Maine based singer-songwriter Stephanie Ryann who is originally from Westchester County, NY got her start in country music in 2016 with the help of her co-writer Kevin Totoian and producer Randy Funke, both of whom made it possible to release her debut, self-titled EP in October 2018. Since then, Stephanie Ryann has released several singles over the past few years, including "Travelers", "For a Reason", "Nights Like These", and, "I Should". Just before the festive period, we spent some time chatting to Stephanie to hear all about what is coming next on the horizon. On the changes that have come about as a performing artist during the ongoing pandemic: It obviously stinks not to play shows, most of us aren’t really making any money as that’s kind of our bread and butter in a sense but on the creative side it’s changed a lot for me. I taught myself guitar over the past nine months, so that is big for me. I never played an instrument prior to that, so I would always write and sing with melodies I came up with in my head, then would always have to go to somebody to get help putting it to music. Now I am able to do it myself, so it has changed a lot of my writing and the style of which I do that. Also, the way that you can reach people via Zoom, Facetime or whatever it is that you are using greatly helps in the sense that I’m not always down in Nashville. I have a lot of friends down there and pre-pandemic I was going down there all the time to network and meet with people or do some co-writes but now we can still do those things, it’s just in a little bit of a different way! I’m thankful for the internet and everything that we are able to do with it, two of the songs that I put out this year: “Nights Like These” and “I Should” were both recorded in the pandemic way or my producer sending me the track, I would record it at home in my studio and I would send it down to him for him to do his magic to it so it hasn’t stopped the music, which is great! Also being able to do live streams on Instagram and Facebook, some people are doing Zoom concerts so having that ability has definitely helped!
On how this impacts her plans musically and as a performer going into 2021: I think at the beginning of the pandemic, everybody was like, what are we doing? Nobody knew how long it was going to be or what the restrictions were going to be moving forward and thankfully we have kind of figured it out? It has given us artists time to set up for next year to an extent, I don’t know what is going to be open as far as live concerts go. I have only one have one scheduled for next year and that is in August or September. There isn’t really a plan for live, in-person music so far. I’m in talks with people to try and figure out where it is going to go but my plan for now and the foreseeable future, even after the pandemic is over, which hopefully isn’t too far away, I would love to continue to do live streams in some sort of capacity. I haven’t done concerts on Zoom for people yet, but I have friends who have done it and it’s worked out really well for them. It would be nice to see people, you know! Streams on Instagram and Facebook let you see people’s comments though they are a little bit delayed and you are not actually seeing a person. On Zoom it can give you that little bit of face to face which you used to have, so I’m looking forward to doing those at some point. Hopefully into 2021, I can look to do a concert a month or something like that but until the pandemic is done just planned to continue to work on the social media game of getting yourself out there and being able to perform, also learning to play guitar has given me more opportunity, as otherwise I wouldn’t be doing any live streams.
On writing and recording her current single “I Should”: I have always had a semblance of an idea for this song, growing to be the type of person who goes against the grain, live the life that I want to live and not worry about what everyone else thinks. It took a long time to get there but I woke up one morning, when I was down in Nashville back in February, then I had the idea for the song. It just kind of came and I know for me when I write a song like that which just flows onto the page that it’s probably going to be a single when I feel really strongly about it. This was before I played guitar, so I wrote out the lyrics, I sang it into my phone and then I brought it to a write with a couple friends of mine: Ronny Criss and Scott Kurt. We sat down and I was like guys, I wrote this this morning, I feel really strongly about it and I would love your help to really make this. We worked on the song for a couple of hours and by the time we were done, I was absolutely in love and I immediately sent it to my producer Brent Rader. We actually had it semi ready to go right away but then the pandemic hit and I wrote “Nights Like These” which was the first song I wrote on guitar, so that was a big thing for me and I wanted to get that out because it truly was a pandemic related song. I sat on “I Should” because I really wanted to put it out at a time where I felt it would get the most ears and be heard by people. I know there are a lot of people out there, who like me struggle with the idea of living a life that they want instead of trying to please everybody which is where the song came from. It’s just meant to empower people to live the life that they want. If they want to have the kids, picket fence, get married and do all those things, then if that’s what makes you happy, do it! If it’s not what makes you happy and there’s something else, go for it and really live your life the way you want. There are no rules, well there are rules but it doesn’t mean that you have to follow them! Stephanie has recently shared the music video for “I Should” which she had previously explained "The inspiration for the video was personal. The song is about going against the “norm” to forge your own path in life. My production team and I took a more literal approach, sharing my personal experience with going against the grain; packing up and leaving home to go follow my dreams of becoming a country artist in the big city.”
