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| 26 February 2023 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Ryan Hamilton has unveiled details for his next studio album Haunted By The Holy Ghost, set for release on March 10 via Wicked Cool Records. Hailed by Spin Magazine as one of the ‘35 Best Lesser Known Artists of the Last 35 Years’, the Fort Worth, Texas-based musician released his first solo album, Hell of a Day, back in 2015. Prior to this, Hamilton had experienced success across North America and Canada with former band Smile Smile. 2023 promises to be even busier for Hamilton, with the release of Haunted By The Holy Ghost, a full UK/European tour in Spring, plus festivals and US shows through summer and later in the year.” We get Ryan himself to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

ToddStar: Ryan, this makes you a three-peat for interviews.  As always, I appreciate the time. It’s always so good to speak to you because I just love what you do.

Ryan: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

ToddStar: Well, let’s dive right in. Haunted by the Holy Ghost, you have another huge disk coming at us. This is your fourth full-length and fifth release in as many years give or take. What can you tell us about this disc that helps it stand out from where you started with Wicked Cool Records? You released This is the Sound then you dropped Nowhere to Go But Everywhere, which I deemed the album of the pandemic. Then you had 1221, which is a cool release. What about this one stands out among your previous releases?

Ryan: I think this one is more fun. I went through everything I was going to go through as an adult, released my first record with the record label. Then I went through some stuff personally. I got divorced. 1221 was really an experiment, a song a month. This record is getting through all of that and coming out the other side okay and going, ‘I want to make a kick ass record that is fun from start to finish.’ I’m very proud of how far I’ve come as a songwriter. I had a lot of songs. There was, oh God, I don’t even know what the number is or was, but this group of songs and what this album is, it just feels like I’m finally confident and this is me. I’m not going through anything. This is an album of songs that I really love that I think are good songs and are fun to listen to, which is a tricky balance.

ToddStar: That it is. That’s one thing I’ve always really enjoyed about your albums… somehow you’re able to piece the tracking together so that it takes me back to those days in the 70’s and 80’s when an album was a story. You pull it off on this one, even though, like you said, this one doesn’t have the emotional ebb and flow of Nowhere to Go But Everywhere, but it still has that fun storyteller feel to it. Like you said, you don’t know how many songs you had and you cull it down to these 10. How do you go through and how important is the process of putting together that tracking so that the people are hearing it the way you want it to be heard?

Ryan: It’s very important to me, especially when you open an album with a song called, “Asshole,” right? You’re like, ‘That’s on purpose.” It’s like, this is something I’m trying to kick the door down in whatever way I can do that, and it sets the tone, sets the mood, and it’s very important to me for it to feel like an album. I’m an album guy. I don’t like that the music business has turned into singles and what’s your song doing… how many stream does it have on Spotify. We’re all forced to play that game, but that is not going to deter me from making albums that I think feel like an album. I think it’s a shame that so many young people don’t know what that experience is like. It’s important for me to at least try, you know what I mean?

ToddStar: I’m so glad to hear you say it because I have explained it to my friends over and over because they always tell me their kids will never know what Classic Rock is. I tell them to take away Spotify and the kids will figure it out.

Ryan: True.

Toddstar: Did 1221 help give you more insight into your true feelings on that? As you mentioned, you did an album one track a month and you put it all together and dropped it in November of 2021. Did that give you an insight as to whether you wanted to drop singes or that you were going to do an album?

Ryan: It gave me some insight for sure. I was very lucky. I did that to stay busy and get through the pandemic in a way. The label loved it so much that they wanted to do something with this. Because it did so well, Record Store Day grabbed it and made it an official Record Store Day release on vinyl. To me that was the redeeming thing that happened at the end, because it was just this digital thing. I was getting praise because a song called “Do The Damage” did so well off that record, it was getting all these streams, and it became my most streamed song ever, which feels nice. As someone who wants music to be an experience for as many senses as possible — and most teenagers now don’t even have the sense of touch or smell or sight in as far as a record goes and aren’t engaged in their listening experience — it bothered me a little bit. For it to come together and come out on vinyl and CD saved me from being too annoyed by being part of the problem.

ToddStar: Getting back to “Haunted by the Holy Ghost,” because we’ve got to talk about the new stuff, you mentioned that this thing kicks off with “Asshole.” I think it’s such a cool intro to the album because of the way it all kind of ebbs and flows on a lighter side. Definitely not light, it’s not very Barry Manilow by any means, but it’s that lighter feel. I’ve heard references to the story behind “Haunted by the Holy Ghost” and your religious upbringing, but what song on here do you find yourself going back to and revisiting, whether it’s thinking I should have done this differently or that a  song still hits me the way it did when I put pen to paper?

