In his debut album, Ryland, independent singer-songwriter Ryland Fisher mastered the challenging dichotomy of hopeless romantic and rebel spirit. Now, leading up to the release of his second album, Black Sheep, he’s solidifying his place in country music as someone who doesn’t follow the herd.
After moving to Nashville in 2017, Fisher’s songwriting chops landed him his first publishing deal within just a few months. Over the next few years, he wrote with music row greats like Leslie Satcher and Mando Saenz. His highest-charting co-write was on Stephanie Quayle’s playful, top-40 single, “Whatcha Drinkin ‘Bout,” but Fisher isn’t one to pursue a dream without a plan, which meant he kept a day job and went to co-writing sessions at night. While many songwriters have the luxury of an 11 am start time, Fisher didn’t start until after 5 pm and wrote into the early morning hours.
Writing hundreds of songs for a variety of country music artists gave him reps in many styles within the genre—a time for which he’s grateful. But it wasn’t long before he could no longer ignore the desire to put out his own music, his own way:
“I’m thankful for every song of mine that’s been recorded,” Fisher tells Sounds Like Nashville. “But I also write on topics that can be less fashionable in pop country. So after a few years of seeing some of my best stuff collect dust on the shelf, it became clear that if my catalog was really going to be heard, I’d have to be the one to get ears on it.”
His brand-new single, “Higher Ground,” is part of that catalog—and perhaps his most autobiographical song to date. Fisher says, “It’s about owning that freedom and the refusal to be coaxed into a nice, neat, little feel-good box. Or a traditional box or a generic box or a safe box for the sake of someone else.”
Lyrics like, “Some live and die by nine-to-five/But I ain’t tryin’ to just get by,” speak directly to Fisher’s uniqueness and “black sheep” mindset. But the mid-tempo, feel-good, not-gonna-change-for-you anthem is catchy enough to appeal to the masses. There’s a ’70s rock vibe on “Higher Ground” that’s reminiscent of The Eagles and Jackson Browne, with a hint of Eric Church.
“In many cases, whenever I would sing on my own demos,” he says, “some industry professionals around me would tell me they didn’t know what to do with them—because the songs seemed so personal to me. And they were. But the others that encouraged me to put them out anyway, gave me the confidence to just do it on my own. And now, I’m on a never-ending recording cycle.”
As the rebellious first single from his upcoming album (Black Sheep—out August 5), “Higher Ground” is proof Ryland Fisher is “doing just fine with his head in the clouds.”
Written by: Ryland Fisher, James Russell, James Heald
Produced by: James Russell, James Heald
Black Sheep produced by: Adam Shoenfeld