Interview with Butch Ryan
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Lamitschka: Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?
Ryan: Over here its called Americana or Alt-Country. Its roots rock with influences ranging from 60’s rock to garage pop to country. I’ve heard comparisons to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. I like to think of it as basic American rock and roll. Folks can check me out at www.butchryan.net and hear for themselves. Some may know me in Europe already. My CD’s have sold well over seas, and I have toured the UK twice.
Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
Ryan: Last year was busy. I finally finished a new CD I’d been working on for nearly 3 years.
Lamitschka: What is your latest CD and how’s it doing?
Ryan: Its called “FM Great”. The release date should be within a month or so. I’m now busy rehearsing the band for its release, and the shows we will play upon its release.
Lamitschka: How did you choose the title for the CD? Is there a story behind the name?
Ryan: The title comes from the opening song. The song is called “3 Chords”. In the chorus I sing the line, “A Fender turned up all the way, man, them 3 chords sounded FM great”. It tells the story of my influences, and how early on for me all these wonderful artists inspired me to play music. I’ve always felt the power of rock and roll was in its simplicity. Three chords and a story to tell is all you need. People like Springsteen and Petty, to John Lennon, Elvis, and Neil Young, were, and still are, big influences. I just list many of them in the song: Warren Zevon, Paul Westerburg, John Mellencamp, etc. There are many influences that I think are heard in my music, and I always thought they sounded “FM Great” when I would listen to them on the radio endlessly as a kid.
Lamitschka: Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?
Ryan: All my music is original. I consider myself more of a songwriter than a musician. I always back myself with great musicians though. I write the songs, sing them, play rhythm guitar, and let the band take them to places beyond.
Lamitschka: Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).
Ryan: The songs on this CD seem to be more about me than usual. In many of my songs, I’ll assume the part of a character, and tell his or her story. Then there are songs about people I’ve crossed paths with, people who have stirred some emotion in me, so much so that I’ve written a song about that emotion. This time though, most of the songs are about me, about changes that were actually happening to me in my life. Not how I was moved by someone but rather where I was in life, where I wanted to go, and how I was going to get there. 2007 brought many changes in my personal life. Death, divorce, heartbreak, etc. How I was effected by all that is where these songs come from. It was me figuring out, “what now?” I think deliverance and redemption are big overall themes here.
Lamitschka: What is the difference between your last CD and your current one?
Ryan: The last CD was finished just as the tough times were beginning. I think a bit of that is heard on the last one. This new CD seems to me to rip away some of the heartbreak and move forward. Its funny because as I listen to them, they just mirror my life and where my head was at the time. I’ve moved forward, and this CD says that.
Lamitschka: What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
Ryan: All of them. Its an unbelievable feeling to hear a song that began with a single idea on an acoustic guitar to come alive on a set of speakers. As I hear the songs once they’re recorded, I am able to go back to that moment when I wrote them. That’s the best part. I was able to capture a time in my life and preserve it like a photo.
Lamitschka: You did a duet with Jen Torres. How did that happen to come about?
Ryan: Once I added Jen to this band line up for some keys and backing vocals, and I heard her sing, I knew I had to write a duet. Her voice sounds so good. I knew I needed to utalize that. Her voice is a strength in the band so I wrote a song to bring a spotlight to that.
Lamitschka: What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what’s the story behind it?
Ryan: That’s tough. They all mean something to me. They all take me somewhere. They’re all different and that’s what I like about them. Some are serious, some are fluff, but they all mean something to me. I don’t think I have a favorite. If there wasn’t something in each of them I didn’t really like, I probably wouldn’t have recorded it. Many of my songs never make it out of the notebook. All the ones I’ve recorded did.
Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Ryan: All of it. I ask opinions with the people I’m working with, and I value it, but in the end its my call. That’s the good part of being an indie artist. The bad part is the money!
Lamitschka: Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?
Ryan: Its nice to hear someone tell you what one of your songs may mean to them. Its nice to be listened to. I once was told by someone who was very ill that my music soothed them. That’s nice to hear. I’ve also read blogs online where someone will discuss this or that song of mine, how it rocks or how its great to sing along to. Again, its great to know people are listening, and enjoying.
Lamitschka: Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Ryan: All those people I mention in “3 Chords” and many more. I am a music fan. I love rock and roll. It has always been a big part of my life.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?
