Interview: Ry Bradley spreads his love of country music while helping change the world

Does a country artist need to be encased in the cookie-cutter handsome-cowboy machine that is Nashville’s music row these days to make honest-to-goodness real music from the heart? California-based and Hawaiian-reared singer-songwriter Ry Bradley is out to break that Nashville stereotype mold that holds back so many singers from blossoming into true artists. Bradley is looking for authenticity and experience in his songwriting. The world is taking notice of his talents as some of his songs have been featured on such hit TV series as NBC’s Chicago Med  and ABC Family’s The Fosters.

Bradley is not a typical country entertainer by any stretch of the imagination, as he seems to always be looking for a cause or reason to help others in need out or even give back to the next generation of musical artists. At the same time, this emerging young artist roots himself in old-school country singer-songwriters like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and the legendary Californian born and bred Merle Haggard, who also made the golden state his home up until his death in 2016. 

Now, Bradley is back with an openly personal, yet rocking new album, Everything I’ve Got

AXS recently spoke with the very down-to-earth young star from his home in Orange County, California. Bradley opened up about how splitting time as a kid of divorce in Hawaii and California shaped his musical pallet, the after effects on the world of live country music following last years Route 91 Music Festival shootings in Las Vegas, and how he started a rock and roll camp in Norway of all places.

AXS: What music were you into splitting your time growing up on the beaches of Orange County, California and the beaches of Hawaii?

Ry Bradley: For me, I think bouncing back and forth between California and Hawaii made me more open-minded to a lot of things, including music. When I was a kid, I thought classic songs like "Brown Eyed Girl," "Lay Down Sally," and "Black Water" were Hawaiian songs (laughs). All the bands in Hawaii played these songs, and I didn't know the difference at ten years old. Meanwhile, my mom was listening to Alan Jackson and Dwight Yoakam in California, and I was obsessed with Bon Jovi. I had no filter or rules to what music I liked (laughs).

AXS: These days there is an influx of many styles and sounds of country music. How is your brand of country music innovative?

RB: A big piece of that is my “no rules” side to my music. If I want to try something, musically I'll try it. I think it's a natural progression to link blues and country or link all kinds of different genres together with country music. I always liked the David Bowie quote that he talked about getting the listener right out to the edge of what they know and get them excited to what’s next. I like pushing those kinds of boundaries musically.

AXS: Why is this collection of songs on the new album Everything I’ve Got special?

RB: This album was written by myself and my producer Justin Busch, and we are really writing about our life. We are experiencing many of the things we talk about in these songs. The loves, the losses, all of it. It’s two buddies going through their lives over the last couples years and writing songs around those experiences. It’s really like old school country songwriting of Waylon and Cash. They weren’t writing for hits; they were writing from their lives. That’s what we’re after on this album.

AXS: Last year we had another mass shooting, but one that rocked the world of country music in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Music Festival. Why was it important for you to write the song on the new album “the Next Aldean Show” which all proceeds from the song go to the victims and family members? 

RB: I was at home in California at the time of the shooting, but I had over twenty friends that I know were at this festival, including my producer Justin and his wife. To know so many people you love that were being shot at while having fun at a concert was heartbreaking. These people were having a moment and celebrating life at a concert, which is what life is supposed to be about and then they had to run for their lives. We felt that we just had to write this song and inspire people to keep coming to live shows. We won’t let them take that away from us.

AXS: With so much on your plate these days, how in the world did you come up with Ry’s Rock and Roll Camp in Norway? 

RB: I had great music mentors growing up, and I wanted to give the same back to the next generationWith the help of Visit Norway and the mayor of Ringsaker in Norway, we are putting on Ry’s Rock and Roll Camp for kids twelve to twenty years old Aug. 19-24. It’s a free camp where kids learn to hone their songwriting, musicianship and performance skills. I get to do something fun and play music with a bunch kids, it’s going to be a blast.

AXS: If you had to pick one old-school country songwriter that you relate with the most, you going with Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash?

RB: I gotta go with Haggard. You're having your first relationships and dealing with that. You have a job, and you're dealing with your boss who is a jerk. These are the everyday themes he'd write about but in a beautiful, poetic and heartbreaking way. Plus, he’s from California (laughs).

Ry Bradley’s new album, Everything I’ve Got is out now. After tour stops in Europe, Bradley and his band will be on the road around the U.S. later this fall.