Ryan Koenig isn't afraid to speak from his heart. And that's exactly what "Cowboy Ryan," as he's known, does on his new song "Puebla, MX."
On the surface, the track is an energetic, rootsy country tune borrowing from Tex-Mex traditions of artists like Flaco Jimenez and Freddy Fender. Koenig, who tours as a multi-instrumentalist with Pokey LaFarge, delivers a charismatic and authentic take on the style. But as Koenig explains, "Puebla, MX" is about much more.
Koenig wrote it after returning from the road to his hometown of St. Louis just after the Ferguson riots. There, he saw a city completely divided. And it stung.
"I was somewhat unprepared for the gravity of the situation," Koenig tells Wide Open Country. It left his beloved city "more openly divided than I had previously experienced amongst people I knew and love." He grew familiar with the sad scene of grief and anger after another young life lost.
Then, Koenig lost a friend of his own in Ikey Owens in Puebla, Mexico. "So now, while my city is grieving for a young, African American stranger, I am grieving for another young African American friend," Koenig says. "It really made me think about the weight of the global versus the weight of the personal."
So Koenig sat down and penned this song. Give it a listen below.
Koenig reveals the song also contains several other personal references. The line "October wind," for instance, refers to a fellow St. Louis artist, Bob Reuter.
And the line about all the midwestern boys going to California? "[That is] a reference to a conversation Ikey and I had at the Newport Folk Festival, which to my memory is the last time I saw him," Koenig says.
It's a deeply personal song, and one that Koenig delivers wonderfully. Catch "Puebla, MX" on Koenig's debut solo record Two Different Worlds, due out on Oct. 13.