When you were six years old what did you think life was going to be like in 2013? Some of us thought that world would be a different place. We thought most diseases would be cured and we’d all be zooming around in flying cars. The world is far from the place we thought it would be. People still get sick and the cars still run on gas. Everything just costs five times higher than it used to. The point is, there’s nothing more jarring to a person than reality. You live your life and walk your path and when you finally get a moment to think, it comes to you, ‘where the f___ is my flying car?’
We wished for lots of things when we were 17, we’re waiting for them now.
That’s from a song on Ryan Star’s new EP. The song is called “World I Used to Know.” Those are words written by a man who’s had his own encounters with reality. He’s had three different grand beginnings; one with his band Stage, one on TV with Rockstar Supernova, and another with a major label deal for a solo career. With each of those starts there wasn’t any tempered excitement. Star had an all-in, go-big or go-home mentality. It’s wrong to say that all of them - or even any of them - ended in disappointment. They just ended with reality. Ryan’s solo career is far from over, but the chapter of him working with corporations to put out his music definitely is. Today he releases the Animals EP. It’s not the throw it out there for free and see what happens experiment that Ryan did with the America EP last year. This is the next thing that Ryan wants to do; independence in his music, making what he wants to make and being portrayed how he wants to be portrayed.
“I don’t want to count on a corporate system anymore to pay attention to the details of what it takes to make a great artist,” said Star frankly talking with Alternative Addiction about his decision to release Animals independently. I don’t want to be a slave to quarterly numbers and all of that other stuff. I was able to get out of the system and now I’m taking my music to the people. I want to shut that corporate door and see if some other things will open for me.”
That corporate door is actually two corporate doors. Star released his album 11:59 via Atlantic and to be fair, they did an amazing job with it. Despite numerous delays, when the album finally came out it became a success. Shortly after the record cycle for 11:59 ended, so did Star’s deal with Atlantic Records. After that, he started a relationship with Island/Def Jam. When he started to see some similar problems with Island that he saw with Atlantic, he figured that it was time to get out and turn to the independent route. With that switch some changes came, of course. One of them is the change of the recording process. Like most independent solo artists, instead of spending a ton of money on session musicians, Star decided to have his touring band play on this record with him.
“As much as I loved the last record, it was about as big as you got. Paul McCartney’s band played on my last record,” started Star on the decision to have his band record this album with him. “There’s something about sharing hotel floors and driving through the night; there’s a different sound that comes from that. The intentions that come from that are actually different. It means something more. The songs are really honest, so there’s no better way to put that out there than to collaborate with the people that know me better than anyone right now. It wasn’t even a decision; it was just the natural way it happened.”
We talk about why independent music is good, and there are a lot of valid reasons to that. But the truth of it is that the majors have been a part of making some great music too. Art is art and as long as it has integrity, that's great. When things can get questionable with any artist it’s when what they’re singing about doesn't come from the heart. One of the reasons why this new EP from Ryan is so good - and one of the reasons why his fans should get behind this more than any of his other music - is how personal these lyrics are.
“Go back to my Stage days,” said Star. “To me, there’s moments of that here again. That primal thing came out of me again and I’m really feeling excited about it. It’s funny, I’ve heard a lot of that, people coming up to me and asking how things are going. I guess it glimpses in to real life and people can take that for what it is. Hopefully, the honesty relates to people in their own lives. Too often we hear these cliches; the night, the sun, the rain on my head; insert your favorite pop star lyrics. There’s none of that here. If I said it here it’s because I really meant it. Words are kind of like atomic energy. You can use it for good or you can use it for bad. When James Blunt says you’re beautiful, coming from him and the way he said it was believable. It felt right, it was for good. Then you could have every sloppy artist say you’re beautiful after that and it would sound so stupid, and obviously that’s the bad. If you’re going to say bold things then they better be honest.
Star was originally wanting to put out a full album right away with the new music he was creating. But he noticed that these four songs had a common thread that tied them together more than anything he’s done and it completely threw off his vision. That’s why Animals is coming out today, that and because an anxious Star couldn’t wait to have some of his music heard. As for touring, this is a different record and there will be different tours in support of it. The last record was a pop record, it played like it and it was promoted like it. This record is more of an alternative record, and because of that it changes how and who Star hits the road with.
“I’m going to get out there for sure,” said Star on touring in support of Animals. “Because I’ve been in studio mode I booked a few shows in New York City at the places where I started out. It’s going to be a good way to get the new music out and see where it goes. I usually have this grand plan, ‘here’s what’s going to happen.’ This is the first time in my life where I don’t know. I don’t know the right path anymore, no one does. But I know that I love what I just did musically and I want to get it out there. I made this music and now I’m putting it out. What’s next? I have no idea.”