Derek Ryan and a Cuppuccino
Sitting down with Derek Line inside a Belmont area coffee shop (Bongo Java), I learn about his ability to create and mix at will in his own bedroom as well as collaborations with other artists through the digital ether.
Nashville Rocks: So the Glass EP. Did you cut it here in town or by yourself? Are you an engineer?
Derek Ryan: That one was completed done in my bedroom apartment studio. It was pretty awesome. I played all the guitar parts and the vocals I collaborated with some friends and we did some production and arranging. The drummer went to his house and recorded the drums, the bassist went to his house and recorded the bass. They sent it all to me. I recorded my parts and got to mix it.
NR: So basically everybody has Pro Tools at home now?
DR: Basically yeah and the drummer runs his own studio so it was kindof nice to have that.
NR: Easy for everybody then… Were these the right people and the right fit?
DR: Yeah and it was cool to work with them too because both of them were in established bands in Maryland and signed and all that good stuff. They kind of do this all instrumental math rock kindof thing. It’s real technical and cool.
NR: Alot of crazy time signatures…?
DR: Crazy time signatures and layered guitars, yeah it rules and it works for ’em. They keep your attention, they have all the gear and the right mindset and my stuff is alot more straight forward so I think for them it was kind of a…break and an outlet and helping them do something different.
NR: Anybody creative wants to do something different…
DR: They got it to me real quick, I was able to mix in my apartment…
NR: What did you start with? What did they have to work with?
DR: Everything on that EP was written acoustically so they had those rough demo tracks and they recorded on top of those I tried my best to play them as tight as possible and sent it back to me and it was done really well.
NR: Yeah that’s great. I know guys that send files overseas and collaborate with guys there.
DR: it’s insane how technology lets us do that. We probably met in person for a total of 4 hours during the whole thing and we were able to release an EP. The fact that we’re 12 hours away and still able to do it…that right there was enough to open my eyes. Music is evolving…
NR: how would you describe your style? I know no one likes that question [in crazy voice] but I like to put people in a box!
DR: My releases are kind of different. It’s kind of my mindset that for the first album I wrote it with this intent to be acoustic rock. Like a heavier acoustic rock like Good Old War. Basic music, basic songwriting with an emphasis on acoustic guitar. When I went to record that one, I decided to…
NR: Do you detune alot of stuff?
DR: yes, my favorite key is B flat so that was kind of a pop acoustic rock kind of thing. It wasn’t really full filling though. The latest EP genre wise was all over the place but probably more rock or pop rock.
NR: What is your goal? Are you playing music because its fun, you love it, trying to make a name for yourself and go on tour?
DR: All of the above. I love making it. I love mixing it. I love playing the engineer role. I love playing out live. I love doing it all. I’ve been in bands playing guitar and bass and thats what really sparked this project in particular. I was bored of that. I wanted to do it all by myself. Lyrically it’s a form of self expression. As much as I’d love for someone to say, “hey I like that. It’s a killer song.” It is still self fulfilling.
NR: Are you playing out much right now?
DR: the guys who helped me get this recorded are in Maryland so that makes it difficult because I’d really like to play them the way they were recorded to their fullest extent. When I play open mic nights and stuff, I don’t generally play alot of my original music. It’s more covers and stuff that people are familiar with so…I’m still looking for the right people to play out live as a full band. That’s really what is holding me back from taking this any further than just a project. I’m actively looking for the right people.
NR: There are so many people in this town that can step up and do that.
DR: Part of me wants to do that and part of me just wants to move forward and part of me wants to go back and work on old songs.
NR: You want someone who will make the investment into the entire process.
DR: Yeah you want that marriage to be as cohesive as possible.
NR: If you had all that together, where would you want to play in Nashville?
DR: Anywhere possible…It’s not country, but anywhere possible.
NR: Nashville has more than just country these days for sure.
DR: Yeah when I was playing bass and guitar in punk bands we had plenty of places to play. Good ole hole in the wall bars and stuff. Gotta love em. That’s part of the beauty of em though. Ya go sit in a smokey bar and worry about your gear crapping out because the electricity looks fried. That’s part of it.