Ryan: Great question. First of all, I would never let anything go into the world if I felt like I wanted to change it. A lot of people do get hung up on that and they’re like, ‘that should have been better.’ You hear these stories about guys mixing a song a hundred times, but I let a song get to a point and then me and my producer Dave, who I love, are like, ‘Okay, that’s it. This is what this song is.’ I’m super proud of it and I kind of let go in a way. As far as that part of it goes, I don’t really listen to something and think I want to change anything. I just feel like it’s my song child and I hope it goes off and does great things. As far as a song, I would pick two. I would pick “Asshole” because there was so much conversation that went into where did this song come from? The way I write, I’m never going to sit down and write a song. You and I have talked about that before.. They just kind of appear and that one appeared. I didn’t know what to do with it. I thought ‘What am I going to do with this? What do I do?’ So it became this thing, my manager who I love and I’m very lucky to have such a great manager, he did some research… who has a song called “Asshole,” is it okay to have a song called this, and will it be played on the radio? He came back to me let me know there are two or three other well-known artists that have a song called “Asshole” that’s in the world. If you go and look on Spotify, ironically, that song, for whatever reason, has three, five, and even 10 times more streams or listens than any other song they have. Is it because of the title? I don’t know. Nobody knows. But songs with those titles do exponentially better for whatever reason. So I had this song that I thought was never going to go anywhere. We thought let’s get behind this and see what happens because with my luck it’ll be the one that does something crazy cool. That one to me has become like the Little Engine That Could. We’ll see what happens. It comes out in a couple of weeks. Other than that, there’s a song called “Overdose” that when it comes on, it takes me back to this right when I was writing it. I don’t know if it’s the melody or the chords, but the vibe of that song really gets me way down deep.

ToddStar: I love the whole album, but you picked two of my favorites. I’ll be honest, I can’t even stop it and go back to repeat songs. I wait till it ends, even sitting through “Sad Bastard Song” and the long ass gap you put in there to get to the bonus track.

Ryan: Yeah. People don’t even know what a bonus track is anymore, so thank you for noticing.

ToddStar: When you see a track that clocks in at 12:58, you’re thinking there’s something there. I went to that first on my first listen through because I wanted to know what you buried in there. I’m not going to ruin it for anyone else, but hang out for it because it’s very telling of where you’ve been, where you’re going, and it’s a cool, fun cover.

Ryan: Thanks man.

ToddStar: In addition to “Asshole” and “Overdose,” I absolutely love “Absence of Love.” There’s something in that song, I don’t know why, but pulls me every time it comes on. I stop what I’m doing, listen, and sing along. I’ve spun this enough, I’m singing along to songs now Ryan.

Ryan: That’s great. That’s the goal, right?

ToddStar: Right. Well, riddle me this. I saw an album that came out from Ryan Hamilton and there’s no Harlequin Ghost reference.

Ryan: Oh God, yes.

ToddStar: The dreaded question. All your albums could have been just Ryan Hamilton anyway. We addressed this before, but why drop the moniker now? Why this album?

Ryan: So I really screwed myself because I put out my first solo record just under my name and it did really well. Then I was like, oh, I’m going to be like, Elvis Costello, I’m going to be the Attractions. I’ll change the name every time. It’ll be fun. That’s really what I thought. So I went into it, I was like, I’m going to do this. The Traitors, the Harlequin Ghosts, the whatever. Todd, no shit, I screwed myself as far as online streaming goes because they all had to have different profiles. Every band name, every release had to have a different profile. The big agents that are coming along going, hey, we really like this guy. We want to have him on this big tour, let’s go look. They always check your Spotify numbers. They check your followers and how many streams you have. We started having to explain, ‘Well, you can’t just look at this profile, you got to go look at this one and then you got to go look at this one and then do the math and add all of them together, and that’s probably a better idea of what the Spotify streams look like.’ I lost one big tour for sure, and probably more than that, because they thought my Spotify numbers aren’t what we hoped they would be. When that happened, I went, okay, how do we get this down to just two maybe? There was a lot of stuff that went on with my management and the label trying to figure out how we just get it down to Harlequin Ghosts and solo. And there’s still the remnants of Traitors stuff out there in the world. Thankfully the solo profile has, I’m creeping up on a million streams and everything’s got, it’s to a place now where somebody comes looking, which they have, they get a more realistic idea. Honestly, I hate that that’s the reason, but that’s the reason. Every album I’ve made has had different people on it. Even the Harlequin Ghosts stuff, it’s not the same people on those two albums. It’s a different lineup of every time. I like that because I like going in the studio with new and different people or some of the core people and just seeing what happens and making sure it’s something new or fresh. It’s so ridiculous that that’s how we have to operate, but I’m going to screw myself if I don’t. And that is why 1221 and the new album have just my name.

