We got the chance to sit down with up and coming, out and proud, pro baseball player turned country music artist Bryan Ruby; here is what he had to say!
So here we are fresh off of festival week, did you get to play during CMA?
I did. I played a show at the Glen Campbell Museum on the Rhinestone stage. It was good. And then I had another show that night in Midtown at the Distillery, which was like my single release show and that was a really good set. And then the next morning I went into Sirius XM at Bridgestone to read the liners for Sirus XM Country Pride. So I read ‘This is Brian Ruby on Sirius XM Country Pride’ and heard my song played for the first time and then gunned down the highway to BNA to fly to New Jersey for a festival Friday night!
I got into Newark, played the show, got on a flight back at like 06:00 A.m. On Sunday, and then I’m actually heading back up to New York tomorrow for some more stuff.
Wow! You have been busy! Especially now after the past two years of crazy. It’s feels great to just be out and about and busy.
During that I spent so much time writing songs in my room on Zoom or Skype or whatever, and mostly writing songs for other people. And then there was like a collection of songs that I had that I really liked but clearly weren’t right for other people because they were just more like me. So I realized, well, screw it. Maybe I should just put it out.
Yeah. And then here we are, like, a couple of months later.
Well, I took a listen and it sounds great! So I would say that was a solid decision!
So, in fact, just do me a favor if you can kind of do a brief overview about you, because I know that from Think Country we haven’t had a chance to sit down with you. Who is Bryan Ruby, who you want to be as an artist in country music?
Yeah. So. I’m from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, originally. I’ve lived here in Nashville for almost three years, and I’ve been writing songs. I came here to be a songwriter. I always love country music, and I’ve been writing songs for other people for the last couple of years. Had been seen recorded by different artists, mostly independent artists, but finally, it was always a little bit scary for me, being in the LGBT community, like, not being able to see that many people like me.
Especially Nashville itself is a lot more open, for sure. But you don’t have to go too far for that to not be the case it seems and I am sorry that it even has to be a factor.
Yeah, that was always scary for me. I didn’t know if somebody like me belonged in country music, but I loved it, and I love country music probably more than anything in the world. I’m a professional baseball player as well, but after the game, I like to put on country, chill out, helps me calm down. I’ve always brought my guitar on the team bus playing during road trips and been writing songs from afar for years. And I finally just decided, you know what? I should do it, and I should be out and proud from the start. If I’m making good country music, then at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. And I really love country music. I used to be an intern in high school for a country radio station. I just would always turn on the American Country Countdown with Kix Brooks, and I would learn the songs and I would sing along in the car. That’s how I learned to sing, just sing along to the radio and finally I just decided, why not? I’m going to do it. I love this. I love it with all my heart.
And I just want to make good songs. Left Field is the only song out right now, but we’re going to roll out an EP throughout the course of this year.
I think that’s the way to do it now as well. I think albums are almost becoming like a thing of the past. As an artist, I feel like you’re better to chuck out a couple of EP’s a year rather than go, let’s make everyone wait and then check the album out. That’s an interesting way that that changed, but it’s cool.
Yeah, it’s interesting. I think that I want to give each song it’s due, so I’m going to roll them out and promote each one of them. Each one of them is true for me. The personal stories, the are written from the heart, the old saying, three chords and the truth. I felt like being a new artist in Nashville in this genre that’s supposed to be about authenticity. How could I go about it if I was hiding a huge part of myself? Not only would that be unfair to me, but it would be unfair to the fans because they wouldn’t get as good music. Because it wouldn’t be true.
And so I just decided, whatever happens, happens. I’m going to get this out of the way early and then have the rest of my career to just build. Right, then write your songs.
I am not part of the LGBTQ+ community so I can’t understand the struggle in the same way of course but for me I hate that it’s even something you have to come out and say because it shouldn’t matter. I don’t care. And I mean in a nice way. I don’t care who you’re with, what you do with whoever, if you’re making good songs, you’re making good music, why should it matter, right?
Yeah, I agree.
I think being able to come out straight away and just be like, look, this is who I am. Because I know and I won’t put this in there, I know a few artists that are doing very well that I know are gay. And I just sometimes I sit and think, I’m like, if that was me, you’re going to these award shows, you’re doing red carpets. I’d want the person that I was going with next to me. And I just think it’s a really sad situation when it doesn’t mean you can’t share it with that person.
