Ryan Crowley is a pop singer/songwriter in the sense that he writes listenable, accessible songs with catchy melodies and lyrics that embrace universal topics. What stands out about his debut solo album, Find My Way — released independently earlier this year — is its writer’s versatility when it comes to adding instrumentation like strings or horns; his voice pairs well with whatever direction the music goes.
Secondly, Find My Way is impeccably produced for a first album, which Crowley did himself along with manager Chris McGuire of Valience Music. Granted, it’s not hard to find a decent producer around Murfreesboro, but still, most first records are typically rougher around the edges than this.
Ryan Crowley took up guitar when he was 8, played in jazz band in high school and played and toured with other musicians for years while studying the recording industry at MTSU. He learned to love music from his father, who he says taught him that there was no point to playing music if you don’t put your soul into it. That applies in more ways than one to Find My Way, whose 13 tracks are sung in earnest and peppered with the soul genre throughout, primarily through emotive backing vocals, like on “Hold Your Head Higher.”
Find My Way consistently sticks with an easy tempo, an uplifting and empowering timbre and Crowley’s lyrics, which always veer toward the hopeful and the idealistic (on “Sunday Morning,” a polished, blues-tinged number, Crowley still manages to paint his woes in a sunny color). A string section is tastefully employed on tracks like “Lay Me Down Easy” and “The Best of Me”; Crowley’s mixture of pretty pop tunes with hints of soul and strings is reminiscent of John Mayer, although Crowley’s best work is probably his most down and out. “City Apartments” begins with a line about ladybugs dead in the window of an apartment, and Crowley sings I’m not in love/But I shouldn’t complain, bringing to mind the sort of one-bedroom-apartment-in-the-middle-of-winter blues of Ryan Adams’ “Hotel Chelsea Nights” from Love Is Hell.