Ryan McMahon

The image shows a man with a beard, identified as Ryan McMahon, a singer. He is standing outdoors during sunset, with the sky in the background. The man has facial hair and a moustache.

Ryan McMahon likes to tell people he’s a late bloomer. But when looking at the body of work the 43-year-old from Ladysmith, British Columbia has amassed since 2006, he certainly has made up for lost time. With six releases under his name and two with his side project Lion Bear Fox.

Ryan has established himself as one of western Canada’s most prolific singer/songwriters, leading to multiple Vancouver Island Music Awards and supporting slots for Burton Cummings, Tom Cochrane, Mother Mother, Lee Harvey Osmond and others.

The latest addition to Ryan’s catalogue is Live Now, his first album since 2019’s In Line For A Smile, and a collection he has been eager to share since the pandemic forced him to pause all musical activity. The creation of Live Now began in early 2022 with the recording of “One More Fire,” arranged through the help of Juno-nominated country artist Aaron Pritchett.

Ryan explains, “Although we have stylistically sonic differences, Aaron’s been a great friend to me and my music since we connected at a charity event a few years back. We tracked One More Fire as a stand-alone single at Vancouver’s Warehouse studio, with Aaron’s son Jordan and his fiancée Danielle handling production, along with engineer Sheldon Zaharko [Steve Dawson, Matt Anderson, Billy Talent]. We all found working together so organic and enjoyable that we decided to build an album around that first session.”

With its uplifting, pop-friendly construction still grounded in banjos and mandolins, One More Fire set a high bar. Nevertheless, it kicked open Ryan’s creative floodgates, resulting in a batch of songs he describes as containing more hope and optimism than any of his previous material. “The entire record is a reminder to myself of just how rich my life is, and how to dig in and persevere no matter what is going on around me,” he says.

A second single in the summer of 2023, Lost & Found took things in a slower direction, but powered by Scotty Smith’s shimmering pedal steel, it became the perfect soundtrack for gazing at the stars and taking stock of your life. Indeed, it’s hard not to feel inspired when hearing Ryan sing, “I know I gotta get out of my own way, and maybe I’m learning how / There’s time to make a change for better, I think I’m ready now.”

That may be the overriding message at the core of Live Now, as Ryan personally sees the album as the first he’s done that fully captures what he set out to achieve. It is also contained within the finger-picked ballad A Song Can Change Your Mind, an honest reflection of the impact music has made in Ryan’s life, and the impact he hopes his music can have on listeners.