From singing the National Anthem for his hometown Deseronto Storm to opening for Alessia Cara to now headlining his own tour, Ryland James Clark has come a long way.
The NDSS graduate, who goes by the stage name Ryland James to avoid confusion with English TV host Rylan Clark-Neal, kicks off a nine city tour Feb. 6, starting in Ottawa. After a stop in Burnstown, he’ll play Kingston’s Mansion on Feb. 8. His tour will also include a stop in Toronto on Feb. 13 at the Rivoli Pool Hall and then continue state side with dates in Napa, California and New York City in May and June.
“I don’t feel like it’s really sunk in and I feel like it won’t finally sink in until I’m actually doing it,” James said of headlining his first tour. “I’ve opened for tours before but this is crazy to think this is my first headline tour to put together my show and to see people coming out, I’m already seeing so many people online who are saying they’re coming to this show or that show. It’s really weird to think and at times it can feel overwhelming and the pressure’s on, but in reality I’m really excited about it.”
The 20-year-old has already received national air play with his songs Good to You, Say Goodbye and In My Head, with another single due out Feb. 7.
His career was given a jolt when he was named the opening act for Cara’s Canadian tour.
“When I found out I was opening for her on the Canadian run back in May, I was in L.A. with my dad and we were driving to the studio and I got the call and they’re like ‘you’re opening for Alessia,’” recalls James. “I don’t even know how I felt in that moment it was just overwhelming. When she first put out her music back in 2015 I was in high school and I was a bit of a loner. I was musical, very artistic, kind of an introverted person. I’d listen to her music because it spoke to me because she wrote about all that stuff in her songs.”
Prior to opening for Cara, James was such a fan that he had parents drive him to the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto just to see her perform. They arrived late and were too far back from the outdoor stage to see anything.
“We were walking and trying to figure out how we could see her,” said James. “There was this guy across the street in this little antique store. We asked him if we could go up on his roof. My mom, my sister and I climbed the ladder up four stories and I got up there and when I came to the edge I saw her.”
Cara was just in the midsts of accepting an award when James got to the rooftop. During her speech she thanked her manager Chris Smith.
“I was thinking ‘how do I get involved with him?’ A week later they actually reached out to me,” said James.
Now working on the finishing touching on his debut album, James says he’s brought in a lot of other artists to help co-write.
“When I sit down to write a song it can depend on how I’m feeling that day,” James said of the inspiration for his lyrics. “Sometimes I draw from very personal experiences that I’ve gone through, sometimes I try to write a story about somebody else close to me that’s going through something or sometimes we just try to create a story we feel is really impactful.”
He first got his start singing gospel songs while his grandma played along on the piano. With those roots he lists Michael Buble and Josh Groban as influences along with Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin.
To hear his latest singles or view his full tour schedule, visit www.RylandJamesMusic.com.