At the age of 21, Wood River native Ryan Bertels moved to Nashville to chase his dream of being a musician. Bertels is celebrating his first CD release as Ryan Rivers.
With his new release, “Redneck Undercover,” Wood River native Ryan Bertels proves country is a state of mind, not just where you were raised.
“Growing up in a small town and all fits very well for a country song,” Bertels, who records and performs under his stage name, Ryan Rivers, said. “Coming from being the Friday-night-bonfire-guitar-playing-singing-hero in the parking lot of (the Wood River) Walmart with 50 buddies standing around to a Nashville recording artist is a big deal, I guess.”
That it is. At the age of 21, Bertels moved to Nashville to chase his dream with little more than the clothes on his back. Now 25, he is celebrating his first CD release as Ryan Rivers.
“He told us in July of 2009 that he was moving to Nashville to make an attempt at the music business and packed and left within just a few days time,” his mother, Sherry Myers, said. “I fully expected to see him back within a couple of weeks, but he stuck it out. He did call home for money and we had pizza delivered to him a couple of times in the first few months, but other than that he has somehow made it all work and loves every minute.”
“Redneck Undercover” is upbeat, pop-tinged country twang (think Chris Cagle) more at home in a rowdy bar with sawdust on the floor than an upscale, well-dressed affair. He does slow things down a bit with “I Won’t Blame You” and “Take Me Back,” two odes to lost love.
“Music has always been a huge part of my life, starting from a very young age,” Ryan said. “My parents have always listened to country music and it’s helped me through the good and bad times in life.”
Ryan’s parents, Brad and Sherry Myers of Wood River, filled the house with the sounds of Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Conway Twitty, setting the scene for Ryan’s career. He acquired his first guitar at the age of 9 and picked it up, catching the fever, at age 14.
“At that point, I just wanted to learn to play and sing every song I ever heard,” he said, laughing.
Relocating to Nashville has offered the young singer and songwriter opportunities hard to come by at home, including connections in the music business as well as rubbing elbows with the stars who were his inspiration.
“It has been an exciting ride,” he said. “A group I played with opened up for Easton Corbin in Ocala, Fla., to a few thousand people. That was breathtaking for me.
“I also played in California, opening for The Farm and Mark Wills and got to sit and chat and hang out with all of them after the show. I was able to learn a lot about the music business and made some lifelong friends.”
Bertels credits a strong family unit, including his two sisters in the Greater Alton area and his wife and baby daughter, with keeping him grounded and focused.
“I have the most amazing wife and best friend in the whole world and my beautiful baby girl is my world,” he says. “I used to want to be famous just to be famous and now, it’s more a passion for what I love and supporting my family more than anything.”
The rising star hopes to return soon and play for the family and friends who have been so supportive over the years.
“Wood River will always be home,” Ryan said. “I had big dreams in a small town and I’m doing my best to make everyone back home proud.”
To learn more about Ryan Rivers and purchase his CD, visit his Facebook page or Twitter account at ryanriversmusic.