Interview: Ryan Star
Thu, 15 Aug 2013 09:51:32
Ryan Star Videos
Ryan Star lets loose on his brand new EP, Animals [iTunes link]. This is the "R Star" you've seen live on stage, lighting up crowds with infectious bravado and a palpable edge. Animals taps into that energy with artful songwriting and genuine soul. Tracks like "F*ck'n Up" and "World I Used To Know" boast honesty as well as some immediately memorable hooks. This is the best way to get to know him…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Ryan Star talks the Animals EP, songwriting, and so much more.
Was it important to construct a sonically deep record?
There were a lot of layers. It starts with songwriting for me. As a guy who wants to create imagery in music, it's important for me to get the songs out there that way. Then, as someone who understands the musicality of everything, the kind of music I grew up on, and the kind of music I want to play, there are levels to that. Then, you bring the band in. We started in my Brooklyn apartment, sort of in the box of my more modern elements, digital sounds, and my piano. When we brought that to the studio in the barn, we went to a whole different level. When we went home to New York, it was about finding all of those levels and bringing out the performances. I think that's what you're hearing. You're hearing the different levels of the recordings.
Would you say Animals is the most "You"?
Absolutely! I feel like it's been what I've been trying to do for a while. It took me having to produce with my buddy and bringing it back home to what I like. We weren't so cheesy as to write things on the wall in the studio, but it was in the air. It was understood, "We don't talk about radio. We don't talk about what other people would like as far as the gatekeepers and business people go. We don't even bring them in". We were so far removed from that. It was just, "Do we like this? Is this something we want to play?" It became easier. On top, there were the intentions. You can easily make a record in your apartment these days. You can stock things, and you get out what you put in. However, if we were using a sample, we were making that sample. Not that you might not even have a difference, but the intention of recording the music yourself and thinking the thoughts you're thinking when you put it to tape meant something different. There were these rules we made in the air. We tried not to break them as far as having good intentions behind making this music and having a purpose. That really kept us on the right path as far as making this new music versus me thinking outside of myself and thinking, "This station might want this..." I didn't care. It was a very selfish record in the best sense of the word "selfish" when you're talking about music and art.
That's the best way to make music!
Yeah! You're putting yourself out there a little bit by doing it. It's funny because I wasn't as concerned in the past about what people thought. I'm definitely not now, but there's a sense of, "I don't know if people will get this". Before, I thought it had a place. It felt safe in a way. This is the first time in years I made music where I didn't know what it is. In a way, I'm in an uncharted territory in this day and age where everyone has a style and a scene and you have to fit in to this or that. I feel like I'm outside of the line a little bit. Hopefully, people like it for what it is.
That uneasiness breeds excitement.
I think it does. There's no, "Where is this tomorrow?" I'm letting the music speak for itself and find its own way. I'm not trying to force it down anyone's throat. That's always how I've been as an artist. When people come see me live, it's different. It's a rock show. I've always found it hard to fit in. It goes back to when I was a kid. If there were four seats at the carpool, I was the fifth. I was always close enough to getting the invite, but there just weren't enough seats at the party. That's my life [Laughs]. Why should it be any different with music? This is for the fifth-seaters.
What song from the EP resonates with you the most at the moment?
A lot of the music happened in the moment. The one that continually speaks to me and it probably will for the rest of my life is "Bullet". It was just recorded in a moment's time. It was the first song I had the idea for when I started writing Animals, but it was the last song I finished. About ten minutes before recording, I had the idea for the song still. I went into the room, wrote the lyrics and the rest of the arrangement and talked to the band about it. We went back in and played it in one take. That's pretty much the only time that song has been played. Forever, I'm a fan of what happened there that day.
What's the story behind "World I Used To Know"?
It's a pretty song. It's really haunting in the hook. I like that hook in there. I had this idea. You're driving home for thanksgiving break from college, and you're back in that town you grew up in. Movies have been made of it. Everything seems different. It brings back those memories for you. There's a nostalgic sound to the song. There's an eighties thing going on in the music. There's that idea of "The last time I was here, I was thinking this way". It's not such a sad song, but the line, "We wished for lots of things when we were seventeen and we're waiting for it now"—to me, that's the song. It's the honest song I can say. In the years of Facebook and Twitter, everybody's bragging about everything going on. The truth is I think we're all really discontent [Laughs]. We're looking at everyone else like, "Am I really the only one who's not where I want to be?" It's not saying, "I failed. I'm bitter. You fucking lied to me!" [Laughs] It's more like, "I'm fucking ready, man. Where are you? I'm doing everything right". I might know enough people out there who are working hard and waiting for that sign.
If you were to compare Animals to a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
Each song has its own thing. Even the artwork we chose is almost like the art for Risky Business. There's a bigger picture and album waiting to come out. These just happened to be one moment. There's this thing I keep going back to it from the last time I felt one-hundred percent me. I really challenged that time for me. I think the music is more honest because of that. One of my favorite movies is What Dreams May Come. A song like "Bullet" reminds me of one of those heavy movies. I'm writing her a letter and saying, "I would do anything for you and even do the one thing that would hurt you the most". It's another way of saying, "I'd die for you" and the sadder side of it. It's not the Disney prince idea. It's the idea love will kill you in the end. Cinematically, I don't know. I think I wrote my own movie called Animals. I got into music kind of because of films. I think of telling the same story, but telling it in three minutes' time instead of two hours. I'm the lazy screenwriter.
Have you heard Animals yet?