Indie Spotlight - Ryan Ellis
This month's Indie Spotlight features Ryan Ellis, an artist with some great music for the summer. You can turn the volume up and cruise with the windows down as you enjoy the summer heat.
When I first heard his songs, I was almost astonished to find out that he was a Christian. I legitimately thought Ryan was an up an comer from the secular music industry. While listening to the lyrics, however, it becomes clear that this man loves Jesus. Having spent most of my life listening to Christian music I have come to anticipate that songs be filled with certain sounds and Christian phrases. I'm sure you've probably noticed this as well. Ryan's music breaks from this norm and takes note from the culture around us. These songs just feel real, which is part of what attracted me to them in the first place.
Sounds Like: Waken, Urban Rescue, Isla Vista Worship
With his music laden with EDM beats, it is no surprise to find out that Ryan Ellis is a California boy. Growing up mostly in San Diego, Ryan was inspired to get into music by his mother. She encouraged him to get involved in music theater and dance. Home life wasn't easy, however. With his father leaving at a young age, home became a confusing place. Ryan had to figure out life for himself as it happened which ended up leading him down a path of drugs and rebellion against authority.
After leaving the house at 17 and spending a year drifting from couch to couch, Ryan needed a new start. What better way to conquer your issues with authority than by enlisting? God has a sense of humor. Ryan enlisted in the US Navy and served for 5 years. While there he filled his life with alcohol, sex, and partying.
"I was so empty in my heart and knew my life needed to change."
It was in the Navy that Ryan gave his life to Jesus. At this point in his life he hadn't talked to his mother in 2 years, but God did an interesting work in their relationship. While on active duty, Ryan's mother had remarried a Godly man and had given her life to Jesus as well. She soon reached out to Ryan and they began looking through the scriptures together. With their family healing, Ryan prayed to be stationed closer to his family. God definitely heard his prayer as Ryan was soon stationed at a base in Ventura just 15 minutes from where his family now lived.
Soon after moving closer to family, his estranged father got in contact. This was a big challenge to Ryan as he was still filled with hurt and bitterness. It was a big test of faith for him to let go and forgive his father. As their relationship healed, Ryan's father became a big supporter of his music. While he didn't quite understand the Gospel, Ryan's father told him that it was his purpose in life to make music about Jesus. In August of last year, Ryan's father gave his life to Jesus. How amazing it is to see brokenness turn to redemption and restoration in light of what Jesus did on the cross!
"I just know that my heart was created to sing for him. But [music career] never became a thing I pursued. I really just pursued Jesus."
It's cool to see how God has redeemed and changed Ryan's life, and by extension, how that impacts the way he engages with music. Prior to giving his life to Jesus, Ryan couldn't write a song to save his life, the material just wasn't there. But when God worked in his soul, not only did he have something to sing about, he had a reason to - worshiping God.
Ryan didn't immediately have his eye on producing records, or touring, or anything fancy. He started as a way to lead worship and even to outreach. Currently living in Isla Vista, his community encounters many young college students who consume their lives with drunken partying. The church saw an amazing opportunity to love and serve young adults while in their vulnerable state, and now actively goes out to feed students, make sure they get home safe, and on occasion clean them up. It was this ministry that inspired the styling of his music. He wanted to make songs the glorified God, but that would sound familiar to the students they are trying to reach.
Ryan is currently working on a new EP that I'm hoping we will get to hear by the end of the year.