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INTERVIEW: RYAN HAMILTON from RYAN HAMILTON & THE HARLEQUIN GHOSTS – September 2020

| 18 September 2020 | Reply

 

According to a recent press release: “Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts will release their new album Nowhere To Go But Everywhere on September 18th via Wicked Cool Records. The follow up to 2019’s This Is The Sound (which won an Independent Music Award for ‘Best Indie Album’), Nowhere To Go But Everywhere was written by Ryan during a long road trip across the USA with his dog Peaches, while coming to terms with his recent divorce. He filmed the trek, which resulted in ‘Communique’– an inspiring and deeply personal mini-documentary, part five of which debuted this week on Glide Magazine. Check back on the site each week for new episodes, all leading up to the release of Nowhere To Go But Everywhere. The open road has beckoned to generations of artists, writers, and seekers of authentic experience. For acclaimed singer/songwriter Ryan Hamilton, jumping into a minivan with his pup Peaches and driving from home near Fort Worth, Texas through the Southwest out to California last fall was not just catharsis, it was an unexpected impetus to create Nowhere To Go But Everywhere, his formidable new album with The Harlequin Ghosts.” We get Ryan on the phone to discuss new music, life, and what does he do after putting out a record of the year…

Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking out time. I appreciate it.

Ryan: Yeah, no problem.

Toddstar: Exciting things happening in the world of Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts . You guys just released another cool track off of the upcoming album, Nowhere To Go But Everywhere, which comes out September 18th.

Ryan: That is correct.

Toddstar: Let’s start with the album. What can you tell us about the album that your fans might not grab first or second time they listen to them?

Ryan: You know, the label wasn’t asking for or expecting another album from me for probably another year. We were still riding off the success of This Is The Sound. We won the IMA the independent music award for album of the year. We could have just kept working that album, but I got divorced the end of last year and decided to go on this road trip. I was gone for like two solid months just traveling around America and sleeping. I converted the band van into like a mini RV and I was sleeping in the desert and the mountains and my dog, Peaches, with me and with no intention of writing any songs or anything like that, really, it was just for me to get that time. I just, whatever reason I felt driven to go do that, it’s just me just by myself, just faced all the bullshit and you know, what life had kind of dealt me. About halfway through that trip songs started to kind of appear. Songwriting has always been like my journal and you know, most of the songs don’t end up on a new record. It’s just me kind of venting. These songs are that they’re the most honest songs I’ve ever put into the world. I know they are the best songs I’ve ever written and having people like Stevie and all of those around me concur and say, “Oh my God, whatever’s going on here? This is next level.” I think it’s because it’s so raw. We took 40 something demos from that trip and the songs we put into the world so far are the poppiest most radio friendly from those. I’m glad we put this on there because it really would have been a sad bastard record. From start to finish, it would have been just like… there’s some hope in there, but there’s some raw, real moments and, you know, not to go on and on about it, but I don’t know if people are ready for the bulk of this record and the emotional ride that it is.

Toddstar: You mentioned working with Little Steven again, how important is that dynamic to the sound? You talk about how this is a raw record and this is a personal record, but how important is that connection with Little Steven on the musical and the production side to help keep this a Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghost record?

Ryan: I would go as far to say it’s vital because we have lunch together in New York before I went on my trip. But after Holly and I split and he told me… this is just a good example of the kind of advice he gives, he said, look, you’re going to write a lot of sad songs for the, for a while and those aren’t going to be any good. Like those won’t be that great, but keep writing. And just on the other side of those sad songs are going to be some really great songs. Maybe they’re angry, maybe they’re hopeful, but kind of right through that sad period. And then send me the songs that come right after that. He was right and that’s exactly what I did. He sent me notes on every single song. He sent me voice memos. He would pick up his guitar and go, okay, this is great, but try this. He was very invested in this and you know, he, to me, he feels like Uncle Stevie now is he really took me under his wing before, but now more than ever, I think because we’ve had time to get to know each other and bonded, and I’ve been through this big life change and he’s been there with me and in his Stevie way. He really kind of saw me through, and there’s no chance these songs would sound like they do. And there’s no chance the songs that made it on the record would be the same songs without his guidance. There’s no way.

