Clovis singer Ryan Beatty on road to pop stardom
In the past week, Ryan Beatty has gone from Washington, D.C., to New York City to Las Vegas to Los Angeles, back across the country to Detroit and finally, today, back home to Fresno.
It’s safe to say that the 17-year-old pop-music-star-in-the-making has a career that’s reaching new altitudes.
Two years ago, Beatty was just a kid living in Clovis. He liked to skateboard, had caught some eyes in Children’s Musical Theaterworks productions and was gaining momentum online thanks to his YouTube videos covering songs by Bruno Mars and Adele in front of a bunk bed in his house.
Today, he’s caught the eye of music industry executives, some of whom are courting him for a record deal and forecasting that he could be music’s next big thing. That YouTube channel of his? It has more than 32 million views. His Twitter account? It has almost 300,000 followers.
This all adds up to a grand homecoming for Beatty, who is performing this afternoon on The Big Fresno Fair’s Paul Paul Theatre stage with Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande.
Beatty is one of the rare local artists to get such a spot on fair’s concert schedule. Rapper Fashawn, another national name, is the only other one in recent memory.
So count this as another achievement for Beatty. If you haven’t been paying attention to the kid, he’s collecting a lot of them lately.
In recent months: He’s been nominated for a Teen Choice Award as an Internet star. His debut EP, “Because of You,” reached No. 1 on the iTunes’ pop chart. He was chosen by AT&T to appear in a national campaign to stop teen texting-and-driving, which in turn landed him on the front page of YouTube.
One of Beatty’s songs was covered by Justin Bieber — instead of the other way around, like when Ryan started out. His media appearances have included CNN, Showbiz Tonight, Billboard, Seventeen magazine, Teen Vogue and, just this week, MTV.
In what’s been dubbed “Beatty-mania,” fans have swarmed Ryan — as a budding teen idol should expect — at many recent public appearances. Trips to the M&M’s store in Times Square and an In-N-Out Burger in Las Vegas both ended with Beatty being escorted away by the fire marshal amid a mob of cheering teen girls.
“It’s crazy because places where I never expected I had supporters, people would come out,” Beatty says from Washington, where later in the night he would get unexpectedly swarmed by a group of girls, leaving the entire restaurant to look around and wonder, “Who is this kid?”
The answer: He’s Ryan Beatty. And with every month that passes, he’s becoming more and more of a big deal. Some people like to say he’s the next Justin Bieber because of the teen-girl worship and the boyish good looks. Ryan says he’d prefer to be a little less teeny-bopper and more like respected pop stars John Mayer or Jason Mraz.
Either way, his ascension begs another question: “Where are we going to see him next?”
“I remember just doing little things at schools around Clovis,” Beatty says. “Now I get to go do things in different cities. You never really know where you’re going to be tomorrow. Tomorrow something can totally change. It can go from nothing to everything.”
There was a moment of reluctance for Kevin Beatty when his son, a sophomore at Clovis High at the time, came to him, sister in tow, and said, “Please, Dad, please can I do this?”
The Beattys weren’t the Hollywood types. Just regular people from Clovis. Ryan is the fifth of six kids for Kevin and his wife, Caleen.
Ryan had wowed crowds in a couple of CMT productions. Mainly, “13,” in which he played the leading role and was noted in a Bee review for having “the charisma of a rock star.”
“From the first moment he walked in to audition, you could tell he was someone who was going to go far,” says Skyler Gray, the former CMT artistic director who directed “13.”
Not long after that show, Beatty’s YouTube videos — filmed with the help of his sister, Jenni — started to get popular online. Soon there were potential managers and concerts, record label executives and trips to L.A. to record.
“We were scared to death,” Kevin Beatty says. “We were scared of Hollywood and all the crap you hear. Then we realized we were holding back our son because we were afraid.
“It’s been one long flow of one thing happening after another. We went from people who were at home sitting on a couch a year and a half ago to people coming up to you daily and making a big deal about your son.”
