There is something very Nashville about Blue Springs resident Ryan Hanlin. Perhaps it is his height and build – rake skinny and legs that finish their long journey into smooth cowboy boots, a build built for throwing hay, finishing wood, crawling under things.
There is something very Nashville about Blue Springs resident Ryan Hanlin.
Perhaps it is his height and build – rake skinny and legs that finish their long journey into smooth cowboy boots, a build built for throwing hay, finishing wood, crawling under things. He has tanned skin, blue eyes and a smile that cracks loose like an ice cube tray.
Above all else, it is the way he tells the story of his son that invokes a country song straight out of its ancient myths.
A graduate of Blue Springs South High School, he started the band Higher Ground when he was 20. Whether or not Hanlin and band members could break serious ground seemed irrelevant – now; at the time, there were longitudes and latitudes to visit, adventures to be had, tours to conduct, places to see: Kansas, yes, but also Texas, Nebraska, Iowa – heck, New Mexico.
They played around Eastern Jackson County. He remembers playing and singing at the Blue Springs Fall Fun Fest. He had a bit of a following there.
He wanted to be a songwriter.
“I mean, my interest in music started after high school,” he said from his home on B Street in Blue Springs. “Year’s later I would see old friends from high school and... well, I have different interests than I did then. I was into sports.”
He spread his arms wide.
“Obviously I played a little basketball – I’m pretty tall, my dad was a coach.”
In 2000, Hanlin got married and moved to Buckner, but there were no more basketballs in his hands but rather songs in his heart. Music City was singing him a song.
“I did keep touring, but not as much after I got married.”
There was only one solution: move to Tennessee, live a country singer’s dream. After all, thousands had done it, and hundreds, if not more, make their living in the city each day, week – all year.
“They say there are thousands of songs written each week in Nashville,” he said, tapping his boot.
He had his wife’s support, but such a decision for a Midwestern girl is always tough. There is family to consider, a native landscape that can’t be removed from the bones and blood. He understood.
“I knew it was hard for her, but she knew that if I stayed around here... I’d just mope around,” he said.
Now he rubs his hands together and considers for a moment.
“It was asking a lot.” He paused. “She and her family... they were very rooted here.”
Once they arrived, it took nearly four years to get settled, to get in a kind of groove that promised results. Things didn’t take off at first, he’ll admit, and that was when the problems started. That was in 2004.
Marriage takes work but so does dreaming.
He managed to collaborate with another songwriter, Mark Nesler, whom he had first met in Kansas City back in ‘96. They exchanged contact numbers, kept in touch. Nesler encouraged him to move to Nashville. He put that song in his heart.
“He really encouraged me to go out there.”
On Dec. 15, 2006, after countless attempts, he wrote his greatest song: his son Trevor, Trevor James Hanlin.
“He changed my life.”
But the marriage was worsening. A paralegal was hired. The end to what had seemed so promising a beginning in Blue Springs had begun. When she left and took Trevor with her back to Missouri, Hanlin stayed behind. Nashville and life moved around him, and to keep up with the hurt and the pain he traveled back and forth to Missouri, back to Tennessee, back and forth for a year. Little did he know, there was a song writing itself.
He was angry, but he learned not to be.
“I was constantly thinking about him, so I moved back.”
In late 2008, he found himself back in Blue Springs, purchasing a foreclosed home on B Street and, to make ends meet, started a remodeling business. He can build a house like he can write songs, and sometimes he does both simultaneously, turning phrases as he drives nails. He still performs when he can, where he can. His regular gig is at Rancho Grande Cantina in Blue Springs.
“I’m just trying to get settled and be the best dad I can be right now,” he said. “I still want to sing, and someday maybe I’ll start going out to Nashville here and there and start again. I know what the ropes are out there now.”
He has about 50 songs that he’s written. When he doesn’t have Trevor, he works his remodeling business. There’s a guitar in the corner of his living room, an open notebook on the sofa. He has a girlfriend. She’s a singer and an actress. Life looks good; not every day is a country song.
“My best song...” He trails off, his words falling off into a country distance. “It’s called ‘Something Better.’ It’s about Trevor. You want to know the story, it’s all in that song. It’s all there.”
Visit Ryan Hanlin’s Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/ryanhanlin
Also, check out Hanlin’s song and video for “Something Better” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ktFsyILtZU