Change can be hard, and at times painful, but can also lead to incredible growth. For LA-based artist Ryan LeVine, the falling apart of a serious relationship and the breakup of Wildling, his band of 6 years, led to a a lot of pain but a lot of personal growth. “Everything important in my life was ending and I had to take a moment alone to process what it all meant,” he recounts. “I was in that place for a while—isolated and questioning everything. What about these breakups felt so painful? What was my voice as a writer on my own?”. Having played music and been in bands since he was 12, he sat with the discomfort and uncertainty he was feeling, which pushed him to pursue a solo career. As a way of moving forward, he sat with just his guitar and began writing songs, which led him to start recording his debut EP Good Things To Remember in early 2020 at Boulevard Studios in Los Angeles. He then connected with his co-producer Kevin Ratterman to finish the songs at Kevin’s home studio later that spring. The EP reveals a songwriter’s search for answers, with songwriting becoming a tool he was able to use to process and heal, having since found a way to balance the light with the shadow. He has released three singles from the EP, “Signs”, “You Don’t Hold The Cards Anymore”, and “I Miss The War”, with accompanying music videos for each. Today sees the release of the EP, and while the songs come from a place of loss and self-doubt, Good Things To Remember offers a feeling of solace for the listener. It’s a reminder that no matter how isolated and withdrawn you might feel, you’re never actually on your own. Someone, somewhere, is feeling the same thing. “The songs allowed me to process what for so long seemed overwhelmingly painful and unclear, both romantically and professionally,” Ryan notes. “I had a lot to figure out and I feel like I’ve done that, or at least become more comfortable with the process. I hope that for people listening there’s some sort of connection or catharsis and that it touches them in that way too. I think that’s what music does best—whatever feeling you’re feeling is reflected in a song and that helps you feel less alone. Or it makes you feel it deeper, which for me has always been the first step in healing.” With plans to do a lot of touring next year and to hopefully release a second EP, Ryan LeVine is excited to go full steam ahead with his solo career and follow the momentum he is building. Make sure to follow him via the links below to stay up-to-date on all upcoming music and tour information. You can catch him on December 3rd at Hotel Cafe in LA for his album release show (you can purchase tickets HERE)!
At the end of 2018, Wildling, your band of 6 years, called it quits and the relationship you were in ended, leaving you unsure of how to proceed personally and musically. What can you tell me about your journey of healing and of finding your voice as a writer on your own?
The end of 2018 felt like the end of a very long chapter, or cycle rather, in my life. With the two most important relationships I had ending simultaneously, it seemed clear that I needed to take a moment to pause and try to understanding where I was and why. So I stopped running full speed for the first time in twelve years, and started to peel back the layers. It was uncomfortable at first to really start looking inside and asking difficult questions about myself and my patterns, but eventually some of the weight began to fall off. During this time I started writing a lot with just me and my guitar, which I hadn’t really done in years. It felt so good to play and sing and reminded me of when I first found songwriting at eleven years old. It definitely felt like me returning to myself, beginning again I suppose.
You started recording your debut EP Good Things To Remember in early 2020 and you have said that it was important to you not to demo the songs ahead of time, rather allowing them to take shape for the first time “while the tape was rolling”. What led you to make the decision to focus more on the songwriting and allow all of the production to occur in the studio and what can you tell me about the recording process and message behind the album?
I had been playing in bands for the past twelve years, and always made pretty elaborate demos throughout the writing process, especially with Wildling. While I love production and creating worlds for the songs while they’re being written (cause its exciting!), I did feel like it sometimes got in the way of actually writing a great song. Like I said before, it felt so good to get back to writing and singing with just a guitar, so I decided not to complicate that process with extensive demoing. I knew I wanted to record to tape, and I knew I wanted to have great players, so I felt confident that if the songs were there, the production would sort itself out in the studio. Luckily I had a great band to give life to these songs, and then found the guru that is Kevin Ratterman to help me take everything across the finish line!
What kinds of challenges did you face with recording during the height of Covid?
I had planned to record in Joshua tree march of 2020. We had an amazing studio booked, a great engineer on board, lots of other moving parts that had all magically lined up to make this week long trip to the desert the most incredible experience. Two days before we were going to start we had to call it off because of Covid. It was devastating after all that had gone into the planning. That was the beginning of the full shutdown, so I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do the record for some months. I knew I didn’t want to record it at home, so I just had to be patient until things started to open up again. Luckily my friend Clay Blair who owns Boulevard Studios in Hollywood (a place I’ve made lots of records) allowed us to come and do the initial tracking. It was a strange experience for sure, having to all wear masks and be separated and not have access to the control room to listen. I ended up creating my own mini control room in my vocal booth so I could hear what we were doing. I actually think not being able to listen back easily or overthink anything too much played a vital role in the record sounding the way it did.
The album is described as revealing a songwriter searching for answers. In writing the songs for the EP, do you feel like you found some of the answers you were looking for? In what ways was the songwriting process cathartic for you?
I had put myself in a self prescribed isolation (before COVID) to do the work I knew I needed to do. I was in therapy and meditating and journaling a lot, and the songwriting naturally became another tool I was using to process and to heal. I don’t think I was consciously looking for “answers” necessarily, but I was questioning a lot of the patterns I had created in my life up to that point. Writing these songs was the most powerful way to distill a lot of the emotions I was processing at that time.
What do you feel it was about the title track on the EP that made you feel like a solo artist coming into your own?
It just felt like the song I wish I could’ve heard a year before I wrote it. Everything is in there. All the pain, the doubt, insecurity, unknowns, and ultimately acceptance and love for all of it. It was also the first song where I wrote new lyrics for every chorus which was something I had been wanting to explore for a while, and the way this one came together really felt like the “voice” I’d been looking for as a songwriter.
