At WTFest, our bloggers Jennifer and Krystal caught up with the adorable Steven Ryan. Check out what he had to say below!
Krystal Knopf: How are you liking Brantford?
Steven Ryan: Well I grew up in St. George, I don’t know if you are familiar with the area but it’s like, 8 minutes away, it’s a town of 4,000 people. So, I basically grew up in Brantford.
Jennifer Lavergne: So how does it feel playing your hometown?
SR: Pretty cool! There’s been stuff going on in the past, and I never really got a chance to play on the actual festival bills until this year so that’s pretty awesome.
JL: Do you want to give us a little bit of a background about yourself?
SR: Yeah! So, my name is Steven Ryan, I’m a singer/songwriter primarily. A lot of the gigs I normally play is just me on an acoustic guitar, but obviously big things like this I like to bring out a band because that’s the way all of the songs are recorded on the CD – if anybody owns it. I’ve basically just been playing live since I was 15 or 16, so for the past eight years, just truckin’ it around trying to get myself out there. I’ve gotten enough popularity to get on some cool shows. I’ve released two albums, both locally, at a venue called the Sanderson Centre. It’s also available on iTunes, it’s called Take My Hand. It’s been having some success, I sold out of the first printing of it, about 2000 copies.
JL: That’s awesome!
SR: So that was decent within a year. It’s done good on iTunes. In the last couple months, I did that thing on YouTube – which I am sure you’ve heard about.
JL: I actually have questions about that!
SR: Yeah it boosted some sales on iTunes and got more people directed to my page.
KK: That was awesome – it was really good!
NOTE: The mentioned YouTube video was a parody cover of Christina Aguilera and A Great Big World‘s “Say Something.” He called it “Do Something,” and he sang it about the Toronto Maple Leafs. Check it out below.
SR: Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
JL: We can jump into that! Do you consider yourself a Leafs fan?
SR: I do – I am a diehard Leaf’s fan, and that’s why I wrote the song. If I wasn’t a fan I wouldn’t have wrote it, that’d just be mean right!? It was more from a fan’s perspective. I wrote it with my soon-to-be brother in law, Tyler Smiley. He’s been a Leaf’s fan since before he was even born, it was just in his blood. So, I was joking around with a couple lyrics and I was like, do you want to help me out with the song? And then we sat there, and we wrote it. We didn’t think anything of it, we wrote it long before we released it and just after the 10 game losing streak I was like “I’m gonna film a video, I’ll put it up on the Internet, and it’ll be hilarious, our friends will laugh and that’ll be the end of it. But apparently not. A lot of people watched it.
JL: Do you think your video had impact on the change in management?
SR: Uhm, I ‘d like to think so! Maybe! They actually invited us out! Tyler and I got to sit in the board room with Shanahan and Nonas, which is the GM and yeah so – maybe! I have no idea. After that, Shanahan’s pretty much the only one that’s left standing at the organization. We have faith in him, and obviously if you’re a hockey fan you know he was a phenomenal player in his day so, we trust that he’s doing the right thing for the team!
JL: We’ll see!
KK: We hope!
SR: Well, they can’t get any worse, right? I mean, how many seasons before this one did they beat any records? They beat a record – with this losing streak! So, it’s still a record!
KK: Go Leafs Go!
JL: Yes! So, are you in school at all?
SR: No, no. I’m not good at school. Well, I could be good at school, but it’s not my thing. I want to play music. I want to write music that people can relate to, and play it for people that I can help. That’s it, that’s what I want.
KK: You have to go for your dream.
JL: Are you working part-time any where while you do the music thing?
SR: For the longest time, I just did music. Which was fine, but then, I got engaged recently –
KK & JL: Congratulations!
SR: Thank you, very much! But yeah, I thought to myself, I should get a real job, because now someone else is involved in my life, so you know, I can’t just be mediocre. So, I got a job and shortly after realized that I shouldn’t have got a job because it wasn’t doing me any good financially because I could do less music anyways. It was really a huge compromise, and I was really just unhappy doing stuff that wasn’t music and not having the time to do what I wanted to do. So, now I am going to be focusing solely on the music.
KK: That’s great!
JL: What is something about the music business that no one would ever know unless they were in it?
SR: That’s a hard one! There is some deep, dark corners in the music industry that make you not so happy, but there’s so many more and better things that happen that remind you “this is why I am in it.” One of the best things about it is the fans and the people listening to your music. You know, when you get those messages saying, “Man, I was going through a rough time, your song helped me out,” things like that.
JL: Stemming off of that, what is one experience you’ve had that really sticks out to you?
SR: Probably – two at the moment. They’re both fan experiences. I gave someone a CD and said you know hey check it out – and they had actually checked it out a couple of days before one of their best friend’s ended up passing away. There’s a song on my album, it’s called “Far Too Soon,” it’s about losing people far before you’re supposed to – she had said to me, she gave the eulogy, and she quoted the song because it touched her so much. And I was like.. “Wow, I can just stop playing music now, and I think I’d be okay with it.” That was an amazing experience.
