As the sun sets over the High Desert outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the sound of music vibrates through the air, emanating from a recording studio within old adobe walls.
Singer and songwriter Ron Crowder is at the helm of the mixing console, putting the finishing touches on his brand new single, A Little Love. The song speaks volumes about the artist’s worldview, which was shaped very early in a house filled with love. And laughter. And music.
From a very young age he was blessed to be truly living in the moment. A New Mexico native, he grew up in a musical family. “From the time I was born, my home was filled with music, day and night.” Soul music. R & B. Gospel. And Rock and Roll. “There honestly was never a moment in my life when music wasn’t a big part of my life. It was like breathing. Except for a brief time when I was really young where I dreamed of playing in the NBA,” he says, laughing, “there was never a doubt in my mind what I wanted to do with my life.”
He started writing songs when he was just a child. And he always sang, and taught himself to play the piano and guitar. But from an early age he always wanted to play the drums, and begged his parents to buy him a drum set. “In fact, here’s how badly I wanted to be a drummer. For years as a kid, I used to tell people that I was in fact a drummer, or that I ‘used’ to play. I had internalized this idea so much that I swear I actually believed it.” Finally, when he was 13, his parents bought him a used drum set. “I was absolutely over the moon! I learned two beats and the next week I started a rock band. I played those two beats to every song!”
He stepped into a recording studio for the first time when he was 13 and his band recorded a single. “That experience really changed my life. I remember thinking, ‘this is where I want to spend the rest of my life.’”
Ron’s joyful and love-filled worldview experienced a significant blow when, at the age of 14, his father became gravely ill and was unable to work for an extended period of time. In addition to staggering medical bills, his family got behind on all of their other bills, ultimately causing them to lose their home. Along with that loss came the loss of everything Ron knew up to that point. “Without knowing it at the time, I was catapulted, with no warning, into what it felt like to live in a world of non-attachment.” For him, it resulted in the continuing and ongoing realization that a person’s true home lies within, “where moth and dust cannot destroy.“
That loss, and the accompanying feeling of rootlessness, resulted in high school being a painful time for him. “We had to move a lot after that. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was just numb.” To try to cope, he poured himself more and more into his music. “I was constantly working in recording studios, all through high school. Finally, when I turned 17, I saved up all of my money from my job over the summer and bought a used TEAC 3440 4-track reel-to-reel tape deck. It cost me $850, a lot of money at that time.” He recorded all of his own songs, and became the de facto recording engineer and producer for his friends’ music productions as well.
After high school he went on to study music theory and composition, and English literature at the University of New Mexico. In the evenings, in order to make ends meet, he continued working in recording studios, slowly working his way into becoming a member of New Mexico’s recording studio elite, winning numerous awards (eg: Tellys, Silver Microphones, Addys, American Marketing Association, New Mexico Music Awards) as a songwriter, producer, recording engineer and composer.
Through it all, songwriting has always remained his passion. “The thing that would mean the most to me now is if my music could move people the way I have been moved by my favorite songwriters. That’s my goal with every song I write.”
He has also gone on to travel the world as a touring and recording musician, sharing the stage with acts as diverse as Three Dog Night, The Persuasions, The Main Squeeze and 3-time Grammy winner, Fantastic Negrito, among many others.
Ironically, the very first time he went on the road for an extended period of time, he felt a sense of being at home in a way he hadn’t since the loss of his home when he was 14. “What has sustained me all of these years,” he notes, “is the love and the laughter and the music. For me they go hand in hand. It’s about so much more than music for me. My music is truly an outgrowth of that all-powerful love. It’s what drives everything for me.”
“Crowder creates witty, craft-anchored rock with informed, cross-genre flourishes, á la Newman or Zevon.”
AUGUST MARCH | WEEKLY ALIBI
“Written and performed in a retro style he terms rock ‘n’ soul, the EP’s songs are steeped in his compassion for the working-class roots from which he hails, and give voice to the everyday celebrations and struggles that the common man or woman goes through.”
ADRIAN GOMEZ | ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL
“People across this land/are ready to march and shout/hatred is alive, division in our house.” The verse is from “Liberty,” a catchy-as-hell ‘60s-evocative tune complete with wah-wah effects and a burning guitar solo.”
PAUL WEIDEMAN | SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN
“They don’t hand out New Mexico Music Awards to just anyone, but Ron Crowder—who took home the title of Best Song 2018 with the song “Liberty” from his new self-produced EP of the same name—isn’t just anyone. A bit of a session guy, Crowder’s played with some of our local greats, but now he’s struck out on his own with a nifty mix of rock ‘n’ soul, and things are looking bright. Crowder’s even reintroduced the smokin’ rock ‘n’ roll sax to the world.”
ALEX DEVORE | SANTA FE REPORTER