How many miles would you travel to chase your dream? Hailing from Flint, Mich., Joe Ryan III began his musical journey while growing up in church. It was there where Ryan developed his instrumental skills in drums, piano and the organ. He realized he could produce after growing tired of downloading beats off the internet and tired of depending on other people for beats.
Although Ryan’s early beginnings in music were in church, he didn’t start off singing. He began as a rapper who would sing on occasion. “I would sometimes sing on my hooks,” says Ryan. When others discovered Ryan’s singing ability and encouraged him to do it full-time, he disregarded it at first and only thought of himself as a rapper. “I was just scared of it,” reveals Ryan. “I had rapped so long and I was used to performing as a rapper– freestyling, battling and all of that stuff.”
In 2010, Ryan found the door to opportunity via a Twitter post from hip-hop veteran MC Lyte. Ryan says MC Lyte sent a tweet saying she was looking for new producers for DuBose Entertainment. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Ryan submitted his work to MC Lyte. MC Lyte contacted Ryan the following day expressing her interest in working with him. This moment was Ryan’s first step to really getting his foot in the music industry door. His first project was composing cues for Trey Songz’ reality show “Trey Songz: My Moment,” which aired on BET. Soon after, Ryan found himself flying out to Los Angeles to score cues for an entire season of BET’s “Toya: A Family Affair.”
While in L.A., MC Lyte — who served as Ryan’s manager at the time — introduced him to Rex Rideout, vice president of A&R at Motown Records. This would be a career-changing relationship in which Ryan would soon benefit. After scoring cues for two reality shows, Ryan flew back home to Flint for some time. Determined to pursue his dreams full-time, Ryan had to make one of the biggest decisions of his life. “One morning I woke up and I told my wife, ‘We need to sell everything we got. You go stay with your parents. Take the kids. God is moving on my heart. I feel this. I got to go to L.A. and make this happen,’” says Ryan, who is a husband and a father of five. Using his connection with Rex Rideout to his advantage, Ryan informed him that he was moving to L.A.
Leaving his family behind like a soldier headed off to fight for his country, Ryan took all he had and drove 1,879 miles to follow his dream. Although Ryan had some impressive placements on reality television, he was homeless for nine months after relocating to L.A. “I was living in my car,” says Ryan. “I would go to all of the different 24-hour fitness centers and get the seven day passes and I would go in there to take a shower and act like I’m about to work out.”
Even though Ryan wasn’t physically there for his family in Wisconsin, he counted on technology as a supplement. “I would be on FaceTime with my wife and kids while in my car,” says Ryan. “I saw my daughter for the first time getting off the school bus on FaceTime. I even attended parent-teacher conferences on FaceTime.” It’s hard to imagine how difficult it was for Ryan to be away from his wife and children. “Emotionally, that’s been the toughest part — knowing that I’m not physically there with them. They’ll be out here in June, after they get of school, so they can see why I had to carry out the results so they got to see why it happened that way.”
Ryan’s trials and tribulations of pursuing his dreams is the ingredient to his debut album, “I 8 7 9,” which is available now. The title of the album was inspired by the number of miles he traveled from Wisconsin to Los Angeles to pursue his music career. He also insists “1 8 7 9” could be applicable for anyone chasing their dream. “We all have a distance to travel whether it’s physically, spiritually, emotionally, whatever — we all have a certain amount of distance to get where our purpose is, so I want ‘1 8 7 9’ to be the representation of that grind,” says Ryan.
“Ride or Die,” the lead single off his album, features a guest verse from rapper/actress Lil’ Mama. “It honestly blew me away,” Ryan says about Lil Mama’s verse on the track. “I love what she did on it. She got into the record and made her part a piece of what I was saying and made it feel like some chemistry was done from start to finish and not like she just came in on the tail end and threw a verse on there.” Ryan says he expects there to be a visual for “Ride or Die” in the near future. However, right now he’s focusing on a video treatment for his next single “Woman,” which is an encouraging track dedicated to females. “I want to empower women and show them they don’t always have to show their body,” states Ryan.
If Ryan had to pick the most personal song on his album, it would be “Boomerang Love.” “Being on this grind and being away, distance always causes friction in some type of way,” says Ryan. “You start to feel certain emotions, you get tired and you get tested. There’s so many things you go through with distance that you can’t ignore. Me and my wife went through this really rough patch where we were starting to clash. It started to get really rocky and we went through this phase where it started to fall apart. Once we figured it out and reminded ourselves that we started this together and our relationship was more important than music, then it started to come back together.”
Besides promoting his new album, Ryan has been involved with other projects. He contributed to Ledisi’s new album “The Truth” where he had three placements. He co-produced “Missy Doubt” with Rex Rideout, co-wrote and produced “Lose Control” and produced “Mine.” He also co-wrote and produced rising R&B singer Shaliek’s new single “Ain’t Supposed To Cry.” If that’s not enough, Ryan produced Kem’s new record with a big-time rapper, which will appear on the soul crooner’s forthcoming album.
Additionally, he worked on Leela James’ fifth studio album.”Her new album is already done,” Ryan says. “When you hear her new album, it surpasses anything that she’s ever done.” Ryan reveals he recorded a duet with James called “Save Me,” which he produced and co-wrote. “That’ll be my first appearance as an artist on a major project,” says Ryan. He also produced a song called “So Good” and co-produced a piano ballad titled “Fall For You” with Rex Rideout. “She’s definitely coming with heat,” Ryan says.
If Joe Ryan’s story isn’t inspiring enough then what is? Although he’s still early into his music career, he has accomplished a lot compared to some of his new R&B counterparts. A lesson learned from Ryan’s story is to never give up on your dreams and follow your heart. The process of achieving success isn’t always easy. There may be times when things don’t go as you hoped, but the key is to never lose focus on your goals. They are the stepping stones to your overall success. “I’m the same kid from Flint, Mich. that had no connects and no contacts,” says Ryan. “You have to really believe in it 100 percent with all your heart. You have to be at 100 percent and never doubt yourself or doubt God.”
Follow Joe Ryan on Twitter @JoeRyanIII and get his debut album “1 8 7 9 “ on iTunes.