You mentioned your music falls in the indie rock/indie folk realm with organic instruments and modern layers. Could you elaborate on the specific blend of these elements that make your music unique compared to others in the same genre? Ryan: Yeah, so on paper it probably seems to be fairly similar to many artists in these genres. I would say that what makes my music stand out in this area is less about the instrumentation and more about the crafting of the individual songs. There is a lot of time and care put into the writing of the lyrics, and often my songs are what I might call "thinking person's" music. There are a lot of poetic devices used such as controlling metaphors, rather than simpler more obvious cliches. There is also a lot of time put into developing melodies and note relationships that are infectious - partly to make the song appealing, but more to keep myself interested. So while many of my songs could be described in a similar way to a number of other artists, there is a somewhat hidden quality to the crafting of the work that keeps people coming back to it. It's the same hidden quality that gets me hooked on a band or artist: hard to describe, but tends to set the work apart in a saturated field.
Transitioning from performing under your full name to potentially using "The Secret Trails" for your new project is interesting. How does this name change align with the direction and themes of your upcoming music? How do you see this new moniker capturing the essence of your music differently?
Ryan: Good question. The name itself is a sort of symbol for the various paths we could go in our lives, and this type of rebranding of my project is one of those decisions to follow a different trajectory. I spend a lot of time on trails in my day-to-day life. My wife and I go hiking almost every weekend, and we often go backpacking and camping. For me there is a very real and present relevance to the idea of trails, and there is a connection to the natural world that is at the heart of most of my songs. With this project, a main guiding force behind The Secret Trails is an ethos of being connected to (or wanting to be connected to) the elements in nature that are fulfilling to my soul. The vibe and aesthetic of this music is very much about authenticity and organic creation, and hopefully, the whole essence of The Secret Trails will be the same.
With a diverse range of musical influences, are there any surprising elements from genres outside of rock and folk that you've incorporated into your music? Ryan: Yes, definitely. the influence and inspiration I've gotten from hip-hop has led me to write some works based on more rhythmic and syllabic lyrics, and I have also had spoken-word pieces on some of my albums. I'm also a big electro-pop fan, and many of the synth textures that appear in that genre show up in my compositions sometimes. When I began playing music it was as a child, and the instrument was the violin, so naturally, I was trained in a number of classical works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. A lot of their influence shows up in the orchestrated elements in some of my songs. I'm a sucker for big strings layers.
You mentioned wanting to collaborate with Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, and The National. How do you imagine their contributions would shape your music and the overall creative process? Ryan: In the case of Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood, both independently and in their bands (Radiohead, The Smile), I find that they add things to productions I never would have thought of. In fact, I have sometimes heard their work and thought that some sonic choice or other may be ruining the song, but after a while of sitting with their songs, I am always convinced that their ideas are solid and well-executed. Often it is their odd sense of texture and context that makes the whole composition work. The National is a band that seems to always have all the right parts in any moment. Especially with regard to Aaron and Bryce Dessner, the guitar and keyboard choices are always just what the song needs without stepping on anything. I imagine anything they collaborate on is the better for their involvement.