Ryan Stevenson’s path to music wasn’t exactly straight.
The Dove Award winner always had dreams of playing drums in a band and maybe performing on a big stage. But to him, those always felt like pipedreams, the type you’re supposed to forget about at a certain age.
Luckily, Stevenson didn’t. He’ll be performing on Wednesday at the Times Union Center alongside bands like Jeremy Camp, Jordan Feliz, We are Messengers, and Aaron Cole on TobyMac’s Hits Deep tour.
Stevenson grew up on a steady diet of pop music. “It’s in my DNA, I’m a rhythmic pop 90s kid. I just love rhythmic pop stuff that’s in the pocket and makes you want to move,” Stevenson said.
It’s part of the reason why he started playing drums when he was a kid and why he thought he was going to try to be a drummer in some band. But things changed after high school.
“My youth pastor at our church bought me a guitar for a graduation present from high school. It just didn’t really make any sense to me why he would do that because I didn’t play guitar. I didn’t sing and I didn’t write songs. But when I finally picked that guitar up and started plucking around, it was just so natural,” Stevenson said.
But when he went off to college, he studied education and became a teacher. Then he went back to school to be a paramedic. After eight years of working as a paramedic, he was signed to BEC records. He was later signed to Toby Mac’s record label, known as Gotee Records, in 2012.
Many of his songs are as personal as they are universal. On his latest album, “No Matter What,” Stevenson focuses on love in the face of failure and the shame that comes with failure.
“I would like to say that my music is all just a collection of prayers. They’re all very real things that I go through. I write these songs because I need them,” Stevenson said.
In this case, he was contemplating the performance-based relationship that he felt like he had with God. He’s also talked to many others in his generation who feel like they have to live up to a certain level of perfection or God won’t love them. But Stevenson said that’s simply not the case.
“I felt like there was this recurring theme of God’s grace, even in the biggest mess-ups of our lives and even in those places of shame, guilt, self condemnation, the places where we struggle. It’s really not about the struggle or the mistake,” Stevenson said, “It’s about the cross. That’s something that I feel like we’ve really got away from and we really need to get back to.”
That’s what he’s hoping to do with “No Matter What,” and with fellow musicians TobyMac, Jeremy Camp and Jordan Feliz on the Hits Deep Tour.
“I just feel like these songs were me pouring out my heart in a very raw, vulnerable way,” Stevenson said.
Writing the album, which is a blend of rhythmic pop with with ambient hymns, brought him back to the realization that “God’s love never changes. He’s in a good mood, he’s not moody and we don’t have to live a performance-based relationship with him. We can’t be separated from his love. The Bible promises us that,” Stevenson said.
During Wednesday’s performance, he’ll be performing alongside his mentor TobyMac. The christian artist was a member of dc Talk, which split in 1999. TobyMac went on to not only have a successful solo career—he’s won seven Grammy Awards, many of his albums are Gold certified and his latest album, “The Elements” reached number one on the Billboard Top Christian albums chart last year—he’s also helped other christian artists build their own careers with Gotee Records. He founded the record label and has signed many Christian artists like Finding Favour, Hollyn, Aaron Cole, Family Force 5 and Stevenson.
“He’s just so gracious and very for other people and bringing up the next generation of artists and I know that he’s done that [for] me personally so just to be out on the road with him is really special,” Stevenson said.
Wednesday’s show at the TU Center starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22-93.75. For more information visit timesunioncenter-albany.com.