Q&A: Ryder


Photos by Lauren Brown.
Interview by Caitlin Ison.

Whether it was you playing it or listening to it, can you describe your earliest vivid memory of music?

I remember sitting at the piano singing in the house I grew up in... we had a beautiful black Yamaha piano and my mom was there filming me. It actually is one of my earliest memories in general. I’m sure I was singing a nursery rhyme or something really simple and not at all impressive. I must've been about 3, maybe younger.

When did you know music was what you wanted to do?

I knew really young- probably around the same time as that memory. Around 3 I decided that was my future. I think I cemented that further when I started to write songs at around 13 and recorded my first demo then too. I knew exactly what I wanted and there was kind of no turning back.

You grew up listening to classical music. What made you want to create the music you make today? 

I definitely was around a lot of classical music which is a big influence for me, but I also listened to pop, rock, soul, R&B, electronic. My personal taste is probably a combo of everything I like which is a pretty eclectic playlist. I enjoy making songs that have a life of their own and I don’t think too hard about the genre. I just create what I’m feeling and excites me.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never listened to your music before?

Probably a blend of indie, pop, and urban/soul.

Does classical music play any role in your current sound?

Melodically for sure! I like choosing unexpected notes and layering tons of classical almost operatic sounding harmonies- it adds this beautiful ominous feeling. Also, rhythmically I use it as well. There’s this ethereal quality that emerges from the interplay between short and long notes that combined can be quite dramatic. It depends on the song and how I’m feeling if it pertains. But they’re totally motifs I call on when it’s appropriate. 

Do you have any specific artists/bands or music movements that influence your music?

Not directly, but there’s a lot of artists that influence me. Bjork is one, her vocal ability is just incredible and the character.  Queen, specifically “Bohemian Rhapsody,” is one of the most interesting songs ever created in my opinion. Santigold, her use of rhythm and effortless melodies, I love! Florence + the Machine, to me, has a classical quality to her mixed with uplifting melodies and poetic lyrics. Beegees is actually a random inspiration. I love the lead singer’s upper range. I’m a fan of organic sounds; strings and brass/wind instruments as well as electronic.

What is your songwriting process like?

It’s always different. I usually lay melodies to chords or track and then write lyrics after I have a solid base I feel good about. But sometimes the lyric and melody come at the same time. One of my favorite songs came to me in the shower. I know that’s a classic.

Do you have any routines you go through when you're writing or in the studio?

I try to make sure I record the first thing I sing, it’s usually the best. I tell collaborators to turn on the mic as I’m listening to a track for the first time so I can capture that initial inspiration. Sometimes, I will write down words throughout the week that stick out to me and have them in my notes that I can call upon for inspiration, like a word bank.

Describe a special moment or time you remember that you had while recording.

I guess when I really discovered my voice for the first time. I was sick with some sort of awful cold (TMI, I know). I was out here in LA for a week working (at the time I was still Ny-based) and did a session with one of my buddies. Basically I ended up having to sing through whatever was going on cold-wise for the demo and had to adjust my voice and find different pockets/placement than my usual to sing into and it just created an entirely different type of sound. At first I thought it was awful I was so embarrassed and apologizing; I attempted making him promise to never show anyone. And my friend turned around and said “Are you kidding? This is the best thing you’ve ever done!” I thought he was nuts at first, but once I got better and healthy I started messing around with those same pockets and learning to control the sounds and colors in my voice and people started to respond to my music in a way they never had before, so I had found my sound.

Congratulations on your new single! What has the success of "Nirvana" been like?

It’s been really awesome! This song feels like branching out and giving listeners more of me and those colors. It’s an homage to both my classical roots and my love of modern music. I think "Nirvana" has brought in a new audience as well that might not have known me prior also which is great because all I want to do is share the music I make and love with as many people I can. 

Is there anything you're working on right now that you can tell us about? 

A lot of new music and some cool collaborations. Really excited to release these next few songs into the world. I have an anime video for “Nirvana” coming your way very soon that was created by an amazing designer/animator Sean Walton (@Osea.n), so look out for that!

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