Musician:  RYAN SHUPE

Video: “We Rode On


RYAN SHUPE Web-Exclusive Interview

with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David


Ryan Shupe will be touring the country to promote his eighth album, the independently released We Rode On—a fusion of rock themes with an acoustic bluegrass influence. A Utah-based, fifth generation fiddler, as well as an accomplished mandolin and acoustic and electric guitar player, Shupe has been touring extensively across the U.S. since he was 10 years old. He continues his tours of respected concert venues and festivals, and along with his band he is comfortable on the national stage, including appearances on the television show Good Morning America, Mountain Stage, GAC and CMT.


Shupe talks about how this new collection of songs came together, and shares his observations of life around him—and insight into the inspiration of his new album, which streets today, August 19, 2016. With the songwriting sensibilities of Bruce Springsteen, the rocking rhythms and energy of the Dave Matthews Band, and the melodic simplicity of James Taylor, Ryan Shupe’s lyrical imagery explores life, love, family, hope and dreams on his new album, We Rode On. Join him on this adventurous ride.

©, Bry Cox

How did the idea of the title track “We Rode On” come to you?

It has a lot of imagery from my life’s adventures. One of the lines in particular, “singing songs at the top of our lungs,” was inspired by a road trip I took with some college buddies. They wanted me to bring my mandolin so we could sing songs while we were driving. I remember belting out John Denver songs at the top of our lungs while we were driving over mountain passes.


What is your creative process for writing songs?

I try and write the lyrics and music at the same time. The ideas I have come from my own experiences—observing other people, reading stories and news articles, and conversations. I find that writing songs on different instruments inspires different ideas. If I am writing on the guitar, I find that I have unique ideas—than if I am writing on the piano or the mandolin.


What songwriting tip can you offer?

I try not to force a song or overthink it. It seems like the best songs kind of flow naturally. And I think it’s important to really believe in a song. The more personal meaning it has for me, the better the song.


How do you keep song ideas fresh—and continue to think of new ideas?

I try to stay open to all ideas and not censor a song too early. Some of my favorite songs seemed like a goofy idea at first, but ended up being really cool in the end. I think continuing to observe the world around me helps me constantly think of new ideas.

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Have you done any co-writing?

I haven’t done a ton of co-writing. But I think it’s really good to see how other people come up with creative ideas. And sometimes when you work with someone else, the sum is greater than the parts. A lot of great songs are written that way.


When did something unique inspire you to write a song?

I was at the airport when I saw a guy in the military saying goodbye to his family—he was being deployed. It made me appreciate that I would only be gone for three or four days while he was leaving for probably a year and a half. It also made me appreciate the sacrifices people in the military make for our country. That touching scene, of him saying goodbye to his family, helped inspire the song “Take Me Home.”


How does where you live or travel influence your music?

There is a thriving music scene here in Provo, UT. There are a ton of university students and a lot of really great bands who get out on a local, regional and somewhat national basis. It’s inspiring to see such great music come out of a relatively small city. We are a little bit isolated and it takes some effort to go to nearby markets. But this has also helped us develop a unique sound and made us find a niche for our music. We have become better entertainers and built a strong, solid fan base.

Ryan Shupe-4 - credit Robin Sayville

Who influenced you to pick up different instruments?
Well, I come from a long line of fiddle players in my family. I’m a fifth generation fiddle player. I owe a lot to my father. He started getting me up to practice two hours every day—before school—when I was five years old! When I was 10 years old, he started a little kid bluegrass band that I performed in. We performed all over the United States and even went to Europe. Along the way, picking up the guitar, mandolin and banjo seemed natural. As a kid I listen to a lot of rock music, so mixing in that style with the acoustic instruments was a lot of fun for me.


Who inspired you to write songs?

When I was really young, I would make up songs on my violin. But later, I started writing songs with lyrics and experimenting with different melodic ideas. Then I started listening to some of the greats like Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Writing songs became magical moments. I loved creating a story or a mood when lyrics were combined with music.


Tell us how this new album, We Rode On, evolved.

I have always loved combining acoustic instruments with a rock flavor. All the songs on this album have one thing in common—they have been swirling around in my head for a while and needed to get out. So, I started tracking stuff in my personal studio. I started getting the ideas down in basic form. But the more I recorded, the more I felt like a mad musical scientist creating something. (Laughs) I definitely think the album has the jamming acoustic sound we have become known for, but also highlights the rock side of our musical arsenal.


Love the positive message in “The Sun Will Shine Again”—another video from this album.

