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William Ryan Key Explains His Solo Pursuit


William Ryan Key, the former frontman of Yellowcard, recently talked with Alternative Addiction about his new solo work, his new EP, and playing Warped Tour for the last time.

Ryan Key, now operating under his full name of William Ryan Key, had a prolific career in Yellowcard. Now, Yellowcard is no more. The band broke up and moved on. It was probably time. They had an amazing tenure and survived their faire share of drama. One of the most incredible feats of the band was the several types of personalities they all had and how they formed something greater than the sum of their parts with every lineup they had. Key was a big part of that. He captained the band for over a decade after he joined it and he made it better when he became a part of it. In 2018 he’s started a new chapter of his career. He’s a solo artist and he’s released his first EP, Thirteen by William Ryan Key. Alternative Addiction recently chatted with Key about his latest music venture.

“The first thing was honestly knowing that I wanted it to be different than Yellowcard,” began Key in the interview when asked about the first step of his solo pursuit. “There was that, but I didn’t want it to sound forced or contrived in anyway. I had to think about what that meant and how I was going to pull off presenting myself as a solo artist. It took me a long time to figure out what that meant and what I wanted to do. I was messing around with ideas and I kept going back to the acoustic-driven singer/songwriter vibe. That felt the most natural to me.”

Finding the sound for the solo project was one thing but getting something laid down and ready for an audience to consume is another. Having a deadline can help a lot of people get something done, and that was the case for Key with his first solo EP.

“The real catalyst for me was the New Found Glory tour and getting to open for them for 5-6 weeks. I knew it was time to get serious then and write and record something so that I’d have new music to play. I could sign records and sell them at the merch table. That was as high as I set my expectations for any of it. Months later, it’s continuing to grow and it’s really blowing my mind. I’m happy that I’ve gotten a lot of reviews back that have talked about how different from Yellowcard that it is. That makes me feel that I was successful with doing something different and creating my own identity away from the band. That’s been really gratifying.”

Being able to establish a sound that was different than Yellowcard was critically important for Key on his first solo record. Wisely, he realized that he couldn’t produce the record himself and expect it to sound drastically different from what he’s made in the past. He recruited some help from a friend to push him towards a different sound.

“A huge part of the sound was bringing in Arun Bali from Saves the Day,” explained Key. “He’s a great producer and he’s been doing it for a while. I’ve produced stuff too, but what I learned from making Yellowcard records for all these years is that I make slick tightly-produced records while Arun kind of has that magical analog glow. He brings a vintage sound to stuff, which is tricky to do in the digital age of recording. That’s why I brought him in; to bring in a raw, organic sound to the project. We co-produced it together and he was a big part of finding the sound with me. I didn’t have a lot of songs written when we started working. We just went into the studio and picked up a guitar and if something sounded cool I’d get in the booth and track it. That aspect was cool. It was care-free and fun to do it that way.”

Read Part Two of the Story

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