Country music has seen numerous newcomers burst into the scene over the past year. But, none have been able to blend country, pop, folk, indie and even rock quite like emerging band, BEXAR.
Comprised of Texas native Chris Ryan and Kentucky native Logan turner, the band are bringing a fresh, genre-blurring sound to country music on their aptly titled Warner Music Nashville debut EP, Pronounced BEAR. Out now, the anthemic, high-energy six-track set perfectly melds the signature sounds of BEXAR’s collective musical influences, such as The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Keith Urban, The Lumineers, Sam Hunt, and Avicii.
Pronounced BEAR opens with “Carry You Home” and “Again,” two ebullient, up-tempo songs that introduce listeners to the band’s unmistakable sound. Mixing honest storytelling and an anthemic production, “Key To Life” follows as a timely reminder to be contented with life’s simplest things.
While an anthemic sound is the focus of this EP, listeners also get a glimpse of BEXAR’s more tender side. A heart-rending ballad, “Be Good To Her” is a mini relationship guide about treating one’s lady right. “Gotta hold her tight, gotta let her breathe / Make sure she knows she shines like gold / Be good to her and treat her right / Four little words, be good to her,” they sing in the romantic ode.
Sounds Like Nashville spoke with BEXAR recently about their influences, meeting each other, signing with Warner Music Nashville, and of course, their hit-ready Pronounced BEAR EP.
Introducing one of SLN’s 2021 Artists To Watch and the next promising new act you have to “get to know”: BEXAR
SLN: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Chris and Logan! Let’s take it from the top. How did y’all get into music?
Chris Ryan: My dad was a bassist, so I grew up around [music]. I played some gigs when I was younger and once I got into college, I gigged up and down the bars on Sixth Street in Austin. And then found my way out here [to Nashville] and found the love of my life in Logan. (laughs)
Logan Turner: I started playing guitar after I heard John Mayer. He was the reason why I wanted to play guitar in high school when I was 16, and then I fell into writing songs after that. I wrote songs for myself all through college. I ended up moving to Nashville in 2015, got a publishing deal pretty quick after that, and then I met Chris and it’s been pretty good after that.
Logan, I know you play the Banjo in the group. How did you end up picking that instrument up? Was it something you got into just growing up in Kentucky?
LT: I do! It’s funny, I started on the guitar first, so it’s not like I started at the foothills or anything. But [the] banjo is a story instrument in Kentucky, for sure. I listened to guys like Earl Scruggs and J.D. Crowe and watched how guys like Winston Marshall from Mumford & Sons [play the banjo]. […] For me, it’s figuring out the ways to play it to actually incorporate it in songwriting and songs to where it actually has some practical use to be able to write that song and use it in that, and not just show off playing licks and stuff like that.
Who would y’all cite as your collective musical influences as a band?
LT: Mumford & Sons were definitely a big one. Avicii and The Lumineers were big influences as well. Keith Urban, Sam Hunt, and even guys like Coldplay- guys that really had that anthemic sound. We really want to try to play to [the] anthemic thing, especially when we’re playing in small venues. We want to make it very communal.
How did the two of you end up crossing paths? I read that it happened in an anonymous writing room at CMA Fest?
CR: Logan and I got set up on a write I think because he had a similar approach to songwriting. I was a solo artist trying to find my foot here in Nashville and always wanted to bring something out of the box. The first song we wrote was called “Handmade,” which is on our first EP. I would say that’s the song that ended up getting us our record deal. It was a few months after our first write that he and I were just hanging out at that CMA Fest you’re probably referencing. After our first write, we both dove in to see what we could come up with ourselves. It just seemed like the right pairing. So I asked Logan to be in the band and I was lucky that he said yes.
Speaking of record deals, how did y’all end up signing with Warner Music Nashville in 2019?
LT: We were taking label meetings around town, and Rohan Kohli (Director/A&R, Warner Music Nashville) somehow found my phone number, texted me and asked me to come to the office to play for them. It was a very old-school way of getting a record deal. We hadn’t really played any shows yet, we had some streaming success but not a ton of crazy numbers. It was still super early on. We just went in to play for him the songs Chris and I had literally written in my old 700 square foot house in Sylvan Park in Nashville. We sat there, sang it for them, and they offered us a record deal a week or two later.
