By Brandy Cochran
Art is the mind’s medium when coping with stress of all kinds. Whether it is a relaxing night of a wine-and-paint-class with close friends after a long week at the office, writing poetry alone at the local park on a sunny day, or creating pottery with your partner in the backyard on a cool evening, everyone has their own particular way of letting go of what is weighing on them.
Ryan “Rooster” Lee uses his singing/songwriting ability to bring similar relief and inspiration to not only himself, but others across Tennessee, who can take solace in his work.
Growing up in Tennessee gives natives a unique opportunity to embark on a musical journey if we so choose (and have the talent to back it up). Lee sought just that many years ago while still residing in the Weakley County area. He eventually put down roots in the Nashville arena to become one of the many “Nashville Cats” pursuing a music career.
I met with Lee back in March to learn more about why he has chosen to stick with the music industry Nashville has to offer. I discovered Lee’s music is written as a coping mechanism to translate his feelings toward life, death and the trials that occur in between. Here, Lee allows me to share his story.
Ryan “Rooster” Lee considered Sharon his hometown, where he was raised and influenced by his grandfather Richard D. Lee. In 2001, while most of us were lamenting the Twin Towers tragedy, Rooster was met with his own personal tribulation when his grandfather passed away during a stint when they were residing in Texas. Rooster returned to Tennessee in 2004 and started writing music to help heal his heart while coming to terms with his grandfather’s death. In 2007, Lee decided to form a rock band aptly named Sudden Thoughts with some Union City locals who he connected with through Myspace. The band members meshed well and easily put out a few singles on the local rock station at the time, The Quake. After playing regularly locally, Sudden Thoughts eventually worked their way into other music venues and began creating waves in the Tennessee music scene that none of them expected.
A sudden unexpected diagnosis of Crohn’s disease for Lee sometime around 2009 while actively performing with Sudden Thoughts became his “moment of reckoning” when it came to pursuing music as a hobby versus a career, he explained during our interview. After much thought, Lee announced to his bandmates that his diagnosis had “inspired him to commit to doing music full time.” So, he packed up his bags and moved to Nashville.
While living in Music City, he actively played any gig he could get to pay the bills, and settled on a set list of modern country and Southern rock music — specifically a compromise of good-time covers and his original works.
When he wasn’t playing in small bars and venues on the Nashville strip, he was tucked away, producing his first solo album “Chase Your Dreams” based on his experience with Crohn’s disease and what he has suffered through while trying to regulate it and continue on his life’s journey. While creating this album, he had an ingenious idea to start interviewing successful musicians of all kinds and sharing their stories of overcoming obstacles to help inspire other aspiring musicians and to give them hope that no matter what they go through, they can achieve their dreams, too. While researching for his first interview with W.S. “Fluke” Holland, the renowned drummer for Carl Perkins, who also toured and played with Johnny Cash for 40 years, Lee found himself in so much awe of this man’s accomplishments that he used Holland’s story as the template for his single, “Johnny Cash Tennessee Band.” This experience opened up opportunities he never once foresaw back in 2001 when he first started putting his feelings on paper. (For those interested in learning more and watching his interviews with more than a dozen influential artists visit Youtube/ryanroosterlee“chaseyourdreams”.
In 2016, Lee made his official move to Nashville and was gladly helped by his lifelong friend and Weakley County native, Eric Brewer, who also performs regularly in the Nashville music scene. While diligently working on his interviews, he landed film gigs as well, including appearances on more than 20 episodes within seasons five and six of the CMT original “Nashville” and a scene in the film “All Saints.” As of late, Lee has settled down with his lady and their newest addition, their baby boy, but he has not slowed down working with his music.
Lee is currently on tour now, and fans can catch him Friday in Gallatin at Swaney Swift on the Square. Locally, he will be playing live at the VFW in Milan on May 17. For more touring information, a sampling of his music, or contact information, check him out at reverbnation.com. You can also follow him on all social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram.
If you are looking for feel-good country music that won’t leave you with a “tear in your beer,” Ryan “Rooster” Lee has got the jams for you.
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