Ryan Star Reveals the Lessons He’s Learned About the Music Industry
If there's anyone who's shown that dedication and hard work pays off in the end, it's Ryan Star.
Getting his start by playing sets at the legendary CBGB in New York City while he was in high school, Star started his own band called Stage and put out four EPs. After playing together for a few years, Stage parted ways; Star went on his own to put out a few albums and was even a contestant on the CBS music competition show, 'Rock Star: Supernova,' in 2006.
Like many artists, Star's career has had its ups and downs as well as its fair share of challenges. However, the native New Yorker takes every obstacle as an experience that he uses to push his music career further. And now with the release of his EP, 'Animals,' in August, Star proves that nothing will stop him from getting his music out to his fans -- old and new.
Diffuser had the chance chat with Star about his experiences in the music industry, lessons he's learned over the years and his goals for the future.
You've been in the music industry for a while. What's one lesson you'd tell Ryan Star from year one that you learned over time about the music business?
Creatively speaking, I say: Don't compromise. Just do you, because no one else can.
On a business note, I would say that nobody has any clue what they are doing. Most of the execs in this industry are thugs who just want to be cool with the rappers and the rock stars. They are the reason the music biz fell a part. The greats that built it are gone, and there are only a handful now that truly deserve their positions and paychecks. So I'd say again, make your own waves and don't listen to anyone who thinks they know the answer. Nobody does.
You've had success getting your songs placed on TV. What show would you love to hear your music on?
I love hearing my songs in movies or TV more than I do on the radio. I love the visuals and the storytelling. I've had my song 'Losing Your Memory' on 'The Vampire Diaries' and loved it. I have even had the theme song to an awesome show called 'Lie to Me.' I'd say as far as storytelling goes, I would love for my song 'Bullet' -- the full eight minutes of it -- to be on the finale of 'Parenthood' this season. Ron Howard's show is a stroke of genius [with] its characters and emotions.
And aside from having your music on TV, you were actually on a music competition show, 'Rock Star: Supernova.' How did that experience shape how you handle your career?
For what is was, 'Rockstar' was actually a cool show. It doesn't get the credit, but it helped pave the way for a lot of these talent shows. When I was on it, I played original music. And if I did perform a cover, I made it my own the way I would at my own show. Before then, those shows were pretty much karaoke contests. I feel good about that.
What I learned from it most was how it feels to perform for millions of people. It is a different beast when you are being amplified on that scale. It changed my perspective for a while on how far it can get from sitting on your bed and writing a song. I also learned how quickly the idea of fame can change people and how fake it is out there. Smoke and mirrors, baby. I miss the simpler times when dudes just stuffed their crotch with a sock -- at least you knew it was fake.
You mentioned it earlier, but what's the story behind 'Bullet'?
'Bullet' is so close to my heart. It is me being me and nothing more. Singing truth to the one I love. It is simple. Even the recording was simple. I wrote the lyrics in the studio --walked out and talked my band through the meaning of it all. We all believed in it so much -- we hit record and in one take, eight minutes later, we had it. It was never even really mixed, just recorded beautifully. But what mattered more were the intentions of it as we laid it down. One of my favorite musical memories of my life is in that song. Put some headphones on and take a listen. You can hear it all. Even the crackling of my broken acoustic guitar.
You turned to PledgeMusic and successfully crowdfunded your EP, 'Animals.' How did you feel about all the support? And how do you feel the web has helped your music career?
My fans are so impressive that they changed the statistics and expectations of what PledgeMusic thought was possible before me. They are the most passionate bunch and their belief in me gives me the power to do what I said earlier. They allow me to be me. I am currently doing exactly that with their help. It's an amazing feeling knowing I have nobody to answer to and nobody to f--k up my vision. And I am currently working on a very special album through Pledge, so go check it out and see what it's all about.
And the web. Ah! What a loaded question. We can write a book about it. The good is the access and the level of creativity in making art and sharing it. It's brilliant and exciting. On the other side, we have created a culture that has so much stimulation it's numbing. By 9AM, I might have seen a man jump off a building with a Go Pro [camera], a beheading in the Middle East, and Taylor Swift's 10 new videos, j--ked off to five different sets of t-ts, checked my bank account and the weather, and spied on the hot girls from high school to see what they are up to, not to mention [check] Instagram when I wake up and see all the amazing things everyone did while I was asleep. Freud would have a field day with this all. We all know it's not healthy -- so the web? I don't know. It definitely has taken the intensity out of how we listen to music. I miss that romance of really soaking it in. That's why I love that vinyl sales are up, and kids get it. My new album through Pledge won't be on iTunes, just vinyl through Pledge. I'm bringing the focus back to the music. It is important to me.
What is your definition of success?
Bob Marley said "the richness is in his heart." I agree.
Being a native New Yorker, how has the city influenced your sound?
I grew up playing at CBGB with my band, Stage. Everything seemed different then. It was more gritty and dangerous. For a somewhat sheltered boy from Long Island I was looking for my 'Catcher In the Rye' moments. My city life. I started dating city girls and got my heart crushed. Then I was ready to really make music. I reside in Brooklyn now and feel very comfortable with, knowing for me, I live in a heaven.
What are you working on now? What are your plans for the end of the year and into 2015?
I just became a father. I am planning on being a few hundred feet up and looking out on the city for many sleepless nights. In this new normal, I devoted the rest of the year to making something. I am working on an album called 'After the Elephant.' All I have so far is the title, but if you've followed my work, this says a lot. It will be me capturing the moments here at this point in my life with the tools I have in my home studio. What I want out of this is an intimate and very truthful record. No collaborations or outside help. Just raw and a snapshot of the next three months