Toddstar: It’s kind of cool that the honcho of the label has become kind of that uncle figure as you kind of coined it. Going to the album, and I’ve only been able to enjoy a couple of the tracks off of them, I’m still waiting to dig into it. A little over a year ago, we were able to speak and we talked about the last album – which I reviewed for 100% Rock and you got a 100% rating from you or the album of the year I’m yet. I’m one of the, I’m the U S editor. And you got record of the year from me. We spoke of how some of it was kind of light and poppy. I made comparisons to Ginger, who I know is a friend of yours. I also referenced Butch Walker because you have that kind of pop rock sensibility to you, not only in the writing, but in the performance, how different will this album spin people who have come to expect that kind of rock pop vibe and grew from Ryan Hamilton?

Ryan: I think it’s going to throw people a little bit, but not too much. I think it’s just going to… I mean, I could have written, This Is The Sound, Part II, if I wanted to, but this album is coming from such a different place. I don’t think there’s a strummed distorted guitar on it. Everything you hear is mostly acoustic guitar driven or piano or organ driven, even the singles that are out in the world already. You won’t find if there’s an electric guitar on it, but maybe a little lead part here, there, and This Is The Sound was a lot of big electric guitars. So the song sense is still there because they’re my songs, but that kind of more rockish thing that happened on This Is The Sound, those big moments. Aren’t they don’t feel like loud guitar moments. They feel emotionally powerful this time or, or, you know, that kind of Whoa moment that happens is more lyric and just kind of vibe driven and not as sonically big, if that makes sense.

Toddstar: It does. Having listened to your catalog, I feel you kind of built that crescendo with your music where either it’s got that loud feel, or it’s just got that loud emotional call. That’s something that I’ve been drawn to in your music, going through the album. Are there a couple of songs that when you hear them back, cause this is still so fresh for you, it’s there just as raw now, as they were, when you sat and wrote these songs.

Ryan: Yeah. There’s two songs in particular, one song, “Only a Dream,” which I wrote with this in mind, like when you’re a kid and you have a really bad dream and you wake up and you actually say out loud in the middle of the night, like, Oh my God, it was only a dream, thank God. You know? You lose that a little bit as an adult. And for me it was that it was like, I want to wish it away. I want to just shake it off and go it’s just the dream. There’s no way it’s not real. I’m fine. So it’s just a dream. So that song still really gets me. And there’s one other one called “Don’t Fall Apart” that also gets me those, those both feel very close to that experience. And I’m glad we were able to capture that because I mean, shit it’s been almost a year. So I’ve been living with this for a pretty long time. For them still to affect me, like I have to skip “Don’t Fall Apart” sometimes, you know? Yeah. I just, I just can’t, you know, like God, but I think that’s a testament to how honest I’ve been this time around.

Toddstar: I was going to say it also kind of speaks to how much of yourself you really put out there to where a song that has, you know, you lived and breathed it for, like you said, almost a year now, and it’s still stirs that same emotion in you. I read somewhere that, you know, on this trek, you decided that you were going to pull out a camera and film a lot of it and you put together a documentary. What made you decide to do that on the front end, but more importantly, what made you decide to release it after the fact?

Ryan: I wanted to document it just for me, there was no new album. There was not even the idea of a new album that was real life that’s really happening, was very tense and very sad. And I wanted to remember that just for me, and today’s technology makes it easy. So to go to Big Bend or, you know, these places go drive down Route 66, as far as it goes and see all of these iconic and beautiful places for me, it was really just to document it just in a photo album kind of a way, you know, and I took a ton of pictures. I like to take pictures and I’ve got what I call my real camera. I brought my camera and, you know, took a ton of photos. That was fun. I didn’t realize how much I had and I came home. It was kind of going through it all. And it’s like, no, maybe I want to put this out there. Just one person can relate and that there’s, I think there’s seven episodes of this documentary thing. A lot of it is voiceover stuff, just photos from the trip and going, so this was taken here when this was going on. And if one person can feel less alone or feel like divorce, isn’t going to ruin their life or, you know, whatever, then it’s worth putting it out there. That was really the driving force. The fact that it came alongside this new album was actually something I struggled with because I don’t want that road trip and this documentary to look like some sort of promotional trick, because it’s not, it was something that really happened. And it was a very big deal in my life that I want to share. Hopefully help some people out there or inspire some people to make it through. So we almost didn’t do it. That’s why I say that. I was almost like, you know what, don’t do it. I don’t want this to be alongside the new album, but you know, screw up. I don’t care if people want to think that they can, but it’s not. It’s so far the response has been amazing. I have to say, I’m just, I’m wary of that sort of thing. I didn’t realize how much… when you’re gone for that long, just two months driving all over America, you come home with a lot of content.

