Path of greatest resistance: Knorr seeks to grow fan base, expose more people to his musicDES MOINES, Iowa — This Iowa city isn’t exactly a hotbed for musical endeavors, but Ryan Knorr is using a unique tactic to launch his musical career while living and working in Des Moines. He’s posted his music on the video sharing website YouTube and has garnered a significant online following.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
DES MOINES, Iowa — This Iowa city isn’t exactly a hotbed for musical endeavors, but Ryan Knorr is using a unique tactic to launch his musical career while living and working in Des Moines. He’s posted his music on the video sharing website YouTube and has garnered a significant online following.
“I started getting more viewers and comments and thought, well, maybe this is something I should continue doing,” he explained. “At first I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it, just waited to see what would happen. As I learned more about it — it’s about finding the right songs to post at the right time — it really started to blossom. When I got 100,000 views on one of my videos, I decided maybe it was working. Since then I’ve tried to do things on a regular basis, adding my own original stuff.”
About a year ago, Ryan reached the milestone of more than 1 million total views on YouTube, and he continues to gain thousands of views every day.
Ryan had his first taste of performing at a tender age, while growing up in Fulda, the son of Mike and Joy Obermoller Knorr.
“I remember when I was in kindergarten, that was when I first noticed that I could sing, or somebody noticed I could sing,” he recalled. “I sang at my kindergarten graduation. That was my first performance.”
Those musical talents were bolstered with seven or eight years of piano lessons, and then Ryan taught himself to play the guitar during high school. He began writing music as a freshman or sophomore at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.
“I was pretty typical — a good student in high school, but when I went on to college, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it,” he said. “I started in mass communications there, but I was still really interested in music.”
During a conversation with a music professor, the idea was planted for a new major at Buena Vista.
“He had a background in recording, had his own studio at one time, and he said he’d really like to get a program started involving recording,” Ryan related. “We worked together, put together some things, submitted something to the school, and they decided to start a program, so I moved over to that.”
In 2007, Ryan and one of his buddies were the first two Buena Vista graduates with a degree in music production and technology.
Down to Des Moines
It wasn’t music but love that took Ryan to Des Moines. He met wife-to-be Kelsey at Buena Vista.
“She was one year older than me,” he explained. “We were in music things together and had similar friends. She graduated in 2006. Since she’s originally from Carroll, Iowa, she decided to move down to Des Moines. I had one year left, so when I graduated and still didn’t have any real big job plans, I moved to Des Moines and have been here ever since.”
To pay the bills and get benefits, Ryan is employed as a custodian at a high school. But he considers music his second full-time job, and he puts a lot of effort into it. He recorded his first album in 2004 — before he knew what he was doing, Ryan noted — and a second CD, “Reverie,” in 2007. His most recent release, a 14-song CD, is titled “The Path of Greatest Resistance.” The initial tracks were first recorded in his home studio, then he moved to The Sonic Factory Studio in Des Moines to work with session players on the bass and drum tracks.
While he does cover other performers’ songs, Ryan focuses on coming up with original material.
“Mainly, for me, it just starts out with playing,” he said about the songwriting process. “My brain is always sparking whenever I’m playing the guitar or piano. Maybe I’ll even be playing the same thing I did yesterday, but I’ll hear it differently than I did before. It’s usually finding some sort of progression or thing on the guitar that interests me, then that sparks my brain to hear a melody over that, then I start thinking about the lyrics.
“I start to write down everything going through my head,” Ryan continued. “Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense, but I keep sifting through it. Sometimes it’s really easy; I’ll have a song in a half an hour, and it makes sense to me. Sometimes it’s not that easy. There are songs that I’ll get three-quarters of the way done, and there are two or three lines that don’t seem right.”
In addition to getting his music out on YouTube, Ryan tries to perform for a live audience whenever possible.
“Over the summer I did quite a few things,” he said. “I did a show in northern Canada, on what is like a reservation up there. They randomly found me online and have this festival every year. They contacted me, and I thought it would be an interesting thing to do. … I also played at the South Dakota State Fair. That was kind of a rainy day, so I only did one set, but I hope to get back there next year.”
In September, Ryan had a gig at BenLee’s in downtown Worthington, and a repeat performance is planned for Nov. 27. As a solo singer-songwriter, he describes his music as “acoustic rock.” He hopes more opportunities for performing will open up throughout the Upper Midwest.
“My main goal has always been to get to the point where I can do the music thing full-time,” he said. “I’m getting closer and closer to it, but I’m not quite there yet. That’s my first and foremost goal. We’re also working on putting together a group. That’s on the agenda for next summer, so we can go out and play a little bit more with that, along with the solo things.”
Whether online, as a solo performer or as part of a group, Ryan wants to get his music out in the public realm, where people can listen to and appreciate it.
“I’m a do-it-yourself artist, and it’s challenging but also rewarding in that I control my own destiny,” he reflected. “I don’t make music for fame or fortune; I just want to be able to reach out and connect to people with my songs.”
Ryan Knorr will perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at BenLee’s Café, 212 10th St., downtown Worthington. For more information about his music, go to www.ryanknorr.com.