Indie pop rocker Ryan Ewing will be releasing his new album "Mixed Signals" and he's already released a hit single called "Down We Go" with plans to release more new music, play shows, tour, and so much more! Ryan Ewing himself discusses his new album and plans ahead.
1. Why did you want to go and name this act after yourself Ryan Ewing?
Ryan: For starters, I mean…what a name, right? All credit to my mom. I thought about doing the Dashboard/Rocket Summer thing where I start out trying to trick people, but for better or worse, this whole project is just me, so it seemed to fit. Plus, Hoobastank was already taken. Full disclosure, I did consider something somewhere between the two and calling it Ryan Ewing and the Ryan Ewings, which sounds narcissistic, but it's like saying your name twice so that people remember it…and it would stand out on a poster…and it tells the story…and now, I'm starting to think I totally should have.
2. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Ryan: My musical influences vary like a radio station. I guess I have to accept the comparisons I get from The Script to JET to The Goo Goo Dolls, but I grew up on a steady diet of Elvis and The Beatles. Non-musical influences? For this record, I'd say my lady, Superman, and Walk The Line…though, I guess that movie is fairly musical.
3. What are your songs about? What specific themes do they cover?
Ryan: Obviously, each track has its own story, but the entirety of the record is about the changing seasons of faith, hope, and love. I wanted that cyclical concept to be the theme, with the song "Wake Up" as a foil to "Lights Out." The last few lines of each are "quit looking for a sign" vs. "show me a sign," and the idea was to start the record with "Wake Up" and end with "Lights Out" to create a sort of cycle. However, once I finished recording "Lights Out," it became very evident that it couldn't wait until the end of the record.
4. Do you write your own songs? Discuss the songwriting process in detail.
Ryan: I did write all the songs with the one exception of "Ain't Lookin'" which was co-written with Kato Khandwala, producer of Paramore and The Pretty Reckless. The writing process is always its own adventure. I've woken up with a melody in my head that I paired with lyrics I already had in waiting, I've sat down at a piano and written a song in half an hour ("Tumbling After"), and then I've slaved over a song for months…assembling parts like Frankenstein ("Lights Out"). I try to remain vague enough that people can relate it to their own experiences, but some of it is brutally honest, and if something sounds too specific to be made up, you can assume it wasn't. It's like an embellished biopic and I'm playing myself.
5. How do you describe your music to people?
Ryan: How I describe it is probably different than how my publicist would like…I should probably just say pop rock here, because I can get all self-deprecate-y pretty fast, but I'll say I think of it as vanthems, which is a word I just coined. It's the kind of music that can unite the whole van…from the soccer mom in the front to the 5-15yr olds in the back…to the dad who rolls his eyes, but secretly likes it. Taylor Swift writes vanthems. Man, I am digging this word. I think it's the title for the next album…
6. What is your latest album and why should people buy it?
Ryan: My latest album, MIXED SIGNALS, is by far my best to date. It is also my first. People should buy it, because it's illegal to steal it, and then you have to pay the RIAA or you go to jail, and just try to get a job when you get out, because it's already hard out there as it is, and you realize being in prison was better than being alone on the streets, so you have to do something that will guarantee a life sentence, you don't want to, but you know you have to, and now you have to look the victim's family in the eye, and you go to solitary, but it's okay because you have all these books, but then your glasses break, and…just buy it.
7. What's your take on "Mixed Signals" as a whole?
Ryan: Well, the album title refers to a few things. For one, I played all the instruments, so on a surface level, it is quite literally mixed audio signals. Secondly, the first track "Down We Go" is about how God gave us things like sex and music and “Rock and Roll” represents the way we kind of twist them. That’s where the album art comes in with the strings and the scissors. Free will says that we chose to cut them, but at the same time, we were pre-destined to cut them. Someone’s pulling the strings and placing the scissors…so we're being sent mixed signals. Lastly, as I mentioned, songs like “Wake Up” and “Lights Out” seem to be almost contradictory, so I’m giving mixed signals as much as I’m getting, I guess. As for my take on the album as a whole? I'd say it's a fair representation of me as a whole. You may or may not like me once you get to know me, but you at least gotta respect the gumption.
8. What's your favorite song on the album right now?
Ryan: There's some fun ones, but "Lights Out" means the most to me. Here's where Walk The Line comes in. There's a scene where Johnny auditions for Sun Records, and after failing to impress with an old gospel tune, he is asked a question that stuck with me. "If you were…dying, and you had time to sing one song…that would let God know what you thought about your time here on Earth, one song that would sum you up, you're telling me that's the song you would sing? Or would you sing something different, something real, because…that's the kind of song that truly saves people." Of all the songs I've ever written, THAT is what "Lights Out" is for me. It's a confession and a concession. It opens with just the quiet acoustic accompanying my voice, because I wanted it to feel very personal.
9. Is it important for you to paint visual pictures with the songs?
Ryan: I studied film, and am a visual artist by day, so the short answer is absolutely. For any artist, I think the hope is to express yourself in a way that your audience can share in the experience as much as possible. But beyond that, specifically with visual pictures, I start to get real nerdy. I often experience chromesthesia, a form of synesthesia where one associates sound with color, to the point I can often tell you the key of a song based upon the color I see. A song in A-major, like "Gone" for instance, is usually red…and in a weird way, I think that shapes the song for me. Our twelve-note scale is called the chromatic scale (as in color), and our color wheel is usually divided by twelve, and I could go on forever about all this, but it gets weird, so I'll save it for another time. Yes. I want to paint pictures- ha.
10. What would be the cinematic equivalent of "Mixed Signals"?
Ryan: Pssh- EASY. Superman 2. Both start with a flashback to a time when the hero was a baby, then flashforward to a peppy fanfare, and the protagonist gives into desire (Down We Go). Then the protagonist realizes he's meant to be more (Nothing to Lose), but his fortress is dark and he can't hear his celestial father's voice (Lights Out). He fights to save his lady and city (Hero),…I could go on, but you get it. It's actually a perfect soundtrack. I may have to do a mash-up of all this. Maybe it synchs up like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.
11. What are your current show/tour plans, if any?
Ryan: I played an acoustic show last week for the album release, but I should probably get a band stat. If you are in the NYC area and want to be my band, meet me on top of the Empire State Building.
12. What does the next year hold for you?
Ryan: Just grinding. I mean like pushing the record, not like…up in da club. Though, there may be a little of both. A year is a long time…
13. Anything else you'd like to say or want to add?
Ryan: Vanthems is so fetch.