I wrote this song as a mantra for my children. I wanted them to have something they could take with them. Then, when times get tough, they can remember that the sun will shine again. 

©, Bry Cox

©, Bry Cox

Where were you when you first heard one of your songs on the radio?
Hearing your song on the radio is an amazing feeling. I remember one time—I was in a gas station on the road, and our song started playing. You feel like you want to start running around telling everybody that you are on the radio. Kind of like that scene from the movie, That Thing You Do! When something like that happens it motivates you to keep going.


How does it feel to hear your songs covered by other artists?

I’m always amazed and surprised by fans and other bands that play our songs. One time I was at a restaurant and they had karaoke there. I looked and my song was in the list of potential songs. I thought it would be funny to get up and sing my own song. (Laughs)


Tell us about a memorable moment on stage.
I remember on one of my birthdays, we got to play at the Grand Ole Opry. There were all sorts of awesome musicians walking around backstage. I don’t think they quite knew how to take our unique sound and performance, but it was great to perform on such a legendary stage.


Top 5 Musicians or Songwriters who inspired you to become a musician?

Dave Matthews Band

Bruce Springsteen

Lyle Lovett

New Grass Revival

Ted Shupe—my Dad


What instruments/equipment—that helps you write/record/perform— can you not live without?

I love writing on a bunch of different instruments. I think the variety keeps the creative juices flowing. But I have to say, I have a great Taylor guitar that I love. I also have a vintage Guild guitar that has a cool sound, and an old authentic Mexican classical guitar that has a great vibe. I have a Flatiron mandolin that is super solid, and a great Deering banjo. My fiddle and piano have been in our family for a long time. I’m not sure where they come from, but they sound great. I string up everything I can with Elixir Strings. I love the way they feel and sound.

Credit Robin Sayville

Credit Robin Sayville


Any musicians or songwriters you’d love to work with in the future?

There is a lot of great music out there—the Avett Brothers, Twenty One Pilots, Ed Sheeran. And there are a lot of great artists I’d love to collaborate with.


What PRO are you with, and how do they help a songwriter/artist you?

BMI. Good question! (Laughs) Well, I know they collect money for performances. And, they offer showcases and help connect the dots of a music career.


What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?

Oh man, that’s a tough question. There have been a lot of great albums. Music keeps evolving, and so it’s natural for my taste in music to evolve as well.

Born in the U.S.A. (1984) – Bruce Springsteen. Great album back in the day—my buddies and I listened to it all the time.

Back in Black (1980) – AC/DC. Was always a great album to blast out on the way to snowboarding.

Under the Table and Dreaming (1994) – Dave Matthews Band. Loved that they were combining some not so typical instruments with jam rock—totally loved it.

Document (1987) – R.E.M. They had many great albums.

Graceland (1986) – Paul Simon. The way he used rhythms and different styles of music was incredible and amazing.



“Dream Big” is such a beautiful, inspirational anthem for musicians, sports figures, students, people in poverty stricken areas and just life in general. What sparked the idea?

I read a quote that one of my friends sent me—and a part of it inspired me. I grabbed a guitar and wrote “Dream Big” in about 30 minutes. I just love that it is a simple song with such a powerful message. It definitely has a spirit about it that resonates with a lot of people. We get letters and emails from people all over the world that have told us that “Dream Big” has helped them get through a hard time—and that is really awesome.


This song can be an anthem for charities/organizations that help people around the world.

I think “Dream Big” has a lot of potential, and I hope that we can find many great ways for it to be involved in worthwhile charities and organizations. It has been used in a lot of videos and commercials, and continues to inspire people. Also, we’ve randomly discovered that “Dream Big” is huge in Ghana, Africa. (Laughs)

credit Robin Sayville

credit Robin Sayville

Best advice someone has given you.

Dream big! (Laughs) Actually, I’ve heard a lot of great quotes and advice. However, I think “You can’t make everyone happy” is a good one. Because, it’s important to remember as a musician that you need to make music that you like. If you love it, people will see your passion and gravitate toward what you are doing.


What’s next?

We are always touring. This year we have been performing at festivals, venues and concert series events in AZ, ID, UT, WY, CO, WA, OR, VA—and we always have more gigs coming. I love performing. I am always fleshing out song ideas and thinking of future projects. It’s important to keep coming up with new ideas. That’s what pushes me as a musician and songwriter.


Where can your new fans get more info and stay updated?

Check out “Just Say Yes” video posted on 4/1/16 on

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