It is a sad situation. I definitely empathize with those people. I know a whole lot of artists that are in the LGBT community in Nashville and aren’t saying anything publicly about it, but for me, I guess I wanted to address it right away and get it out of the way.
Then it’ll be old news.
I can’t wait till it’s old news. Honestly. I’m sure in a couple of months or weeks, I don’t care. It’ll be old news. And I think how I’ve decided to address my music in that regard is to write the songs that I never had as a kid that could have helped me if I would have heard them. So if there’s a little kid out there who hears the younger version of myself, who hears Left Field or the rest of the EP when it comes out, the message is positive. It’s really upbeat. It’s like a real country song. So I guess I’m just proud that I can make real country music and make it authentically as me. And whatever happens, happens. It could be my philosophy is that there could be three people that stream the song you, me, and my mom. But hopefully helps one person. They see me as a guy who’s living my best life making music, playing baseball, then that’s worth it. So that was my philosophy around Left Field, and I had, like, an all star band that I recorded it with, which is, like, the coolest, coolest thing.
Hit me with some names!
Yeah! So Smith Curry produced it. He’s, like, played with everybody. Nick Buddha was on drums. He’s currently on tour with Kenny Chesney. Justin Ostrander was on guitar. He played on Luke Bryan’s record. It was just, like, super cool to go in and actually got to cut vocals at Warner’s production studio on Music Row. So as a kid who made his first trip to Nashville, went with my parents. We went to the Grand Ole Opry we did all the touristy things. We went to Music Row happy hour with Buzz Brainer at Margaritaville. And to actually be recording my first song on Music Row was really cool. I was geeking out a little bit!
Oh, I bet!
Yeah. And I was trying to say, like, okay, play cool. Just do the song. Be cool. But all the guys around me are, like, so much more talented than me, and they were all making me sound good.
You sound great on it! I will say; I think being a musician, whether it’s vocalist or any other instrument, I think being in Nashville is sometimes the best and the worst place. Because you go out and, I mean, you have the best of everyone in one spot, but also like, that. I feel like sometimes if you’re not in the right headspace, you’re like, what am I doing? But at the same time, If you take it the right way, it really pushes everyone to be that much better. You’re constantly chasing and striving to be better. You’re like, well, I want to work with these musicians, and I’m not going to be able to do that while I’m at a certain level. So everyone is constantly striving for more. I think that’s a really cool dynamic within the city.
Totally. I think it’s so true. I am always trying to become a better writer. Like, the first EP is done, but the second EP, I want it to blow the first EP out of the water. I want to keep getting better and definitely have these goals getting a publishing deal, getting a record deal one day just like anybody else.
I think now that I’ve got this coming out thing out of the way, it can almost be really good. So that now going forward, I can just be judged on the quality of music.
How did you feel about CMA, having the first ever designated LGBTQ plus stage?
That was really cool.
Then you have people like TJ Osborne who are, at the forefront right now of artists coming out and being proud of who he is. He took his partner to the CMA Awards and kissed on camera. For country music, I feel like that’s a big deal.
Yeah. TJ is definitely a hero and a new role model of mine. I actually got a chance to meet him at a show, Universal hooked it up where I could fly up to a show in New York, and I got to meet TJ, John and Lucie.
They were all super cool. They cleared out the bus so that TJ and I could have a one on one conversation.
And I asked him, like, advice, basically, what should I do? And this was about six months ago, or actually about eight months ago in October. It was really inspiring to see somebody who’s had that success, who’s winning awards, who’s on country radio and has had a career, and it’s really cool to see him come out while they’re and.
A career that didn’t seem to be impacted as well, because that has happened in the past, where people have gone, you know what, we’re doing really well, actually. We just want to be us. By the way, I’m gay, and then all of a sudden, oh, what, I’m sorry, we can’t play your song anymore?
Yeah, I try not to think about that kind of stuff because, of course, it’s a little demoralizing, but I do think in this day and age, but…
I think it shows the progression that Nashville and just country music as a whole has made that 10-15 years ago, they were just going, all right, well, we can’t support you, whereas now I think everyone’s just like, okay, cool. We’re going to do everything we can. I know that CMA, like, as an association, they are really pushing stuff and offering out support.
