Kelley Ryan and the joy of making records
It was just another morning for Kelley Ryan until she heard some familiar sounds coming from the radio her husband was playing. One of the songs from her latest album, Telescope, was blaring, and she couldn’t be happier.
“Oh wow, that was fun,” Ryan beamed. “It’s kind of wonderful. I’ve had a little bit of play before, but I’m overwhelmed about the response to Telescope.”
That’s one of the perks of the job for Ryan, who admits that being a singer-songwriter is “Such a loner kind of a life. I spend most of my life in a room with minimal windows, talking to myself.”
She laughs, and it’s probably not that bad, as she has a close circle of talented friends that often make those long days in the studio more bearable.
“The whole point from the beginning, when I was 12 and got a guitar, was to be able to work with people I respect,” Ryan said. “I can’t believe I get to work with the people that I do. That’s the main thing, and it’s really satisfying that people let you know that they heard your record.”
People are hearing Telescope, Ryan’s eighth album and one that comes almost as a shield against a world turned upside down since last November’s U.S. Presidential election.
“It might be something that makes people kind of forget about being so depressed for 30 minutes,” she said. “It’s kind of soothing.”
It’s also a record that won’t see Ryan on the road for years supporting it. Sure, she’ll play shows here and there, but she prefers time in her studios in California and Ireland to endless nights of touring.
“I’ve always just kind of been a studio rat,” she said. “I’m way more into the making of records than I am playing live. I love it, but I just never quite fell into that. I have my hands full just with writing and recording because I have my hand in the whole process from the beginning to the end.”
Her fans aren’t complaining, as Ryan’s consistent recorded excellence makes it clear that she’s made the right call to spend her time in the studio. But there will always be dissenters who want to see her playing live more frequently, and one of them is a lady you have probably heard of.
“When I went made Twist, we lived in the middle of nowhere in Ireland,” Ryan recalls. “It’s a great place to go to write and record. Our neighbor, who is across a field, turns out to be Angela Lansbury. And she comes every summer and we’ve been there for 17 years, so we’ve gotten to know her and she’s a wonderful person.
“So I wrote a song called ‘Bridie’s Eyes’ about an old woman who lives in this little house in our neighborhood in Ireland and everyone took care of her,” she continues. “A lot of people around there thought they could relate to it because it was about Bridie. Angela knew about that and she said, ‘The one about Bridie is wonderful, are you gonna play it live?’ I told her I felt like a fish out of water, like I’m tooting my own horn. She said, ‘Silly girl, I’ve been doing this my whole life, and it’s about the work. It’s not about you; it’s about your work. And if you’re proud of that, you go out there and you say it.”
Ryan took those words to heart, saying, “It really turned me around to go, ‘Yeah, I can come out of my shell.’” And while it didn’t mean she was putting on her road warrior boots, it did recharge the batteries to keep making great albums.
“My songs are what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s to be in my studio, in the middle of them, so the day goes by and all of a sudden it’s dark. That’s the ultimate thing. To get done with one record just so you can go back in and make another one. The whole point is to be motivated and inspired to keep making another one. That’s what drives me.”
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