Ryan Stevenson is a Boise, Idaho based artist who grew up in rural Oregon. While at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon, his friends included Shawn McDonald and Paul Wright, both names familiar to Christian music fans. Ryan’s career took off when he won the Idaho State Fair’s ‘Christian Battle of the Bands’. He is a husband and father of two boys, and a worship leader at Vertical Church Boise. He thanks his wife Kim “for walking with me and holding onto our family even through the loneliest, hopeless, uncertain times”. Ryan’s new release is the four song ep HOLDING NOTHING BACK (2013, Gotee Records). The first three songs were produced by Jamie Moore and mixed by Christopher Stevens.
First up is Ryan’s terrific debut single, the title track. The writers are Ryan, Jamie Moore, and Toby McKeehan. It has adult contemporary written all over it. Ryan says: “It’s one of the most personal, vulnerable songs I have written”. The lyrics essentially find Ryan pouring out his heart to God: “I’ve got a list that goes on and on/It’s overflowing with memories of everything that I’ve been doing wrong/I’ll be the first to say/I’ve chased after so many foolish things/Looking for a way to kill the pain/Oh, I’m holding nothing back from You/It doesn’t really matter what I lose/I got a heart that’s open/I’m broken and I want You to know/Jesus, I don’t want anything coming in between You and me/Jesus, doesn’t matter what I have to go through/I’m holding nothing back, nothing back from You”. Next up is ‘The Human Side’. Of it, Ryan says: “This song gives me comfort in knowing that Jesus isn’t shocked by my failures or surprised when I fumble around. We are human and yet we are loved in spite of all our failures”. This song has a heavy, percussive beat that drives it. Like track one, it again finds Ryan conversing with God: “I’m so thankful I can tell You/How I’m feeling, what I’m going through/I’m so thankful You can handle all of my chaos, all of my chaos/Oh, I don’t have the words to say/Oh, You’re the only hope I have today/Your, Your love keeps showing me/You understand, You understand.”
‘Lead the Way’ penned by Ryan and Jamie Moore, is a fast-paced, cheery sounding pop number. Those believers who struggle with mental illness will be able to relate to these lyrics: “Every now and then I feel my heart becoming restless/Anxiety trying to get a hold of me/Every now and then I feel the tension taking over/I’m so distracted by everything/But You say/It’s gonna be ok/You are with me every step of the way/I don’t need to know where I’m gonna go/Just as long as You lead the way”. The last track is a great acoustic version of ‘Speak Life’. This song was composed by Toby McKeehan, Ryan, and Jamie Moore. TobyMac included it on his Grammy winning album EYE ON IT. The song deals with the power of the tongue, which is a Scriptural concept: “And it’s crazy to imagine/Words from our lips as the arms of compassion/Mountains crumble with every syllable/Hope can live or die…/Lift your head a little higher/Spread the love like fire/Hope will fall like rain/When you speak life with the words you say/Raise your thoughts a little higher/Use your words to inspire/Joy will fall like rain when you speak life/With the things you say”.
HOLDING NOTHING BACK is a short, wonderful teaser of what is to come from this very talented CCM newcomer. His vocals are smooth and his musical stylings very entertaining. You are sure to hear much more from Ryan Stevenson on daytime Christian radio in the future. Ryan’s favorite movie is ‘Dumb and Dumber’. His favorite book is William P. Young’s ‘The Shack’ (2007). Currently on his ipod is Unspoken’s ‘Lift My Life Up’. I’m rating HOLDING NOTHING BACK 90%. Fans of Matthew West will enjoy it. For more info visit: www.ryanstevensonmusic.com and www.gotee.com