Yer Bird Records owner, Morgan King, put on his interviewer’s cap on behalf of Aquarium Drunkard and got behind the scenes with Nashville based singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan. The following is a candid Q&A conducted via email…
AD: Over the past year you’ve become a lot more interactive with your fans online through MySpace – as an already successful artist, has that been an effective tool for communicating news and reaching new listeners?
MR: I have a genuine interest in people whether they listen to my records or not. The fella at the counter at the corner store I go to everyday. The girl at the coffee shop. The people that load baggage under the plane when you’re staring out that small window. Myspace is a lot like staring out that small window except you get to interact. I’ve recieved some beautiful emails from people. Direct contact with a listener is like driving by a house that you built. There’s someone living in there now. It’s a relief. It reminds me that my work exists outside of myself. As far as new listeners go? I don’t know. I only know that I want to be found. You can’t be found if you’re hiding in a room somewhere wondering if you’re a ghost.
AD: I’m a really big fan of your self-released, DIY CDr albums. Do you have any plans to ever revisit releasing songs that way?
MR: I’m always working at home. In fact, since Concussion, all my records have been home recordings of some sort. The difference between the DYI’s and the ‘Records’ is that there are better mics and a few more musicians. For the most part, I play everything on the DIY records. With a few exceptions that were outtakes. I’m ambitious and hopeful. I’m always swinging for the fence trying to define that air that influences language and mood, defines where my head is at. Whether it’s a distorted acoustic or a keyboard that moves like the ocean, it’s instinctual. There’s a song called “Victory Waltz” on my next solo record. I just finished mixing it. Anyway, there are few tracks on their that were recorded in my loft. Just me and a lot of scratching my head trying to find it.
AD: “Martin Luther Ave.” on the Strays Don’t Sleep record is a particularly visceral song, and, although it’s broad, it also seemingly touches on the current administration’s treatment of soldiers in Iraq. How much of an impact has the current polictical climate had on your songwriting?
MR: Well, there’s a certain apathy today that worries me. I don’t think the Bush Administration is responsible for that. Although they go far to confuse and misdirect issues to the point where citizens are left to fumble around like keystone cops. But this isn’t a new phenomena. On some level that’s the role of government. It’s OUR role to keep them honest. It’s hard today because I get no real sense that the News, whether ABC or Fox, is interested in being the people’s go between, voice or distilled information purveyor. I don’t criticize the Bush Administration in my writing. I think that some have misunderstood that, with their reactionary, defensive vitriol. I’ve gotten some ugly emails and confrontations from people that didn’t listen past their hate lefty artists glasses. My socially charged songs are hoping to rally activism, start a conversation, insight a riot of ideas. I am a liberal. I believe in equality of opportunity. Our public education is a mess. For the poor to rise to a place of any influence there has to be an almost biblical hand and otherworldy luck. I think it’s hard for the privileged to imagine the walls that surround the poor, the working poor and the shrinking middle class. I recently saw a news program that clearly stated that the real estate boom will continue because it will be motivated by the top 10% of income earners. In other words, safe neighborhood McMansions and good schools are available to those that can afford it. The rest? Well, let them eat cake and mow their lawns.
AD: At times there’s been a surprisingly politically conservative attitude by posters on the message board at Does that strike you as cognitively dissonant? As a songwriter who is unafraid to deal with social issues in your songs, how do the politics of your listeners affect the music?
MR: Yeah, there has. I don’t think they’re just being provocative. Maybe sometimes. I’ve changed a couple minds. I guess I can sleep at night. And they can too. They seem like smart people to me. Most have their ideas motivated by true beliefs and founded reasons. I respect that. I listen. But it hasn’t changed me. I know who I am. There’s a saying, I can’t remember exactly, but something about ‘to be young and liberal is natural, to be old and liberal is stupid.’ Something like that. Anyway, that’s bullshit. My ideas, my philosophy is all based in idealism. I will not let the world break my back, my romanticism or my will. It’s important to hold fast and believe in the best of men and women, even when maybe you’ve witnessed or feared the worst.
AD: Even though it’s a cliche music interview question, I would honestly love to know what you’ve been listening to lately. Any great records flying under the radar that we might have missed?
MR: The National, Thad and Kaitlyn’s Begonias and there’s some guy that has a song called Started Drinking Again that I like quite a bit.
MP3: Matthew Ryan :: Drift
MP3: Matthew Ryan :: FD29yrblues
MP3: Matthew Ryan :: Me & My Lover
MP3: Matthew Ryan :: Everybody Always Leaves
MP3: Matthew Ryan :: Lights of The Commodore Barry
MP3: Matthew Ryan :: Every Good Thing
MP3: Matthew Ryan :: Skylight
Buy Regret Over the Wires online and receive a bonus enhanced CD with exclusive audio and video.

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