Yeah, I think so. I think the most inspiring thing about TJ coming out, for me was just that it shows that we’re one step closer. Especially for me as a well, first and foremost, Brothers Osbourne led with good music. Great music. Undeniably. Yeah, the great music. And it showed that if you lead with great music, people will respect you no matter who you are. So for me, I’m just going to wait 1 minute for this.
For me, what TJ coming out showed was that a male country artist who happens to be gay can come out once they’re already established.
What I want to do is be out and proud from the start. Each one of those people who has paved the way Cheley Wright, Shelley Fairchild, Ty Herndon, Shane McAnally, countless others behind the scenes have hopefully made it possible for somebody like me to just do it.
When I was in college, somebody showed me an article called out and Riding High in Nashville, and it was about Shane McAnally, and I literally didn’t know what a songwriter was at the time. I just thought that all singers write their own songs. Right. As somebody who just listened to the radio, I would have no reason to.
So I realized there’s somebody like me doing what I love, maybe I can do this. So I originally moved here to just be a songwriter.
And he was the inspiration behind that. And if I ever meet him one day, I’m going to tell him that and just sort of thank him.
With the whole artist thing. It’s kind of come up with this opportunity. I came out last year in baseball and the story took off during last baseball season.
How was it in that circle? I feel like as a male athlete there is that ‘manly man’, like, how could you be gay situation. There’s still that really weird, just old fashioned stigma around things, which I think is where country music struggles so much because it’s also like there’s very specific gender roles in country music, which again, is changing. But yeah, I mean, how was that in the baseball world?
Well, I always say who you date has nothing to do with whether you can hit a 95 miles an hour fast.
So I was playing well at the time and I earned the respect of my teammates and in turn, they treated me with respect. It was really a non issue, which was amazing for me. I just got to continue being a baseball player. And people saw the story and younger baseball players in high school and college have sent me messages. We formed this charity called Proud to Be in Baseball. And the whole mission is to support young LGBT kids who want to play baseball because there’s like 16 million people that play baseball in the United States.
Clearly a lot of people in my community who don’t really have a resource to go to.
They say, like, if you can see it, you can be it. And when I was a kid, I didn’t have a hero in baseball. At least when I was younger, I couldn’t see anybody like me actively playing Major League Baseball who was out in crowd. And basically what I decided to do with the first with left field is dedicate 100% of my proceeds from the song to the charity. So we can actually start to get some money together and start to do some of these events that are going to help these kids.
That’s awesome. I think it’s so important, especially, I mean, I’m straight, so I know I can’t speak for it, but I can only imagine as a kid growing up in a world where you’re like, no one talks about it. Right? Not so much now, but just like it’s that taboo thing, right.
I think you hit the nail on the head. There’s definitely taboo in baseball, but my goal is just for it to be as normal as possible.
Yes. I’d love for it to get to a point where even like with CMA, where there doesn’t have to be an LGBTQ plus page.
[00:24:38.600] – Speaker 1
Yeah. That would definitely be like the ideal scenario if we get to a place where people don’t have to come out.
Why should it matter? Why should you have to? You’re not hearing anyone else publicly having to announce that they’re straight because people just accept it. I hope that things get to that point because I feel like just the fact that it’s still front page news just shows that there’s still an issue, but obviously also getting better because people are like, oh, cool. I know. I remember sitting and scrolling through Twitter when TJ came out because I was really interested to see people’s responses and I would say, I don’t think I saw anything negative. I think everything I saw was like I think there were definitely some comments of people that were like, I don’t care, this isn’t news. And I’m like, okay, cool, fine. I mean, that’s as good as and then other people just being like, congrats. I don’t think I saw anything super negative. And I’m not convinced that a decade ago that would have been the same thing.
Yeah, it was really like I think you’re right. It was inspiring on all fronts. Really cool. Yeah.
So musically, you’re going to get some EPS out now with regards to you’re still doing baseball, right? So you’re still playing baseball. Do you see five years from now, do you want to still be in baseball? Do you want to be doing baseball and music?
