Ryan Parker

A very special Lucky Seven

I’m sure Ryan Parker would love to release an album of songs that sold a few million copies. Maybe even a few of those songs would involve material that didn’t focus on sports. But for hundreds of thousands of people visiting You Tube, his sports songs and videos are not just hysterical… they represent the main reason you may be familiar with his name.

For me, it was two particular songs that brought Ryan to my attention. The first was when an e-mail arrived from a friend linking me to the “Go Gillooly” video. This song happens to be a favorite of mine, because I absolutely admire what Ryan has done with it. In the middle of the 2007 season, whispers turned into media reports… someone was going to get upset with Tom Brady and the Patriots for running up the score every week. Maybe they’d even hurt him on purpose. Using the quarterback’s famous relationship with Bridget Moynahan, and uniting it with the Tonya Harding incident, Ryan creates a scenario where someone might attack Brady and get Moynahan named the suspect.

Not long after, I was listening to Steve Somers on WFAN out of New York. If you visit this site often, you know I call Alex Rodriguez by the more appropriate name, A-Fraud. Ryan had just posted a song about A-Rod called “Been Caught Stealing” that focused on the celebrated opt-out clause and subsequent contract demands. Good stuff.

His web site, Ryan Parker Songs*, contains lyrics and material from his efforts. But one of the most amazing things about Ryan might be found over at You Tube. The song garnering the most notoriety is “Shady Brady and Bill Belicheat,” which has been viewed an astonishing 428,000+ times as of this writing!

* Ryan’s web site is no longer active. His songs can be found by doing a search. Generally your best bet is to base any initial effort around Ryan Parker Songs Shady Brady, which should put you in the right area.

Ryan professes a passion for the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds and Kentucky Wildcats. You’ll find those teams and their rosters are a constant source of inspiration for him. But he also finds time for the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Cowboys, Notre Dame and Michigan State to make frequent appearances in his efforts.

He’s been on radio… television… internet sites… and newspapers. And he even writes the occasional song that doesn’t focus on sports. I’m grateful to Ryan for giving us some of his time for a “Lucky Seven” interview.

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Tell me a little bit about your musical background. What instruments do you play? Did you ever take any structured lessons and how long have you been playing?

Music “runs in my family” so to speak. My grandfather, Ray “Curly” Parker, played the fiddle for Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. I picked up guitar when I was 16 years old so I have been playing for almost 20 years now. It’s the only instrument I have ever learned to play. I never took any structured lessons. I pretty much just taught myself by playing along to whatever was on the radio at the time. Of course, I picked up a lot of tips and tricks by playing with other good musicians over the years. That has helped out a lot as well.
How did you get started writing these sports-themed songs and how long have you been creating them? Where do you find your influences for material?

A guy I work with at my “day job” as a software engineer came up with the idea of the sports-themed songs. I have written a lot of songs over the years and had gotten into the habit of making my fellow workers listen to them. At the same time, I always talked about sports as well so it seemed like a novel idea to combine the two. I wrote my first one right around the beginning of 2006. It was about the success the Cincinnati Bengals had been having at the time. I posted the song on some message boards and got a positive response.  From that point, one song turned into another and so on. I started out just writing about my favorite teams, but now I try to write about the hot topics of the time in the world of sports.
I ask the influences question for two reasons. Number one… you cover so much ground it’s obvious that it’s more than whatever is in the news on a particular day. Number two… I recall that someplace you named Ohio teams (Cincinnati Bengals and Reds) as two of your favorite professional teams. Knowing that explains how the Bengals, the Reds, and their players are some of the more common subjects of your efforts. The thing is, two of your songs are “Shady Brady and Bill Belicheat” (“…bringing Gatorade to Brian Griese…” is hysterical… it’s also a great song… over 425,000 views at You Tube alone… congratulations on that) and “Been Caught Stealing” (which is about Alex Rodriguez). Boston and New York… and their players… are right up there on any list of common sources of material for you. Frequently we hear about a big-market-bias to reporting or media coverage. Do you believe in that type of scenario where the larger cities are magnets for coverage? And… not really knowing how to phrase the question… is there a reason why some of these media-favorite subjects seem to cross over into your work, even though they aren’t necessarily your favorite teams or people? (I suppose it could just be the sheer sadistic enjoyment of the stories that draws you to them and motivates you, and I could use your lyrics to back that claim up, but I’m wondering if it’s more than that alone.)

