Ryan you have been on the music scene for a while – which is incredible. What would you say some of the biggest changes you have seen and experienced as a musician and in the industry?
I know – 23 years and counting. When did “then” turn into “right now”? I mean, one always knows the reality of the passage of time, but when you reflect back on it, the eye blinks and it’s gone! I call it the “Spiral of Time”…the older you get, the quicker it goes. It’s a simple mathematical equation, really. A year to 50 year old is 1/50th of their life. To a 5 year old, it’s 1/5th! That’s why, when you were a kid, the summer seemed to last forever.
The biggest obvious changes are the advent of hi-speed internet (I started around the time that dial-up was still new and amazing), the prevalence of social media, and finally smart phones. This age of instant gratification and short attention spans makes it crucial that a song or a band is able to deliver a message quickly and efficiently. It certainly doesn’t favor long intros to songs or 20 minute opuses like a lot of my heroes from the 1970’s like Rush, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, and on and on…
One thing I don’t hear a lot of people talk about, and something that has both good and bad effects, is how inexpensive it is to record a reasonably good-sounding record. I recorded my first and second album in 1997 and 1998 on a Roland VS-880. It was like THE FIRST hard disk portable digital recorder, and we actually mixed the second record (Time Extension) to 2 inch tape, which was expensive. Now everyone seems to have access to Pro Tools, which my friend and future possible Little King producer Ron Saint Germain calls “Pro Fools.” (Google Ron’s resume – 311, Soundgarden, U2, Bad Brains, Aretha, and so many more – so he gets to make whatever jokes he wants!)
That being said how do you feel about the current modern music landscape?
Well, my last answer speaks to that quite a bit, right? In 2020, any joker can make a record. And we did! But that tends to lead to a lot of tripe, and you really have to sift through the rubble to find quality music these days. It’s so easy to write and cut and paste and auto-tune. I appreciate the old-fashioned way significantly more than I used to. But as we did, and as many bands do, a blend of new technology and old-school writing and creativity and work ethic still has a place.
I sat on my bed as a teenager and learned Zeppelin and Who songs note-for-note. I either used guitar tablature, vinyl albums and cassettes/CD’s, or a combo of both. It was HARD. There is definitely something to the old adage that anything worth having is worth working for! I put in my 10,000 hours on the guitar. It became an extension of my personality, my SOUL, really. You can’t fake that, and to be honest, you can’t really approximate that in any digital way, so to speak. And…can you pull it off LIVE? That’s the real question, although in this age of backing tracks and lip-syncing and auto-tune, who knows what’s really real?
Look…I love Hip Hop. I listen to as much old school 90’s rap along with Kendrick, Chance, etc. as I do rock and roll. But do I think that creativity and songwriting have been marginalized to a certain extent because it’s just so easy to produce music? Absolutely. I think it cost Metallica like $1 million to make the black album. Now? $2k.
What was your first musical release – and how do you feel you have evolved as a musician since that point?
My friends are kind and mostly love me…and even THEY don’t get to hear Transmountain from 1997! I had no clue what I was doing in the studio back then, and neither did the engineer. It’s hilarious to listen back to. The songs aren’t half bad, actually, but the vocals, the sterile instruments, and the overall mix and master are awful. I’ll bet almost no one reading this has a copy of that CD.
I have so many more musical influences now than I did 23 years ago, and I definitely incorporate those into my writing. I am an infinitely better singer and guitarist than I was back then, too. Practice makes, um, better (never ever perfect.) My band is so much skilled, too. Manny Tejeda on bass and the legendary Eddy Grandpa Razor Garcia on drums are excellent writers and players, so Occam’s Foil is much more of a collaboration than my earlier work.
Finally, CONFIDENCE. I used to care very deeply about what other people thought about my music. Now? If they don’t like it…well…Mazel Tov!
We want to get to know you a little better – tell us what a typical day in Ryan’s world looks like?
I am probably NOT your typical musician. Probably more like a typical middle-aged single dad than anything. I own a corporate team building business based in Silicon Valley, so even though I live on the East Coast, my biz is based back in California. So my work day technically doesn’t really start until Noon! But I am answering sales calls and emails and helping to plan and create team events all day long, and we are super busy in the summer. We have produced about 400 events in the last 2 years…it’s a lot of work.
As I mentioned, I am also a single dad with 50/50 custody of my 13 year-old son, Asher. He’s a great kid…my best friend, my travel partner, and my muse on many occasions. He’s smart and sort of an introvert, which is the opposite of me! Kid is an observer of life and humans, for sure. But he is in soccer and piano and I take him to school 3 or 4 days a week. I make dinner (we are both vegetarians, 25 years for me next month), do laundry, clean the house, and all other domestic duties. I love the gym and we live near the beach, so I try and fit all of that in. Finally, I love to ride my motorcycle and I have a classic Corvette that gets me in trouble…so I try and make time for all of that as well.
Music? Rehearsal starts in an hour. See how my life is?
You have some new music released very exciting! What is your favorite song out of the crop of music and why?
Oh…that’s like making me choose between my CHILDREN! I would say I am most satisfied with “The Skin That I’m In,” as it has everything I could want in a good Little King song: Introspective and personal lyrics, a cool arrangement with a cello and violin in the break, some of my most satisfying recorded vocals (a duet with Monica Gutierrez, who sings like an angel), and a totally improvised/one-take guitar solo that absolutely shreds.
I released a song in 2014 called “Happy Home” that was a painful and personal song about divorcing and moving from San Jose to Delaware to be near my son. It was a really tough time in my life, and that song is pretty reflective of that angst. “The Skin That I’m In” is my answer to that angst, 5 years later. IN TRIUMPH, I might add. I really am, for the first time in my adult life, “at one with the skin that I’m in.” Took a lot of searching to find it, though.
Anything else you would like to share?
I will soapbox for just a minute, if I may! Perseverance, determination, hard work, and big dreams are the fuel to a happy life. If you have a passion, go for it. As long as it is productive and not self-destructive, you will thrive if you pursue the thing that most lights you up every day.
In my work, I run across so many employees from companies like Apple and Google and Facebook as well as those from small businesses and startups, so I really have a huge sample size over the last 9 years of what makes people happy in their avocation. To a woman or man, it is PASSION. It may take some time to reveal itself, but do not settle for “just okay.” It will become your life, and we are given one shot. I choose to go after what I want, and even though the road is paved with obstacles and failure, the biggest failure to me would be never trying.
Here I am…an overgrown kid with a guitar. And I am not rich financially from it. But I will leave a legacy of music and words that will be worthy to listen to in my old age and for those who I will never meet. That’s enough for me.
Where can your biggest fans find you on the web?
Please visit our web site at www.littlekingtunes.com and poke around. All of our last 5 albums are streaming there from YouTube. Also has a ton of press (old and new), some video interview, a full bio, and links to stream our music and buy (gasp!) all of our albums.
Also we are pretty active on FB and Instagram with the handle @littlekingtunes. THANK YOU FOR CARING!
End of Interview