the NYC artist in Paris offers a breakdown of the album’s nine songs, plus a video on the making of the record—a product of two years of experiences and experimentation, here and an ocean away
While sometimes an artist jumps out of the bushes brandishing a full album out of seemingly nowhere, Ryan Egan has been been in the biz and around the block. So when the artist announced the release of his first full-length, Soft Power, which dropped five days ago, I believe I did a double-take when I saw the word “debut.” Might have even spit out the margarita I was probably drinking that morning.
I first interviewed the artist in a booth at Baby’s All Right back in 2019, when he’d already headlined the venue and been praised by Noisey, Billboard and more. Postures, his first EP, dropped in 2015, while his second, Fever & Bloom, dropped three years later. That’s not including the songs he released between and the stream of singles that came after, including “Tongue of Yours,” which is currently sitting pretty at around 1.8 million Spotify streams.
In other words: Ryan has been steadily working up to this moment and this milestone, this release, for years. Maybe, more accurately, his whole life. Yet, while it could be argued that all art is derived from the work, play, practice, experiences, experimentation and interactions that came before it, from first memory to the morning of, this album in particular is a product of a specific period.
Conceived and created during a stretch spanning the length of the pandemic—what were somehow simultaneously both the eventful and uneventful years ever, and were for Ryan defined by intense introspection and constant creation—Soft Power is a product of both writing in isolation and creative collaboration, of endless time to tinker followed by fast-paced production, a 24-month process during which the artist existed in dreamy flow state, encountered new ideas and perspectives and channeled the magic of one Stevie Nicks.
“This album, which was recorded, mixed and mastered in under one month, is the culmination of two years of experimentation, dozens of songs, and two countries of residence, all leading to one coherent sonic moment captured at the end of Winter 2021,” Ryan told me over email. “These songs are my weapons, my power, my one sole purpose on Earth. I haven’t overhyped this have I?”
Following his album’s release five days ago, Ryan offered us a breakdown of Soft Power‘s nine songs, on which he sings of sex and nostalgia, perseverance and power dynamics, the beauty of a life on pause and the ultimate trust fall that is falling in love.
Soft Power—TRACK BY TACK
“Over / If I had to go again / I know I’d change a thing or two / Rubber band keeping me together / In the end“
“A couple of notes: Firstly, I think that every artist who has released music can relate to this sentiment and so I like that these are the opening lines on my debut album, an imperfect creation that I’m also wholly proud of. Secondly, this is a track that I didn’t intend to be on Soft Power, but Kevin Basko (producer) heard the demo and thought it could potentially be the bold album opener we needed to round out the music. He was right. His solo project is called Rubber Band Gun so the coincidence of that second lyric was just one of those magical things that lined up and brought me a lot of joy as this came together.”
2. Soft Power
“Who took your money? / Who put you to the test? / One sip of gin for while your head’s a mess / And spinning like a carousel“
“This is the title track of the album and while it’s a somewhat vague song lyrically, the general theme is manipulation and power dynamics within our social and professional lives and I just like the imagery of these opening lines.”
“You pulled the curtain from my eyes / You had me working full-time again / Picking me up / Listening to my worst stuff / Now this vacancy calls for your love“
“These lyrics are for my wife, who I credit for improving my life in a myriad of ways, but in particular I remember those first days of falling in love and that overwhelming joy just sort of catapulting me into this songwriting routine that has lasted to this day. The rhythm of the lyrics and memories they evoke when I sing them makes me happy. I kinda pictured myself as Stevie Nicks when I recorded this.”
4. Alone For the Last Time
“I feel like I’m alone for the last time / But I’d rather go another year“
“This tune is my lockdown anthem, my hermit song. Like for many people I’ve spoken to, the first lockdown in 2020 was a tranquil pause from the daily pressures of work and social obligations. I was lucky to be safely housed and with no personal losses, so I spent two months straight writing my album and living in some sort of isolated dream state that I never wanted to end. I’ll never forget it and thankfully I have this song to recall my state of mind at that unique moment.”
“Dance us out of our clothes / Just don’t let me go / ‘Til someone’s in love“
“I do my best to open songs with a lyric that makes ears perk up or that transports the listener somewhere. This is just a sexy line about hookups or one night stands or first nights of falling in love, basically a sung pick up line or something.”
6. Cut Corners
“I think back and I don’t feel so bad / For thieving or lying too / ‘Cause maybe I cut other paths / Just to make it in time for you“
“Not that I live without regrets, I’m no sociopath, but often when I look back on (some) mistakes I’ve made, I’m not overcome by guilt but rather a feeling of nostalgia for who I was, right or wrong, as well as a newfound clarity to move forward through life with. Musically, this one’s special for me because I love my friend Silvio Vega’s guitar playing on the choruses as well as the outro horn section, done by my old friend and bandmate Taylor Mandel.”
7. Don’t Say You Never Loved Me
“Since I saw the message from you / I’m seeing ghosts now / Past lives in my room“
“Another tune where I must mention the great Kevin Basko, who produced this album with me, because otherwise I would not have put this song on the album, a gift that I don’t take lightly. I write a lot of songs that I don’t necessarily intend for myself to sing, and this was very much one of them. Kevin liked it so we hashed it out over about 24 hours and with his arrangement and production ideas, we got it to a place that resonated with us and a great lesson in perspective was learned. Listen to Kevin’s guitar work on the chorus. Anyway, I still have high hopes that this song will find an incredible ballad singer(s) one day to re-interpret it in the way I originally envisioned.”
8. Baby, Hold On
“Would you take my hand tonight? / Would you put this car in drive? / Will you hold my feet to the fire? / I know you will“
“It’s a simple love song about perseverance and trust. That feeling of falling backwards with eyes closed and knowing that this person will be there to catch you. This was a reworking of my original demo and I love the back ups that Kevin and I sang together through the end.”
9. We Do It On Purpose
“Remember before the world got confusing? / Oh it turned like a movie / Now we yearn for that beauty“
“This is the song that made me want to make the album. I was writing a lot on acoustic piano, which I don’t always have access to, so it’s always incredibly inspiring and puts me in a certain mood/style that I really enjoy. I knew that I could keep going in that direction and create a cohesive body of work, which more or less happened in the end. This is a nostalgic song, which is a feeling and mindset I’ve rarely explored so it felt important.”
Soft Power is out now! Enjoy the artist’s sonic manifesto, which is both a creative product of a specific period and a work of art stemming from the lifetime of experiences and emotions before it. There’s a lot of love and a lot of life (+ some very sweet sounds) coursing through these nine songs.
Go forth and vibe out~
Feature image provided by the artist.