Enjoying the Wait with Ryan Smith

17 May

Ryan Smith

Electronic music often gets a bad rap. Often the criticism is accurate. I find that heavily dubbed electronic tracks are often so beaten down by a desultory hodgepodge of messy rhythm and intrusive sound dispersion. Some would say this is purposeful organized chaos. To me it sounds like junk. This does not mean that electronic music is all bad. Much to the contrary, electronic music can be refreshing and innovative, if it maintains the melody, of course. And I have good news. Today’s new artist certainly understands the value of keeping the melody.

Ohio-native Ryan Smith released Waiting on May 1 of this year. The album features a creative concoction of electronic beats, piano riffs, and Smith’s subtle vocal. I hear Josh Joplin in Smith’s song structure – very focused on lyric and fine melodies. Ryan participated in an Artist Interview with the Music Court to discuss his recent release and his style. Before we get to the interview let me introduce the first song of the album to you all. Here is “Waiting,” a catchy piece saturated with electronic strings and a canorous piano riff – with just the right amount of effects.

Music Court : When did you first start writing and recording tunes?

Ryan: I probably first started writing and recording songs as a teenager.  I would setup two boomboxes and “bounce” from one to another while adding a new part until I had a song.  It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I started putting out albums under my own name.
 
Music Court: When you were growing up who were some of your biggest influences and how did those musicians shape you?

Ryan: I actually listened to a lot of country music growing up, so I imagine a lot song writing ideas came from there.  Then when I found out about The Beatles, it changed everything.  I mean, they changed everything!  That’s probably where my love of the studio came from.  In college, I was introduced to bands like Radiohead and Wilco, which were profound influences on thinking outside of the box.  Now, I really try to absorb anything I can, musically, whether it be the hot new “indie” releases or pop songs from the radio.
 
Music Court: So you have a new album out now called Waiting. When was it released? How would you describe the album?

Ryan: “Waiting” came out on May 1, 2012.  It is definitely the most electronic project I’ve ever attempted.  There have always been bits of synths, noises, etc. in my records, but this time out I really tried to fully embrace them.
 
Music Court: While the music certainly features some heavy electronic influences, I was blown back by your melodies. I feel that sometimes the “song” can be lost in electronic music. What do you think? Talk about your melodies and what you feel is most important in music.

Ryan: I totally agree.  These songs were all written on acoustic guitar, so I was intent on having good structures.  Then there were three versions of the album recorded over the span of three or so years.  This one, one that was more guitar driven, and one was a hybrid of the two.  I felt this version best captured the songs, and I enjoyed making it the most.
 
Music Court: I think my favorite song on the album is “When it Comes to What I Need,” which is tight and composed. It actually gives me a bit of a Josh Joplin feel.  I can’t get enough of the brief piano hook. Break down the song for me. Talk about the production of the song and how you came up with it.

Ryan: “When It Comes To What I Need” was the hardest song to recorded for the album.  I think it’s because I had very specific ideas in my head as to how I wanted it to sound.  In the studio, I really had to try to let go to see what I could come up with beyond those ideas.
 
Music Court: What is your favorite part about recording music?

Ryan: There are these various brilliant moments while you’re making a record where it’s like, wow, this could be really good.  It could be a just little synth hook, or an effect, whatever, but it’s very exciting.
 
Music Court: I always ask this and it is often the most difficult question. If you had a chance to have record a session with three musicians (alive or dead) who would they be and why.

Ryan: I’ll approach this as putting together a great band to play with, so Nels Cline of Wilco on guitar, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters on drums and Miles Davis on trumpet.  We can get a session guy / girl to play bass.
 
 
Music Court: What is in the future for Ryan Smith?

Ryan: I always want to make better work, so the next thing is hopefully better than the last thing.  Obviously, the big goal is to get as many people to listen as possible.

How about we help out with Ryan’s last comment. Check out the whole album on Bandcamp where it is available for free. You can also like his page on Facebook.

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