Up and coming singer/songwriter Ryan Lill sat down with I’m All Ears Music Blog for an exclusive interview regarding his debut album “Breakdown” due out this fall. As an unsigned, independent musician, Ryan Lill has made quite a name for himself in the music world already, and with a full-length album coming out soon we have high hopes for the Charleston bred talent. His new album digs deep into his personal life, showing more of an emotional side to his writing than he has ever released before. The album follows several EPs with singles like “Coming Out,” “Stay Young,” and “Kerosene.”
Your new album comes shortly after a breakup, how did this change your aspect on life?
I’m not sure that my breakup made me change my aspect on my life per se, but it definitely changed how I felt, which changed how I write. I think that when you’re a writer you attempt to write what you know, whatever it is that you believe to be true, the things that you’re not really good at saying out loud but still need to say. So for me, anything that I go through in my life on a personal level, be it friendships, family, relationships, or ideas, I do my best to write what I feel. I’m still the same person I was, just different, and I think my music speaks to that.
Which song on the album was the hardest to write?
There were two songs on this album that may not have been difficult to write, but they were definitely difficult to finish. When I’m writing, I try my best to make it all makes sense, and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t. You try and put your thoughts and ideas together so that there’s a story told, and sometimes there are just too many ideas rushing in at once, so you have to wait it out until things get more clear, or you just have to go with it and accept that it won’t be perfect.
The first of the difficult songs is “Whiskey,” because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever written before, not just lyrically, but musically. It’s such a personal one for me, but it’s actually my favorite song on this album. I think people will have lots of ideas on what the song actually means, but to me it’s just a cluster of memories. Like the smell of someone’s cologne that you’ve gotten used to, or a taste you remember that reminds you of a moment you shared with someone, or a pet peeve that you’ve come to love about another person. It’s not just a song about whiskey, it’s a song about falling in love with all the little things, even the bad ones.
The second song that I had a hard time with is a song called “Mercy.” I’ve realized that I’ve gotten really good at accepting my own personal mistakes recently, and I think sometimes I’m a little too harsh on myself, so this song kind of hit that nerve for me. Accepting your defeats, and accepting that you’re never going to be flawless or without blame is a hard thing to swallow for a lot of us. I don’t like dwelling on negative things, be them memories, words, or everyday feelings – so it was difficult for me to write about being vulnerable or hurt.
Why has it taken you so long to release new music?
Honestly, the only real reason that I have for not releasing music is that I am afraid. I always had been. I think when you’re writing something personal, or even if you’re making something that isn’t technically about you, it’s still personal, and releasing something like that to the world and taking the risk of people hating it is a little scary, and sometimes a little overwhelming. I’m not a perfectionist by any means, but when it comes to music, you can’t rush it. You can’t write what you don’t have the material to write about. I took time to live, discovering who I was as a person. I experienced things, and I was content in my life being a normal person. I’ve had moments in my professional career where I have discovered that I don’t want all of the things that come with being an artist – but I also realize now that I don’t have to. I don’t have to do or say anything I don’t want to, and I don’t have to be anyone that I’m not. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that no matter what you do or what chances you take, there’s always a risk. There’s always going to be a negative side to anything you do, you just have to tell yourself it’s going to be okay, and know that you’re doing things for yourself. I’m just not afraid anymore. I’m not afraid to succeed, or fail.
Where do you see your music taking you? How far do you want to go?
That’s a really good question, and I wish I had an excellent answer for it, but I’m not sure I do. I have always dreamed of just being able to do music full time, and making enough money to support myself with it. I have never seen myself or imagined myself getting to “taylor swift status,” but I’ll take everything that comes my way, and try my best to remain as close to myself as I can. I just want a life full of music and adventure. I want to write music that people want to hear, and I want to be able to help people as much as I can. That’s my “dream.”
As a musician, I’m sure you have a certain musical taste. Who’s featured on your spotify playlist?
Shit, there’s so many. I’m kind of all over the place when it comes to music, so they range from top 40 to the most obscure indie music you can find. Currently some of my favorites are Pheobe ryan, Julian Baker, Tegan & Sara, Birdy, Josh Rouse, Mariah McManus, Betty Who, Oh Wonder, Death Cab for cutie, paramour, and a shit ton of other artists that I cant think of. My guilty pleasure lately has been Aly & Aj… yes, the Disney ones. I’m obsessed and its not as sad as you think, they’re seriously talented.
