Born and raised in the Texas panhandle, it makes sense that Ryan Culwell would come from a region that juts out in stark plaintiveness from the rest of the state.
The gritty, often bleak poetry of the landscape - with its steady prevailing winds and dust storms – is brought to life in the brooding guitars and the no holds barred gut-punch delivery of his songs. Like a misfit poet of a misunderstood America; he sees too much, and feels too deeply, about the world he grew up in, not to try to make sense of it by singing about it.
In his new song, ‘Wild Sometimes’, he wraps his panhandle poetic sensibilities around a true life coming of age mini-drama.
"When I was a boy my family went to a little church in Perryton, Texas”, Ryan recounted to us, explaining the inspiration behind the song. “Occasionally the preacher would get a little long winded and some of us kids would slip out the back door to play hide n go seek. One revelatory night I was hiding in the alley with the preachers daughter and I guess we hid a little too well cause nobody found us. After a while we looked up and saw a great light and could hear a deep voice calling our names. Afraid, we comforted each other with a kiss until the flashlight wielding preacher happened upon us kneeling behind the dumpster."
Listen to ‘Wild Sometimes’ below, premiering exclusively on Holler.
Culwell's 2015 debut, Flatlands, was a stark meditation on the forgotten emptiness of the landscape he grew up in, and his 2018 follow-up, The Last American, painted a heavy, unflinching portrait of working class life in a country that doesn’t give a damn who it leaves behind.
“That first record was me setting my gaze on where I come from, and the second one was me setting my gaze on the country as a whole. This time around, though, I wanted to take a closer look at myself", says Culwell, reflecting on his new album, Run Like A Bull.
His music has earned him dates with Patty Griffin, Billy Joe Shaver, Hayes Carll, Patrick Sweany, and Ashley Monroe among others, alongside a full calendar of his own headline shows around the country and millions of streams across platforms.
In stark contrast to his approach on The Last American, which was recorded over the course of more than a year of deliberate layering and experimentation, Culwell cut the entirety of Run Like A Bull in just four days. He relied on honest, intuitive performances from his all-star bandmates - including Juan Solorzano, Kris Donegan, and Will Kimbrough, along with guest vocalists Natalie Schlabs, Betsy Phillips, and Caroline Spence - and spare, unfussy production from Neilson Hubbard.
“The things that are gonna save you are gonna kill you, too,” says Ryan Culwell. “I think a big part of growing up is figuring out how to manage that energy, figuring out how high to keep your fist.”
It’s a paradox that Culwell finds himself wrestling with frequently on Run Like A Bull. The collection is raw and magnetic, cutting close to the bone as it searches for a middle ground between release and restraint, impulse and inhibition, recklessness and responsibility.
Run Like A Bull is out via Missing Piece Records on January 28th.