Ryan Culwell touring behind ‘The Last American,’ has a new video for title track
Texas singer/songwriter Ryan Culwell let three years pass since his last album, the raw, rustic Flatlands, and the way he tells it, he was reluctant to make another album. But he was coaxed back into the studio by his friends Megan McCormick (of Conor Oberst and Jenny Lewis’ bands) and Ethan Ballinger, and eventually producer and longtime collaborator Neilson Hubbard was brought in, and they came out with the new album The Last American (out now on Missing Piece Records). It’s a cleaner, bigger sounding album than its predecessor that begins with the atmospheric heartland rock of “Can You Hear Me,” which pays tribute to Eric Garner. “They’re saying, what are you going to do when they come for your guns? And I’m like, well – you know, when the government comes for you, you better have a way to stand up. And my response is like, they’re already coming for people. You know, and we’re just sitting and watching – you know, as kind of like middle-class, white America going like, well, this is Eric Garner guy, if he hadn’t been breaking the law. And it’s like man, I break the law worse than that three times a week. Nobody’s trying to kill me,” Ryan told NPR.
From there, the album touches on melancholic country-folk, upbeat country rock, blues, and more, before ending with a twangy, soulful piano ballad (“Tie My Pillow To A Tree”). It’s the kind of album that could appeal to fans of The War On Drugs as much as fans of Chris Stapleton as much as fans of Lucero. We’re premiering the video for the title track, a dose of serene Americana where Ryan’s everyman lyrical style is on display. With lines like “I got my old man’s heart and a broke-down Chevrolet,” he’s understandably gotten Springsteen comparisons, and actually he talked to NPR about that too:
I have been [compared to Springsteen], and it’s very kind of people to say things like that. But somebody actually said about Springsteen – Springsteen has always been trying to find space between the American dream and actual real Americans. And I feel like maybe what I’m doing is finding the space between who I want to be and who I am. I’ve spent a lot of time holding up opposing ideas – things that I love – America – also things that I’m really angry at and frustrated with – America – and trying to reconcile those. And it’s not unlike raising kids, right? I mean, I’ve got four daughters. And you love them. And you’re also like, you are really driving me crazy (laughter).
As for the video, Ryan tells us:
Just like the album cover, we shot the video for ‘The Last American’ in my front yard. Neilson Hubbard and Joshua Britt pointed a couple of cameras at me and we took two takes. Then my daughters ran around with some sparklers we had left over from the 4th of July. No lights, no tricks, just my life washed under the giant waves of the flag. We probably looked a little strange to the neighbors, but it beats the hell out of going to a studio and dressing up in someone else’s clothes.
The recording isn’t much different, we give it to you pretty straight and I feel like it connects for that reason. I’ve only recently started playing this song out live and people have been coming up and telling stories about their parents and grandparents, a lot of them gone from this world. It’s been a real blessing to feel connected to people in that way and to help them feel that connection a little more. That’s something worth fighting for, but you have to be vulnerable to enjoy it. You have to sort of get naked in front of someone and then maybe they’ll trust you enough to do the same. That’s been the idea behind the video and song. I’ve got no gimmicks, this is my life, you either believe me or you don’t. I’m ok with either.
Watch the new video and stream the full album below.
Ryan is also on tour now opening for long-running Nashville artist Will Hoge, who is supporting his political new album My American Dream (which makes for a thematically good pairing with Ryan’s album). The tour has a NYC show coming up on Sunday (9/23) at City Winery (tickets). All dates are listed below.
Ryan Culwell — 2018 Tour Dates
9/18: Washington, DC – City Winery #
9/19: Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live #
9/20: Pawling, NY – Daryl’s House #
9/21: Boston, MA – City Winery #
9/22: Fairfield, CT – Stage One #
9/23: New York, NY – City Winery #
9/25: Pittsburgh, PA – Club Cafe #
9/26: Columbus, OH – Rumba #
9/27: Akron, OH – Musica #
9/28: Evanston, IL – SPACE #
9/29: Evanston, IL – SPACE #
9/30: St. Paul, MN – Turf Club #
10/16: Washington, DC – Hill Country DC ^
10/18: Columbia, MD – The Soundry ^
10/19: New York, NY – Hill Country NYC ^
11/1: Tulsa, OK – Shrine #
11/2: St. Louis, MO – Off Broadway #
11/3: Louisville, KY – Zanzabar #
11/7: Charlotte, NC – Visulite #
11/8: Atlanta, GA – City Winery #
11/9: Charleston, SC – Pour House #
11/10: Raleigh, NC – Lincoln Theatre #
# – with Will Hoge
^ – with Patrick Sweany