Ryan and half the Beatty clan live in L.A. full time now, after his schedule became too busy for just weekend drives back and forth. He takes online classes and is in his last year. His schedule is so busy, it couldn’t work any other way.
Just look at this past week: Ryan was in D.C. for a radio appearance that left the DJ beaming: “There’s something amazingly and insanely special about Ryan Beatty,” he wrote on his blog. “And I’m pretty sure the world is this close to taking notice.”
Beatty then performed at a New York radio station concert that drew 3,000 people. In Las Vegas, he visited a middle school as part of an anti-bullying campaign. In Los Angeles, he appeared on Kidz Bop radio and hung out with singer Gavin Degraw. In Detroit, he was principal-for-a-day at a high school as part of the anti-bullying campaign.
Being Ryan Beatty is a full-time job. There are no normal days.
Beatty visits AT&T stores and asks fans to pledge with him not to text and drive (interestingly, he doesn’t have a license). He writes and records music, focusing on honing his skills as a guitar and keyboard player.
He meets with record label executives, visits radio stations, does interviews and records YouTube videos. He fills the in-between time by tweeting with loyal (and rabid) fans — he says it’s because of them he gets to live his dream.
“If people would have told me I was doing these things, like getting nominated for a Teen Choice Award, I would have never believed them,” Beatty says. “I’ve gotten to do things that I never thought I’d ever be able to do.”
While Ryan will tell you he couldn’t do the things he does without his fans, there’s another group of crucial people behind him: his management. His “team,” as they say in the business.
“I had no idea how the business works. I was a 15-year-old kid,” Beatty says. “It’s definitely real important to make sure you educate yourself to find the right people.”
There’s a group of five people who oversee Ryan’s career on a daily basis, but the young singer is quick to note: “They really understand my vision of what I want to do. No one is forcing me to do anything. I’m helping make most of the decisions.”
He has two experienced managers: Gary Bernstein, a music/radio industry veteran, and DJ Skee, a DJ turned businessman with a keen eye for digital and social media.
The music industry is paying attention.
One music executive says Beatty separated himself from other YouTube artists by being able to sell music.
“He’s primed himself for larger success by having this bigger vision,” says Chris Mooney, director of artist relations for TuneCore, a digital music distributor that places music on iTunes and other digital platforms. “He’s not just a YouTube artist, but an artist that got his start on YouTube. He’s on a great trajectory.”
As a business, Beatty is still more investment than profit. But his management says that’s to be expected. They’re not trying to hit a quick jackpot but to build a brand with staying power.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Bernstein says. “But the feedback that we’re getting from some of the most powerful executives in the industry is that he’s a really unique artist that should have a career 15 years from now. A lot of these artists that are his age, they’re a flash in the pan. One record company, which will remain nameless, said if another record company does not know who Ryan Beatty is by now, they should fire their entire (talent scouting) staff.”
As it stands, Beatty isn’t on a major record label. But it’s not for lack of courtship. He’s met with the big ones — Ryan says the process is like dating — but his camp is still building leverage and awaiting the right offer.
“Some people,” Bernstein says, “what they do is they take the first opportunity that presents itself and they lose themselves in the long term.”
Right now, the main goal is getting Beatty in front of as many new people in as many major cities as possible. In the coming months, you can expect the release of his full-length album (due in early 2013), more concerts and a lot of traveling.
“I’m just trying to go with the flow,” Beatty says. “We’re not rushing too hard. It’s very laid back. We’re going to go and be really organic.”
If he can dream, Beatty says, he’d love one day to perform on Fresno’s biggest stage — the Save Mart Center.
“I’ll always be the same kid,” Beatty says. “I think my surroundings might have changed, but I’ll always stay that kid from Clovis, no matter what.”
IF YOU GO
Ryan Beatty in concert with Ariana Grande, 1 p.m. today at The Big Fresno Fair’s Paul Paul Theatre.
Tickets: $12 Details: fresno fair.com, (559) 650-3247
By Mike Osegueda