Toddstar: On the front end of this, I mentioned the new single you guys just dropped a cool video for the single “Oh No,” which features Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo. What about that track made it feel right? Let’s start with your decision to put this out as a single, what about this felt right to you? Also, when you wrote the song and putting this together, did you hear Kay’s voice or was it shopped to her?

Ryan: So I’ve known Kay for a long time. We have a lot of mutual friends. We’ve been friends for probably 10 years and we are always saying, we should do something, let’s do something it’s just, it’s never quite worked out or the timing was weird, or she was busy. It’s just one of those things. It’s funny when you’re friends with somebody in the music business and you want to do something together, it seems to take a long time for that to actually come to fruition. That’s happened several times with several different friends, not just me, but them too, trying to work together. She was going to sing a song and This Is The Sound called “Far Cry,” and the scheduling just didn’t work. And I’m glad that she didn’t because when this song appeared… it’s more personal than people realize all of those album titles are, you know, are very personal to me and my former relationship. I knew that I wanted Kay to sing on it as soon as I had the demo. I was just like, “this song needs a lift. It needs some sort of cool female vocal, Oh my God, this is the one Kay should finally sing on.” I sent her the demo and she loved it. It’s funny how these things work because she could have been on “Far Cry” and the previous album, and we would have kind of checked that off the list. Like we finally did something together and I’m so glad we didn’t because this one came out so great. The songs performing really well on the radio here and overseas, and you just never know. I never would have thought this would be the one. I love the song… it’s still early, but my God it’s really going crazy.

Toddstar: And the video is kind of cool too. You kind of adds a twist of even just the living song. The video puts almost a little different spin on it when you get a visual of that, like I said, we spoke a little over a year ago and we talked about Amanda Palmer and we made a reference to a Patreon account. Are you still running, running with that? Cause you had just started doing it. I think around that time, is it still something that you’re, you’re, you’re seeing as an outlet for yourself, especially now when there is no outlet for a musicians?

Ryan: Long story short, I lost my Patreon content. They did an update and a lot of my content got deleted. I think they were switching servers or something. I could have gone through the process and tried to save it and recover it, whatever, but it became a big headache and ended up being a blessing in disguise because we started our own music club and took out the middleman. So there’s still that. I would say 90% of the people that were supporting on Patreon came over to this new music club that we started on our own. It’s still a monthly thing. I count on it. It helps artists like me survives. Amanda Palmer is still a friend the inspiration and she’s killing it on Patreon, but it’s kind of cool to run it ourselves and not have to pay a percentage to some big company. I should thank them for showing me the template of what works and how to do it because I totally ripped it off. And I do count on it. And I do love it.

Toddstar: Anybody who was interested, ryanhamiltonmusicclub.com, go check it out. It’s a cool idea. It’s a good outlet and avenue for your fans who can’t get out there and maybe hear the music and see the music. With everything we’ve got going on right now, it’s impossible. What are you doing to kill time, to keep yourself from being that “caged animal” that needs to be out on the road, Ryan? How are you keeping your, your artistic chops alive?

Ryan: I don’t know if I’m going crazy. I’ve never been bored in my life. I feel stir-crazy and I have to like find things to do around here. I miss touring so much. If we didn’t have this new album to prep and promote… there seems to be a lot of interest more than ever in this new album, which is great because I’ve done more interviews than ever, Zoom, and calls like this. I’m so thankful for it because it’s occupying my time and my mind in a way that’s keeping me from really going to a dark depressed place. I think that’s happened to a lot of people. I’ve seen it happen to friends. You take the touring out of the equation for an artist. Like that’s a big emotional outlet for us to go do that. And you take that away. Not only is it financially devastating, you don’t know what to do with yourself. So I find myself just kind of going, okay, I need to find something to do. What can I do a lot of projects around the house? You know, when it first started, I was like, well, I’ll record some cover songs and we’ll put some stuff into the world, but you can only do that for so long. Did any of us think this would all be going on for this long? Like it is on the level that it is. I don’t think anyone was prepared for this to last this long and we don’t even know what the residual effects are and all that does is I think depressed me more.

