Seven years after Thatcher High School graduate Ryan Innes competed on NBC's fourth season of The Voice, the singer-songwriter will be back on national TV Monday night. This time around, Innes, 39, is a participant on NBC's Songland. The show, which is starting its second season, gives songwriters a chance to pitch an original song to top producers and recording artists in the music business.
Every participant is paired with a recording artist and they work together on the song. Last season, Songland produced multiple chart-topping hits including seven songs that achieved a No. 1 ranking on an iTunes music chart.
Innes, who was one of four songwriters participating, pitched his song to five-time Grammy Award-winning country-pop trio Lady Antebellum; some of the other artists on the show this season include Boyz II Men, Martina McBride and Usher.
"Songland was definitely a much more relaxed and chill environment," Innes said during an interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Salt Lake City. "On Songland, you're not really trying to beat anybody, you're not trying to win the season. That's not how I felt. We were all really good friends and super supportive of what we're doing."
Innes was born in Safford, but spent several years in the Phoenix area before moving to Thatcher at the age of 10. He played outside linebacker and fullback for the Thatcher High School football team that brought home state his senior year. He moved to Utah about 15 years ago and received a media music degree from Brigham Young University in 2008. Innes, who describes himself as a soul music artist, put out his first album in 2010.
In July 2012, he performed at the Stadium of Fire in Provo, Utah for the Fourth of July celebration and he even opened for the Beach Boys. That same year he auditioned for and was accepted into the fourth season of The Voice. He worked with eight-time Grammy and American Music Award-winning R&B artist Usher, but was eliminated in the Knockout Round.
Ever since then, Innes has been working as a full-time musician, both playing and songwriting. Last year, Innes said a member of the same casting crew he worked with on The Voice, called him up.
"I had just released a new song "You are Gold" and he said 'Hey I see you're putting stuff out and I wondered if you're interested in submitting songs to this new show called Songland,'" Innes said.
He leapt at the chance, went through the process and was selected to participate on the show. They filmed Monday's episode last year at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
He enjoyed working with Lady Antebellum
"Even though their main genre is country, they have a lot of soul involved in their country and the particular song that I pitched was kind of a good mix of those two," Innes said.
Innes, who still has aunts, uncles and cousins in Thatcher, said being on Songland could be the start of something big for him.
"I think what Songland will really help me do is have a platform to start pitching other songs that I may not be releasing, that I can't release or I don't want to release," Innes said. "Just being able to write specifically for other artists and helping them...It'd be really cool to have the connects from Songland turn into writing with other people a lot more."
He'd love to hear someone like John Legend or Usher sing one of his songs, he said.
Of course, he wouldn't mind being a star in his own right.
"I'll never not be excited about the possibility of being the next John Legend. I think it would be fantastic to tour and play my own stuff and have enough of a following to do that," Innes said. "I think that'd be amazing. However, I realize that can be more difficult actually than just writing great songs and getting them into the hands of current artists who have major platforms. So I'll never say no to being the artist, but I'll always be hustling to make great music."