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Confident, seductive crooner. Witty pop songsmith. Introspective folk troubadour. Those are just a few of the many looks that Columbus, GA-based workaholic Ryan Hamner offers on his self-titled debut EP, due soon on Jackyl frontman Jesse James Dupree’s burgeoning Mighty Loud label.
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About Ryan Hamner
Hamner’s versatility is the product of a life full of professional and personal highs and lows. The young perfectionist left a comfortable but unfulfilling IT gig to pursue his rock ‘n’ roll dreams full time, and is just now starting to enjoy the fruits of his labor, crafting a wealth of heartfelt, largely acoustic pop originals. He’s also a lifelong Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor who shrugs off the obvious obstacles, going so far as to channel one down period into an inspirational children’s book, You’ll Be All Right, Buddy. It all comes together on wax, where he molds his vast array of experiences and influences—including, but not limited to John Mayer, Edwin McCain and Neil Young—into a fresh new persona all his own.
Hamner got his start much like any other hungry, modern singer-songwriter, developing an identity on MySpace and going so far as to offer a limited-edition free run of 2006 predecessor One Small Giant. “I did a lot of crazy, weird stuff, a lot of different giveaways,” he remembers. “It was really corny, but it helped spread the word. One of those songs on one of these internet radio stations, without me telling anybody to go vote or listen, it made it to the top 10. And it’s gonna be the single on this EP.”
That single, “Lay Me Down” is a perfect representation of Hamner’s considered solo work, abundant with melody, hooks and accessibility. Lushly layered guitars and whistles complement Hamner’s aching, earnest chorus, “lay me down at the water, I’ll give it all to the sea / you alone are my cover, so lay me down and I’ll be free.” And like every other song he writes, it’s the product of incredible care and hard work. After early recording sessions in Nashville, Hamner teamed up with modern rock production heavy Jeff Tomei (Smashing Pumpkins, Matchbox Twenty), tweaked percussion and vocals, rocked out with session bass and drums, and re-cut “Lay Me Down” from scratch. “I beat myself up about songs all the time,” Hamner shrugs, opining that the difference between his self-released work and the EP material is that “I just learned how to write. I’m always writing; I’m always listening to people that know how to do it.”
His studies have paid off in spades. The somber “So Soon” is ambiguous enough to function as the elegy of a relationship or a family member. “That was the first real song I ever really wrote, after my grandfather died,” Hamner reveals. “When I was six I didn’t go to school a lot, so I stayed with him and my grandmother. They would take care of me, take me fishing. When he died, it killed me.”