Was it difficult to have to hit pause on your music career just as you signed a label deal because of the quarantine of 2020?
LT: It was difficult, but I wouldn’t necessarily change it. It was difficult for everyone. For us, we were lucky in that we hadn’t released a song to radio and [experienced] not being able to promote it or something like that. So that gave us time with our team to try to put something together to figure out where to put our best foot forward.
CR: It was a lot of time for us to grow what we wanted to do in a live show coming out of [the pandemic]. People are itching to hear songs live now. We’re seeing that energy and being able to give that back to fans right now is awesome.
You guys launched onto the scene as a brand new signed act with “Again.” Would you talk about that song, which y’all co-wrote with your producer Ross Copperman?
LT: We felt “Again” was pretty all-encompassing of our sound. It had that storytelling element we love to include in our songs but also hit on all the influences and inspirations that we had when we were thinking about forming this and how we wanted it to sound. It’s got that Texas flavor with what Chris brings, and in the vocal and storytelling, it has that Kentucky-bluegrass side of it as well. It felt like the obvious choice to come out of the gate and make a statement, for sure.
How did you guys end up enlisting Ross Copperman as the producer for this EP?
LT: I actually signed with Ross when I got into town. He was my publisher. He started a company with Keith Urban and Joe Fisher and they signed me in 2016. Joe was the one that eventually introduced me to Chris. I have had a good, long working relationship with Ross. He’s been like a mentor to me since I got to town. It’s super cool and full-circle that we got to work with him on this project and we’re getting ready to go out on the road and open for Keith in Las Vegas in September.
Was there a vision y’all had in mind while piecing together this debut EP?
LT: I think the live show is definitely a big part of it. Especially for this project, we sat down to meticulously craft these [songs]. We know when we have an idea that we want to take in. We’re not the kind of guys that go in to write 500 or 400 songs for a project and just pick the best ten. We have an intense focus from the get-go from crafting it to what we want it to be.
Speaking of uplifting, Chris, you co-wrote “Key To Life” with hit songsmiths Barry Dean and Luke Laird. What was the inspiration behind this track?
CR: “Key To Life” was a title I brought up to Logan. It just seemed like the right day to write that song just because Barry Dean and Luke Laird are such a force in the industry here in Nashville and probably throughout the whole music industry. It was just something I had been thinking about. It’s pretty autobiographical and it’s close to me and my story here in town.
Of course, no collection is complete with a ballad, and there is one on this EP called “Be Good to Her.” What made y’all wanna include this tender track along with the other more upbeat songs?
LT: It felt like it was a good break. Everything we had done was intentionally for the live show. When we’re out playing, we always said we don’t want to give someone a reason to go grab a beer in the middle of our set. So, we try to keep the energy up super high. But “Be Good to Her” is a song that has done relatively well on social media and has gotten us a lot of fans. So we wanted to take this song and breathe a new life into it. It definitely serves a good purpose on the EP, for sure.
We have to talk about your opening slot for Keith Urban’s Vegas Residency coming up. What a full-circle, almost dream come true kind of moment. How did that happen?
LT: For sure, one hundred percent it’s definitely a dream come true. He’s a guy that we look up to, and he’s one of the guys that got me into country music. It all is due to the great team we have around us that believes in us even in this early [stage] of our career. I think that through our agent, CAA, and our management, they got our music to Keith and he heard it and he picked us from a list of acts he had the choice of. We’re super honored that he asked us to come out there and open for him.
What else can fans expect next from BEXAR?
LT: We’re going to be playing some more shows and definitely going to be on the road through the end of the year. At least that’s the plan for now. And hopefully, we’ll have a song going to country radio soon!
To wrap this up, what do you want listeners and new fans to take away from listening to your debut EP?
LT: I want them to hopefully connect with the music and the lyrics, and I hope that it’s something people hear and want to come [to] see live. There’s not a dance that we can do and a video that we can make [to] turn a song into anything more than what it should be—[which is] just a good song with a good melody and good lyrics that make you want to connect with it live. If there’s anything [we] want people to take away from our EP, that would be it.