I definitely lean towards the music side. That’s definitely where I’m going. I love baseball and I’m really blessed that I’ve been able to play for so long, but I definitely feel like eventually getting tugged toward music baseball has been an amazing chapter in my life. It’s not over yet, but I still want to be visible and I want to show that people can be out and proud in baseball, but music is not too far behind.
I wanna I understand that someone like me as an LGBT person who does country music, just like what happened to me in baseball, I’m going to have to prove it. I’m going to have to prove that I belong there.
I wish you didn’t have, like, your song holds merit as is, and I wish you didn’t have to also think about the other stuff.
It’s okay, though, because it’s going to enable me to become a better musician and better songwriter. There’s that saying, be so good, they can’t ignore you, and I’m going to do whatever it takes. I already play writers around in Nashville, honk tonks. I go on the road for small shows. I’m building up a slowly but surely building up a fan base, and I’m going to keep doing so. That’s how I’m going to show that I belong to going forward. I always leave with the music 100%. What I like in the way that I’ve tried to write my music is if you know my story, you can view left field through a certain lens. But really why I love country music is people listen to the song and they relate it to their own life experiences. So in a sense, it’s about me, but it’s really not right. People can hear it and it can mean whatever they want it to mean. And that’s kind of how I tried to carve out my music, so that no matter who you are, you can.
I think there’s also an element of when you’re writing, you can write about your own experience. But I feel like sometimes you sit and you’re like, well, I’m going to write this specifically about me. This is just something I’ve gone through. But then actually, the reality is when you push it out, like, so many people are in the same boat. So I feel like sometimes almost the more personal you make something, the more relatable it becomes in like, a weird way, because people can really listen. And I think also people interpret things different as well. So a line that you may have written that you’re like, this is exactly like, this is about this specific event. Someone else will listen. And yes, I think when you’re writing from the heart and you are really putting that down on paper, then I think people will relate no matter what.
That’s how I wrote the song. That’s out. I definitely have a vision. I’m going to work really hard to do it, but honestly, I have no idea where it’s going to go, which is kind of daunting, but it’s also kind of exciting because it’s like, I haven’t seen a male country artist who’s out and proud from the start really break into the main street.
I grew up listening to mainstream country radio. And if you listen to Left Fields, like, all my influences are from that early tip.
Rocking 90s country vibe mixed with, like, a little bit of rock. I really love arrow. Smith queen early. Jason al dean. That’s kind of the vibe. John Fogerty. When I was thinking about what I want to be, I don’t want to be pigeonholed into some little niche. I want to show that I can be respected and liked by the mainstream.
Enjoy the ride! Right. So I guess moving forward with the writing side of things, I know we spoke a little about Shane McNally, but other than him, are there any writers that you would love to sit down and write with?
Rodney Clawson, I don’t know if he would write with someone like me. I don’t know, maybe he would. But he’s written some of my favorite songs. He just has a way of saying sort of simple things in the most profound way.
So either Rodney or Wendell Mobley.
That performance that he did up There Goes My Life and he has me on YouTube. It’s one of the best vocals ever in country music, in my opinion. It’s like a live video on YouTube and he just crushed it. Such a good writer. Such a good singer. Maybe Brett James as well. So, I don’t know. Hopefully, I think I need to prove it with good songs. And then hopefully one day those writers and those publishers will bring me in.
Also just network, network, network. Because you never know. Like, sometimes you could walk out of here, stop and meet someone in the street and they’re like, I’m really good friends with them. And then all of a sudden you’ve got the cowrite purely through knowing someone.
Yeah. That’s the beauty of Nashville. Yeah. I think that’s why it’s so important to be here. This is my home base. I am looking forward to the day where I’m not leaving for baseball and I could just be here year round.
There is so many opportunities for that type of stuff.
It’s definitely a real big community, but it’s also very small and everyone knows everyone. I will say all my experiences for the most part, everyone just wants to help. You rarely get people that are like, oh, no, I can’t do it. Most people are offering up, what can I do for you? Or you’ll get talking and you’ll say something, and they’ll be like, oh, you know what? Actually, I was speaking to this guy the other day. I can give you his contact. And then before you know it, it just spirals.
I think that pretty much covers everything. Is there anything else that I haven’t mentioned that you want to share?
I think you got it all!