Ryan Hall: One Year Later
On December 26th, 2020, Harmony World had the pleasure of interviewing up-and-coming artist Ryan Hall for the first time. Exactly one year later, we met with Ryan again to discuss how his musical mindset and process have developed since his first interview. Read our first interview with Ryan here, and check out how his answers compare to this year!
HWM: First of all, who is Ryan Hall? Give us three words to describe yourself. What do you like to do for fun besides making music?
Ryan Hall: Ryan Hall is a singer-songwriter/producer/audio engineer from Atlanta, Georgia and he makes music. He likes making music a lot. Three words to describe myself: crazy, I-don’t-give-a-fuck, and cool. Very vague, I don’t know. I love nature. I don't hike enough, I really want to get more into hiking. Lately my life has pretty much been music constantly. I like spending time with my friends, that’s one thing that I constantly do besides making music. I do have a new house plant.
HWM: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d want to be? Is there another career path that you’ve ever wanted to pursue?
Ryan Hall: Honestly, not to make it super deep and philosophical, but I honestly couldn’t imagine myself doing anything besides music now. Like last year, when I was applying for colleges and was looking for places to go for graphic design, I had my options open, but now? I finally feel like I’m going down the path I was meant to go on, and I can’t envision myself doing anything else.
HWM: If you had the chance to collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Ryan Hall: brakence. Thinking about the question more in depth, there are a lot of artists that I’ve sort of started to get in contact with that I look up to a bunch and listen to a lot. I feel like it’s a rite of passage. ericdoa commented on one of my TikToks a while back. contradash and I are mutuals now. But my main goal is probably to get with brakence and make some fire shit.
HWM: If you could open a show for another artist, who would it be?
Ryan Hall: See, this is where my marketing brain comes in. If I were to open for an artist, it would have to be someone who my sound resonates with and whose audience wouldn’t be super caught off-guard by my music. I make so much different music in so many different directions that it’s hard to pinpoint what my real sound is, but I feel like if I got a good set-list together of a lot of my songs that sound similar, I think I’d be able to open up for Jeremy Zucker. I feel like a lot of my songs mimic his songwriting style, and in a lot of ways we’re very similar vocally.
HWM: What’s your go-to driving song? Or playlist? Or artist?
Ryan Hall: It changes so much. I have a playlist called “RN” for “right now” and I change it pretty much weekly. I go in and I remove all the songs that I got bored of and then I add in a bunch of new songs that I think I’ll like, and I just kind of curate it for myself, pretty much. Right now, my go-to driving song is probably “One in a Million” by Isaia Huron. I recommend it a lot.
HWM: What is, in your opinion, the best song that has ever been released?
Ryan Hall: “rosier” by brakence. That’s the best song that has ever been released.
HWM: What genre of blend of genres would you describe your music as?
Ryan Hall: I’m still pretty steady on alternative-pop but I think now there’s lots of hyperpop influence in my music. Or at least in my new music that hasn’t been released yet. I have so many unreleased songs, it’s kind of overwhelming. This time last year, I was struggling because I couldn’t write that many songs at once. I have like twenty unreleased, fully produced, almost fully done songs right now that I’m just ready to drop whenever. I think genre barriers are definitely breaking down, and we should probably start looking at music on a spectrum.
HWM: How long does it take you to write a song? What is your creative process?
Ryan Hall: Anywhere from one morning to several months, I think. My song “hypothesis” was written a couple mornings before my first EP was supposed to drop, and I just got a sudden burst of inspiration. I literally wrote it and recorded a voice memo of it and released it as the voice memo just because of how insanely impulsive it was. And then I’ll have other songs that I’ll spend weeks crafting the lyrics to just to make sure it has the perfect imagery. At the end of the day, it’s kind of always the same.
HWM: What is your creative process?
