"I am hugely inspired by so many different artists from Dolly, Emmylou and Linda's Trio to The Beach Boys" We chat with Rhyan Sinclair
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Hey Rhyan, how the heck are you today?
I'm doing great!!
What have you been doing with your day so far?
Went to Knoxville and did a radio spot on WFIV. It was a real fun time.
And where are you right now?
Just got home!
What can you tell us about your debut record, Barnstormer, in two sentences?
These songs are where I found my lyrical voice and learned how to be comfortable with complete honesty. I am hugely inspired by so many different artists from Dolly, Emmylou and Linda's Trio to The Beach Boys and I think all of those influences spinning around in my mind kind of melded together and created the sound of the record.
How do you go about writing songs? What’s your “process”?
I don't really have one process. It usually starts when I'm inspired by a little idea and I see if I can build from there. A lyric, a melody, a riff...something will come to me. I have 2,000 notes that I've written down on my phone of lyric ideas. It's insane. A lot of them get trashed and I'll ask myself 'What was I thinking?', but every now and then, they're something I can live with the next day and they end up becoming full songs. I get super inspired by traveling in the car from place to place, so most of those notes are from long car rides. All the little in-betweens and the scenery really trigger ideas for me and help clear my mind enough to write.
You co-produced the record, how was that experience?
It was a really great experience. I had specific visions and sounds that I wanted on these songs. Sean and Jason were great to work with and helped me flesh out the ideas in my head and build upon them. Both co-producers were so respectful of my vision and working on this record was always such a great environment. Sad as it is, as a female, I know that isn't always the case in the industry and I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity.
What can you tell us about the main studio you recorded in, Sneak Attack Recording Co., and how that influenced the record?
Sneak Attack is right here in Lexington and I've recorded four projects there, so it feels like a second home at this point. I've learned so much there and continue to. Jason is awesome to work with and let me run with some crazy ideas at times. Sometimes we trashed them and sometimes we didn't. It's such a comfortable environment and a tightly run ship at the same time.
You also recorded in Nashville, how was your experience of Music City?
It was great! The two songs we did there were 'Barnstormer' and 'Kentucky Night Sky'. It was a Nashville studio experience with all local pickers, so it was a little bit of a different process than I am used to, but a wonderful experience!
I really love the record, and there are so many songs I want to ask you about, but let’s start with the title track; what’s ‘Barnstormer’ about?
Thanks so much! 'Barnstormer' is kind of autobiographical for me. It's obviously about being a traveler at heart, but it's also about being misunderstood, sometimes poorly received, but just kinda dusting yourself off and moving on to the next town. It's the first of two songs that my mom and I have co-written together. I was really stuck on it lyrically and I asked my mom if she'd want to try to talk some ideas through with me and it didn't take long until we had the song finished. I love writing with her. It's such a special experience that we get to share now.
What can you tell me about ‘Retrograde’? It’s got an amazing garage-y country feel to it.
I think a big influence behind 'Retrograde' was listening to a ton of The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. That's definitely where harmonies came from. There are a lot of other little influences in thrown there too. Lyrically, I was just talking about that feeling of being down in the dumps and desperately not wanting to be. Sometimes that just so happens to be brought on by mercury being in retrograde...
Who is Skeleton Sam?
Well...I was riding back from a gig one night and we were driving down dark country roads and somehow this character just popped into my mind and I ran with it. It was around Halloween and I get super inspired around that time of the year, because I love spooky things. Fall is my favorite season, for sure!
Finally, what can you tell us about ‘Old Lost Town’ another cracking song from the record.
I wrote that one about my experience with small towns. Sometimes it seems like the smaller the town, the more judgmental it is. Sometimes we tend to pass harsh judgements before we give someone the time of day to listen to their full story. I haven't always gotten a lot support from my hometown and that's been disheartening at times, but I really love going on the road and we've gotten love and support from different places along the way.
What’s the one song on the record that you really want people to hear?
Gosh, that varies day to day for me. Right at the moment, it would be 'Cold Summer's Day'. The song came out completely naturally when I was doing other things and had no real intention of writing a song. The lyrics flooded out and later on, it hit me that this song is really about my past struggle with depression. My hope for this song is that it could make someone feel more understood and not alone. Lillie Mae and I tracked the vocals live together and it was just such a raw, emotional, but also liberating experience. I always say about this song, I'm so thankful to have been able to take the darkness I had and make this little ray of light.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general life at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
Working on this record was so wonderful in that way. Everyone who was a part of the record was completely respectful and treated me equally all along the way. I have definitely seen some of these issues along my path and it's so disappointing and such a silly old worn out idea that we as human beings are not created equally. I have more girl power on this record than ever and I think it's more important than ever to emphasize that. I hope I can play even the smallest part in blazing a trail for young girls with big ideas. I sure hope that we can sort out all of this crazy stuff and just let these girls be completely free to do whatever their smart, talented, awesome brains inspire them to do.
Have you noticed a difference over the last few months as #MeToo and #TimesUp gain publicity?
I haven't seen a huge change, but I hope we are making progress. Personally, I hope one day I could walk into a guitar store and be treated with the same respect a male musician would be. I really hope we are making steps toward that.
What have you got coming up for the rest of 2018?
I'm wrapping up my summer residency at the Pour House in Nashville and finalizing the 'Barnstormer' Fall tour. A Christmas album is in the works!
When was the last time you were starstruck?
I've gotten to talk to Steve Earle a few times after his shows. We are all super fans in my family. We saw him speak and play a few songs at a library in Cincinnati. It was a really intimate show and we got to have a real cool conversation with him afterwards. I mostly just listened, because I apparently go mute around people I admire. It's awful.
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
After we got to open for her, I've been on an India Ramey kick ever since. Love her songs. Since I have to choose just one, I'll go with Devil's Blood.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Hmmm.... let's go with what places would I most like to tour? My answers are United Kingdom and Japan!
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Cream and sugar, preferably lots of ice, but I prefer tea.
To find out more about Rhyan you can visit her website, or you can follow her on Twitter or like her Facebook page. She's also on Instagram if you want to see what Rhyan's up to. Barnstormer is out now, available to buy and stream from all the usual places.