Local artist anticipates album release

Ryan Jewel, a country music singer and song writer, is a graduate of Skyline High School and Clemson University. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Country singer and songwriter Ryan Jewel, a Front Royal native, has been keeping busy with shows and songwriting and is looking forward to the next big chapter in his music career: releasing his first solo extended play (EP) CD and hearing his songs on the radio.

Jewel started playing regular shows while studying at Clemson University in South Carolina, having met a friend in the same courses and with the same musical interests, Andrew Beam. Within a week of their first jam session, Jewel said they had booked a local gig with a set list that didn’t even last an hour, but was still a hit.

“Ever since then … we started doing fraternity parties and functions and all that stuff and it just spread like wildfire, really,” he said.

Jewel moved back to Virginia almost two years ago to develop and hone his music career a little closer to home and has been a frequent musical feature at restaurants and wineries in the area, where he said he’s met a lot of helpful individuals.

Already, he’s come a long way from recording a simple collaborative acoustic album with Beam in 2011 and is eagerly anticipating the release of his first solo album. Two of the songs from the first album have carried over to the upcoming one, adding to four other new tunes for a six-track EP. Jewel said one new track – a “hometown song” – will resound with Front Royal residents in particular.

Jewel said he just needs to make some final vocal recordings for his yet-untitled EP, which he said will hopefully drop sometime in January. The album will be available at Jewel’s shows and by online order, and Jewel said an iTunes release may be in the works as well.

Accustomed to simply accompanying himself on guitar, Jewel said just listening to the tracks in progress with producer Dan Kelling has energized them to get the album out.

“Every time we add an instrument to one of the songs … our eyes just light up,” he said. “It adds a whole new dimension to these songs … it sounds so much cooler.”

Earlier this year, Jewel turned some heads after his participation in the Country Showdown, a nationwide talent search competition. Although he said he’d been previously interested in the competition, he didn’t really pursue entering until his mother notified him about the Farmville local competition. There, Jewel said he placed third but still moved on to win at the state level because the first and second place winners couldn’t make it.

Country Showdown featured Jewel in early November as its performer of the week, and although he didn’t win the regional competition to move to the final national stage, he got the chance to talk and work with other musicians. After the competition ended, he said he was the only competitor to stick around and ended up playing some classic covers with the band onstage.

Jewel said that his musical style – more reminiscent of old-fashioned country music than contemporary tunes – drew promoter and songwriter Larry Wiater’s attention.

“He knew that I took the time to stay after the show, play with the guys, wanted to show the people that stuck around what I had to give, and just the authenticity I think is a big thing that he pointed out,” he said.

Jewel said he’s kept in touch with Wiater and received a few songs from him to work with. While Jewel  said he enjoys the jam sessions and networking opportunities that the competitions bring, he said he hasn’t been on the lookout for new ones to hit.

“I’d rather play a venue or a gig or a show or whatnot over a competition any day,” he said.

The competition circuit hasn’t just linked Jewel up with other artists – it’s also prompted radio stations connected to the Country Showdown to take notice and put his songs on their list for when the album comes out. He said he’s been in contact with stations from Farmville down to Florida that will be on the lookout for his release.

“It’s hard to say what’ll come from just knowing a few people and them having your CD,” he said. “You never know when an opportunity is going to arise.”

Listen to some of Ryan Jewel’s tunes and see his show schedule at http://tinyurl.com/ps4jyvd.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com