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| 4 March 2022 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Norfolk, Virginia-based, multi-instrumentalist, indie-rock musician Ivy Ryann is set to release her new album, A Nonaggressive Extreme Violation of Boundaries, on March 4, 2022. Ryann is poised to blow the doors open on what is deemed acceptable or taboo material through her new, highly anticipated debut album, which was recorded in Nashville and produced by Rich Mossman. Heavily influenced by artists such as Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Brandi Carlile, Ryann’s music invokes powerful emotion, taking listeners on a journey to their inner depths. Her stories are reinforced with haunting melodies, sweet sounds of piano, and sultry wails of electric guitar. Ryann has no fear when it comes to writing about religion, family, the heaviness of mental illness and survival, and the darker side of the human condition. She is passionate about the vulnerability that comes from living an honest life, and her music reflects those values.” We get Ivy on the phone to discuss new music and much more…

Toddstar: Ivy, thank you for taking time out of your schedule. I really appreciate it.

Ivy: Yeah, no, thanks for having me.

Toddstar: You got a great album. We’ll get to some of my comparisons and high points, but the new album dropping, A Nonaggressive Extreme Violation of Boundaries. Hell of a title.

Ivy: I knew I wanted the title to be something that made people do a double take or kind of just maybe give like a “what the fuck?”

Toddstar: It’s funny you say that though because I was kind of trying to read into it kind like because I know one of your musical exposures growing up was Van Halen, and they had the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge [F.U.C.K.] album.

Ivy: Yeah, right.

Toddstar: So I was looking for that kind of hit meaning. Is that kind of what you had going on when you were naming the album?

Ivy: Yeah, there’s definitely quite a few little nuggets in there when we were naming the album. I was actually sitting on my porch with my producer and one of our friends. We’d been talking all night about the fact that the album was completely finished, and I didn’t really have a name for it. The conversation moved on to somewhere else and I ended up talking about someone that I knew and I was trying to describe them. I said, “He’s kind of like a really non-aggressive, but extreme violation of boundaries, like in every way.” Then I said, “Well, honestly, that’s how I feel listening to my album. It’s like the nicest way to get called out.” My producer pointed at me and goes, “That’s the album title. That’s the name.” I was like, “No, it’s not. That’s not the name.” When I actually started thinking about it and thinking about all the songs, most of the songs are all about either a situation or a person that really meant well, but just very kindly messed me up. Some people do all sorts of horrific things in the name of family or religion or just all of these really glossy, nice-looking things, pretty packaging. And then it just ends up doing a lot of harm or damage or you end up getting a lot of growth out of it and who knows. So it just kind of stuck.

Toddstar: Great backstory. It’s ten tracks. One of them is a duplicate, so we’ve got nine new tracks from you. Based on what you just told me, is each of these nine tracks truly in some sense or in some way or at its heart autobiographical or is some of this just stuff you made up?

Ivy: It is all based on some element of personal experience, except for the song I didn’t write… the Johnny Cash cover “Walk The Line.” But every original word from me is pretty autobiographical, is about a situation in my life. I have friends who are really good at doing things like writing songs based off of books or based off of other people’s lives. I can’t do that. I have to have experienced it myself to be able to put it to lyrics. So yeah, it’s a very personal album.

Toddstar: I love certain tracks. Your cover’s great. I’m one of those weird rock and roll guys that never really got into Johnny Cash. It’s just not my thing. I love the cover in that because I’m not tied to the original. I do love “The Weight” and you caught me with the opening with “The Losing,” and I also am drawn to “Driveway Prayers.” The first thing that I remember about “The Losing” is you came across like a very rootsy Florence + The Machine, to me; that’s how I hear it.

Ivy: I’ve never gotten that one before.

Toddstar: Either I’m way off or just nobody else has picked up on it.

Ivy: I don’t think you’re way off. It’s just, well, first of all, it’s the first album. So I only really ever hear people from live performances and I do pretty stripped-down versions of lives because I don’t have a band. You’re one of the only first people, really, before the album is released, that’s actually hearing the way these songs are intended to be heard.

Toddstar: How different did the album come out in its final incarnation with the rest of the band, with the rest of the pieces added in from the stripped-down versions that you wrote? How much of the original pieces were lost that wish you still could have incorporated, but just weren’t possible?

