Posted On 26 May 2017
The musician Kelley Ryan has recorded and co-written with many excellent artists including Marshall Crenshaw, Gin Blossoms’ Jesse Valenzuela, Amy Rigby, Rachel Haden (That Dog) and longtime friends and collaborators Don Dixon and Marti Jones.
She has a new album called Telescope which is just out now and receiving play on Sirius XM’s The Loft. It’s also starting to get played on various terrestrial stations around the country.
Prior to recording under her own name, Kelley went under the moniker of astroPuppees and put her debut on High Tone Records. She produced, sang and wrote virtually all of the album. Four astroPuppees releases followed, some on High Tone, others on her own label Manatee.
More info on Kelley is available at www.kelleyryan.net and http://hellowendy.com/kelley-ryan/
Learn more about Kelley Ryan in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
Thank you for taking time to talk to me. I’m just waking up actually. Every morning there seems to be SOME kind of music playing in the house. The Loft on Sirius XM, FIP (French internet radio), KCRW, RTE LYRIC FM (Irish radio)..it just depends. My husband has a killer collection of records, cd’s, downloads and streams. Right now it’s on FIP.
How is 2017 treating you so far? Did you approach the start of this year any differently then you did last year?
Since *Telescope* came out in January it’s been pretty much a year of concentrating on that. It’s been a pleasant distraction from the insanity that seems to be running wild in our political world lately. Music has always been a calming thing for me. Whether I have any personal problems, big or small. Music is my refuge.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your first musical memory? Could you see yourself doing anything else today? If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
I can’t imagine doing anything else. My Dad was a DJ and I fell in love with a guitar he bought me when I was 12 years old. I guess I’m STILL trying to impress my father all these years later. Haha!
You recently released your newest album called “Telescope.” Can you talk about putting that collection together? How long did it take? Did anything surprise you about the process?
It was pretty much a 2 year long project of collecting and recording bits and pieces. I would work on one song until I got stuck, and then I’d put it aside and pick up another and work on that song until I ran into a jam, and so on. I sort of had all 10 songs going on at once, you know like reading a bunch of different books at the same time. It was unconscious, but in hindsight I DO think this method of putting *telescope* together makes it different from my previous efforts. Usually I would finish one whole song before going on to another. *telescope* was sort of all written at the same time. I also think it’s why the mood all the way through is so cohesive.
I’ve read that you put this collection together in your home studios in Palm Springs, CA and in Cork, Ireland. How did the recording process change between each of these very different locations?
Actually, the only thing that DID change was the location! I could be anywhere in the world and once I’m in a room with a guitar in my hand, I get lost inside of the music. The funny thing is, although the edge of the Irish Sea and the California desert seem like exact opposites, they are really quite similar. In both places the nature and beauty is overwhelming. The sky is LARGE. Both are remote locations and you have a lot of “room” to think and breathe. They are kind of a shadow of one another. The people in both places are especially wonderful. Maybe because they have all that sky?? I love both places deeply. They are BOTH my home.
“Telescope” is your third solo record so how do you think you have grown as an artist in these three albums? What has remained the same? Would you say that you approach the whole music industry differently today?
I don’t approach music as an industry in any way, shape or form. All I have ever wanted to do was make records and do it with people I respect. So that is what I do. It’s all about expression for me. There is no “industry” connected to music in my mind. It’s about making beautiful noise. As long as I am inspired to make more, I think I am on the right track. If people like what I do, that is REALLY inspirational and icing on the cake. Business..industry..that just doesn’t connect to music with me.
I’m curious to know how being known as your own name now compares to your time as astroPuppees? What has changed? Ultimately, why did you decide to start going by your name?
I was prompted by Don Dixon (whom I have worked with on every record I’ve ever made in one capacity or another). “Twist” was going to be another astroPuppees record but at the last minute Dixon suggested I “come out of the closet” and own up to my name. He thought the tone of the record somehow sounded more intimate and personal than my earlier efforts. I look back now and plainly see he was right. It just took his keen ears to sense it at the time.
I’m a big fan of manatees so I’d love to more about your own record label, Manatee? Where did that name come from exactly?
In early astroPuppees’ days we were a band of 3. Me, my friend Maureen Serrao (on bass) and John Oreshnik on drums. We played SXSW one year and we stayed at a Motel 6 there in Austin. It was super hot. When we got to the motel, John (who is VERY tall and VERY strong) said he really wanted to just jump in that pool to cool off, but he was afraid he’d scare all of the other guests when they looked out of their window and saw there was a Manatee floating in the pool. hahaha. He drew the little cartoon Manatee with the cocktail drum and well it just stuck as our label name and logo. Also, I love manatees too. Such gentle giants. Like John O!
You have worked with several incredible artists in your career so what musical relationship stands out the most to you so far?
Hands down Don Dixon and Marti Jones. I’ve been working with them ever since my first record in 1996. Our creative involvement and friendship has only grown deeper and better over the years. Seriously, a major part of my inspiration to keep writing songs and making records is because it will mean more interaction with the Dixons. I respect them as artists SO much, and I love them as humans endlessly. I am pretty certain that those feelings sprinkle into the recording of my songs. Besides all the technical care I take to make each song clean and emotionally strong, there is definitely an element of love in there. It may sound corny, but I believe it.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music?
Artists (both visual and aural), as well as ANYONE with a passion for life, inspire me. I can’t even START a list of musicians that I respect and am inspired by. There are way too many. I find inspiration in pure silence. I find inspiration from the sounds inside of an MRI machine. From Ella Fitzgerald to Cornelius. I appreciate the sound of it all. Have you ever heard the ‘CRACK’ of an ancient redwood tree as it was felled? I did once and the sound of that giant work of art/nature SPLITTING is music. I am just a romantic I guess, but I do believe that pretty much everything is music, and therefore, an inspiration to me.
Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
More than any one person..I’d just like to be inspired to work period. That is as good as it gets. Making more music.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I guess I hope it informs a part of their day with a mood. Any mood that takes them to a good, interesting, calm and slightly kooky place.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I am so glad that people are listening to (and liking) *Telescope*. It definitely was a comforting and encouraging record for me when I was recording it. I hope that people feel that way when they listen to it.