Who is one musician you would kill to record with?
Hmm, that’s tough. I can imagine recording with a ton of other musicians, all of different genres. I think right now I’d like to collaborate and write with Halsey. I’m seriously in love with everything she writes, how she performs, and just who she is as a human being. Of course, I’d also like to do a song with my girl Meghan trainor. We would seriously create some magic.
Some dream of performing at Madison square garden or Carnegie hall, what is one venue you have dreamt of performing at?
I have actually performed at Carnegie hall, and it was magical. I have always loved really intimate settings, where I can see every single person face to face. Its terrifying, and it sends this rush of adrenaline through me, and I love it. I still shake when I’m on stage, and I don’t ever want that to go away.
Anybody who follows you on social media, can clearly see that your posts are aiming towards being “positive,” what’s inspired that?
I think a lot of things have changed in my life lately, and I’m trying my best to keep up with myself, both mentally and physically. I’ve always believed in trying your best to be as kind and open as possible, but I understand that sometimes we all fuck up. We all get down on ourselves, we get mad, and we can be seriously hateful. I just think that life is difficult enough, and the only way to make it through is to do your best to be happy with yourself, and to treat people with respect and love. It may seem a bit corny, but it has to start with someone, so why can’t that “someone” be you?
With everything going on in the world today, do you think being gay has affected your career positively or negatively?
I’ve always hated this type of question, because I don’t think that it should matter at all, but I’ve also come to realize that it does. I’ve never claimed to be political, or an activist of any kind, but I realize that being gay and in an industry that puts you in the public eye – you become inherently political, whether you want to or not. Everything you say is either praised or hated, by everyone. So you can choose to not talk about being openly gay, or you can accept that you are, and that you’re still a human being. I have chosen to not only accept it, but to be proud of it. I don’t think it’s affected my career in a negative way at all. A lot of my fans are gay, and a lot of the venues I play are for lgbt events and rallies. If I can make one person who’s afraid to be who they are realize that it’s okay to be “different,” then I’m doing my job not only as a musician, but as a human being. That goes for anyone, straight, gay, bi, trans, etc. we’re all human, and we’re all capable of being who we are, without hurting other people.
What are the qualities you look for when you’re dating?
Haha, at this point, I’m not even sure. I think we all want someone who understands us, and wants us to be who we are, and loves us for it. I want that. I want someone who is proud to be with me, is proud of me, and isn’t afraid of that. I know that I can be a lot to deal with sometimes, and I’ve never claimed to be flawless, ever, but I think I’m a pretty decent catch. I just want someone who is who they are, and loves me for who I am as well. someone kind, funny, and able to be forgiving and honest when it counts.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another musician?
I’ve actually gotten a lot of advice from a lot of really great artists. I remember once downtown in Charleston, chely wright spoke at an lgbt event we were having, and I sang during the middle of it. Afterwards, I spoke to her for a while, and we ended up following each other and keeping up with one another on twitter and instagram. She’s spoken to me multiple times, and has told me to “stay true to who I am, and the music I want to create.”
In new york, Meghan trainor said the same thing to me. Not only that, but to “keep writing the music you write, and being who you are.” It’s the little things like conversations you have that truly stick to you. I’m happy to have met them both, and I’ve appreciated their friendships since. I will forever be a fan of the both of them.
You don’t seem like the type who is easily offended, but what’s one thing that really bothers you?
Contrary to popular belief, I get offended a lot, actually. I think I’ve become really good at containing my reactions until I’m calm enough to realize what the appropriate response is. I have feelings like everyone else, I’ve just learned to control mine a bit more. I think people say things in the heat of the moment sometimes without thinking. I don’t think that excuses what’s been said, but I think that being able to really sit on it, and think for a while before responding is the best thing to do. I’m a firm believer in saying what you feel like you need to say, but I think that things can be worded to be mean, and things can be worded to say exactly how you feel while considering the other persons feelings.
Do you have any advice to those who want to pursue a career in music or entertainment industry?
I’m not sure I’m the best person to give anyone advice, musician or not. I think the only advice I can give is to be yourself – be who you are through and through, and don’t let anyone walk over you, change who you are, or tell you that you’re wrong for being who you are. That’s it. Stay true to yourself, and do your best to be as kind and loving as possible. You never know what someone else has been through, and you never know what part of them you’re talking to . be nice. That’s about it.
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COMING FALL 2016