Ryan Hall: My songwriting process has changed a lot in the past year. Especially being signed to a major label now, I have to think a lot more about how people are gonna receive the music and how well it’s gonna do. Which kinda sucks, but also is kind of a cool challenge to put myself through every single time I decide to write a song. Once I finish a demo of a song, I have to send it to my managers and get their thoughts on it before I can even think about getting it mixed or mastered or put out yet. And I think there’s also a beauty in posting unreleased stuff on TikTok, or stuff that I just wrote, because then I can see if a song does well there. It’s another thing with my marketing brain. But there’s also another side to that where I really really value the creative process and I really really value the spiritual integrity of the message that I’m trying to put out. I usually sit down first with a guitar or piano and try to come up with a cool motif that I like a lot. Basically I start off with that motif and I start writing whatever comes to mind and then build upon what I was originally thinking. It just becomes a giant tree of thought and experimentation. And then there’s production and a bunch of other elements.
HWM: Where do you get inspiration for your songs?
Ryan Hall: A lot of the time, I’ll hear something in one song that I’m listening to and completely flip the way I’m listening to it and hear my own song in my head and the way I’d flip that thing into my own writing. So a lot of the time it comes from any specific moment in a song that I gravitate to and expand on. But lately, the inspiration has come from more within than anything. I feel more in my skin than I have ever, especially with songwriting. I feel like with a lot of the new music I’m working on, I’m moving into my own sound and not just a bunch of this and this and this.
HWM: What is your production process like?
Ryan Hall: I like to compare my production process to painting a really really intricate realist painting where you have to seriously go in on each of the details and spend time working on stuff that no one’s gonna notice. No one’s gonna really care about that stuff in the long run, or when they look at the painting and see a face, they don’t see the hours that went into the teeny bit of shadow on the side of the face. When I produce things, I hone in on the very very subtle things, and those very very subtle things add up to become a larger thing and a much more recognizable thing, especially to the listener. The difference between a producer listening to their own song and the listener listening to their own song – there’s such a weird dynamic. It’s just a matter of building up on very small and intricate details. Once I get an idea in my head, I can’t stop visualizing and creating that idea until I’m fully satisfied and can fully understand where my musician brain was trying to go with it.
HWM: Are you the type of musician to write lyrics first and then put in onto music and beats? Or do you create a beat first and then write music or lyrics for that beat? Or do you do both?
Ryan Hall: A little bit of both. Sometimes I’ll get a really cool lyric idea and I’ll come up with a melody on the spot and usually chords to put under it. Other times, I’ll make a riff first or a musical motif that I really like and build lyrics on that based on what comes to mind first. It changes pretty much every single time I start writing a song.
HWM: Do you do all of your production yourself?
Ryan Hall: Yes. 100% all myself still. I do get a lot of mixing advice and help, especially with a label. As of December 26th, 2021, we’re getting “FRIENDS” professionally mixed by Jeremy Zucker’s mixing engineer which is kind of crazy, but that’s the first time I’ve kind of stepped away from a song and let someone else take care of the nitty-gritty. Mixing is one thing that doesn’t really have to do with production, but it’s still a really really important part of the process that I kind of needed to take control of for such a long time, but now I’m realizing that it’s okay to have people collaborate and it’s okay to have other people take creative control over what you’re trying to do. But I produce everything myself.
HWM: What’s your favorite song that you’ve ever released?
Ryan Hall: I think “CHASING” is really good. Either “30 MILES OVER” or “CHASING.” “CHASING” didn’t get a lot of attention just because it was the last song on the EP that I just released and it wasn’t one of the singles and it wasn’t really hyped up at all. That song, I went SO hard on the production. That’s one of those songs that took months to produce.
HWM: What’s the most sentimental or vulnerable song that you have put out or written?
Ryan Hall: “HANDWRITING.” 100% “HANDWRITING.” That shit fucked me up. “hypothesis” is still valid but I think HANDWRITING is much more honest and raw, I guess, even though it wasn’t in the voice memo format and it wasn’t as impulsive as “hypothesis.” I feel like “HANDWRITING” was one of those that just came about so naturally.
HWM: Talk about your most recent EP, CHASING BUTTERFLIES. Is there any kind of storyline behind it? How do you think your process has changed since CANDY CORN?
