Listening to the soulful voice of Ryan Innes, it’s natural to assume the bearded crooner has always dreamed of being an artist and performer. It’s hard to imagine that the former contestant and fan favorite on NBC’s The Voice almost never pursued his passion for music at all.
Growing up in tiny Thatcher, Ariz., Innes was raised in the traditional musical environment of a small town. As a youth, he was classically trained on piano and sang in the Phoenix Boys Choir and local church musical groups. Although he enjoyed performing in these settings, the traditional and classical music didn’t quite connect with him on an emotional level. It wasn’t until he was introduced to R&B that Innes began a deep and personal involvement with music that would begin to change his life.
“The first thing that really caught my attention was a Boyz II Men album my friend gave me,” Innes recalls. “It was like nothing I’d experienced before. These people really expressing their emotions through their music and voices. It was completely different than the stuff I had grown up with. It really opened my eyes to music’s ability to speak to the listener.”
Although Innes continued to develop a connection with music, he never gave a serious thought to pursuing it until a period of great personal tumult in 2003 caused him to reexamine his life goals and aspirations.
“I was 23 years old, and a lot of things happened that made me take a look at my life,” Innes says. “I had just finished a pre-med degree and realized I didn’t really like science that much. On top of that, I was going through a broken engagement that caused me to take a step back and examine things. Music really became my outlet during that time and gave me a new perspective on what I wanted out of life.”
Innes decided to dedicate himself to developing his talents as an artist and performer. At 24 years old, he applied to the media music program at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, a city that has become a mecca of emerging talent, producing such artists as Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees and Lindsey Stirling.
During his time at BYU, Innes gained confidence as a performer while singing with the popular a cappella group Vocal Point. With his stirring and powerful voice, Innes was often featured as a soloist for the group, further honing his talents and developing confidence on stage.
Around the same time, Innes began writing his own songs, influenced by melodic, vocal-centric artists like Ray Charles, Amos Lee and Ray LaMontagne. For Innes, the most inspiring music was based in raw, human authenticity — a characteristic that became a hallmark of his own songs. While Innes has continued to evolve as a songwriter, the honesty and authenticity he strove for in the beginning continues to be a fundamental aspect of his sound.
In 2010, Innes recorded a self-titled EP produced by R Legacy Entertainment. Featuring covers of classics like Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind” and Amos Lee’s “Colors”, the record showcased Innes’ penchant for soulful and vocally charged productions. While working on the EP, Innes spent time in Nashville and further developed his songwriting skills. Returning to Utah, Innes began performing solo shows, promoting his EP and gaining a loyal following with his original songs and captivating covers.
While gaining popularity in the local music scene, Innes landed a residency at The Montage in Park City, Utah. The new gig not only allowed him to quit his day job, but also to continue to polish his performing and songwriting skills. With his new residency, Innes was able to explore original material in front of new audiences. Innes says the experience of playing covers also helped him as a songwriter because he was able to see how those classic songs struck a chord with listeners.
In 2013, Innes took a break from his residency to try out for NBC’s The Voice. Singing John Mayer’s “Gravity”, Innes quickly received a four-chair turn and picked Usher as his coach. Mentored by Usher and fellow grammy-winner Pharrell Williams, Innes performed a rendition of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” in the battle rounds, solidifying his place as a crowd favorite.
After The Voice, Innes returned to Utah to focus on writing music for a debut album. He has co-written with Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees, Stuart Maxfield of Fictionist and McKay Stevens and Nate Pyfer who co-wrote Kaskade’s 2014 grammy-nominated track “Atmosphere”.
Over the years, Innes has developed a distinct and dynamic artistic voice. One that can be heartbreakingly intimate at one moment and soaringly epic the next. The range of emotions Innes can articulate in a single song or across a setlist mirrors the emotional scope of the artist’s life, a contrasting mélange of turmoil, peace, grief and hope.
Innes is currently hard at work on his debut album, one that he hopes can capture the ups and downs of life, giving voice to the listener’s own feelings of struggle and hope. Though he has expanded his sonic palette and does not shy away from experimenting with new production techniques, Innes maintains that what is most important is the song’s ability to speak to the listener. The song, he says, is king.