August 16, 2012 at 1:17 am

Ryan Dillaha: Living the (Grand Am) dream

Ryan Dillaha’s first car was a Mustang he drove around Belle Isle. (Ryan Dillaha)

Songwriter Ryan Dillaha is one of the highlights of Saturday's Music & Motors Experience in the parking lot of the Pontiac Silverdome.

Influenced by Americana artists like Van Morrison and Steve Earle, Dillaha has a knack for songwriting and an easy-to-listen-to voice. His sometimes bandmate Chris Brantley aptly calls Dillaha's music "outlaw Americana for lovers."

An English professor at Oakland Community College, Dillaha regularly performs around town solo, with a small group or with a full band complete with horn section. He'll appear with his full seven-piece band at Music & Motors.

"I'm really excited to play the Detroit Rises stage because there's a lot of cool bands on there that I haven't yet had a chance to share a gig with, for instance Dutch Pink," says Dillaha.

The Downriver-bred musician plays soulful folk and alt-country music, but says he's looking forward to sharing the bill with a rap star at Music & Motors.

"I keep bragging to people that I'm opening up for Ice-T," says Dillaha, who performs at 3:30 p.m. on the Detroit Rises stage. Rapper Ice-T and his wife Coco appear at 6:45 p.m. on the main stage. "The first rap cassette I ever had was Ice-T's 'Power.'"

Before that, Dillaha will appear at One Eyed Betty's in Ferndale at 10 p.m. Friday.

In celebration of the car culture weekend, we ask Dillaha a few car questions.

What kind of car are you driving now?

I'm a proud owner of a 1996 Grand Am that has a tape deck in it. The lights on the radio never work, so I never changed the radio station. It's on WDET or I put in "Stevie Wonder's Greatest Hits," the first one. That's it. Anyone who has ridden in this car will tell you that.

What is your dream ride?

I think the 1996 Grand Am. I'm living the dream now. I've had no car payment for about eight years, so I'm really proud of that.

Tell us about your very first car.

It was a 1986 5.0 Mustang convertible. It was a super cool first car. I had a rich girlfriend in high school, and her older brother sold it to me for $5,000. This was 1992, and then the Mustang had a phone in it. I remember cruising around Belle Isle and acting like I was on the phone.

1986 Ford Mustang 5.0 convertible (Ford)