In the lead up to Ryan Downey’s performance in late October, our very own Suzie Wyllie caught up with the artist to chat about the ways and wonders of the man behind these unforgettable tunes.
Suzie: Before releasing ‘Running’ you released a mini EP of a cappella songs, did the experience of working that intimately with your voice inform the making of ‘Running’ in ways that surprised you?
Ryan: It did in a couple of different ways. I learnt a lot about my voice due to the fact that I was bending it in all sorts of directions I never had before and my voice became stronger in the process. And then, because the mini-LP had been so vocal-centric, I made the decision to keep backing vocals to an absolute minimum on Running to create a nice contrast between the projects and to keep things interesting for me. That decision also suited the character of all the songs on Running; they're very much about a single voice singing for connection.
Suzie: Your voice makes me think of resting my head on a lover’s chest, which is why I wasn’t surprised to read that ‘love’ is a central theme within this album. How did you go about avoiding the common clichés associated with love in song writing?
Ryan: I guess, like any song, I only carry on writing something if I feel I've got a fresh, or at least personal angle on the concept. So when writing about love I think it's important to identify what love (or the aspect of love you're exploring) means to you at that time. And then, never say anything in a song you wouldn't say to a person you love. If it'd be cliche to say it then don't sing it. That's if I'm trying to write a sincere love song. If I'm writing something more playful, then cliches can be great things to play off.
Suzie: It seems there is an elongation of time through the delivery of each of your songs. Is this a quality that you see in yourself and in how you move through life?
Ryan: Ha! I wish. No, life seems to slip by a lot faster. I do like playing with time in my songs, through tension holding and releasing. That's why I love music so much, it's one of the only means I've found to be able to do that and control that feeling of temporal suspension.
Suzie: Your film clips seem to balance a cinematic depth with playful romanticism, which compliments your lyrical style perfectly. Can you tell us a little about your collaboration with director Alex Badham?
Ryan: Thankyou. Alex is a wonderful filmmaker and friend. I love working with him because though he usually comes up with his own concepts for people's videos, he's happy for me to bring ideas for clips to him and collaborate on them - It's the only chance I get to explore my love of cinema so I embrace the opportunity. He's very relaxed to work with and is always able to come up with easy, practical ways to capture things that seem difficult (or expensive) to capture. He's also got a great sense of visual pacing which I think is essential in creating a video that helps showcase the song itself.
Suzie: As you might not know, New Hall, where you will be playing for us in late October is a few streets away from the ocean. What five words come to mind when you think of the sea?
Ryan: I don't see it enough.