody else in the crowd.”
Judging by the way his career path has gone so far, looks like Sam Grow is doing more than just translating his music to his audiences. “Getting radio airplay and getting somebody new to come out to a show who's never seen us before and know the lyrics to the song is a whole new humbling experience,” says Sam. “Especially because all my stuff I write is personal, real life. I love Luke Bryan, but I'm not going to write 'Hunting, Fishing and Loving Every Day,' because I don't hunt and fish every day, so I can't sing a song like that. But heartache, bar rooms and real-life stuff, that's what I like to sing about because that's what I live.
“Everybody has their ideas of 'making it,'” he continues. “For me, I've already made it. All I ever wanted to do in my life was to play music, so I'm blessed and fortunate enough to get to do that.”