It used to be easy to imagine singer/ songwriter Ryan Lawson as a Charlie Brown type: sweet and sincere, but always a little melancholy with life dumping on him at the worst moments. Naturally, that fed into his music, but as things have turned around, he’s smiling a whole lot more.
“A lot of people make fun of the fact that a lot of my songs are sad. It’s pretty depressing topics, I guess, but you can only go with the sad-sack thing for so long, though, and I think I’ve beat that dead horse enough,” Lawson said. “At the time, I was writing the more depressing stuff, that’s how I felt. Now, I’ve kind of changed. I don’t feel that way much anymore.”
He has plenty of reasons to be happy. Lawson is one of the best and brightest Oklahoma musicians surging at the moment. It was a struggle to get there, however.
The Choctaw-based performer started playing gigs around the time he started college, but things weren’t moving as fast as he thought he deserved. “I was playing a lot of shows, but had an attitude about it,” Lawson said. “I was expecting people to come to me to ask to do shows. That was hubris on my part. When it didn’t happen, I got really discouraged and decided I was just going to quit playing live. I took a break for a long time.”
I’ve beat that dead horse enough.
Although he never quit writing, he stopped performing for several years. Then he noticed how hard local musicians he admired (Ali Harter, Samantha Crain and others) worked to get where they were and to stay there.
“I realized, a) how stupid it was of me to quit in the first place, and b) to have thought that I was good enough for people to be coming to me like that,” Lawson said. “All the people I looked at that didn’t give up like I did, I knew they put in their time and I didn’t. I committed myself to working as hard as they do. That’s what I did, and I’m still doing it to this day.”
It’s certainly paid off. The last year has seen a major boom in his popularity around the metro, including winning an Oklahoma Gazette Woody Award for Best Emerging Artist.
He’s currently eyeing his third release in two years, a countrified effort that stretches him past his singer/songwriter roots. It’s Lawson’s most upbeat work to date, showcasing home-state pride.
“I like to represent. I’d like to believe my music has an Oklahoma sound to it,” he said. “It would be nice if one day, people hear one of my songs and go, ‘That’s Oklahoma music.’”