Ryan Hall: There is a pretty interesting storyline to it that I created the whole EP around. It’s sort of up to interpretation like a lot of music, which I kind of like to keep in my music, but it’s pretty much just about learning to move on without closure. That EP was really about a relationship that I thought was going perfectly and I was just so happy in, and I thought my partner was happy and everything was great. And then out of nowhere she just dumped me without saying a single word. That’s such a cliche thing to happen but I was so broken up over it just cause it was so out of nowhere. I did not expect it coming at all, and I was in bed for like a week afterwards. That’s where “MAYBE ILY” and “NVM” came from. “MAYBE ILY” was written while I was in the relationship with her and while I was thinking “Oh god, maybe I love this girl and maybe this will last.” And then out of nowhere, it just got cut off. That’s also where the inspiration for the intro to “NVM” came from. The transition between “MAYBE ILY” and “NVM” is just so abrasive and cuts off immediately. Literally the perfect metaphor for what happened. If you look at the first and last tracks of CHASING BUTTERFLIES, the first track is called “BUTTERFLIES” and the last track is called “CHASING.” The last track seamlessly transitions into “BUTTERFLIES.” There’s a sample that plays of a million butterflies in a forest that carries over into the beginning of the EP, and it’s basically meant to represent that the cycle will continue to repeat forever on. I’ll keep getting into relationships that I think are going well, and then I get my heart broken immediately when I least expect it to happen. And then I do it again and again and again.
HWM: How do you feel about how TikTok has influenced your music and publicity?
Ryan Hall: I’ve definitely matured a lot since last year, as far as TikTok goes. Content creation is one thing I strive a lot for now. To answer your question, it hasn’t affected my songwriting process as much as I thought it would. I thought around this time last year that I would be writing songs strictly to put on TikTok and for people to make dances to and whatever, which feels so immature to think about now. I think TikTok definitely has an effect on the way I write songs and the way I go about songwriting because especially when I’m writing a hook, I’m like, “What if I posted this on TikTok? How do I think people would receive this? Do I think this would be a viral video?” But most of the time, the way I write songs isn’t that majorly affected by TikTok. The only way it really affects me is when I’m thinking about posting a snippet of something, and I want it to sound very ear-catching. I want people to hear it and think, “Damn, what is this?” Or have a very captivating message that I think people can relate to, which is where the chorus of “FRIENDS” came from.
HWM: If you could go back in time, is there anything you would have done differently?
Ryan Hall: Anything? I would stop myself from being so prideful. Not egotistical prideful, but I wasn’t very humble last year and early this year. I was just so full of myself, especially in the way I made TikToks and stuff like that. I’m not very proud of “PARTYGIRL” as much as I used to be either. I feel like “PARTYGIRL” in itself was sort of a misogynistic song, and I hate to say that because so many people love it and listen to it on the daily. But I don’t hold a lot of the views that I did in the song, even if it’s like a joke song and poking fun at people who party a lot. It was just kind of misogynistic in nature and I feel like that led to a lot of stuff that I put on TikTok that I wasn’t super proud of. Since then, I’ve sort of matured and had a more holistic way of looking at songwriting and putting my stuff out there on social media and TikTok. I would definitely humble myself and tell myself to stop being so misogynistic. I’m really glad that I made the change I did because I feel so much more in my own skin than I ever have before with songwriting and putting stuff out on TikTok, and I feel like people see how authentic I am now as opposed to how I was last year or earlier this year.
HWM: What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?
Ryan Hall: Be authentic. Stay true to yourself. This is actually advice that 50landing gave to me around this time last year, but he said to stay in your own lane and be as unapologetically yourself as you can possibly be. Just be yourself, that it.
HWM: What’s next for your music? Do you have anything coming up soon?
Ryan Hall: YES! I’m hoping to release “FRIENDS” by the end of January, and I have tons of songs that I’m working on that I hope to turn into another project or at least release as a couple of consecutive singles. I don’t have anything super huge planned in the books right now. I definitely want to play a couple shows in 2022. There’s a lot on the horizon. I’ve talked to my managers about this recently too, and they and I both think that 2022 is the year that I’ll finally break into the industry and make a name for myself more than I already have.
HWM: Is there anything you want to say that you haven’t mentioned yet?
Ryan Hall: I love music. I love making music. That’s it… wait actually, can I make the last answer deez nuts?