On her plans for releasing new music: Right now, I’m really interested in putting out singles. When I started my career, I put out an EP and it had its moment, but that moment doesn’t last very long. People are just looking for the next thing, everybody wants something new so since that EP, I have just put out singles and I’m probably up to eight or nine. That’s my trajectory, I’m going to keep going that way until it comes to a point where it makes sense to do an EP or a full album. I think being able to give people new music every six to eight weeks is nice and you are just kind of at the forefront of everybody’s thought process. As a listener of music myself, I’ll listen to albums where some that I absolutely love I will listen to on repeat all the time but other artists where I may not be as into their whole album, I’m waiting for the next thing so I want to stay on top of it like everybody else is and I think putting out singles is the way to go for me.
This will begin with her next release “Ain’t Nothing Better” which she has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Heart Songs Records for and you can pre-save HERE. Outside of our chat Stephanie explained: “Many people think women aren’t the “whiskey-drinking” kind. Ironically, myself, Taylor Teasley, and Dariann Leigh are 3 ladies who love it. We wrote the song as a fun homage to enjoying a whiskey, or two, whenever the spirit moves us. Cheers to all the whiskey-drinking ladies out there who enjoy it as much as we do!” On why there has been such a change towards people leaning more towards leaning down the route of singles as opposed to more extended projects: People often used to listen to albums as a big thing. The days of Pink Floyd or AC/DC where people waited in line at the store to get the album. Now with everything at your fingertips you kind of have to be ready to go and have new music coming. Also, if you’re a touring artist, which none of us are doing right now, you can put out that record and you’re touring on it, so people are listening to it all the time because they are going to your concerts. For me doing singles and being able to try out new songs on a live, where you have that handful of people listen to them gives you some kind of feedback whether they like them or not. It’s also fun for consumers when people share little demos or titbits of stuff, so I try to look at it from both ways, thinking what do I want as a listener?
On the stigma of being an artist not from Nashville often referred to as a “country influenced” artist rather than just a country artist: Technically we are all country influenced! It doesn’t matter where you are from in the country or the world, you are country influenced. I think country is such a broad genre now, does it really matter where you are from? There are plenty of Canadian artists that sing country music, it’s not Canadian country, it’s just country and same over there it’s not “UK country” it’s country. You sing about all sorts of different things, yes there are the dirt roads, the beer and the trucks which is that part of country but there’s the love songs and the heartache that you sing about and that’s not just in the country. Some people need to get out of the mindset that the genre is just about the trucks and the beer down dirt roads, it’s everything and whatever you feel. That’s what makes it so exciting, at least for me as an artist now where you have such a broad genre. You have people like Kane Brown who bring this soulful influence and someone like Maren Morris who brings some hip-hop vibes into her songs so it's a big spectrum of music.
Then finally where exactly does Stephanie Ryann draw her own musical influences from? I grew up listening to a ton of different music and a ton of different genres, I always say everything from Marilyn Manson to Celine Dion then everything in between. I love classic rock as well, so I have cherry picked influences from everyone. I grew up listening to a bit of country which was like Shania Twain, Faith Hill and all of those ladies that have forged a path for the rest of us, but Celine Dion is one of my absolute favourites. I listened to her growing up and would listen to Christina Aguliera, where I would train my voice to really be able to hit all sorts of notes, play with vibrato and all these talents that you can have with your voice. Learning those from different people and taking them into account and figuring out what is my sound? Growing up listening to other artists, figuring out what your sound is when you are not singing like someone else is a little bit challenging when you have always sung other people’s stuff. Getting into the music side of it from a writer’s perspective and really wanting to become an artist myself, I had to figure out what is my sound? What do I sound like as Stephanie Ryann? You can learn more about Stephanie Ryann by visiting her website www.stephanieryann.com and on Instagram and Facebook.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks