San Antonio Music Awards 2014: J. Ryan

Best R&B Artist
Best Song (“Apology,” Second Place)
Best Album (‘Apology,’ Second Place)
Best Video (“No Happy Ending,” Second Place)
Most Underrated Artist (Third Place)

Though he’s from the crawling ’burbs of Stone Oak, J. Ryan hasn’t been spending too much time around San Antonio these days. Two years ago, after an impressive run on Fox’s The X Factor, the 15-year-old singer took the reins on this TV momentum, turning the national spotlight into a career launching point.

“I ended up making it to the top 40 in the boys category,” Ryan told the Current. “I got to hang with Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato and Kelly Rowland. After that it really kick-started my career, fan base-wise.”

Booted from the contest, that early taste encouraged Ryan to go all-in on his budding career. “When I got knocked out, it got me down a little bit,” Ryan said. “But at the end of the day it was motivating. Thousands of people auditioned for this show and to be able to make the top 40 was a dream come true. It was motivating to hear that Simon Cowell liked me, and that’s a huge accomplishment.”

In June, Ryan made his recording debut with the Apology EP. Through four tracks, Ryan sings of youthful ambition and the ins and outs of teenage love affairs. In the laser tag-themed video for “Your Friend,” Ryan recites a tale of falling for his girlfriend’s bestie under the light of infrared beams.

Presumably, on “Apology,” he’s apologizing for the aforementioned behavior. “I’ve got a pop, R&B feel with a little bit of rock influence,” said Ryan. “I would describe myself along the lines of Bruno Mars mixed with John Legend and a little bit of Usher.” 

In performance, Ryan is modeling himself in the well-tested mold of the teen pop entertainer, building from YouTube covers to mall and school tours, eventually making his way to the arena. In October, Ryan will headline the Teen Nation tour stop at the Charlotte Speedway prior to a NASCAR race at the 146,000-capacity stadium.

When fellow SA teen-popper Austin Mahone was in town this summer, he told Ryan how to prep for the next level. “When I met up with Austin, we talked about what it’s like touring and performing, ‘cause that’s the route I’m heading on,” said Ryan. “And he said once you get into the national spotlight, you have to watch everything you do and say, and every little move you make. It’s a big transition.” 

As a songwriter, Ryan’s priority is substance. “I admire the artists that can put on a show without having a big show,” said Ryan. “The artist that can get onstage with a guitar and a microphone and blow it out of the water. That’s the kind of artist I strive to be: an artist who has undeniable talent when it comes down to a stripped-down, regular, acoustic show.”

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