“my favorite photo I’ve ever taken.”  Photo Credit: Ryan Hamilton

Toddstar: I get it. I tell people all the time I miss live shows more than I miss anything. I’m able to see my family. I’m able to hug and spend time with those I love. But to spend time with those that I love on a different level – meaning my artist, friends, my musician friends, and people like you that I bump into every year – I miss that. I need that.

Ryan: Yeah. It’s brutal.

Toddstar: I know you’re trying to survive a hurricane and everything else. So I just want to part with, had you known then what you know now, how different do you think your last album would have been? Had you known what was coming, not only from a personal level, but just from a world perspective with everything going on in the world right now, what would your album have changed, do you think? And conversely, how different do you think your most recent effort would have been? Had you known COVID was going to hit to add to this, this spot of darkness in your life as well.

Ryan: A really good question. So This Is The Sound was our first album with Wicked Cool Records. And thank you to you and lots of other outlets that called it their album of the year. And, you know, to having to win an actual legit award and get our first album with Wicked Cool to do what it did. We set the bar pretty high and almost screwed myself in that way. Like, well, shit, what do I do now? So I don’t know. It was so fun to make that record. It was the first full album I did with Stevie, you know, being involved and to that capacity, I don’t think that album would change. I think that album would stay exactly as it is. Honestly, man, in a weird way with everything that’s happened in this album that has unexpectedly come along and everyone’s so excited about. Because it’s come from such a different place and because it’s come during a time when so many are struggling, it almost gives me a pass from having to write or record This Is The Sound 2.0… album of the year Number 2. Because it’s coming from a different perspective and from a different place during a time when everyone is struggling so much. Did I ever want to get divorced and then a pandemic happen? You know, a brand new life all by myself and then quarantine isolation while I’m trying to adjust to a new life on my own after I’d been married for almost a decade like that, that was brutal. But silver lining, I guess there’s new music that I think a lot of people are going to relate to. A lot of people are feeling alone. This whole new record… every song… even though there’s some lonely moments, every song is full of hope. You know, it’s just like, it’s going to be all right. And I don’t know, man, I struggled to go. Would it be different? But I think that it’s important for things to have happened, the way that they have and this, I need this album just personally and in my career, I need to tip the scales. I mean, I’ve been so close to like three or four or five years and to sustain and maintain this life and my career in music. I need this one to spin a little bit bigger than the previous ones, or I think maybe I’m in the wrong business, which sucks. Cause it’s so hard to make it in this business, especially in today’s world. I’m really going to laugh if this one is the one that does it, that somehow gets everybody involved to that elusive next level. It’s like, Oh, that’s all I needed. I need a divorce and a pandemic. And then I had, I had magic ingredients to get us there.

 

Toddstar: Well, you know, you talk about how this, this album’s full of hope. You got some hope in it And anybody can write a record, well not anybody, but people have written record of the year and won awards, but who can write a record for the pandemic?

Ryan: That’s a good point. We finished recording the bulk of it in January and we didn’t know what was coming. These songs… these lonely I’m alone, but I’m going to be okay kind of songs. You know, people are going to hear these and relate. Like they never have before.

Toddstar: Who knows what’s going to happen. It’s all a crap shoot at this point. Let’s be honest.

Ryan: [laughing] It really is, and that’s okay. I do love this life and I’m very thankful for everything that’s happened in music. And I know I’m blessed to have more than a lot and yeah, but everybody is always trying to get to that next place.

Toddstar: It’s natural. Ryan, again, I appreciate the time. Last year that album was a game changer for me. I can’t wait to check this one out and, and we wish you well with this, when it drops September 18th. Everybody go out and download, pay for it. Nowhere To Go But Everywhere from Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts on Wicked Cool Records. Hopefully we can get through all this shit together and get live shows and we still need you proper up here in Detroit, man.

Ryan: I think it’ll happen next year. I’m making plans with people here in the States. It’s just like fingers crossed if we’re allowed to tour, I think there’ll be an actual US tour with some guys from here. I’d love to come to Detroit. Maybe play at St. Andrew’s again. I like that place.

Toddstar: There you go. Be safe and we’ll talk to you either when the tour starts up or the next time we get some new music out there from you.

Ryan: Thanks man. Enjoy that record. I think you’re going to love it.

Toddstar: I know I will. Thanks Ryan.

Ryan: Take care.

RYAN HAMILTON LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

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Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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