Ivy: I feel like we spent so much time making sure that we just got everything we wanted to. I definitely had a vision for most of these going in and I explained to my producer, Rich Mossman, in pretty great detail exactly how I wanted things to sound. But we ended up rerecording a couple of these songs because we started tracking this album. “Driveway Prayers” originally got tracked in 2018. It ended up sounding like it didn’t fit on the album years later when we started recording things like “The Losing” and “The Weight.” They were pretty heavy, intense songs, and then “Driveway Prayers” was almost like a country song. I was trying to get away from that as much as possible because I grew up in a really country and folk-influenced community. I felt like I was trying to fit the mold that I was in pretty often by writing really folky, country tunes, but I didn’t feel that was very authentic. We ended up rerecording a lot of “Driveway Prayers” three years later. Gnd going into the album, I knew I wanted it to be mostly electric, even though I didn’t even own an electric guitar at the time. So I had a vision for these things and I went into the studio and I took it to one of my favorite guitar players who is on this album, Matthew Quickenbeard, and I played some pieces for him, and then he cleaned it up and made it so much better. It really came together pretty much exactly how I wanted it to, even if it didn’t sound exactly the way I envisioned it in the first place. It’s definitely a collaborative work and there are people that are on this album that it just wouldn’t be the same without them.

Toddstar: What was the thought process behind dropping what you call a rock version and an orchestra version of “The Weight?”

Ivy: I was going back and forth and back and forth between the idea that I could really hear this one as a rock or as a soundtrack type song. I loved the rock version, but then I loved the idea of having a stripped-down version as well. I’ve seen that done so many times, where people just release a stripped version, almost like a cover of their own song. I didn’t really want to do that. I wanted to release them as equals. When we thought about releasing a stripped-down version, I was like, “Well, what if it wasn’t stripped down? What if we went with a totally different take on the same song?” We’d talked about doing it before. We were having conversations about, “Should we release this as almost like an epic-sounding orchestral version?” The electric guitar was actually originally in the orchestral version. They were kind of mashed together and it wasn’t really working because I had this big vision for a rock and orchestra theme happening at the same time. In my mind, that worked out perfectly, but in reality it was really hard to make that work. We just kind of landed on the idea of like, “Well, what if we just did them both, we just kind of threw the chains off and said we’ll do whatever the heck we want, and we’ll just release them both as two completely different versions?” Vocally, they’re different slightly as well, just the way that you would sing over an orchestra and the way you would sing over a rock band is pretty different. That was the problem we were running into when we were trying to mash it all together. I couldn’t really feel the song very well, but I could feel them both pretty perfectly when we separated the two.

Toddstar: That makes sense. You mentioned this is your first album, but it’s not your first rodeo. You’ve been doing this a while. As you mentioned, “Driveway Prayers” started getting tracked almost four years ago now back in 2018, at some point. In the last four years, COVID aside because we know that just derailed everybody in the music industry, what’s the one thing about the music business you’ve learned in the last four years since you’ve started this process as kind of an “oh shit, brick to the forehead moment” that you just didn’t see coming?

Ivy: Oh God. Outside of COVID? Man, that’s a big question. I’ve always preached that if you’re going to get into the music industry, you have to have a group of people behind you that you 100% trust because I can’t go into a studio and sing “The Losing” through tears in front of someone that I don’t know very well. I recorded a little EP when I was a teenager and I struggled so hard because I was doing it with people I didn’t know super well. I kind of rushed it and it’s not what I wanted it to be and didn’t feel authentic. So going into this album, I just had it in my mind, “You just have to make connections first. You have to be in the industry before you’re in the industry, kind of.” I had to form relationships with people that you can kind of say, “Hey, I’m just going to go and do something really weird in the booth, and you’re just going to have to sit there and take it. If it works, cool. If it doesn’t, we won’t have to talk about it.” I guess the biggest thing for me hitting my head on the floor was like, “Man, I just need to find my community. I just need to find the people that resonate with me most.”

Toddstar: Well, and that seems be a common thread through a lot of press releases and even a quote. You make reference to trying to connect through your art, your Christian roots and becoming, in your words, ‘a sanctuary with no judgment.’ How has that driven you to change the way you write now, when you’re looking back on how you’re constructing songs lyrically, sonically, as opposed to when you first started?

