What inspired you to become a musician?
When I was 13, Wesley Brothwell, a friend of mine was learning guitar at the time and showed me some really cool stuff that he could play, most notably the snooker theme – ‘Drag Racer.’ He taught me one little tune (the theme to Heartbeat – Buddy Holly I think) and I gave it a go, but then kind of gave it up for 3 years until I began my A levels… I suddenly had a real desire to learn as many songs as I could get my hands on. I wrote tons of little guitar tunes and penned some very rudimentary lyrics.
I started a music technology course at Weston College in 2004 and really got into songwriting and performing. With the help of my friend Lorna Thomas, I managed to finish some songs I had started. She gave me the confidence I needed to perform them. By that time, I was making a living from teaching guitar and hosting a weekly open mic night. I couldn’t imagine my life without my guitar now. I guess it’s really the only thing I’ve ever known I wanted to pursue 100%
What surprises have you encountered in pursuing your music career?
Surprises? Well… I am genuinely surprised that people have been enjoying my songs as much as they have. I have been very lucky, I think, with the amount of positive feedback I receive. Having come top of the pile on various music websites, most notably Slicethepie and of course TalentWatch. I really appreciate the support I get from my fans. I am now at a stage where I am being contacted for gigs, interviews and even advice from other musicians in my local area. It feels great to know I chose the right path and that my life has some meaning. I am constantly reminded of how grateful I am to be in the position I am in.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
I am currently going through my biggest challenge; I am unsigned and self managed which is both great in respects to having complete control of my career and the wealth of knowledge I am attaining, yet very stressful at times. I am aiming possibly higher than I should but I am currently looking to enter the top 40 by selling as many downloads (over 2,500) of my forthcoming single ‘Secret’ due for release on August 15th. A music video is in the editing stage and the track itself took many man hours to write/arrange/record/mix/master and promote. Keeping on top of all the work that needs to be done along with gigging 4/5 times a week and just sorting through the day to day stuff can get on top of me, but where I used to hide from my ‘to do’ lists I now embrace them, work through them and make fresh ones regularly. I get a real sense of self worth by regularly achieving small goals. If I have a day of achieving nothing at all I get depressed, but you have to allow yourself some ‘me’ time once in a while.
Tell us about your band
My band are the best group of people I could hope to work with right now; Adam Chetland (Lead Guitar) has been with me for about 5 years and he is a grade 8 player and teacher. I know he can play anything I throw at him. He comes out with some lovely hooks and ripping solos when required to. Steve Hatton (Bass Guitar) has been playing live for years and has real ‘in the pocket’ groove as well as a play for the song attitude. He actually requested to be in the band as he was already a fan of the music. Knowing someone you work with has that passion makes everything so much more fun and easy to do. Sam Evans (Drums) has been working with Steve for years so they work together incredibly well. Sam is a drum teacher and has the dynamic abilities that are so sorely needed to achieve what I want in the recordings and when played live; he’s just as happy shaking an egg as he is knocking out some gospel inspired rhythms. They are both very attentive to the needs of the song and are a great rhythm section to have behind it all. Hannah Johns (Violin) is the latest member to join. Once I was awarded the fan funding from Slicethepie, I knew I had to get the band I really wanted; violin was something I always knew I wanted in the mix and Hannah is professional through and through. I can sing a melody line I have in my head and she can play it right back to me without hesitation. She also works with other singer/songwriters in the Bristol area as well as Muse! It’s very rare to have a band that can realise what you hear in your head and agree with you at the same time. I cannot thank them enough for all they have done so far and how much belief they have in my, well, our music. Karl G (Samples) is a dance/trance producer from Weston who remixed a couple of my tracks (How Things Change and Secret). He’s an amazing talent and I wanted his input on the tracks at the assistant production stage. I wanted more than just ‘some band’ so with the inclusion of Karl’s samples things moved from beyond the standard.
What’s your process for writing lyrics and where do you get the inspiration for your songs?
These days, writing lyrics tend to follow the same pattern each time. It usually starts with a line or two that I really like. Then I think what I want the song to ‘say,’ what the message will be and then I do my homework on the topic; I read up about it and learn things I might not have known before to end up with a song that contains all the pertinent information I think it requires, as well as my own thoughts and experiences on the matter of course. I like my songs to be complete little packages that contain both sides of an argument and that ends up with a conclusion. I could go into much more detail but each song is usually put together in a multitude of different ways.
When I first started it used to be guitar first, then melody, then fit the lyrics to it but I have also worked with lyrics first. The last song I wrote is called ‘Real’ which is a song about friendship. I love performing ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ – James Taylor/Carole King and wanted to write something with the same sensibilities. It started with chords and melodies. I will sometimes write 2 or more songs at the same time to keep my interest up; if I get a bit stuck with one I can change over to another that has a differing feel or message. I have also written lyrics in the past using a random word generator online; I work a way to join the words together to make sense, which in turn can lead to a spark of a complete idea. I deliberately wrote each song in a different key from the others and used varying guitar techniques to achieve different sounds. I like to think all my songs are very different and I try very hard not to fall into clichés or add something I think I heard before. I could write an essay on how I write songs but there is no formula as such… you just have to stick at it until you are happy with what you have done.
Tell us about your most memorable performances.
One of the most memorable was supporting The Automatic in Cardiff (Hard Rock Café) in 2007 – there were a lot of people there supporting me and my music and I could hear the room singing my words back at me. I just remember experiencing an overwhelming joyous feeling rise inside me. I play around 170 gigs a year mostly in small pubs to small crowds. Every now and then a large crowd gets behind you and things feel amazing, but I get the same feeling knowing just one person is enjoying what I am doing. I have been lucky enough to support some real idols of mine; Erik Mongrain played at a venue in Taunton (Perfect 5th) and the owners arranged for me to support after I sent an email highlighting my desire to share a stage with him. I remember him coming out of the green room to listen to me play an instrumental piece that he had actually inspired, which I later found out from his manager was very rare. It felt good to know I had stirred an interest in him and he said some very kind things to me at the end of the gig. Watching him play was just spellbinding and blew my mind with what he is capable of.
Have you shared the stage with anyone we would know?
To date I have supported Stringer/Bessant (Ex Reef) Colin Macintyre, Erik Mongrain, Chesney Hawkes and The Automatic. I would love to support Newton Faulkner despite feeling massively inadequate compared to him and John Mayer above all just because I am constantly in awe of his songwriting and acoustic technique. I would literally play before any act that performs acoustically due to feeling completely at home as a solo act.
Anything else you want to share?
To whoever is reading this, thank you so much for taking an interest. I couldn’t achieve anything without the support of people like you and I hope I can keep writing and performing until I take my last breath. If you are a musician who is struggling to find your way, just keep going. As long as you give it everything you’ve got, you will succeed.
Check out Ryan and his music at http://www.talentwatch.com/artist/profile/ryanaoinglis