NR: Or somebody stealing your gear…
DR: Yeah exactly it’s part of it. That’s what it’s all about. I wouldn’t be picky in the least bit. It’s more finding that outlet cohesion in brothers in music.
NR: I get you. As you work with a band for a long period of time you become a unit.
DR: It’s like a brotherhood.
NR: Then theres always the bad side of the brotherhood where they don’t show for rehearsal, one is a drunk, one’s a jackass, one thinks he’s mr. Hollywood…there’s always that too.
DR: I think I’m all three of those!
NR: All mixed up into one right?! I’m the guy who sits back and watches it all happen.
DR: I’m Hollywood for sure…This is kindof like my baby you know. This is all me songwriting wise and I’m hesitant to put it in a place where it’s not cohesive. That fear would keep me from moving forward with someone who’s not a good fit.
NR: What’s your favorite song on the EP?
DR: [sighs] Augh
NR: [crazy voice] Their like all my children!
DR: It was originally written as a full length CD but I chopped it down to an EP because these six songs were supposed to be like a concept throughout.
NR: A lot of people love that.
DR: The goal was to try and do that lyrically, but in terms of genre and instrumentation and all that, they are all extremely different. Different flavors and different sounds. I’d say…..Arh.
NR: Which song identifies you?
DR: The Battle not the war
NR: See I just change the way I ask the question and it changes your response right?
DR: yeah this is the one thats a little more upbeat and poppy rock song. It kindof sums me up as to how I write music. It’s pretty straight forward.
NR: Do you usually start with melody, lyrics, poetry? How are your songs born?
DR: Generally I would say it starts with a lyrical melody, but I can’t say that for half of these songs. Some of them start completely instrumental. The songs that start with a guitar riff make the songs a little more dynamic and make them stick out a little bit more. In general though it’s a lyrical melody and I run with it from there.
NR: Do you have any crazy ideas about a project that you haven’t yet pulled the trigger on?
DR: Yeah…I’m working on a song now that has time signature changes as well as key changes. The goal I have for that is to make it as natural as possible. Almost to the point where you don’t notice it’s happening. So that it’s natural. Alot of progressive crazy music is so forced. I want to make it easier. Theres something to say about old bands like Genesis doing stuff like that that you never noticed.
NR: Oh yeah old bands did that. Like Rush…
DR: Oh yeah they did a lot of it. Thats a goal for me.
NR: So you’re not in the music biz for the women???
DR: Oh of course I am. We wouldn’t be sitting here otherwise.
NR: I just hang out with artists so I can bump into the pretty people.
DR: So at least three of my songs are written about women so you know…
This EP is really an entire story for me. Then I took the themes and rearranged them to fit the song. Or even the songs were meshed around. Just making sure the message is still there. Try to say something that I feel but that also someone could take and relate to in their own way. I’d love for someone to listen and think “hey, those are my demons too.”
NR: What is your instrument of choice?
DR: This was all cut on a Paul Reed Smith. Those guys are from Maryland. A fender Telecaster too and a Paul Reed Smith acoustic.
I have an addiction to buying guitars. This PRS has stuck with me longer than any other guitar. It has some age on it and sounds sweet.
NR: So it’s not like Willie Nelson’s acoustic then…
DR: It’s pretty sweet. It’s hard to move up from there. It does everything. The neck is so comfortable. That’s why I got the PRS acoustic too. IT feels likes an electric guitar.
NR: What are your plans for what’s next?
DR: This one is a snapshot of what’s coming next and I want to promote this one as much as possible. I have a full length album I’m working on and that’s really next. For this EP though, the style is different and the first track is acoustic gypsyesque, then the next is kindof a metal song, then the third is in your face, then the fourth is an acoustic ballad, then the 5th is more progressive with an epic outro and the sixth is on piano so they all have something different.
I really hope I can reach music fans with this and I’m looking forward to much more.
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