Valley country-rock musician Ryan Sims is the kind of guy who keeps his friends close and his former band mates closer.
Sims, the former “X Factor” star and founding member of the critically acclaimed band EastonAshe, will debut his first self-titled album with a release party on Jan. 11, at Harold’s Corral in Cave Creek.
The party starts with an EastonAshe reunion show. Sims will then perform his newly-released solo album. The night will conclude with an all-star set featuring Sims, EastonAshe and other well-known Arizona musicians.
Sims recently returned from Nashville and talked with GetOut.
Q: What was that one moment that sparked you, where you told yourself, ‘This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life?’
RS: I’ve played guitar and written music since the age of 10, but what really hooked me was when I first moved here. I was a bus boy at Harold’s Cave Creek Saloon, and I was in there every Friday and Saturday night watching these excellent country bands like Mogollon and Young Country. I was supposed to be clearing away beer bottles on the tables, but whenever those bands played, I’d hide under a booth and watch them do their thing and soak it all in. I was a terrible bus boy, but it was good for me to see there were options in being a musician.
Q: Your first band, Easton Ashe, performed 300 shows a year and opened for national acts like the Doobie Brothers, Collective Soul, Life House, Marshall Tucker, George Thorogood and Counting Crows. What did you learn from them?
RS: The main thing I learned is that this industry is not just about the music. You have to possess a larger-than-life persona, and at the same time you have to come across as a genuine person. You can be a wonderful musician, but you can’t fake your personality. People only buy into someone who’s 100 percent genuine.
Q: How did you end up on Fox’s ‘X Factor’ in 2011?
RS: Out of the blue, I received this phone call from Brett Michaels. I have fans who are friends of his, but I never met him. It was surreal when I answered the phone, and it was just like in the movies. He said, ‘Hi Ryan, Brett Michaels.’ I replied, ‘Yeah right, Brett Michaels.’ After he finally convinced me he was Brett Michaels, it turned out he was calling out of the goodness of his heart to encourage me. He said he had taken a listen to some of my songs and enjoyed them. So while I had him on the phone, I wasn’t going to let him get away so easily and (I) asked him what I could do to further my career. I didn’t want to move to Los Angeles or Nashville, so he recommended that I tryout for a TV show called ‘X Factor.’ That day I bought a plane ticket to Seattle because that’s where the auditions were held that week. I tried out, made the show and did very well. More than 2,000 people tried out, and I made it to one of the final rounds.
Q: Let’s talk about your new album, ‘Ryan Sims,’ which was mostly recorded in Nashville.
RS: There are 10 songs on this record, which is country. I hired the best session players in Nashville and spent a huge amount of money on the production because I didn’t want this to sound like a small production. I wanted it to sound like something you’d hear on the radio, and it does. I actually started this record four years ago. I went through three producers and three studios. It was actually the best and worst experience of my life. I ran into all the clichés and problems you could think of – producers who stole money and producers with substance abuse problems who couldn’t get their act together long enough to finish the project. I went through several investors and recorded in three different states. It was a nightmare, but ... I’m so proud of the end product. I never went to college, but this record was definitely my education in the business.
IF YOU GO
What: Ryan Sims album release party and concert
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11
Where: Harold’s Corral, 6895 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek
Cost: Tickets are on sale now for $25 at Ticketmaster.com, or $30 at the door. Ticket prices include a CD of “Ryan Sims.”
Information: (480) 488-1906 or Ticketmaster.com