There was also a gentleman, who actually found me through the YouTube video, then downloaded my CD. He has a chronic condition, he’s always in pain and he’s usually ridden to a wheelchair. I’ve never met him in person, but he sends me messages all the time, we talk back and forth on Facebook, and he tells me how much he loves the music, and that it’s his favourite CD, he listens to it all the time, comparing me to people I shouldn’t be compared to. It’s just really humbling. It just goes to show if you can get enough of a push and get your music out there, people want to hear it, and you can help people and possibly save lives. That’s the whole point.
JL: That’s incredible! Has there ever been a time where you wanted to give up music?
SR: There’s never been a time where I wanted to quit music, there has definitely been times where it almost felt like I had to give up music. But thankfully I never did. It’s one of those things where, sadly the music comes from a lot of the bad times in life. So, I have to go through those bad times in order to be able to communicate them in a song and possibly be able to help someone else out through their bad times. So, I’m thankful I went through those things. Personally, I never wanted to give up on music, but there’s definitely times where I was like, I owe it to people in my life to maybe be there more.
JL: Growing up, was music something that you always wanted to do?
SR: It was always what I wanted to do, weirdly enough I didn’t know how to do it. I couldn’t play an instrument, until I was maybe 15. I always liked to sing. When I was young, I went into a talent show at school, I was maybe in grade 5 or something. A lot of my friends made fun of me and told me I should never sing. One of my friends told me that they were embarrassed to be my friend. This is like, one of those moments that changes your life. I stopped singing, I stopped doing anything until I got to high school. It ended up that a lot 0f my friends in high school played music and I was like, oh I always wanted to play music so I picked up an instrument at 15, a guitar, and started writing and playing.
KK: Who are you influenced by, musically?
SR: Love them or hate them, I love U2. I think U2’s amazing, even though everyone rips on them for that thing they did with their album, which hurts my soul because it’s like, these people wrote this music, and in one article they said “We were afraid people weren’t going to buy it, and we couldn’t imagine putting our heart and soul into music and people not having it, so we found a way to give it to everybody” – and everybody just shit all over them for it. What kind of person are you to be mad that you got free music?
JL: That’s a fair way of putting it. I wasn’t too impressed when it showed up on my phone, but I did have a listen to it and it was pretty good! Anyways, so you have toured in Ireland?
SR: Yeah, I have quite a bit of family over in Ireland, so I went over and played in different pubs and bars and stuff – no big theatres or anything, but I got to play quite a few pubs. I got to play in a couple of traditional Irish music sessions and stuff so it was pretty cool.
JL: What was the experience like over there compared to here?
SR: It was one of my best experiences to date. Mainly, because over there I’m like the mysterious foreign guy – which is not a thing here, because I speak English – but there I was the mysterious foreign guy, which I thought was a cool experience.
JL: It’s fun to be in a different area. What’s your favourite part of playing shows?
SR: Probably just being disconnected from anything going on in the world. Because there’s a lot of negative energy and a lot of people not being positive, and the second I start playing – I like to take my shoes off and my socks off, I don’t want anything bringing me back into the real world when I am playing. That’s kind of how I look at it. Music is one of those things, when I play it’s like nothing is wrong in the world for that 20 minutes or that 3 hours that I am playing. It’s like, why can’t all the time just be like this?
JL: I understand completely! I have a couple more fast questions starting with: what are 5 things you can’t live without?
SR: My fiancee, black v-neck T-shirts, bacon, family/friends, and then.. cheese.
JL: Bacon and cheese together?
SR: Well, I don’t think legally you can group them together. But always together is how I eat them!
JL: What is your favourite song to belt out at the bar, in the car, karaoke – any time?
SR: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
KK: Oh that’s a great one!
SR: Best song ever written.
JL: 5 years from now, and 10 years from now, where do you see yourself?
SR: Playing music for more people and playing music for even more people!
JL: For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words.
SR: It’s soft rock with a pop influence.
JL: If we were to turn your iPod on right now, what would be your top 5 played artists or songs?
SR: Right now? It would probably be – a lot of Christian artists actually. The production and stuff is amazing and the messages are translatable across a lot of platforms as long as you’re not closed-minded, you can take a lot from it. But um, JJ Weeks Band, Matt Maher, Marc Broussard.. James Bay! Well, James Bay is not a Christian artist, I’m sure you guys know who James Bay is! James Bay’s album destroyed my life – I was like I should just not play music because he’s already doing it really well. Also, Jeff Buckley – he is one of my all time favourites.
JL: If you could open up for any artist on tour right now, who would it be?
JL: Yes anyone – actually we’ll say dead or alive.
SR: It would definitely be Jeff Buckley. If it was somebody alive though, it would probably be Matchbox Twenty or Rob Thomas, whichever – I’d open for Rob on a solo tour or with his band!
JL: Great! Thank you so much for chatting with us!
SR: Thank you!
Check out his song “Far Too Soon” below!