Ryann is Skating Into Our Hearts, One Song at a Time

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Indie-pop songstress RYANN has a magnetic sound and personality. After releasing her debut EP Emotions on Rollerskates last year and picking up writing credits with Tate McRae and Noah Cyrus, 2021 has consisted of a focus on what’s next for the rising artist through an impressive social media presence centered around her journalistic songwriting. Emotions is an EP that will hit you hard. It’s soft and bright in a way that is akin to early material from Maggie Rogers, and it’s easy to hear why larger artists are so willing to work with Victoria Ryann Zaro: she knows her way around a hook that’ll stick in your head for days. We caught up with RYANN to talk about her past year and the power of hyperpersonal songwriting:

 

 

How’s life post-pandemic?
Life’s been pretty awesome, actually. I just got back today from seeing my family for the first time in forever. I’m working on figuring out my own live set and figuring out how that works — so all things are just pretty great right now. 

What was your entry point into making music?
I’ve always loved music — my mom was always singing around the house, and I actually thought I was going to get into showtunes. (laughs) But I actually wrote my first songs when I was younger and being bullied by my friends who were just being mean to me, and I realized I could express myself with this tiny plastic piano in my room. I dropped the showtunes but still did the high school musicals and went in this direction; I met a couple people in New York that were super supportive and put me in sessions while I was in high school, and then going to college in Los Angeles helped me fall into it.

Emotions on Rollerskates — to begin, what an awesome record. It came out in October of last year, which I guess was sort of on the downhill slide of the pandemic towards normalcy. I’d love to hear about the process of creating that EP as the rest of the world carried on wildly around you.
I feel like I wrote a lot of it in the year before everything shut down. It was the first time I’d seen what an artist’s project would look like for myself, because I’d been doing a lot of writing for other people. For me, writing is just a journal entry-type thing for myself where it’s, like, hyperpersonal and brutally honest. When you’re writing for other people, you have to dig into their life story and be a therapist for them, so it was an opportunity for me to really learn about myself in this period of intense growth. Writing it was a super special experience for me and an opportunity to turn back to this era of time in my life. As far as the release goes, we were initially planning to release it at a time when I could go on my first tour, but obviously that couldn’t happen because of COVID (laughs). I feel like even though I was bummed to have to do it unconventionally, there was something kind of special about this being the first time I’d done this for myself.

 

 

I think that’s something that I’ve noticed about you — I think you’re really great with social media and embracing that unconventionality. Having to do live streams in place of touring was so intimate and personal, but ultimately so weird at the same time. Now that touring’s back, do you think we’re just going to cast live streams to the side? Could you see yourself revisiting this format in the future?
I don’t know! That’s a really good question. There’s just something so special about being in a room with people with everyone connecting with this overall energy. I think it’d be awesome if we could do a little bit of both to make it accessible for everyone, but at the same time, I know that I’m personally excited to get out and play for people in person. Instagram and live streams are really cool because you have that direct contact with people who love your music, but there’s nothing better than a live show.

You hit on this earlier when you were talking about songwriting for other people, but is there a line when you know that a song is going to be for you versus it being written for someone else?
I think when I’m writing for another artist, I approach it like I’m putting on a separate hat — I have to place myself in their shoes and relate them to my own experiences. When I’ve written for myself it’s about asking the question “What has happened in my life, and how do I talk about that?” I don’t think anyone else would want to sing my songs because they’re so hyperpersonal. (laughs)

I don’t know if you’re a fan of The Avett Brothers, but regarding hyperpersonal songwriting, I think back to their documentary whereas they’re recording a particularly diaristic song, the brothers fight over the question of “What am I getting out of laying all of this all the line?” When you’re writing this tough, personal material, is it cathartic in a way? Is there any way that you have to pay attention to your needs and take time away from it?
Yeah, I feel like it is a way of me collecting my thoughts on a situation and closing the chapter on certain things. Instead of letting things live in my mind and letting them go where they want to go, I can put it in the three-minute bubble of a song and have it out. The song “Andrew” was written nearly two years after the relationship ended, and I think that was one era of my life where I was holding onto that hurt for so long and comparing it to new situations in my life, and writing that song was a great means of closure. Making this music recharges me in a way to move forward rather than feeling like it’s draining me.

 

 

I think of records like Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell or Mt. Eerie’s recent work, and it’s just so intense — almost as if you’re sitting in the room with them as they’re going through the toughest moments of their lives. But I think that closure is important and can be rallied around with other listeners.
Exactly! There are so many people on this earth, and the chances that someone else has had that exact same experience or something similar that they can relate to are very high, and I’m just grateful for the ability to be super honest and have people connect with my own music. 

What are your inspirations and influences as an artist?
Man, there are so many people — I feel like when I got into songwriting the person who I idolized was Joni Mitchell. I still have a poster of her in my room. Artists today that really inspire me are The Japanese House, Phoebe Bridgers, and The 1975; there are so many that inspire me right now because this generation is just making incredible music. I’m in a side project with Samia, Rafaella and my other friend Sarah, and they just blow my mind. I’ve got another collaborative single in the tank to come out fairly soon, and it’s just the coolest thing ever to have friends that blow you away every day.

Stream Emotions on Rollerskates on Spotify.

Keep up with RYANN: Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

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