Virginia-based singer/songwriter/producer Ryan Wright creates songs that don’t make sense on paper–an ethereal, haunted voice singing angsty lyrics over confectionary, synth-driven hooks–and yet the results are at once timeless and timely.
Ryan’s arresting voice embodies an ancient, unnamable heartache. Her lyrics–at times profane, often tongue-in-cheek, occasionally devastating–reveal a searing wit and a sensitive heart. Wright’s songs speak to the kind of heartache that can only be experienced during one’s teenage years and yet the truth of her lyrics is universal and undeniable.
Tell us your story
I started having a general interest in writing and recording at a very young age since I grew up in a studio setting. My dad is a musician so I would always mess around in the studio, and I was always around when he was collaborating with other artists so I kind of learned all of the technical stuff just from wandering into the studio during his sessions. I always used music as a creative outlet, but never had enough faith in myself as an artist and didn’t start taking things seriously until we wrote Burn in Hell last summer, which was this huge breakthrough moment where I really felt like we were onto something. I started formulating a concept record over quarantine that was based off of bottled-up emotions that I had towards a guy who had been messing with my head and each song was written about multiple scenarios that built up an entire alternate universe inside of my music.
How would you describe being an artist?
I think being a musician is all about the highs and lows. There is never a middle ground in this business because everything you do is a gamble. You take a huge risk by putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. It’s like playing a game of battleship, you have to prepare yourself to have hits and misses or no hits at all and several misses. I had a lot of fear about being a musician my whole life because I have seen the struggles from growing up immersed in the business. I pushed it aside as a career path and I had that fear of being a failure. I have learned that it doesn’t mean that you have failed if you don’t make it big as long as you’re happy with yourself and enjoy what you do.
What are some of the artists that shaped your sound the most?
Brandon Flowers of The Killers is probably one of my favorite artists. I learned to love The Killers at age two in the backseat of my Aunt Jenny’s silver Acura. I grew up with my family being very close to me so sometimes she would take me out to run errands with her and she would blast Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town and it was like nothing I had ever heard before. The stories that he tells with his lyrics and synth driven melodies make my chest hurt in the most pleasant way. I saw them live a few years ago and his presence on stage makes every single person in a room full of thousands of people feel like they are important to him. Their music made me fall in love with the artists that inspired them to be musicians like The Cars, whose power pop synths and shocking melodies sparked influence on my own dreamlike production. I grew up heavily influenced by my grandparents as well with 50s and 60s doo-wops. Roy Orbison and The Everly Brothers paved the way for the very 50s style melodies that I write.
What is a source of inspiration for you?
My biggest source of inspiration is my shower. Weirdly enough, I come up with almost all my ideas and concepts while shampooing my hair. I think it’s because it’s the time when you’re the most alone, and you are the only one who can judge your ideas. It’s a good place for soul searching and sometimes I surprise myself with the things I come up with. I also draw a lot of inspiration from listening to older and weirder music. I always come into the studio with some very specific trippy synth from some weird psychedelic song that’s probably super unsettling to listen to on its own, but I think you can really land upon something cool the weirder you go with production.
Who’s an artist you look up to?
Definitely my dad. I look up to him quite a bit and it’s so incredible to be able to share the same passion and love for music. We get each other so much that it’s sometimes scary how similarly we think when it comes to production and writing. It’s crazy how close we are with music. We nerd out over guitars and Paul Stanley. He is the reason I am able to execute all of my ideas and he has taught me everything I know. It really is a wonderful thing, and I am so lucky that he is my dad. It’s so cool to have that bond with him because not only do I get to create music with my dad, but I get to work alongside one of my icons every day.
What are some things you do to cool off and relax?
I have a few different things I do to cool off. I am a very emotional person and I have a hard time speaking my mind so I take to writing as a creative outlet. I wrote some of my weirdest and most angsty songs when I was frustrated and had a lot on my mind. I used to play volleyball competitively on a travel team for years before the pandemic hit and that was a huge help with blowing off steam. It sucked when covid took away my ability to throw my rage out on the court, so channeling all of that into writing songs and turning them into art has been the best form of therapy during such a strange time.
