If country music artist Ryan Casper had a piece of apple pie, he might be called the next American icon.
The 1997 Gainesville High School graduate — who will be performing songs off his new album, "Ain’t Life Great," on Saturday at the Mall of Georgia — said his inspiration in his songwriting comes from his family, God and his patriotism.
At 29, with three young daughters and a wife of eight years, Casper said he is moved by the things that make this country great.
"I consider myself just a good ol’ country boy type of thing; God, country, family, that’s my three-headed monster I go by, I guess," he said. "The song, the single I’ve been out promoting, is ‘The American Way,’ and obviously that song there, it’s just kind of some basic things that I feel really strongly about, about our country and that sort of thing."
"The American Way" drips in patriotism, evoking images of pickup trucks and American flags. Other songs on his new album continue the strong, traditional country bent with sad stories, subtle calls to God and a clear voice to tell the message.
In is early 20s, Casper said he considered music like Lee Greenwood’s "God Bless the USA" to be simply an anthem of patriotism. But as he’s gotten older, he’s realized the weight of values such as fighting for freedom and the responsibility of parenthood.
"As I’ve gotten older, that’s when those things have really come to mean more to me," he said. "Having children and concerned about their future and this country."
Casper got his start in music by singing around the house, at family get-togethers and church events. In high school, a friend taught him how to play the guitar, and Casper’s adventures in becoming a singer/songwriter began.
While singing has always come naturally, he said, songwriting was entirely different.
"It’s definitely a learning process," he said. "There’s aspects of it that I guess would come natural — it’s kind of one of those things you have an ability or a God-given talent with it, but you have to keep at it to make it better. It’s kind of the thing with my singing as well; there’s something to it that’s natural, but then I’ve definitely had to keep working at it just to polish the craft of songwriting."
Casper has also been doing a lot of traveling to Nashville, Tenn., and while the housing market has kept his family in Hall County, he said he’s made many drives up to that haven of songwriting, meeting with other artists and taking in as much information as he can.
"(Gainesville native and songwriter) Bruce Burch told me years ago that it’s hard to play ball when you’re not in the ballpark," he said. "But things continue to progress and doors continue to open — but in this neck of the woods, you have to go to Nashville."