We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Millard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, why did you pursue a creative career?
In some ways, I feel that an artistic or creative career chose me. Some background about me is that I am the son of a mechanical engineer. I believe that was passed down to me because I always had a fascination and passion for math and science and those also seemed to be my strengths in academics. As a side academic pursuit, I started studying piano when I was around 5 or 6 years old but it was just an extracurricular activity and not a career aspiration. So for a time, I believed that a career in science and engineering was where I was headed but when I was around 14 I started playing the guitar and it really stole my heart and things developed from there. While math and science seemed to be my strengths in academics, I noticed I did have a passion and talent for creative writing that my teachers seemed to appreciate and encourage. I believe music for me fuses those strengths perfectly because music is very mathematical and scientific in a lot of ways and then writing music is the creative writing side. This is what I believed led me towards being a musician and a songwriter.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art has been a developing process that keeps expanding. It all started as me being a student on the instrument of the guitar and then grew from there. I started playing guitar at 14 but it wasn’t till around 5 years later that I started singing and writing lyrics. Before I became an actual singer-songwriter, I considered myself to be a more instrumental musician and just a guitarist so my role was more simple and I was more a student early on so I would focus mostly on learning other musicians songs to play before I made my own. The early guitar legends I was into were Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Impressive guitar skills seemed like the coolest thing in the world to me so I mainly just wanted to be the best guitarist I could be. I also looked up to a lot of virtuoso guitar players like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert and Buckethead to name a few. I really was into “shred” guitar kind of style of playing which these players all are and I hoped to be a virtuoso on the instrument myself.
My direction eventually shifted more with also being a fan of John Mayer who is an incredible guitarist in addition to an incredible songwriter. John Mayers style is different than the previous guitar players I mentioned and is less about “shred” or speed and more about taste and grooves even though he still clearly has incredible impressive chops on the instrument. While some vocal styles of bands I liked like Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin were unique and challenging to imitate, John Mayers style of singing was more relatable to me and something I could actually sing along with better without it feeling out of reach to my voice. That is what inspired and led me towards singing more and having the confidence to do so.
I had always just hoped I could join a band and make it a team effort where my focus would be writing riffs on guitar but I struggled with the challenges of finding a group that could write original music with me, but instead of giving up or waiting for that to work out, it pushed me to do more on my own. It still grows beyond singing and playing the guitar where I am now also playing bass, and on my newer stuff, I am working on, piano as well. So things have gone beyond where I had expected them to go.
Also, being a session musician was a great thing but at times it was hard having something like that going well and keeping me busy while being an original artist is very challenging. There were times I was very serious about writing and producing my original music but then there was also times when it was somewhat pushed aside by other things I was doing as a musician and other things in my life.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, all the gigs and opportunities I had lined up in my session work suddenly were cancelled. While that was a difficult thing to have to face, I made it an opportunity to really pursue my own original music again and put it first since everything naturally was then out of the way. While the entire music industry took a major impact from the pandemic, I personally wanted to stay positive and see it as an opportunity to work on my music so that I could go back to pursuing that in the future once things with the pandemic were more resolved.
I am excited now as things are getting better and I do have a lot of new music that I have been releasing very recently and will soon be releasing more as well.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If someone was visiting the very obvious place I would take them is the mountains. Growing up and living in Loveland Colorado makes you within less than an hour of Rocky Mountain National Park. There are also so many other great places in the mountains which naturally people come to visit Colorado already to see. I grew up doing a lot of outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding and much more which makes me have a passion for the outdoors as well. The outdoors has been a great escape and place to help inspire and create my music.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The one person that has made the biggest impact on me as an individual and on my career in music is Dave Beegle. He is currently my producer that I work with in a recording studio together and he was also my guitar teacher since I started on guitar at 14 years of age. We have been working together now for 16 years so that is definitely a lot of history together. Dave Beegle is a very impressive guitar player and songwriter who has made incredible music of his own in addition to working with me and many other artists that he produces for. It has been a blessing to know him and have the opportunity to learn from him and make the music I have made. He also played a big part in getting my skills up to a speed where I could have a career as a session musician in addition which I have been doing for about 10 years now. It also feels like in some ways with what we have been doing over the more recent years that things are just getting started even though we have already done many great things together.
The other people that played a major role in what I have done are my parents, Bob and Kris Millard. They have been very supportive but also have kept a good balance in keeping me on solid ground and realistic about what I am working towards. They have supported me more than I would expect at times for even at the less exciting or more strange moments of my career that might be playing in a hard rock band in sketchy dive bars where I would encourage them to stay home and skip those particular performances but they clearly support and love what I do to where they still will show up so often anyways. That is incredibly meaningful to me.