Ivy Ryann’s music will take your breath away. There’s a lonesome, visceral depth to her vocals that is comforting and compelling. Her music is both quiet and bombastic at turns, and the songs weave a magic that demands repeated listens. The music and Ryann’s voice immediately pull you in, but it’s the lyrics that make you stay; her songs go deep, soul-touching deep, and explore some heavy, difficult topics. Her new album, “An Nonaggressive Extreme Violations of Boundaries,” which just came out last week, might be our favorite album of the year so far, by far.
Vents Magazine sat down with Ryann to talk about her new album, and we took a deep dive into the song, “The Best I Can,” including its inspiration, and the wonderful lyrics. We chatted about Ryann’s sound, the impact that the places she has lived and traveled has had on her music, and what’s next for this amazing artist.
Hi Ivy, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hey Vents, thanks for having me! As you can imagine, I have been in a bit of a whirlwind lately with this album coming out but it’s most definitely an exciting time for me as well.
You have an amazing new album that just came out. What can you tell us about it? How did you come to gather this collection of songs together?
Thanks so much for taking a listen. So, this collection came together in a “round about” sort of way. I have been sitting on some of these songs for as long as seven years, and some of them are relatively new.
It ended up turning into a “taboo” collection of songs that I thought I may never release because they were either too vulnerable or they just weren’t what I thought people would want to hear. There’s mention of mental health, suicidal ideation, family struggles, and even a love song for a platonic best friend. It felt too heavy to actually release or just too…weird? Ha ha. Who writes love songs for best friends, right? I eventually came to the conclusion that I wish more of this kind of music existed, and if I felt that way, maybe it was more relatable than I thought. So I started wrangling songs together and polishing them for a record.
The single from your new album, “The Best I Can,” is really special and caught my attention right away. It’s a great listen. Can you talk to us more about this song? How did you come to write it? What was the inspiration behind it?
I actually wrote a good portion of “The Best I Can” in the car. I was leaving town after somewhat of a breakdown, and I was simply at my wits’ end trying so hard to just function as a normal person. I was at a point in my life where I felt like my mental health was affecting my friends and family, and I was very afraid everyone around me thought I wasn’t trying hard enough to “get better” or whatever that means.
I started singing into the voice memos on my phone all the things I was feeling, and eventually those voice memos turned into the verses of this track. I had my guitar with me, and when I got to where I was going, I immediately sat down and starting strumming a chord progression so simple it almost made me feel stupid. I wasn’t sitting down to write a song. I was just heartbroken and disappointed and turned to my best coping skill at the time which was, uh, running away a solid 500 miles and playing music because I’m dramatic.
How was the recording process for that song?
When I got around to recording this song with my producer, Rich Mossman, I knew I wanted this song to be simple enough that the lyrics were the “main character” of the story, but I also wanted it to feel absolutely huge and heavy. That was a really hard line to walk when we were tracking this song. With the encouragement of my producer, we ended up leaving SO MUCH SPACE in the verses. It honestly had to grow on me a little because it made me feel so naked to hear the lyrics so exposed. We didn’t do anything fancy or grandiose. When tracking the vocals for this, we had to stop a few times because it was hard for me to record this one without crying. Eventually, I just said screw it, and I went in the vocal booth and did a take where I just cried and screamed the parts I was having problems with, and we actually ended up keeping most of those takes and using them in the finished product . Tracking this one was a wild ride to say the least.
Your lyrics are top-notch, and you are a real wordsmith. Do you have a favorite lyric line or two in this song? What about those words really works for you or speaks to you?
Thank you! My favorite lyric in this song has to be, “And I can’t do everything I can’t be everything.” Not because I feel like I did something great with words right there or said something super profound. I felt like that was the point where I went from feeling sorry for everyone else about how what I was going through was personally affecting them, to feeling compassion for myself and admitting that I actually *can’t* be everything needs/wants me to be. All I’ve got is my best and my “best” changes on a daily basis. That line is just really freeing for me.
What do you hope listeners get from hearing the song?
I really hope above all else that my listeners get what they need from this song. And that can look like almost anything. I want everyone to experience this one in a way that soothes them most. I don’t want Ivy Ryann’s story to be what people hear when they listen to any of my music. Music is art, and art is meant to be interpreted in a way that is most beautiful to the viewer/listener. I think this song has the potential to be comforting to a middle schooler on their first day as much as it has the potential to sit with and comfort the parent of that middle schooler. It’s for anyone and everyone. What I want people to feel the most when listening to “The Best I Can” is comforted.
Your sound mixes up folk and a bit of indie-pop and indie-rock, with bittersweet and melancholy overtones, and tops it off with a modern sensibility, so the music sounds classic but also really fresh at the same time. How did you settle upon the “Ivy Ryann” sound? And how would you describe your sound, using one sentence?
Your description of my sound has to be my favorite review thus far, so thank you for that! I think you nailed it.
I knew I wanted indie rock to be my main influence but also wanted to stick to my first love, which is singer-songwriter. That is probably where the little folk influences come in. If my producer had a nickel for the amount of times I vetoed a sound effect, guitar part, or bass riff because it sounded “too country,” he’d be a much richer man.
The goal was finding new sounds using old methods, and I think that’s how we ended up with the “classic but fresh” sound we landed on. This record took three years to make, partially because I was in the middle of discovering my sound while we were creating this project.
In one sentence I would describe myself as an indie rock artist with singer-songwriter undertones.
You grew up in Virginia and still call it home. How do you think living there has impacted your sound and your music overall?
I did grow up in Virginia, but when I was a kid my family traveled A LOT. We even took a 14-month RV trip around the United States which is when I learned guitar, because what else is a 12-year-old supposed to do as a passenger on a bus for 14 months? I was always meeting new people and being inspired by so many places and cultures.
I was exposed to a lot of different kinds of music in the community that I grew up in even though nobody in my family was musical. As a teenager, I was pretty deeply rooted in a church community, and I got the opportunity to be in worship bands, and I learned a lot by being a part of that as well. Being a queer kid in a Christian upbringing led me to find very specific genres of music and probably contributed to my melancholy rock sounds when I think of the artists I clung to. People like Brandi Carlile, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker were my saving grace during that time, and I’ve drawn from them quite a bit.
What else is happening next for you?
What’s next! Wow, I wish I was 100% sure of that answer, but I’m really not! I am currently in the process of booking an East Coast tour for this spring, and I’d really like to tour the West Coast for the first time this year. Covid has made me miss playing live shows but also given me a much needed break from performing. The album is coming in the nick of time for me, and I’m really excited to start connecting with people in person while sharing this collection.
Thank you so much for featuring me!
Artist website: www.ivyryann.com