You are correct in that my two favorite teams are the Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds. My favorite college team is the Kentucky Wildcats. I like writing about these teams in particular because I have followed them for as long as I can remember. However, when I made the decision to start concentrating on writing about the most popular sports stories of the time, I did start writing about the larger market teams more often. I saw that something more might be possible with my sports-related songs when the “Shady Brady” song received so much attention. That is when I decided to write about more popular topics and write more frequently. I do believe that the larger East coast cities such as New York and Boston receive much more attention in the national media, as you can tell from the headlines most days on ESPN. This fact has drawn my attention to them when coming up with topics for songs. If I want to get noticed more as being the “sports song guy”, it’s a far better idea to write about the New York Yankees than it is to write about the Kansas City Royals! That being said, I still try to remain true to myself and write what I believe. For example, I really always have cheered for the New York teams and the Los Angeles Lakers when it comes playoff time since my Cincinnati teams are rarely there.
For the most part, I’m guessing it isn’t a stretch to believe the subject matter and lyrics come first when you write. That said… what is your writing process like for these songs? Do you do much research into the material? The first work of yours I truly became familiar with was “Go Gillooly,” which is another great effort. It deals with Brady during the regular season, and how if someone hurt him intentionally it might get blamed on the former girlfriend (thus the reference to Gillooly). This is probably analyzing it on way too many levels, but the work you do really has a creativity and depth to it.

A song generally does start with a topic or idea. There have been a few fortunate times when the whole song will just come out at once. I will hear the first line in my head, grab a pen and paper, and write the entire song down in one sitting as it flows out. I really like it when that happens because it’s a lot less work! For most songs, though, I begin with an idea and try to think of a twist to the idea to make it more interesting for the listeners. Then I will jot down a few lines or words that come to mind that convey the idea I will be trying to express in the song. From there, it’s a matter of “putting the puzzle” together. I do try to always make sure I am factually correct about everything I say in my songs. I feel like I would lose credibility to some extent if I release songs with factual errors.
What is the full process for you like? And by that I mean walk me through what it’s like to write the song… how you record it… and then what you do when a video gets put around it.

This is an interesting process because of my low budget operation! As I said, I write the song first. I make sure I am happy with all of the lyrics since I consider that to be the focal point of my songs. I will take great pains going through thesaurus.com and rhymer.com to make sure I am using the words I want to be using. Then, I will set the song to music. This involves me picking up the guitar and strumming through some chords that I feel match the lyrics and mood of the song. This has been one of the tougher parts lately as I have increased the frequency of writing. I don’t want all of the songs to “sound the same”, but it is difficult to accomplish this with just me and my acoustic guitar. I try to mix in different chord patterns and rhythms as much as is within my ability, but I do find this difficult at times. Then I sneak off to either the closet where I use the clothes hamper as a makeshift microphone stand or the garage to record the song. I try to not disturb my wife and children with the recording of the songs so this is why I head off to my own places in the house! I record the song using Audacity, free audio recording software, and my Radio Shack microphone. I am no wizard when it comes to using the software, so I have to get the songs right in one take. That makes it difficult at times, but I do OK for the most part. It can get frustrating, though, when I get to the end of the song and hit a bad note! After I get the MP3 file saved, I head to work on Google searching for images that fit the song. I find all of the images first and then use Windows Movie Maker to set the pictures to the music. That’s it… the whole process from beginning to end.
What kind of feedback do you get about some of these songs? I’m guessing occasionally a person or two that is a fan of a team is… umm… a bit less than enthusiastic about your work.  Any great stories about things you’ve encountered?

The people that have been the least enthusiastic about my songs are the Boston fans when I wrote the “Shady Brady” song. I received many, many emails from them making sure I had a “day job”… and those were the nice ones! I also received a lot of negative emails from Kentucky fans earlier this year when I wrote a song describing how awful they were doing at the start of the season. I had written nothing but positive songs about Kentucky before so people didn’t appreciate me “turning on the team”, although I didn’t see it that way. I was just being honest. For the most part, though, I have received much more positive email regarding the songs than negative… even from Boston fans.
You seem to be getting busier every time I check out your web site. How much do you work on music without a sports theme? And what are some of your plans for the future?

I don’t really work on my other music any these days. I have made the decision to commit myself to trying to get my sports-related songs noticed and give up on my other songs. Since I cannot spend time touring and promoting the songs, this is an almost exclusively (with the exception of a few radio and TV appearances) an Internet-based effort. No matter how great any of my songs might be (not saying that they are), no one is going to email one of my other songs about life or love out to all of their friends! They will, however, email a song about their favorite sports team or player. This produces the “viral marketing” effect that I depend on. As for the future, I hope to achieve success with my sports-related songs. I want them to be viewed as commentary on the sports world set to music. Essentially, I want to be a “columnist” of sorts for a major sports-related website. I have started doing this recently as I am going to be releasing one song per week on Heavy.com. I just hope the endeavor grows, gets more viewers, and allows me to turn it into a “day job”. I realize it’s a long shot, but at least I won’t grow old and be someone telling my kids and hopefully grandkids about what I “could’ve done”. I’ll know for sure… either I did it or it didn’t work!

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I want to offer a special thank you to Ryan Parker for participating in this “Lucky Seven” offering.

Unfortunately, Ryan’s web site is no longer active. He has posted several songs on the web, usually in places like YouTube. In order to avoid confusion with other artists, any search for his material is usually best done by expanding the search string to include some of his song content (such as: Ryan Parker Songs Shady Brady).

Ryan Parker Songs

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com