Surround yourself with good people. Spend very little time on anyone who only seems to benefit from you. One way street personal and professional relationships will do nothing but hold you back.
As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ryan Weaver.
Ryan Weaver is a high-energy, all-American, rockin’ country music artist who proudly served as an active-duty Black Hawk Aviator, Chief Warrant Officer 3, United States Army. Growing up with a family of eleven in a small town in Floral City, Florida, he joined the Army right after high school. After several years of working as a Military Intelligence Analyst, Ryan followed in the footsteps of both of his two older brothers, Steve and Aaron, by attending Warrant Officer Candidate School and flight school. He graduated top of his class in flight school, becoming a Black Hawk Aviator.
In April 2003, he was deployed to Baghdad International Airport in Iraq, and shortly afterward, one of his brothers, Aaron, was deployed just west of him in Fallujia. In 2004, Aaron was killed in action when the Medivac helicopter he was a passenger in was shot down by the enemy fire. In 2013, Ryan’s brother-in-law, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy Billings, was laid to rest just one row away from Aaron Weaver after the Black Hawk helicopter he was piloting was shot down by an enemy ground-detonated explosive device.
This second heartbreaking loss made the Weaver family a two-time Gold Star family. Ryan used his heartache as determination to succeed. Both of his brothers’ ultimate sacrifices continue to fuel his fire to accomplish his dreams in music. Ryan also recently recorded the first single of the album “Songs That Save Our Lives” with the West Point Military Academy’s Benny Havens Band and that song has been short-listed for a GRAMMY Award consideration.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up? Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in Floral City, a small town about an hour north of Tampa in west-central Florida. With 9 siblings, including myself, we didn’t have a lot, but we did have a great Dad who worked hard to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We learned to work early, and we learned the value of working hard.
We also learned the value of family, as my Dad, Michael Weaver, was our Step Dad, but adopted my brother Aaron and I at a young age. We never knew the difference until later in life. Knowing he didn’t have to do that, and all that he’s taught me makes him the greatest man I’ve ever known.
On January 8th, 2004, Aaron and I were deployed to combat in Iraq. He was with the 82nd Airborne Division and I was with the 1st Armor Division. Aaron was a cancer survivor and needed a waiver (special permission) to be deployed to combat. That waiver required that Aaron receive bi-monthly blood screenings to ensure the rare form of cancer he survived did not return. He had to fly to Baghdad for those screenings, and he was a passenger in a MEDEVAC Blackhawk helicopter when it was shot down by an enemy insurgent, killing all on board. This was the catalyst to my music career.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I have had dozens of incredible opportunities since I started, like performing on the Ryman stage, the Grand Ole Opry on September 11th, 2015 and Madison Square Garden in 2018. The most interesting? Walking on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry with Charlie Daniels introducing me. Moments like that are irreplaceable.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
I began coming to Nashville in 2006 and left the military to chase my dreams in the music business in 2012. Going from full-time, active-duty military service to being a bar back at the Wildhorse Saloon, a personal trainer and going to college full-time was all a big adjustment. When an artist or musician moves to Nashville, they immediately discover how much of a grind it is. I worked hard before then, but this was a whole different level. I can see why so many dreams can be shattered if the right level of commitment isn’t there. Moving here only amplified my desire to find success.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
Nashville has such a wide range of sub-cultures and you can always find something to do. Between the downtown music, bar and restaurant scene and being just minutes from great hikes, lakes and pretty much anything you want to do outdoors, the Nashville area is the perfect place to live.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In a 3,000-person capacity club in Florida, I completely forgot the words to a cover song by Kenny Chesney. I remember beating myself up about it pretty badly after the show. The crowd just sat there looking at me wondering when I was going to start singing. Eventually, the words came to me, and the rest of the show went well. I was, however, hypercritical of the mistake. Shortly after, I watched Garth Brooks forget the words to “The Dance” on national television. As one of my favorite artists of all time, I knew how many thousands of times, to sold-out arenas, he performed that song. I made a decision, at that moment, no matter the mistake I make, it’s a live show, and things will happen. Moving forward I would do all I could to minimize mistakes in the live show, but accepting them for what they are, something I can’t go back and change, made even the mistakes in live shows something to smile about.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have a lot of people who deserve a shout-out for what they’ve done for me, but I have to give credit for still having a music career to my wife, Kara and my father-in-law, Don Brooks. As I mentioned above, I was working two part-time jobs and going to college full-time. This didn’t provide a great deal of time for me to pursue my dreams in music, as you might imagine. I met my wife shortly after moving to Nashville, and once things became more serious, I began working with their corporate meeting planning family-owned business. Don gave me a salary and afforded me a flexible schedule as he wanted me to get back to why I moved to Nashville. Had he not done that, I’m not sure where I’d be today.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
For the first time in my music career, I’m releasing two new music videos and singles in the same year called “Not Second Chance” and “Let’s Talk About Heroes.” We are also re-releasing a powerful tribute song and video on September 11th, a project with the Professional Bull Riders, called “Never Forgotten.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. The sooner you realize you have to make yourself a marketable product that sells to stay in this business, no matter your passion for music, the better.
2. Who you know and money are kings in this town.
3. Politics are a normal part of our lives now. If you pick a political stance publicly, be prepared to own it.
4. There are artists and musicians out there who don’t look at you as a competitor, but be prepared for those in this business who does. There are a TON of people in this industry who will use and abuse you with smiles on their faces. We had a saying in the military, “Keep your head on a swivel.” Wolves in sheep’s clothing are plentiful.
5. Surround yourself with good people. Spend very little time on anyone who only seems to benefit from you. One way street personal and professional relationships will do nothing but hold you back.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Despite the bad, there is a great deal of good in this industry as well. Take the time to foster those positive relationships. Take time to relax and get away to decompress, but always think of the reason you are here. You are in the greatest country on the planet, and you are free to chase your dreams! Never forget that!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Our Heroes in Law Enforcement, First Responders and Military need our support. They stand between all of us and harm and evil. I always support them with all of my heart!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What remains if you dare not dream?” I’m living the American dream, and I’ll never take that for granted.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
George Straight. I’d love to pick the brain of the king.
How can our readers follow you online?
For more information on Ryan Weaver at visit www.RyanWeaver.net or on social media:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!