Ryan: I think pop music is for the youth. Today’s music speaks to today’s kids just like it did for me way back when. I don’t “get” much of what’s on the radio these days but then maybe I’m not suppose to. Much of rock music is about youth and rebellion. It speak to today’s kids, and in the end, most of the time it’s still only three chords. I really believe rock and roll will never die. Each generation will change it up a bit, make it their own, but it will always be rock and roll.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s music industry?
Ryan: Today’s industry is tough for the little guy, has been for a long time. The big guys don’t take chances. They want something they know will make money. But there is always an underground. The indies, where it is all about the music. Nobody is making money but the music is awesome. That’s been the case for some time now.
Lamitschka: If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Ryan: It would be great to see some new vehicle like MTV pop up. We heard so many new artists who would never have been heard if not for MTV. I don’t think American Idol really helps. That’s more of a game show than anything else. That’s about television, not music. MTV was about music, not TV.
Lamitschka: As an artist, you so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what’s your favorite activity?
Ryan: Playing live. That always makes me feel like I’m 16 again. Jammimg with a band is where I first fell in love with all this.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become an artist?
Ryan: Being a big fan and hearing sounds in my head that I could get down on paper with the help of a guitar.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Ryan: Again, I was a big fan and then I went to college and got a degree in English. So much of that was learning to write, to tell a story, to communicate. It just seemed like the natural thing to do. It was the world I had created for myself.
Lamitschka: What drives you?
Ryan: My main drive is that there is always another song to write. Something will jump in my head and I will need to get it out. And each time it does, it just takes me with it. I go places, become characters, work through emotions, etc. It is my ultimate therapy.
Lamitschka: What’s unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?
Ryan: I think I’ve found my own sound. The influences are there but I’ve been doing it long enough that I can say, “that sounds like a Butch Ryan song.” I’ve developed my own unique sound.
Lamitschka: What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?
Ryan: Going to England was the top dog. Being able to play at The Cavern Club in Liverpool where The Beatles got their start was like being a kid and waking up to a tree full of toys on Christmas morning. To be singing my songs where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first sang theirs was unbelievable. Again, I’m a big fan so it was cool on so many levels.
Lamitschka: Any thoughts of retirement ahead?
Ryan: Never! As long as someone is listening, I’ll keep playing out. Then, I will always have the music to myself to get me through even when no one else is listening. It is what I do, who I am.
Lamitschka: Who is your biggest critic, yourself or others?
Ryan: Probably myself. If I don’t like it, why should I think someone else will? I’ve got to dig it first before I move forward with it.
Lamitschka: When you get time off, how do you like to relax?
Ryan: Play guitar! Again, I don’t see it as work. It is who I am and what I do.
Lamitschka: Is there anything in your life that you would change if you could?
Ryan: Nothing, no regrets. I’ve had a charmed life. A great family, good friends, and wonderful music.
Lamitschka: Many European fans travel to the United States to attend the several of the music festivals for the opportunity to see so many of their favorite artists, bands and celebrities. Will you be participating and how will the fans be able to find you?
Ryan: Just go to www.butchryan.net, and that has all the details of where I will be, what I’m currently doing, etc.
Lamitschka: Is there any place you haven’t played that you would like to?
Ryan: Japan. There’s always been a thing about American rock bands going to Japan. I’d love to experience that.
Lamitschka: What can your fans expect to see when they see you in concert?
Ryan: That I will keep playing until everyone is done listening. I usually do a 4 hour set. I just love to play.
Lamitschka: When you’re on tour, do you have time to play tourist?
Ryan: No. I take vacation for that. I might have a day here or a day there but being on the road is about playing your music, working it, getting it out to people. Plus, if you’re out working on the road, it is tough enough to make ends meet. I’m trying to make some money, not spend it. Then when I’ve made enough I spend it by going on vacation!
Lamitschka: What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?
Ryan: When somebody says, “hey, I really like that song!”
Lamitschka: What’s your favorite song that you wish you could have recorded?
Ryan: Oh, there are many! I’m a huge huge fan of rock and roll. There are just so many great songs. Yeah, way to many to mention.
Lamitschka: Fans are always hungry for good road stories. Do you have one you can share with us (come on don’t be shy)?
Ryan: All I can say is, it isn’t all that glamorous. It’s fun but it is indeed work.
Lamitschka: Describe what a perfect day is like for you.
Ryan: I wake up and get ready for a gig. I do the gig and then get ready for the next one. My whole day is spent around making music.
Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )