Ryan Stevenson: "I donít want to be afraid to let people see whatís behind my curtains. I hope to be a voice that can bring truth and life to any hard situation."
Born and raised in a small, farming community in Oregon, Ryan Stevenson is not your typical small town guy. This former teacher/ paramedic has shared the stage with some renowned Christian artists like Newsboys, Group 1 Crew and Third Day.
The sound of his debut EP, Yesterday Today Forever, is one that cannot be ignored. Ryan’s lyrical creativity and style is both refreshing and original. Not only is Ryan an all around talented artist, he is also a man of great integrity.
Ryan currently resides in Boise, Idaho with his wife and son where he also serves as the worship leader in his local church.
NewReleaseTuesday.com caught up with Ryan Stevenson at Meridian Assembly of God, in Meridian, Idaho, where he recently had a concert to talk about his beginnings and how he wants to continue to shape his music ministry.
How old were you when God called you into full time ministry? What compelled you to say, "Yes?"
I grew up playing the drums. When I was 18, I got my first guitar. I started playing in college. My neighbor across the hallway was a guy named Paul Wright. We just hit it off and became really good friends. That was probably when I felt more of a call and a passion to do music.
What compelled me? You know, I could never rest. It’s weird. I remember when I was a little kid and I heard a Petra praise tape. It did something, you know? It ignited this piece of my heart inside of me that I couldn’t ignore. I remember going through my life always having this area--this passion that resonated with praise music. I didn’t really understand it, I just knew that it was there, and it made sense. I grew up listening to Pop music. I love Top 40 pop music. But my heart has always been for worship.
Over the last few years, I have heard the Lord speak to me about walking forward in what He’s called me to do. He tells me, “Don’t be afraid to risk. Don’t be afraid to do different things.” God blesses what He wants. I never had any peace when I would think about getting out of the ministry.
It is hard to be a worship leader and to be on the stage. You get shot at a lot. You are on the front line of a battlefield. Whenever I feel like it’s too hard, or that I want to get out, the Holy Spirit will tug on my heart and say, “Just stay, I will sustain you.”
You said that you love pop music. Has becoming a “secular” artist ever been a temptation for you?
I don’t know if it’s a temptation. A lot of people have started off in Christian music and have crossed over to secular music. I don’t have a problem with that, if that’s what they want to do. For me, I just believe in God’s power and I want Him to be completely glorified and blessed in what I’m doing 100 percent. I have just seen His power activated in things that are pure, honest and true. Not to say that secular music doesn’t have any truth. Some of the most real, raw and truthful music have been non-Christian songs.
For me, I think that there is power and merit in me personally staying true to overtly Christian songs that really do speak life and hope. I could probably just start writing music that talks about faith--faith based songs,and they wouldn’t say the name Jesus at all. I’m sure that they could probably provoke a lot of thoughts in people. Maybe even move some hearts. But I really have a passion to ignite the church, not the world. I really believe that when the church is fired up and ignited, it will affect the world. The church is the hope of the world.
I heard an interesting story about how your EP was made. Can you tell us about that?
Sure! I have really learned to never despise the things that feel mundane to us. The seasons where we feel like we are going nowhere. Before I was in music full time, I was a full time paramedic for 7 years, here in Boise, Idaho. God used that job to really break my heart and to give me a sensitivity for life and for people who are hurting. One incident in particular that has changed my life, was when I had responded to a call for a lady who got struck in the head by lightening. I was one of the paramedics who helped revive her. Several months later we met up at a breakfast that the county put on. It was like a “meet your hero” type event. We really hit it off, and she said to me, “If there is anything that I could ever do to help you, don’t hesitate to ask.” Obviously I was never going to ask her to do anything, I don’t do that, I was just doing my job. But about a year later I was approached by some people who had said that they wanted to help me with recording some music. I had just won the Idaho state Battle of the Bands. The grand prize was money and studio time. So I already had my foot in the door with recording a record but I was short on some cash to finish the project.
In the back of my mind I remembered what that woman had said to me, a year before, at the county breakfast. I was hesitant, but I called her one day out of the blue and said, “This is gut wrenching and embarrassing but would you be interested in helping me make a record? This is how much I have, this is what’s going on, etc. If you are interested in helping me, that’s great, if you’re not, I love you just the same.”
She didn’t even ask questions, she just gave me the money. That EP is what got me my management deal and my first record deal. It’s was brought me into the season that I’m in now.
Looking back on the last few years I have questioned God so many times. He knew my passions, but I felt like I was stuck as a paramedic. I knew that there was more but I couldn’t quite seem to get there. It really validates the scripture that talks about how His ways are not ours, they’re much higher. I’ve learned to never question Him. He knows what He’s doing. When you really believe God and trust him with your life, He takes you on the most bazaar journey. He takes things out of nowhere and does the impossible. That’s why it is so exciting to follow Him.
Which one of your songs do you connect with the most? Why?
“In the Sun” is really the center point of this whole project and this ministry. It is birthed out of a season where I just lost my mom. My mom died 2 years ago to bone cancer. When she died I just hit a wall. I really remember just emotionally spinning out of control and having crazy thoughts. Every ounce of insecurity and identity issues that I had stuffed in my life, came boiling to the surface. I had no idea why, I couldn’t control it. I would find myself sobbing all day. My mom and I were best friends. I am the only son; I’m the baby of the family. She was only 57 years old. I still felt like a kid. I still needed her. She was the one who really nurtured my music and she was the one who always prayed for me. I knew that the Lord was going to take her, but as much as you prepare for it, it never ends up being like you thought it would be. The images of your mom being wheeled out in a casket just get stuck in your mind and they linger there. I wrote “In the Sun” out of that emotion and out of that chaos. I knew that God couldn’t do what He wanted to do in me unless I was at the end of myself. That’s really how I want my ministry to be. I don’t want to be afraid to let people see what’s behind my curtains. I hope to be a voice that can bring truth and life to any hard situation. “In the Sun” really carries that message.
Life on the road can be tough, do you have people who can keep you accountable?
Totally! And as I get older, I find myself wanting that accountability circle to be a little tighter. You know what I mean? I’ve spent most of my life spreading myself too thin. It’s important to be transparent and real. But you have to be wise when it comes to telling people the most intimate details about your life. They have to be people who genuinely care about your destiny and who care about your well being. Staying accountable is just as necessary at home as it is on the road.
How do you maintain your relationship with the Lord when you are touring?
You have to force yourself to maintain it. You get into a routine of staying up late, trying to sleep, packing up, going to the next destination, etc. I find myself having to get away from everyone. I force myself to become isolated. I get completely alone with the God. Whether I am listening to worship music, reading my Bible, or praying, I just allow my mind to become washed by His Word. What goes into your heart is going to come out of your heart. I want to be sustained, but I also want to be able to pour out. So it is extremely important to stay filled.
Posted January 16, 2012 | Promise Joy is a worship leader and recording artist from Boise, Idaho. She serves as a guest writer and interviewer for NRT.