Published May 15, 2016
NASHVILLE – Musically famous names like Mel Tillis, George Jones, Gene Watson and Billy Ray Cyrus, roll off Chickasaw citizen Curt Ryle’s tongue with familiar ease. Mr. Ryle’s comfort stems from the fact that he has not only worked with these legends, he also knows them as friends.
The Duncan, Oklahoma native has resided in Nashville, Tennessee since Mel Tillis invited him there in the mid-1980s to write songs for his recording company. Today, Mr. Ryle owns Big Matador Recording Studio where he admits to being a one-man operation in which he manages, produces, writes, and sometimes plays guitar for budding recording artists.
“I’m just one of those people that wants to be involved in everything,” he said. “It takes a lot of years of doing it to get the knowledge, but once you’ve got it, you can do a lot of things.”
His career in music started at an early age in Duncan as an 8-year-old youngster singing on a local radio program. Touring began during the summers while he was still in high school after his family moved to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. “I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember,” he said.
“I’ve worked with Ray Price, Charlie Daniels, and many others. I was on the road with Vern Gosden for four or five years.”
His career took off in his mid-twenties when someone gave Mel Tillis an album he had recorded. The country music great called him the next day. “It happened really fast like that. I was about 24 or 25 years old and I went to Nashville to work with Mel Tillis.”
A short time later, George Jones recorded a song Ryle co-wrote with fellow songwriter Ken Martin. “I always thought the world of George Jones. He was my idol. When he recorded one of my songs it was the highlight of my career.”
The song, “The Real McCoy,” is on Jones’ “Too Wild, Too Long” album. Mr. Ryle said it was supposed to be the title song and the first single to be released. “George ended up changing it because Nancy, his wife, wanted the title of the album to be ‘Too Wild, Too Long,’ because George had been too wild, too long,” Mr. Pyle said, laughing. “It knocked my song off the title.”
Nevertheless, just having his composition recorded by his singing hero was enough. “I love Nancy, so I’ve never been upset about it. I was really happy just to get a song on that album.”
Gene Watson recorded three of his tunes. Billy Ray Cyrus recorded “Storm in the Heartland,” which became a million copy seller Mr. Ryle co-wrote with Billy Henderson and Donald Burns.
He’s also played studio guitar for Taylor Swift on the album in which she and Beyonce competed for a grammy in 2009.
Songwriting took up the majority of his time for several years after moving to Nashville, but he soon branched out into producing records. “I decided I wanted to try something different, and got into recording. I’ve got an artist right now that we’re looking at signing with Big Machine Records, which is the label Taylor Swift is on.”
This doesn’t mean he’s given up writing songs. “We’re writing all the songs for that project. So, I’ve got a lot of things going on.”
Mr. Ryle’s musical talent has been passed down to the next generation. Braden, his 10-year-old son, is already performing on RFD-TV. “My son has quite a career going,” he said.
Among many other projects, he is currently working with Lucas Ciliberti, a Native American artist with whom he shot “Springfields,” a music video available for viewing on youtube.com. “It’s Western, kind of like an old Marty Robbins story, but it’s done with modern music,” he said. “It’s not like any album I’ve ever produced.”
Mr. Ryle said he also wants to explore more opportunities to record great Native American talent. “I just want to get more involved in Native American musical opportunities,” he said.
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