Note: This interview was conducted before the end of 2022.
How would you describe your music to anyone who may have never heard it? Ryan: I usually say that it falls somewhere in the indie rock/indie folk realm. Organic instruments with some modern layers, sometimes beats and synths.
What’s the significance of your musical moniker, Ryan? R: When I perform solo, I usually go by my full name, Ryan David Orr. I decided to use my full name some years ago when I googled the name Ryan Orr and found there was a young adult author of that name, and some other people came up. So, it came about as a more specific way to find my music online. In 2023, I will be starting a new project in which I am essentially solo but go by the moniker The Secret Trails -unless I decide to change the name. That name comes from a series of trails in the woods near my house, but it also presents a nice metaphor for the various paths we choose to take or not take that are often hidden from view. What are your musical influences? R: Artists that I consider to be direct influences on what I do are rock bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Cream, and Stone Temple Pilots. Then also artists like Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Tool, Mos Def, Bjork, Elliott Smith, Sade, Iron and Wine, and Thelonious Monk, and I'm sure there are more I am not remembering.
What are my musical inspirations? R: My inspirations -which overlap a little bit with my influences- are pretty varied, but being inspired by artists is different than being influenced by them, so here are a bunch: Beethoven, Beck, Alt-J, Howlin’ Wolf, Whiskeytown, M.I.A., Richard Buckner, Thom Yorke, Massive Attack, Gregory Alan Isakov, A Perfect Circle, The Weepies, Deftones, El-P, Michel Gondry, Phoebe Bridgers, The National, Ari Aster, and R.E.M.
If given the chance, what musicians would you like to collaborate with? Rather this is to either write or song or be featured on a track. R: I would love to collaborate with Thom Yorke or Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead. They are both incredible musicians and Yorke's songwriting has always been some of my favourites. I would also love to write with or be featured on anything The National does. Which songs on the album were the most fun to write and which were the most challenging to write? R: The most fun songs to write on this album were "Too Hip For Heaven" and one called "Juvenile" -both of these came fairly easily. I was really happy with the lyrics and how the recording process went. The most challenging was a song called "Big Ol' Blue" and one called "Western Life" -for both of those, I had a number of rough writing sessions, and it took a long time to be content with the lyrics and the production. I had to go back to the drawing board several times for each. Do you have any favourite tracks from the new album? R: "Juvenile" might be my favourite from the new album. I really like the lyrics, and I am super happy with how the production turned out. So Ryan, what's the new album actually about? R: Overall, the new album is sort of about the ways in which people try to manipulate the world to feel like they are in control or that they have control. I mean this in a more personal, individual sense rather than world domination or something. Everyone wants to make the world make sense, and often they try to fit all the square pegs in the round holes. The album is called New Imperials, and this basic sense of controlling things is where that concept comes from. Do you have any favourite songs to perform live? Could be your own music or even a cover. Any reason why? R: I really have fun playing "Ain't too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations. My mother listened to a lot of Motown records when I was a kid, and The Temptations were always playing in the house. Right now, my favourite song of my own to play live is "Too Hip for Heaven," which is folky and funky and has a really catchy hook. If you could perform a show this very second anywhere in the world, where would it be? Is there any particular venue(s) or city/cities that comes to mind? R: It would have to be Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. To perform my music in that setting would be incredible. What do you currently have planned for 2023? R: I will be playing a bunch of shows, promoting the new album, and releasing a series of singles with the London-based production label The Animal Farm. I am also writing new music that will compile a new EP to be produced by Ken Coomer, who was the drummer for the bands Wilco and Uncle Tupelo. I have been sending him demos in Nashville, and he has been planning for studio musicians. I also recently released a music video for one of the songs from the new album that won some awards at several film festivals, including the Switzerland International Film Festival. Thanks for taking the time for the interview, Ryan! Is there anything you would like to add before you go? R: Thank you as well! If people want to sample my music, they can find the brand new album on all streaming platforms, and they can go to my website to see videos, hear music, read lyrics, and find out more about my art!