What can you tell me about the songs “Signs” and “You Don’t Hold The Cards Anymore”, which unlike the other tracks on the EP were written during the peak of Covid? Do you feel that they stand apart in any way from the other tracks?
When I first met Kevin Ratterman, I had already tracked what I thought was the full EP, but needed some help taking the songs across the finish line. He was excited to help me with those songs, but also felt like it’d be nice to at least try one new song from the ground up together. I wrote “Signs” after our conversation, and recording it with him and the band was one of the best days in a studio I’ve ever had. After that I knew we needed at least one more new song to match that vibe and energy, and “You Dont Hold the Cards Anymore” came out the day after we finished “Signs”. So, to answer you’re question, I’m not sure covid had as much to do with these songs coming out the way they did as Kevin and our new working relationship forming around this time did.
After finishing the EP, you moved to Oaxaca, Mexico for 3 months. What led you to make that decision and what can you tell me about your time there? In what ways did it help you to see a brand-new reflection of who you are?
I’ve been in Los Angeles my entire life. I grew up here and got signed to RCA records right out of high school so my life and career has been based in L.A. since I was a teenager. When I finished recording the EP around September of 2020, we were still very much in the the unknown in terms of shutdowns, and it seemed clear I probably wouldn’t be releasing the record or touring anytime soon. Honestly I was feeling a little burnt on L.A., and felt like I needed a drastic change of pace/scenery/experience. I had lunch with a childhood friend of mine around this time who had spent a year in Oaxaca researching and writing for his dissertation, and when I told him how I was feeling he said emphatically “Go to Oaxaca, without question just go!”. The next day I had listed my guesthouse in Silverlake on craigslist and planned to leave for Oaxaca the following month. It was definitely the biggest decision I’d ever made that quickly, and I’m so happy I did. Oaxaca stripped me completely of whatever identity I had up to that point. It was really hard at first to be honest. I didn’t know anybody, didn’t speak the language, and wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing there, other than “getting away” from Los Angeles. Soon after arriving I joined a boxing gym behind the house I was renting and I met some amazing people there. Something about suffering physically (I’ve been boxing on and off for over a decade and these were some of the toughest workouts I’d ever done) with people really helped erase the language barrier. The routine of these boxing classes and the fact that a boxing gym felt like familiar territory was really important for me in the beginning. Eventually I started to learn a little bit of Spanish, which in retrospect may have been the most important part of me being there. I had planned to stay a year, but around month 2 I started feeling further and further away from all the music I had just spent a year of my life writing and recording, and it became clear that if I wanted the music to be released with the same care and intention with which it was created, I was going to have to come back to Los Angeles. So, I spent the last three weeks I was there driving 3000 miles around the Yucatan with my girlfriend, which felt like a beautiful way to wrap it up for the time, and then I came back home. Both the decision to leave, and the decision to come back were made quickly, but with the utmost certainty. I’m so grateful for that experience, and plan to return next year at some point, but know right now I am meant to be here giving everything I can to this music and its release.
You recently released the music video for “I Miss The War”, which plays with the concept of light and shadow. What was the process like in making the video and what inspired the aesthetic? What can you tell me about comfortably expressing yourself through movement, which you have said you’ve never been able to do before?
The video for “I Miss the War” came together very quickly and organically. I had a desire to play with light and shadow, as that’s where I often find myself, especially so when I was writing this song. I expressed some general ideas to Meredith Adelaide and within 5 minutes we were shooting, and a couple hours later we had 95% of the video shot. In terms of the “movement”, I just kept seeing this sort of animalistic shadow being pulled and contorted in my head, and meredith made me feel comfortable enough to attempt expressing it. So grateful for them, as they understood exactly how to capture and piece together these images, as well as make me feel confident and comfortable throughout all of it.
You have said that most days you try to remain in the light while also constantly working with shadow. How do you strike a balance between the two? What brings you joy and what does self-care look like for you?
That’s a great question. The balance for me has come from allowing my joy to come from multiple sources I think. Not relying on one thing to make me happy, or not. I have a handful of close friends, and am very close with my family. Those relationships keep me whole, so I try my best to make time to care for them. Also, I need to move my body, and I make an effort to do so daily whether it’s biking, boxing, yoga, or just taking a walk around my house. And lastly, I have become obsessed with rock climbing, and honestly love it almost as much as music. The dream for me is to start booking tours that coincide with amazing climbing destinations and get to do both while I’m out, thats the epitome of balance right there 🙂
In addition to music, you have done a bit of acting. Is acting something you hope to pursue, as well?
Haha you’ve dug deep!! I’ve had some small roles in a couple films but only because of music, and trust me no one’s nominating me for any awards. Honestly I’ve had so much fun with the small glimpse I’ve had into acting and film making, and have so much respect for those who do it well. I would love some more opportunities to explore that side of myself in the future.
You have talked about having a deep love of nature. Do you have a favorite place in nature you enjoy? What natural landscapes do you hope to visit in the future?
The redwoods have proven to be great healers for me over the years. Whether its in Marin, or Santa Cruz, or Big Sur, those trees have a way of allowing me to reset almost immediately, and the effect is compounded exponentially the more time I spend around them. Because of my interest in climbing I’m actually really excited to explore more of Arizona, Utah and Colorado, and eventually would love to make a trip to Fontainebleau in France.
What’s next for you?
Well the EP drops on November 19th! I’m working on a video for the title track “Good Things to Remember” currently and am really excited about it. I got a show in Nashville this week and then I come back home to start getting ready for the EP release show at Hotel Cafe on December 3rd. 2022 will be super exciting I think, lots of touring, and possibly recording a second EP before the end of the year. Feels like I’m about to start a marathon, exciting and scary, as it should be for anything that matters I think.