Ryland James

Interview: Amy Bell

"I’m thrilled to be putting this song out into the world as the first of a new era in my artistry. This is truly the most exciting time I’ve experienced in my career and personal growth thus far. That being said, there’s so much to come in terms of visuals, sounds, stories, and an overall heightened sense of creativity for me. ‘I Give Everything’ is a song I wrote early on in my relationship about falling in love for the first time. I was completely immersed and infatuated with the intensity of the feelings I was experiencing, but I was also fearful of losing myself in the process somehow. The lyrics embody that push-pull between the simultaneous acceptance of and resistance to pure passion.” 

In 2019, Ryland emerged on the global stage with his breakout single In My Head. It notably soared to #1 on Shazam Canada’s Top 200 chart and went platinum in Canada. Captivating audiences, he supported multi-platinum superstar Alessia Cara on a sold-out North American tour and performed at festivals such as Life Is Beautiful. On the heels of his self–titled 2020 debut EP, Ryland James, he exceeded 89 million global streams. He kicked off 2021 with the single Blame, which tallied another 6 million-plus streams, and the dance floor banger Save Me with Shaun Frank. Along the way, he fell in love for the first time and publicly came out with a heartfelt Instagram post. It was these moments that indelibly impacted his creativity. Today, Canadian multi-platinum artist Ryland James welcomed in the new year with a brand new single titled, I Give Everything, via Universal Music Canada and Republic Records. The track comes after a year of self-reflection and immense personal growth for the Ontario native, who not only came to terms with who he is but embraced himself with pride. 

We spoke to the Canadian artist about his up beat new single, the first album he ever bought and you can check out the music video to 'I Give Everything' here!

Hi Ryland, thanks for talking to ReVamp, where did it all start for you?

Of course! Thank you for having me. Well if we’re going way way back, I was born in a very small city in Ontario, Canada called Belleville and then raised in an even smaller town called Deseronto. My parents were both professional hockey players so I was already part of an unconventional family when I came into the world. I grew up around a lot of music, especially gospel music at my grandma’s house. She played piano all the time, and I learned very early on how much soul and grit went into that style. I was extremely attracted to it. It’s a way of life for a lot of people, very spiritual in nature.

My family talks about me singing all the time growing up, and I remember it being a really big part of my free time. My hand would always shoot up if teachers asked which students wanted solos in school musicals and performances. It was just innate I suppose. Around 10 years old I sang “Who’s Loving You” by the Jackson 5 for my mom and grandma and they absolutely loved it. I’d never belted anything out like that before. That’s when I really knew I wanted to pursue music. I started posting covers online with my parents’ help, and continued to do so for my whole adolescence really. I performed all over locally, and entered different talent competitions until my management found one of my videos one day in 2016. They invited me to come record some demos and begin writing music with professional songwriters in the industry.

Over the last five and a half years I’ve just continued honing my craft as an artist, and I’ve gotten to experience so many extraordinary opportunities my young self could have never imagined. It’s amazing where life can take you.

Do you remember the first album you bought and what was the album?

I was gifted a lot of music growing up, but I think the first album I waited for and bought myself was 25 by Adele. That time in my life was very pivotal. Those songs still remind me of exactly where I was at emotionally in those moments. Just a teenager, hoping that someday I could possibly even brush the surface of the depth she possessed. She inspired my writing a lot when I was first starting out, and I still constantly look to her music for inspiration. It’s timeless and authentic in a way that can’t be touched.

Growing up, were you always interested in the music industry?

Yes, I was interested in the music industry growing up, very much so. It was enigmatic and fascinating to me from as far back as I can remember. I think it’s something that most people wonder about at some point. The veins of show business are very much hidden behind a large veil. Not much has always been known to the public about the behind-the-scenes. I wanted to be part of it as soon as I knew it was a thing.

As a kid growing up in a small town it seemed like an escape to a reality I thought I might find my place in. I often felt misunderstood by my peers because I was openly pursuing something that very few people from that area had ever pursued before me. It just wasn’t deemed practical by many, and putting yourself on a stage of any kind opens up the floodgates to criticism and opinions of all kinds about your character. Whether it was just perceived or not, I felt like a misfit. I thought that if I could just break out and make it big I’d finally feel like myself. So I worked really hard to secure that future. I had a long-term vision for my life, and actually avoided a lot of the things “normal” teenagers did. I never went to parties and didn’t have many people I felt close to that were my age. I just went to school, finished my homework, and did music in my basement for the world to see online. I look back now and realize I could’ve definitely let loose a lot more, but of course hindsight is 20/20. I don’t regret it though, I’ve had lots of fun since getting out of high school. This industry has allowed me to have amazing opportunities and experiences I’d never have had if I’d given up on that dream.

You have a new single out ‘I Give Everything', what does this song mean to you?

“I Give Everything” is a very important song for me. I wrote it in the fall of 2020 with Mike Wise, Prince DCF, and Geoff Warburton at Mike’s studio in Toronto. I’d just gone long- distance with my boyfriend a few weeks before and felt really distraught about it. He’s my first love and we’d only been together about 3 months at the time, so you can imagine I was in the midst of a raging roller coaster of emotions. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that love will take you on the ride of your life. I was immersed in our relationship completely that summer. Nothing else existed in my mind. All I cared about was him. I was going through the highest highs of joy and contentment, but then I’d be tossed into the throes of doubt, jealousy, and sadness at a moment’s notice. So much was coming up in me that I never knew existed. The emotions seemed to have minds of their own, so much so that I thought I was losing myself at times, and I was afraid of it. Of course now I realize that relationships do that. They break down the person you thought you were to make room for someone new to emerge. I’d just never experienced it before, and that’s what “I Give Everything” is about. I wanted to love my boyfriend with my whole heart, but I was afraid of losing myself in the process. I was afraid of diving in too deep and getting hurt somehow. It’s kind of like an ultimatum in a way. I’m saying, “I’ll give you everything, but I need to know I can trust you and that you won’t break my heart.” Thankfully, we’re still in a very happy relationship and I get to share this song with him as a snapshot of that moment in time together. The visuals and sound of the song itself also represent a very new era for me as an artist. I’ve evolved a lot, and it really sets the scene for what’s coming next in the way of new music in 2022.

Check out the music video to 'I Give Everything' by Ryland James here.

It is a pretty impactful song, where do you get your inspiration to create music?

Thank you, and great question! I’ve always gotten my inspiration for songwriting in different places. On my first EP, everything I wrote was from a place of idealization and imagination. I wrote about things I’d heard before from others. I wrote about what I thought love and loss could be like. I connected emotions I’d experienced to things I thought could be universal themes. I still love all those songs, but the difference now is that I write much more from my own personal experience. I try very hard to be as honest as possible when I go into songwriting sessions and try to pull from the most vulnerable places inside myself. I’ve been through a lot already in my life, and there are so many emotions and memories to draw on. It’s just about digging down deep for them and then making them into something beautiful.

Songwriting is still difficult for me, only because I hold onto my ideas so preciously. I need them to be a perfect expression of what I’m envisioning internally, but they often don’t come out that way, so I kind of implode a bit. I’m still learning how to let myself be free to create without judging my creations so harshly. That’s why I’m very excited about this new era I’m in. I’ve definitely loosened my grip on the things I think “need” to be a certain way, and just let them flow. It makes writing a lot more enjoyable, and my creativity really benefits from it.

How is ‘I Give Everything’ different from your previous releases?

“I Give Everything” is different from my previous releases firstly because of its sound. That’ll be the first thing that stands out to any previous listeners of mine. I really leaned into experimenting with more modern production and phrasing. I’ve always loved a good upbeat song and wanted something I could dance to like those pop hits I listened to growing up. This was my version of that. The lyrical content is also a lot more autobiographical, as I touched on before. It feels more “me” and more authentic to my own experience.

The visuals that accompany the song are very new for me, and very experimental. It’s the furthest I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone in terms of the way I show myself to the world. There’s so much colour, fashion, and movement I’ve just never put on display in this way. I’m extremely excited about it all, and I feel like it’s a gateway to a whole new world of choice and beauty that I never allowed myself to have access to before this.

What do you want people to perceive when they listen to this release?

I’m a firm believer in people creating their own meanings for how they perceive any art form. I made “I Give Everything” from my own personal experience, and it means something very specific to me, but I just hope that people can hear it and find something in themselves they might’ve never quite noticed before. I love when songs catch me off guard with their messages. I love when I can hear something and say “Oh wow. I relate to this, and I know exactly what that means (for me anyway).” I think emotional music is beautiful, and I’d love to elicit that in people who listen to my music. Hopefully it’s healing and eye-opening. Hopefully it hits someone at exactly the moment in their lives they need it most. I create art because I know someone out there needs it exactly the way I need others’ art every day of my own life.

I’m sure everyone wants to know, What is next up for you?

2022 is going to be a big year for new releases so keep your eye out! I have lots of new music in the tank waiting to be heard, so I’ll definitely be putting that out over the next few months. I have some collaborations in the works, new imagery, plans for some possible shows this year, and I’m always writing new music. It’s all feeling really good, and I couldn’t be happier with the way everything is panning out. Massive love to everyone reading, and thank you so much for having me!

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