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Interview with Don Ryan

So I got this pitch from New York singer-songwriter Don Ryan who did his homework and read in a recent post that singer-songwriters are my least favorite genre. He said they were his least favorite also, which is the ultimate irony.

I checked out his new single, “Our Town,” like it and sent him some interview questions. Good stuff here….

Dig it? Download it:
MP3: Don Ryan – “This Town”

So you’re a singer-songwriter from NYC, but who are you, Don?

Wow, we’re digging pretty deep right off the bat in this thing, huh? Haha! I’d guess I’d have to say I’m just a small town girl living in a lonely world.

Uh-huh. So beyond Journey, who are your influences?

My influences are kind of a jumbled, tangled up mass of things I’ve heard. I’m relatively schizophonic, so one minute I might be listening to something fairly evident in my own sound, like Elliott Smith or Wilco. But the next minute I might throw on a Carcass record or Mozart or something. The funny thing about it is that it always feels like such a seamless mood shift to me. It sometimes bugs people out, but shifting gears like that never feels contrived to me. It’s still rock n’ roll to me. Jesus Christ! I’ve now quoted Journey and Billy Joel in one interview. Goddammit.

What do you write about? What inspires you? Why?

I’d say the most artistically inspirational day of my life came a few years back. I was in the throes of a vile whore of a depression and just sort of lost at an artistic crossroads when I took a trip down to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida (as an aside, the fact that they used that sunny tourist trap of a town to build a shrine to such dark, trippy art is almost as strange as Dali’s work itself). But anyway, as I was standing there beholding this dude’s immense genius, I couldn’t help but overhear some snake oil salesman of a tour guide ‘explaining’ Dali’s paintings to all these khaki-clad tourists. I was so taken with the hilarity of watching these folks feign epiphany ‘eureka’ moments, declaring how much they ‘get it now!’ that I realized I had just found myself a new muse. I was never going to make it easy for people anymore. I was never going to spell it out for anyone anymore. And I still get that same old kick out of the fools who declare that they ‘get it’ when they hear my lyrics.

What’s the backstory on “This Town”?

“This Town” was actually a really interesting one to write, in that it came together so quickly and naturally. I was on the phone with my best friend/bandmate at the time, just having a seemingly run-of-the-mill conversation. At the time, our friendship and band was falling to pieces and our conversations would often veer off into the realm of strange trippiness and this one was no different. As we were speaking, I began writing down anything that came out of my mouth that sounded like it could be lyrically interesting, making sure to not include any of my friend’s words because, as I say, our friendship was falling apart and the last thing I wanted to do was plagiarize this dude at a time when things were getting pretty brutal between us. When I hung up the phone, I looked down and realized that the vast majority of the lyrics of “This Town” had just been written. I grabbed my guitar and played some chords I had been working on that morning and just sang the first line written on the page, “This town is burning down.” And right then I knew I had a song.

The music video for the single has what I’ll call a “nostalgic warehouse” vibe. What’s the story line?

Right on! That’s exactly what we were going for with that video! The whole video came just as naturally as the song itself, actually. For some time, I’ve been obsessed with 1930s music, especially Billie Holiday, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw. So when the song “This Town” was written, that influence had naturally seeped in there and intertwined with some other prior obsessions, like 1960s psychedelia. Mash all that up on some Pro Tools rig and I guess I became the newest card-carrying member of the newfangled digital nostalgia movement!

And as luck would have it, the warehouse that we rented out for the video just so happened to have a shit-ton of 1930s memorabilia and a car from that era just laying around, so it completely fit aesthetically. Just an eerie coincidence, I guess.

What was recording the video like?

The video was a great excuse to get really high and watch my friends make complete assholes of themselves on camera. The times were good and the booze was better! Haha!

But despite my relative stupor, my friends Tanya Donatelli (Director) and Vadim Putimstev (DP) maintained an incredible professionalism and put together something really cool, especially despite absolutely no budget. It’s definitely one of my proudest artistic moments thus far.

What’s next for Don Ryan?

Some Chinese food in my fridge. Aside from that, on a more long-term level, hmm… maybe rehab?

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