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Utah’s Ryan Innes is on NBC’s ‘Songland’ — the latest stop on a unique musical journey

‘I didn’t think (it) would catch anyone’s attention. But it did.’

Ryan Innes’ debut album “The Inbetween” comes out April 6 to pre-order customers and April 13 everywhere else.
Utah musician Ryan Innes is featured on the NBC show “Songland” on April 13, 2020.
Provided by Ryan Innes

SALT LAKE CITY — Making an album can be a real slog.

“It’s so much more stressful, and it’s so much more money upfront to create an album, and it takes longer,” Utah musician Ryan Innes told the Deseret News.

“So I was like, ‘You know what? I’m done having creative moments and not being able to share those until a year and a half later.’”

Innes started a new approach last summer, releasing individual songs every month instead. And it’s paying off: Innes will be featured on the season premiere of NBC’s music reality show “Songland” April 13, where he pitches a song to country music group Lady Antebellum. That appearance was a direct result of Innes’ monthly song releases.

Innes’ musical journey has taken him from Brigham Young University’s music program to NBC’s “The Voice” in 2013, then a debut solo album in 2018. Through it all, Innes has played a ton of concerts and corporate gigs, and licensed songs to other artists. A casting director for “Songland” contacted Innes last October after noticing the slew of singles Innes had been releasing. From there, Innes submitted a dozen or so tunes to the “Songland” producers. They picked a song he’d written five years ago with Utah music alum Dustin Christensen (who had also been on “The Voice”).

“And I happened to just submit a demo — like, literally a voice memo — with him on piano and me singing right next to him,” Innes recalled. “So it was really something that I didn’t think would catch anyone’s attention. But it did.”

Innes said he was surprised Lady Antebellum specifically took interest. (The show features a variety of big-time musicians like Charlie Puth, Leona Lewis and Usher.) Over the years Innes has become known primarily as a soul/R&B singer. That’s not exactly Lady Antebellum’s wheelhouse. On tonight’s “Songland” episode, the song goes through a transformation of sorts, Innes said.

“There was a bridge that we had to gap,” he said. “There was definitely a need to amp that up into something more mainstream, and something that would sit well with their fan base, and something that would catch people more on an energetic side, not just good songwriting and melody and lyrics.”

When he first met with the show’s producers, they told him “Songland” was intended as a love letter to songwriters, Innes said. “Songland,” they hoped, would teach people what goes on behind the scenes with the artists that people love. A lot of pop stars don’t write their own songs. And many pop stars started their careers writing songs for other people.

“Personally, it was really nice to have a little light shined on what I do besides singing,” Innes said. “Just putting out music and being creative, and sharing it as it’s happening, rather than waiting forever, has been so much more beneficial and satisfying for me.”