ToddStar: I was not shocked by it because it happens, and as you said, not the same players all the time. I like the fact that, in my mind you’re finally stepping up and taking what’s due you.

Ryan: Thank you very much.

Photo credit: Ian Ladlow

ToddStar: We’ve talked about it every time we chat… I’m a huge fan and I can never get enough of what you’re doing. That said, the US needs a proper tour. It’s been a while since you’ve been to Detroit, and I’m doing the Florida thing in the winter now, so even Florida, we’d love to see you down in the Tampa area. Any plans or anything on the horizon that we can at least be teased with? We know you’re huge in the UK.

Ryan: I really want to, it’s just been difficult. I have a great booking agent in England. I thought I had a great booking agent in America, and then that company folded during the pandemic. It’s the story of my musical life, right? I don’t even have an agent in the US. I would love to do it. There just aren’t the opportunities. If they come my way, I’ll jump all over them, but right now I have no agent in America. If shows come my way, awesome. But they’re not. They’re just coming my way in the UK and in Europe. But man, I would love nothing more than to not have to fly internationally to play big shows or play any shows really. I know I could go out and plug it out on my own on some little tour, but I’d rather have something legit that is exciting. I’m getting older now. I’m spoiled.

ToddStar: You’re not alone, man. I talk to a lot of musicians, and they say the same thing. Another one of my favorite vocalists, Jeff Scott Soto, he says all the time, he loved it tour the US but he’s not going to slug it out in a 200 seat and then climb in a van and drive two days to get to the next one. It’s just not, it doesn’t make sense.

Ryan: You don’t make any money. We all have to survive and as you know, 90% of artists out there doing it are, we’re not getting rich. People see the top 5%… the Miley Cyruses of the world or whoever. That’s not the majority. The majority of us are out here with a mortgage and working hard to just be okay.

ToddStar: Well, on a closing note, because I know you’ve got other stuff to do. Are you still going around with your camera? I know when you went through your personal issues and divorce your camera became your best friend. Are you still going out there and doing that to keep yourself level and steady?

Ryan: I still love it. It’s really interesting about that. I got remarried. My wife is an equine veterinarian, and she knows a lot of the world champion, barrel racer women. They’re all, a lot of them are from near where we live. I started taking portraits of these rodeo women, these just badass but beautiful women that are just part of this culture. So I just started doing these portraits. I wasn’t touring and music stuff was going great, but I wasn’t traveling, and those portraits went nuts and I just accidentally ended up in that world and I still get asked to go photograph those women in that sport. It all happened because of what you’re referencing. I was just like, I need to do something to get out of the house during Covid and I took my camera and did all of that on my own. Because of that, now have this.

ToddStar: You got a side gig.

Ryan: Well, I guess, and I do it for free just because I love it. It’s wild because these girls are, especially around here, I should say women, these women around here are famous and very successful and wealthy and all this stuff. I’m this weird guy who really knows nothing about the sport and I think they’re amused in a good way by it. ‘Look, this is that musician who’s famous overseas coming to take our picture.’ It’s funny, but yeah, I’m still doing it and I still love that. The camera has taken me in to a weird and wonderful place.

ToddStar: If memory serves, it was you, an RV, and your dog.

Ryan: That’s correct. I did a cross-country trip with Peaches, my dog, she’s still here. She’s here with me now. That trip was a game changer. That was just like windshield time. Get your head right.

ToddStar: That’s what you referenced when we spoke last time. Well listen man, I appreciate the time as always. More than anything, I appreciate that you haven’t given up on the music side of your life because your love of it makes my day in the office easier when I’ve got you spinning in the background.

Ryan: Thanks, Todd. I really appreciate it. I really like being able to speak to people multiple times and feel like there’s that history there. I want this album to do amazing. I really believe in it. The response so far in the press is overwhelmingly positive, so cross your fingers for me.

ToddStar: I will, brother. I will do everything I can to make sure as many people get out there and put their hands on it and buy it, not stream it, not rip it, just open their fucking wallet, and buy it. That’s the thing with albums like this. Even though I get the streams, I still go out and buy it. I can’t support by seeing you live or buying merch and swag at a show because like you said, you aren’t getting rich. It’s the merch stuff and the concerts where you are making your money. It’s not the albums. We need people to love the album, get excited and start chanting they want Ryan in their towns and venues so that somebody reaches out to you.

Ryan: Thank you very much. It was really good to talk to you.

ToddStar: Always good, Ryan, and hopefully we’ll talk to you soon.

Ryan: Sounds good. Thanks, Todd.








Category: Featured Articles, 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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