Ivy: Yeah. I feel like I didn’t worry this time around about stepping on anyone’s toes. I grew up pretty deeply rooted in the Christian community, and I still would consider myself a Christian, but I am a queer Christian and those two worlds don’t go together often the way that I think they should. In my writings previously, I avoided a lot of topics, avoided a lot of things, like talking about depression, talking about even suicidal ideations mentioned in “The Losing,” and just being open and honest with people because open honesty in my experience kind of got you nowhere and got you excommunicated in a lot of situations where I was growing up. If I was open and honest in my songs when I was a teenager, I didn’t know if that would really for how my life would look at that point. Now, I have a lot more freedom as an adult. I live in my own place and I have control over my own life. I have a lot more ability to do that than I did before, just for security purposes. I said that this time around, I wasn’t going to worry what people said. These songs were written over the course of a couple years. “The Weight” actually was written when I was about 17, so that one’s really old and was my most raw song up until that point. Looking back and seeing things like “The Losing” on this record, I am thinking “Wow, there’s a lot on this song that would kind of raise a lot of eyebrows when I was a teenager. And now, it’s still going to raise a lot of eyebrows, I just don’t care.”

Toddstar: Well, that’s the best way to approach it and be true to thine own self. Looking forward at what’s coming with what’s out there now and then going forward, what’s your biggest hope for this album? I mean, we all want the gold record, the platinum record, the Grammy. But awards and accolades aside, what’s your hope for this album?

Ivy: My parents actually asked me once when I was around like 20, and they said like, “What do you want to do with music. Music’s a really hard industry to actually make it in, make money off of, and provide for yourself.” And I said, “Grammys are cool, the awards are nice, and the ceremonies are fun, but if I can just make a living comfortably off of what I do, I’ll be happy enough because that’s not the goal for me.” My hope for this album is that… I remember listening to albums that… Lucy Dacus’ Home Video album is a really good example, and that came out less than a year ago… I hear albums like that and I’m just like, “Oh my gosh. Yes, I see that, I feel that. Now, I know that someone else is feeling that, and seeing that, and experiencing the same things, and I’m just not alone.” I hope that someone looks at this album, and feels ultimately just seen by it, relates with it, and gets comfort from it. I just think I want this to be overall a comforting album certainly.

Toddstar: I’ve been listening to it since it slid into my email. The funny thing is that this the first album I actually threw on and listened to before I read the press release. I don’t know why. I think I was just working away and I thought, “Okay, I’ll just throw it on in the background and we’ll see if it grabs me.” It did and then I went back to the press reelease. I’m a metal guy that grew up in the 80’s with hard rock. This isn’t something I would’ve normally grabbed onto, but with the title and the sonic parts of it – the way your vocals resonate, play, and twist in the music with the accompaniment, it’s just a great album. I have to dig more into the lyrics themselves, but it’s a great listening album. It’s something that you could put on at a large gathering or with a few friends having dinner. And to me, that in and of itself makes it a winner.

Ivy: Thank you. That’s a high compliment.

Toddstar: Parting note, of the songs on this album, if you had to pick one or two songs from this, that in 20 years, when you’re still putting together a set list, what song or two grab you and mean the most to you to where you think you’ll still gravitate to them to play them for an audience?

Ivy: That’s a good question. I love them for different reasons, but I think the one that continuously grabs me over and over again, that I love to perform live and always has resonated with an audience the best has been “The Weight.” Despite me not thinking anyone lyrically would relate to that song a whole lot, it’s one of most lyrically vague songs. But I think musically, everyone kind of figures that as the most catchier, the most fun one to listen to, just because it’s pretty intense-sounding and just fun to play. Me personally, I would love if that song was actually “Eternity,” even though I see that as the bulkiest album on the song. I think that “Eternity” will be the song that I go back to in 20 years and say like, “This was a big one,” or, “This was one that was a game-changer for me.”

Toddstar: You’re a week out. You still got some more waiting and nervous anticipation to get out, but I’m so glad it crossed my email and I decided to press play. I wish you well with the release next Friday.

Ivy: Thank you.






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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