[While reading the article, why not sample the Matthew Ryan Spotify playlist featuring some of his songs, similar-sounding artists and some of his favorite tracks? Four videos also included just to your right! - RFG]
This Friday night, singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan returns to New Jersey in support of his latest album, In the Dusk of Everything. He released the album on his own label, The Dear Future Collective, in October.
Ryan began his music career shortly after college, making two guitar-driven albums for A&M Records, May Day (1997) and East Autumn Grin (2000). The experience was not all that he hoped it would be. “My work requires intimacy with listeners. I was aware of that early on. As much as I loved being part of a bigger label, I knew that our goals were different and that made for a certain friction. The business was changing such that I could make my work available to people in a very efficient fashion,” stated Ryan.
After leaving the major label world, Ryan continued to make music and gradually started adding more electronic sounds to his work, especially on his recent albums, Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State (2008), Dear Lover (2010) and I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Could Fall (2011).
For his new album, Ryan returned to the guitar looking for a more organic sound. “For a few years, I was having a lot of fun creating a little mood with a beat and an organ or a synth. It would evoke a different type of writing. With this record, I just sat down with my guitar again and wrote the whole record. It was fun. Songs just kinda show up and you gotta be there,” said Ryan.
“Sometimes if you act within a certain mode for too long you become predictable. You have to challenge yourself so it feels fresh and exciting,” added Ryan.
The resulting album is very spare, using mostly guitars and percussion with a touch of keyboard. Ryan recorded the album with the help of longtime friend and collaborator David Ricketts. “A lot of my work is quietly rebellious. It was very much on purpose to make it barren because we live in such a cluttered time. That can be real dangerous but I’m proud of the results. It’s just as open as I had hoped,” said Ryan.
In the Dusk of Everything was the result of a move from Nashville, where Ryan had lived since 1993, to the Pittsburgh area, which is closer to where he grew up. “I felt like my time in Nashville had really hit a wall. It was time to get out of there. I hoped to reengage with the present, not respond too much to what I saw all around me. I was happy to see when you remove all that stuff, they become the barriers of the maze that you’re operating in. I was happy to see that the more organic songs were still there,” said Ryan.
For Ryan, the new album completes a personal trilogy. “The last three records (Dear Lover, I Recall and Dusk) have been ruminating on a particular event that happened in my life that is personal. I don’t talk about it because the songs ultimately really aren’t about that or me. The hope with art is that you can tap into something that resonates because it’s a common experience. Sooner or later we all go through these things,” said Ryan.
“It’s beautiful if you can go through these things and still operate via romance and optimism. That’s essentially what these records are about,” added Ryan.
Ryan is the beneficiary of a devoted fan base which includes many fans of Bruce Springsteen. “One of the reasons I’ve gotten to keep doing this is because of the Springsteen community. They actively seek out other music and they’re great people,” said Ryan.
“I feel fortunate because I have a lot of friends who are just as talented who can’t seem to find listeners,” continued Ryan.
Ryan recently completed a set of dates opening for the New Brunswick band The Gaslight Anthem.
Future plans for Ryan include more touring. Said Ryan, “It really is one of those records that occupies a particular space and I hope that listeners give it a shot. This kind of record needs time to breathe. We’re just gonna keep doing what we can to raise awareness and make a case for it.”
Ryan is optimistic about 2013 and beyond. “There are times when I’m a little frustrated, where I feel that my philosophy is being challenged by the speed of things. In my mind, it only means that I have to write a better song. I think that great songs are irresistible and I think that people find them. Fortunately, I can glide along and I do believe that over time people will find me.”
“My whole career has been about following my gut. It doesn’t make for a good business plan but hopefully it makes for some peaks in expression,” concluded Ryan.
Matthew Ryan appears this Friday night at The Saint (601 Main Street, Asbury Park). Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 at the door. Opening acts include Rick Barry and Bobby Mahoney. This will be a solo acoustic show for Ryan.