By his own admission, David Ryan is on quite a journey.
He’s from New England, but he lives in Nashville. He got his start as a drummer; today, he’s an independent singer-songwriter. He started playing in rock and metal bands, but his own music has been subtle and reflective, with an Americana inclination.
He’s a well-rounded musical paradox. And it all kind of begs the question: what’s next?
Maybe unsurprisingly, that seems to be the question behind Ryan’s latest single, the simultaneously subdued and driving “Give Me Your Love”.
Ryan calls it a “straightforward rock tune,” and throughout the track you can definitely hear some of the elements of Ryan’s rock beginnings resurface, like hints of his musical past lives.
The drums beg for foot tapping, chugging along with the steady character of classic rock. The guitar solo is assertive and well-placed; the vocals twang with the confidence of country music.
It’s a song that feels self-assured. It’s good, confident fun.
But, for all of those things – the steadiness, the confidence, the fun – there’s an underlying contemplative bent to the lyrics that’s striking.
And beautiful, really.
Because, at it’s heart, this is a song about change. It’s about seasons, stages, old places falling apart. And the contrast there, between the deep nostalgia and the steady march of the music, is haunting.
“Give me your love,” the song asks. It’s asking another question, too.
For small towns, old relationships, and faded memories, the answers are difficult and unclear. For David Ryan, though, at least a few things are certain: the journey will continue, and the future looks bright.
Listen to “Give Me Your Love” here, and then dive into the interview below to learn how David went from metal drumming to writing nostalgic Americana rock.
And check out David’s website, here.
So, how’d you get into music? You started as a drummer, right?
Yes, started actually in band in school. I was a member of the drum line all through high school, and throughout that time played in some rock and metal bands in the Boston area. And, after high school, I was looking for open mics to kind of get into the local music scene. And that’s how I met Andy Pratt, who I ended up drumming for.
Where did you meet Andy Pratt? An open mic?
You know, I kind of met him through Craigslist (laughs). I was looking for open mic opportunities around the area, to kind of get my foot in the door or just start playing the local scene a little bit. And I saw this ad on Craigslist for an open mic or a jam session for drumming. And when I got there, Andy Pratt was there. I guess he happened to be in town and was there, and it ended up turning into almost a drumming audition.
But I guess I did well, because he asked me to drum with his band. And I ended up working with him a good deal after that.
That’s wild. So, from there – how did you transition from drumming into songwriting?
So I played in a lot of bands and did a lot of gigs as a drummer over that time. And as I was playing in those places, I would end up doing a lot of the management and promotional work. Because, in this industry, you need to know how to market yourself or your band. So, I was playing with a lot of people – people like Colene Walters, who had played the Grand Ole Opry for many years.
But I realized that, if I was going to be managing and marketing, I wanted to be doing it for myself. And I’d been writing during that time, so I had a backlog of material, and it was a matter of recording it and putting it out to get on the map. And from there it’s been pretty cool to see how things have played out. I was even in the running for Grammy nominations.
So it’s been fun.
How did your sound come together? The EP’s been described as Americana – how did you settle there? Because it seems like you have a diverse background, stylistically.
Yeah, I do. I’ve played in a lot of bands – rock, metal, even things like that.
But even while I was playing in harder rock bands, the things that I would have in my head – the things that I’d write – always naturally played out as Americana.
And it’s funny, because I wasn’t even aware that that was my sound – like, I wouldn’t have put it into that genre on my own at first. It’s not like I listened to a lot of Americana growing up. It’s just what came naturally. But, once I was able to identify that sound, I was able to kind of grow into that genre.
What’s the goal when you write a song? What do you want your music to do?
Well, with the EP, there was definitely a desire to bring some optimism and positivity, with some political tones, too. I want to write about topics that make people think, you know? But I want to do it in a way that’s inspiring.
Interesting. I like that. And at the same time, the EP also doesn’t come across as overtly political, I don’t think.
It’s not overtly political – but it definitely does have those tones. Like, I’m not going to hit you over the head with something obvious in those songs, but there are ideas and reflections.
And I’m actually going to be going toward that more with some of the new songs I’ve been writing, which I’m really excited about.
I think, in the music industry, there’s a fear to deal with real things or issues sometimes – or there’s a desire to write things that are commercially geared, because that’s what the industry wants.
Right. Like, pop needs to relate to millions of people quickly and easily, or it won’t sell.
Yeah. We’re in a time where everything we can get is at the tip of our fingers. We want it easy. We want it simple. Dude, you make something hard for someone in today’s world, given that everyone can just have what they want whenever they want it – you make it hard, people give up. They easily give up.
And that’s because there are fewer opportunities, and more people going for those opportunities. And of course that’s frustrating, in any industry that you get into.
So, complexity causes people frustration because it’s not easy.
Which is why many people are going online to start their own independent companies – social media, music, whatever it is. So many people are sitting in their apartments right now, releasing music, and because of the internet, they can make a good living doing it.
Because you just need some plays. You just need some downloads.
And everyone can do it. Anyone can download your record and stream your music. You can totally run a music business sitting in your living room. That’s kind of like what I do.
Yeah, it’s interesting. I feel like the danger in that is that it makes it harder to cut through the noise if there are more people doing it.
Yeah, but that’s where marketing comes in. So, this kind of goes back to what started this whole thing for me – you have to market yourself in today’s music industry. You have to know the business.
You wear lots of hats as an independent artist, and the first one that you have to wear is your marketing hat, straight up. If you don’t know how to market your music in today’s industry, you won’t survive. Because you won’t generate revenue for yourself, and you’ll have to keep going to your day job.
Which just sucks.
So what do you think lets you cut through the noise? What do you think makes a song good?
All characteristics of a song. Dude, that’s a question that certainly does not have one answer.
Here’s the thing. There’s this artist, this old dude from Germany, whose name is Dan Reeder. And his songs specialize in harmonies. He’s got some witty lyrics, some bad ass harmonies. And he’s just this old dude in Germany, only has very small production in his songs – they’re driven by the harmonies and lyrics.
And to me, I think his songs are Grammy-worthy. But, because it’s not commercial, and because it’s too complicated lyrically, and because he’s an old guy, it would never happen.
You know? That’s sadly true in today’s industry. If you’re old, they won’t promote you. It’s like, “He’s old, he doesn’t cater to our target audience.” – which is younger people.
But, for me dude, I think his killer harmonies make his songs great. I think guitar solos – like by Linsdey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, I think that’s what makes their songs great. I mean, for Fleetwood Mac, it’s not just that – it’s that the music and the melodies of their lyrics literally fit like a glove. It’s perfect.
Actually, if this is one of your questions coming up: my answer for “What band do you think has the best hand-in-hand match of rhythm and melodies?” – that would be Fleetwood Mac. Everything they do fits like a glove.
I think Fleetwood Mac are some of the greatest songwriters in the history of the music industry, because of that.
And then you’ve got, you know, people like Miles Davis. Who, with just a trumpet, and just knowing how to emphasize notes, and just knowing how to put character into a melody, how to put attitude into a melody, can make a song sound great.
Because in a song, you want to bring intensity, whether in the form of a whisper or a scream. And if you can convey that – you will have great songs.
I guess that’s the most important thing in a good song. It can be a whisper or a scream, but it needs to convey intensity.
Do you think the purpose of a song makes it good? Like, is a pop song destined to be less good because its purpose is to be commercial? Or a song that’s meant to inspire political change might be better because its purpose is better?
From my own personal standpoint – yeah. Because I think political songs are something that people are afraid to release and write and produce. But we need something to shake and rattle that cage. Everyone’s scared of the ramifications, like we’re in some kind of dictatorship – and some might say we’re turning into that. But yeah.
Let’s dive into “Give Me Your Love” a little bit. The first thing that caught my ear with this song is that it seemed more alternative in style than the first EP you put out. Was that an intentional sound choice, or did it happen as you were writing?
It is actually very intentional. Because I want to get back to my rock roots, while mixing in some Americana stuff. I think I’m really going to be tapping into that in these upcoming releases. But, as far as the EP – stylistically, that was just something to get onto the map. I had a bunch of stuff that I’d been sitting on for a while, and I had to get it out.
So I got it out, and I got the ball rolling. And now, having this single with a rock vibe, it really coincides with where I’m moving next. It’s a good introduction for what’s coming, I’d say.
It’s totally off the path that the debut EP went down. Those songs are on a totally different path. I think these new songs are actually much better. I’m really looking forward to releasing them, because I think they’re very strong.
Do you think that the sound – the more rock-driven approach – is more conducive to the political message? Like is it a better fitting glove for that cause?
Yes. Because rock music is rebellious. And it always has been. Rock music has been at the forefront of every revolution, every cultural revolution from the 70s onward. And it still is, actually, the most sold music in today’s very pop-culture industry.
But yeah, dude, it works so well for political songs because rock music has always been rebellious. Everyone has that rebellious side. Rock music will always be the leading horse in any sort of revolution, in any semblance of rebellion against injustice. That’s why rock music is bad ass and ain’t ever gonna die.
I agree. It just has that driving feel, I think. Americana’s more reflective – it feels like you’re looking at something and reflecting on it. Rock music feels like you’re looking at something and changing it actively.
I agree. Not that that’s bad. The whole Americana thing kind of comes from my own personal experiences.
Because I come from a place where it’s kind of a black hole – it’s tough to get out of it when you’re in it. Manchester, New Hampshire is one of the worst drug trafficking areas in the country. Crime has spiked up considerably in the past few years. It’s become a very tough place.
I mean, it has been a tough place for a little while, but over the past few years it’s turned up the heat. Many more carjackings and robberies and all of that stuff.
And so unfortunately, I’m seeing the demise of my town, the town that I grew up in. The past few years I’ve been seeing it go down from a distance. So that was my inspiration behind those songs, and behind what I wrote – reflecting on that without a lot of ability to change that situation.
But throughout this journey, there’s also some rebellion that’s involved, because you have so many people that want to escape, but they have to actually do it. And that requires with some rebellion. There’s always something that drives someone to do something. No matter what it is, there has to be a reason, or a cause for an action. And the new sound kind of reflect that.
And rebellion isn’t just being angry. You know? There’s such a thing as killing them with kindness. That’s another form of rebellion. I like the best of both worlds. Rebellion, but driven by self-freedom, and the underlying emotion around those things.
I feel like “Give Me Your Love” walks that balance. I think, throughout the song, the chorus seems more general, while the verses seem more personal, or more geared toward specific situations than a general feeling. Did the song start from more of a general idea, or a specific place?
It started from a specific place, because it’s personal. It’s about trying to keep something alive that’s dying. You know, upon the good majority of my family members divorcing last year, and losing friends over the past few years, and people have passed away- I needed to put that to the song.
In the second verse, I talk about the New England shore, and the arcades that are breaking down and losing money. And it’s about trying to revitalize something that was once strong and can be strong again.
That’s where the whole,
Give me your love // Let me in your soul
comes into play.
Because it goes both ways, from where you come from and from the people that you have relations with – friendships, or the people that you just love. And so, trying to keep things going that are inevitably going to die, or trying to keep things going when you have control to keep the fire burning – it takes action, whether in the form of relationships or even organizations.
Is the song more about the people, or the place?
Both. So, it’s about a relationship. The first verse:
Seasons change quickly as they appear
Air gets crisp this time of year
As the summer moves on the dreamer’s love has to wait
The winter’s chill warms the embers of a once burning flame
It’s about how things change, and life moves on. People come and go. So, I was trying to create that setting. That’s how life is lived there. You see things come and go with time.
And so in the first verse, I wanted to get across how that happens – how it happens to people and it also happens to communities and your surroundings. Like how these arcades and beaches have become trashed, or closed down.
And so that’s the premise of it.
When did you start writing it? And what came first?
I started writing this song around the time that I released the EP – so, about a year and a half ago. I started just on acoustic guitar, and I had everything for the chord progression, but I had nothing for a melody or for lyrics. And I just played the whole thing over and over and over again for two months.
And then everything came. The melody and lyrics came all at once. After a couple months of just playing that chord progression, the song ended up becoming finished.
What was the catalyst to the lyrics and melody coming in? Were you thinking about New England?
Yeah. And that’s also another thing, now that I’m thinking about it – it was due to a little bit of homesickness.
It definitely does a good job of getting the feeling of that place across.
Good. I’m glad. Thank you. That’s the hardest part – trying to get that message across. Sometimes the song writes itself. Sometimes it takes a few months or a few years.
So once everything came to you, was there any shaping in production?
Nope. It’s just a straightforward rock tune, exactly how I wanted it.
How did that come together?
In the studio? First I lay down a clean rhythm guitar track, and then I’ll do a scratch vocal. Then, I’ll play the drums to the rhythm and the scratch, and then I’ll layer everything on top of the drums. To get a good drum take, you have to have a super clean starting riff.
So I did the drums, and then I did rhythm guitars and some backing guitars. Tim Rogers, my producer, laid down bass, and my friend Paul played the guitar solo and did some backing guitar as well.
What are your plans for the upcoming year? And for this song, specifically?
My plan for this upcoming year is to team up with a management team to help drive this thing.
I’ve got a couple of college shows booked this spring and summer, because this year is more of a writing and recording year. I don’t think I’ll be hitting the road as much as I did last summer, but I’m planning more radio touring this summer, rather than just shows. And then I’ll plan on hitting the road more in the fall.
When do you think those new tunes will be out?
No idea. Summer 2018, if I had to guess. But, follow me on social, and I’ll start narrowing down the dates for that as we get to that bridge.
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