It was pouring rain in Brooklyn when I met up with Ryan Egan at Baby’s All Right in November, a week after I had interviewed Cape Francis and four months before they would share a bill at the Williamsburg venue (a show that’s happening TONIGHT, by the way — see you there).
Though outlets like Noisey, Billboard and more had showed plenty of love for Ryan and his releases, I’d personally discovered the singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist through a monthly music showcase called Microsessions — aka “speed dating for live music” — and at this point in time, he was between the releases of two singles, “Won’t You Be the One?” and “Who’s Left Behind?” (“Who Is It?” — his most recent — dropped last week).
Despite the inquisitive nature of these three song titles, on this particular evening I was the one asking the questions — though, thankfully for everyone involved, definitely not in musical form. After shaking the water from umbrellas and coats, Ryan and I hunkered down in the neon pink-lit corner booth with whiskey (him) and a Pink Baby (obviously me), and as the rain raged on, the evening’s bands began to load in and The Bee Gees played over the speakers, he talked Brooklyn’s most romantic park, the NYC people should really miss and the perks of DIY production.
On becoming a bedroom producer…
My first EP [2015’s Postures] was done in a home studio with this dude Luca [Buccellati]. That was a cool experience, a true 50/50 collab on arranging, producing tunes, because I hadn’t gotten that far into doing that for my own songs. That lit the whole fire. I had a realization — that I could do that.
I had been hung up for a long time with being dependent on other people to make music. When you need that drummer, that bass player… you need to get in a room with people to arrange music. My goal is always to be able to play everything, for the most part, in the arrangement. I was kind of creeping towards that goal, but watching someone that was really good at that bedroom producer role was super inspiring. That helped me realize the potential to pursue that based on where music production and technology is.
I have a home studio, and that’s where I do [almost] everything now. I’ve produced a bunch of artists out of there. [“Won’t You Be the One?] was done there. I [also] teach music and I have that space. For instance, I went and recorded drums in that space — I definitely don’t play drums at my apartment.
On the perks of DIY production and a new phase in music history…
You just have all the time in the world. I’m not gonna go spend $500 or more for a day in the studio. That’s for very specific agendas that you’re gonna knock out. Going into the studio like that to go spend that kind of money to produce an entire song… it’s unthinkable, really, for the amount of time that’s necessary to hash out the parts and performances.
[Instead] you have as much time to tweak and tweak and tweak until it’s right. We’re at this amazing time — which I think is why contemporary music is so unique and interesting and exciting — because you do have so many people creating in this format. It’s just bringing out a really interesting phase in music history.
On his writing process and the authenticity of the original…
I’m always writing every day, every week. All these songs that will never see the light. And you can kind of sift through these sessions that you demo out in your home studio and decide to pursue them if you want. If you recognize that a certain song has a lot of potential, you say, alright, this bass sounds like shit, let me make that better. Or these vocals that I just recorded real quick to not forget them, let me do those better. You just sort of start polishing.
It’s always kind of nice to dig back into those demos and start from there. There’s an authenticity to that material, too. You were doing it without the pressure of, alright, I’m going to start this song from scratch and record everything with the intention of releasing it. [“Won’t You Be the One?’] and [Who’s Left Behind?], I re-recorded the vocals and I just wasn’t feeling it, and I ended up using the demo vocals, maybe fixing a line here or there. Sometimes you think you gotta do all these takes and make this perfect thing, but I just ended up going back to those original vocals. Often that’s the best shit.
On Brooklyn Steele and one of the best shows he’s ever seen…
I love Brooklyn Steele so much. The sound is probably my favorite in the city.
I went to [an LCD Soundsystem] show — a friend offered me tickets, and it ended up being one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, I think. I was stunned by how good of a live band they were. The gear on stage was unbelievable. Vintage studio gear, synths… in a huge venue, and they made it home because their team just dialed in that room so well. It sounded so good. That was a mind-blowing concert, [and] nothing really lives up to it since. I’ve gone to a couple really good shows there, but damn, that’s how you set up shop in this venue and nail it.
On the New York City we should actually be nostalgic for…
Everyone harkens back to the CBGB times and all that, and when you hear David Byrne and Patti Smith and them talk about it, obviously they can romanticize a bit, but they all sort of acknowledge the myth of it all. I try not to buy into that kind of mythic thinking.
Probably the one thing anyone should be nostalgic about is a time when you could afford to live and pursue a creative career in New York City. Most people can’t — it’s really unreasonable. And not just creatives. It’s very hard to sustain a comfortable lifestyle here, and you’re seeing the communities that have lived here a long time getting pushed further and further out. I feel like that’s the one thing to be nostalgic about. Maybe the city was shitty or something, but also it was… imagine that place people would flock to to be an artist. Now people do that and they’re like, “Oh, shit, can’t do this,” and then bounce and go to Philly or something. Which is a shame, because New York is the best fucking city ever. I’m in love with it.
Feature image: Ben Curry
+ RYAN EGAN DOES BK
Baby’s All Right
When I first moved to New York, I moved not too far from here, and within that first year, this was opening. It was the coolest spot to play, and hard to play — at least, it felt that way. So I think it was a goal to achieve as a local band. I eventually headlined here… that was special. That really feels good when you’re pursuing a certain venue for a while.
146 Broadway, (718) 599-5800, babysallright.com
Grand Ferry Park
You’ll see it in movies. It’s the most romantic setting, it’s amazing. You’re under the Williamsburg Bridge, so you can kind of see along the East River. You’re seeing Uptown, you’re seeing the skyline of Midtown, you can kinda see the Manhattan Bridge. And one of the coolest venues, that’s gone now, called Glasslands … that was a great venue, right on Kent. I just remember playing there, and you’re killing time, so you walk over and chill. It’s this cute little rocky park… it’s so awesome. Just good memories there.
Grand St & River St, nycgovparks.org/parks/grand-ferry-park
Kings County Imperial
I’m definitely an experience-a-city-via-food kinda person.
I went to this absolutely incredible spot [Decoy] in the West Village, and it was a great experience with my girl. We sat at the bar for dinner and spoke to the bartender — one of these super personal, great bartenders — and were asking him, “Where would you go for great Chinese food outside of standard Chinatown staples.” He recommended that spot. I finally got over there and it’s unbelievable. It’s a hip spot with good cocktails and a good environment but seriously good Chinese food. And not super expensive, but not hole-in-the-wall, so it makes for an interesting experience.
20 Skillman Ave, (718) 610-2000, kingscoimperial.com
The Lot Radio
Amazing in the summer. It’s an open, fenced-in lot and they have a trailer with DJs booked throughout the entire day, every day. Inside they have a proper studio, and they project [the music] out. It’s so cool on a June day or something. You’re just chilling there, you can buy bottles of wine, you can buy beers… whatever. [And] if you just pull up the website and listen at any given time, it’s probably just really good shit that often is going to expose you to stuff you never heard.
17 Nassau Ave, thelotradio.com
]This interview has been edited and condensed.]