Tell us about your latest release and how it came about
When I started writing my new single, I was just getting into a potential relationship and the song was purely fictional. Just an imaginary concept I had where I show up to a guy’s birthday party and run into all these random girls he’s been hooking up with. When I finished the song a month later, my *potential* relationship had ended and I was pissed and in peak heartbreak. I think I channeled a lot of the anger and confusion that came out of that heartache into the production and vocals. It began as an angry song but it got a lot angrier after that relationship fell apart.
The writing and production process of this song went the same way it does for most of my songs. I come up with 60% of a song when I’m shampooing my hair and immediately get a voice memo of the idea after I’m out of the shower. The next time in the studio I play it for my producer (who is also my dad.) For some reason it’s not weird working on angry love songs with him. Those are his favorite kind of songs to write/listen to so we both just get psyched about making the song crazy.
As soon as he heard the voice memo for HBD he immediately wanted to finish writing it and throw it into Pro Tools. Our production process varies from song to song. We listen to a TON of music. We hit every decade of music we can searching for inspiring sounds and then slowly build a feel and tempo for the first verse of my track. It can be a long and sometimes frustrating process to find the beat or synth sound or random noise that sets the wheels in motion on a new song.
When we finish the vocals and get the production to where we feel it’s 80% there, we send it over to our co-producer, Ethan Mentzer who takes it to another level. Synth parts come back to us mangled and trippy. Guitars that don’t sound anywhere close to guitars are added and the bass is in a place where we can really feel it. Ethan’s additions are always insane sounding the first time we listen to it. Then we are reinspired to go back into the vocals a bit more for final touches. Ethan then mixes it and we send it to my manager and cross our fingers.
I’ve struggled with severe panic disorder since I was eight years old and it has been a barrier in my life that has kept me from living freely without any fears or worries holding me back. Talking to someone is the best way to work through it. My parents and grandparents have been the best therapists I’ve had. They used to make up stories with me when I would have an episode to help break me out of the panicked mindset. It was a way to get me to ground myself when I felt uneasy and scared. Talking through feelings and writing the ugly ones down can sometimes create the most beautiful ideas for songs. I channel a lot of those conflicting thoughts and worries into my music. It makes the bad feelings become something good and it can connect me with others who may feel the same way.
Style and fashion inspos?
I would say I am very influenced by a hodgepodge of things. I love 60s and 70s fashion, but I also sometimes dress like a twelve-year-old boy from the nineties. I am a movie guru and if I fall in love with a movie, I might just adapt my style to that decade. I recently went through a big Dazed and Confused phase and bell bottoms and curtain bangs were my thing for a bit. I love dreamy colors and trippy eclectic clothing. My aesthetic is very surreal, somewhat like a modern-day Pink Floyd kind of thing. However, I’m always changing my mind with style, but I would definitely say that as of right now everything is kind of bubble gummy. Ever since I cut my bangs like Uma Thurman, I’ve definitely felt more experimental with clothing and I weirdly feel like I’m finally developing my own niche with my style.
What is something you are super proud of in your artistic career so far?
I’m only eighteen years old, and I have signed a record deal. I never imagined that I could do something like that, and it took me forever to realize that music was the right path for me. It was a huge moment for me. I signed a record deal before I graduated high school or even heard back from a college. I’m in a place right now where the sky’s the limit and so much buzz is happening. I am over the moon about all of the successes, and I am beyond excited for what’s to come.
What advice would you give to an emerging artist like yourself?
As cheesy as it sounds, believe in yourself. I struggled for a long time with being comfortable as a musician and for a good majority of my life, I kept my love for music hidden from my friends. Quarantine was a difficult time, but it also allowed me to discover myself and really gain comfort with my musical abilities. As soon as I started sharing my music and promoting my platform, the buzz started picking up. You have to accept yourself and have faith before you can really push for what you want. I also find that keeping people on their toes here and there is helpful. It builds that mystery that draws attention and pulls people in because they want to get to the bottom of who you are. I have a quiet presence when it comes to social media and meeting new people and keeping that little hint of mystery in my artistry has given me some pretty exciting opportunities. Plus, it’s fun to keep people on the edge and surprise everyone.