Testimonies from the Tour

Ryan Clair is the Worship Pastor at New Covenant Bible Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He's also a touring folk singer/songwriter/recording artist who is currently working on his third full-length album, called Hymns & Spiritual Songs. This blog post is his account of what he pours into his music, and how the music, in turn, shapes him and others who hear it. 

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As a young kid I was always inspired to create. If I wasn’t attempting to make music, I would be drawing or doing something artistic. Before I ever knew how to play an instrument, my brothers and I would play “band” by setting up our make-shift stage full of gear: tennis rackets, toolboxes and cardboard boxes. We would blast our boombox radio and invite our parents to come watch us play some Bruce Springsteen or Fleetwood Mac.

Growing up, music was a common thing in our home and at family gatherings. When I was 14 years old, I was gifted my very first electric guitar. This was years before YouTube and having an internet connection was common in the average household, so learning how to play was up to me.

I spent close to a year playing with one finger, picking one string at a time, trying my best to make music. A year later I would meet a new friend who taught me how to play a power chord and the rest was history. I would later encourage my brother to pick up a bass guitar and start a band with me. We played in bands together for many years. That common bond of growing up over music continued into our adult lives.

To make an incredibly long story short, it was through music that the Lord would reveal His love for me. Playing my guitar and singing in a band would lead to an invitation to play on a worship team. Through the power of His word, the lyrics of the songs we would sing, and the community that surrounded me, I would eventually surrender my life and desires to the Lord.

From the moment my wife Mary and I started having children, I would talk about how awesome it would be to have our kids play music with me someday... and that dream became a reality this summer! I played a concert here at New Covenant on August 1, 2021, and took to the stage with three of my kids playing in the band with me that night: Ava (17), Oliver (15) and Owen (11). I have played hundreds of concerts in my life and this one was -- hands-down -- one of the most special for me. I could barely sing out the first verse of the first song that night as I was thinking about what was taking place. From the birth of my first kid, this 17-year dream was actually happening. I was over the moon!

When our family relocated to Iowa for my role as worship pastor at New Covenant, we were blessed with the perfect space for a band room in our basement. A place where we can leave things set up and jam at any opportunity of inspiration. This summer has been spent practicing together three to four evenings a week. The kids have been doing so well, so I told them they could play some concerts with me this summer.

Man, oh man did that ignite a fire in them -- and me! -- as I knew it would take lots of work to help them be as ready as possible. That concert on August 1st was the start of our very first “Ryan Clair Music & The Family” summer tour. We played a number of concerts in Minnesota and Wisconsin leading up to the City on The Hill Festival in Duluth, Minnesota, where I was invited to open for Toby Mac, Mack Brock and other well-known Christian artists. It was so fun hearing a gentleman in the front row of our opening act, shouting with excitement to Owen, my 11-year-old drummer, how he got the opportunity to play on the “big stage.”

“Did you win a YouTube contest or something?” the man shouted. When I was 11 years old, I was still playing my tennis racket guitar in my bedroom. To see the smile on Owen’s face and think about the opportunity I was able to give my kids to do something like this together felt like a dream come true.

In 2017 I signed to an independent record label out of Buffalo, New York, called Old Bear Records. Since the 2018 release of my debut album, Less Traveled Road, I have been working hard to release a new album every two years. In 2020 I released “Among the Pines,” and in 2022 I plan to release “Hymns & Old Spirituals” -- a collection of great old-timey songs that I feel will be a great fit for New Covenant Bible Church and beyond. The summer tour lined up perfectly to help us financially as I head into the studio this month to record this new album. During my concerts, I was able to share a handful of the songs that will be included on the new album, and I was so encouraged to hear how much they meant to so many people.

For example: our final concert of the tour was in Janesville, Wisconsin, where a woman came to our merchandise table after the concert to tell Mary how much the song “Softly and Tenderly” meant to her and her family. It was her Dad’s favorite song, and the one they had sung together in the hospital as he went to be with Jesus. She handed Mary a check telling her she wanted to pay for the entire cost to record that song. What a blessing! I will be thinking of her and her family as I record that song.

Touring is hard. Touring as a family is far more difficult. The blessings have far outweighed the challenge. I've loved hearing the testimonies of so many along the way and hearing how the Lord used our family dynamic of the kids on stage with me to inspire and encourage parents and other kids to serve Jesus in their unique ways. One of the favorite places we played was for 10-15 people at a Celebrate Recovery event, who were there not to see a band or hear great music, but to find community, hope, and freedom from addiction. We were able to bless each person there with a free CD and had the opportunity to talk to most of them as they shared their stories of sobriety and battles with me. One gentleman shared with me that the lyric in my song “Move Over Devil” --- I won’t falter, I won’t fail, ain’t no devil gonna take my crown... --- would be his daily battle cry. So many stories to hear and remember. Thank you, Jesus, for using me and my family!

Thank you to everyone who has supported our ministry through purchasing our merchandise, donations, and prayer! We celebrate in this together as we spread the Gospel of Jesus through music and the face-to-face interactions we experience on the road!

I love being your worship pastor!

See upcoming tour dates, shop merchandise, and hear more about Ryan's heart for music ministry at RyanClairMusic.com.  


Ryan Clair
Worship Pastor