William Ryan Key discusses making music and finding his sound as a solo artist, his new EP, and what’s next

Although he forged his music career in the popular alt-rock band Yellowcard, when the band broke up in 2017, Tennessee-based artist William Ryan Key launched his solo career. He released his first two EP’s, Thirteen and Virtue in 2018, and on February 11th of this year he released his third solo EP Everything Except Desire via Equal Vision Records . The EP sees him exploring new genres and instrumentation, as well as topics surrounding mental health, and has allowed him to find the space he wants to exist in as a writer and a producer. Conceived and produced by Key on a month-to-month basis through Patreon at the start of Summer 2020, he reached out to friends Ryan Mendez, Erich Talaba, and Mike Kalajian to help in the recording of the record. “I took a risk and created something completely unlike anything I’ve released in the past,” says Key. “This record felt like a big step for me both as a writer and a producer.” Having previously been known as a rock musician, he is eager to explore more of a cinematic experimental electronic style and show a different side of himself as a musician. With plans to keep making music and to hopefully find success in scoring music for film and television, make sure to connect with William Ryan Key via the following links to stay up-to-date with all upcoming music, news, and tour dates. Photo credit: Acacia Evans


Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify | iTunes/Apple Music | YouTube | Deezer | Twitch TV | Patreon




After Yellowcard broke up in 2017, you took some time away from the spotlight to rediscover yourself and your passions, saying that it took a long time to find your own focus and direction after 17 years in a band. Having said that your original plan was to write and produce music for other artists in your studio, what has your journey been like in exploring a career as a solo artist and finding your sound? Have you still been writing and producing for other artists, or plan to in the future, on the side?


It seemed like everything always led back to making my own music in those early post Yellowcard days. The sound has grown and evolved over 3 EPs and I have loved every aspect of the journey. With Everything Except Desire I think I have truly found the space I want to exist in as a writer and producer. I don’t think that producing or writing for other artists is really the path I am meant to be on.


Last year you formed a partnership with Twitch TV after they reached out to you. What has that partnership been like so far and in what ways has it fueled your creative process, helped you to present your music to the public, and deepened your interactions and connection with your fans? What has it been like to have your fans be involved with your musical journey in such a deep and personal way?


My time with Twitch was awesome, and I learned a lot about having my career live on the internet. I worked with Twitch for a 6 month contract, and I took a few lessons away from it. I found that streaming my creative process can be really fun and informative for fans. I also found that being a “streamer” isn’t necessarily for me. I get really focused on the work I am doing and I can struggle to stay engaged with all of the things happening on a Twitch channel during a stream. In the end I decided what would work best for me is to take the concept of live-streaming my workflow over to my Patreon page. I have an amazing core group of fans that have built this incredible community through Patreon and we are enjoying spending time in the studio together.


You also formed a new project last year called Jedha with your longtime friend and former Yellowcard guitarist Ryan Mendez. How did the two of you come to form the project and what can you tell me about the music you make?


Ryan has been listening to electronic music from a very young age. I, on the other hand, had a very close minded “rock and roll” view of EDM for most of my life until about 2009 when Ryan gave me a copy of Immunity by Jon Hopkins. That record changed my life. After that I began to discover so many electronic artists that inspire me. Ryan and I knew when Yellowcard was ending that we wanted to try and make some EDM of our own. We have recorded about 10 songs over the last 4 years, and are gearing up to release our first EP in April.


You will be releasing a special collection of re-imagined Yellowcard songs this year. What inspired the decision to do so and what can fans expect from the release?


It looks like this will be pushed back until 2023 unfortunately, but it will be worth the wait. This also started as a Patreon concept. I had written 4 of the songs for EED in the summer of 2020, and wanted to take a break from original compositions, but still needed to provide Patrons with content. So I decided to strip down and rebuild some Yellowcard songs in a more ambient electronic space. Somewhere along the way I ended up chatting with my friend Marc Byrd, the founding member of one of my favorite post rock bands Hammock, about co-producing one of the songs. That led to us doing a fun 10 song record together. So I started just arranging a piano and vocal to send to Hammock for them to produce as a full track. They sound so wild. I can’t wait for the world to hear these songs reimagined this way.



In 2020, you started a Star Wars podcast called ‘Thank The Maker’ with your friends Adam Russell and Nick Ghanbarian. How did the podcast come about and what kinds of things do you guys talk about in the episodes? It sounds like a lot of fun! Have you had a lifelong love for Star Wars?


Adam and I bonded over Star Wars many years ago, and he was always asking me to start a podcast of some kind with him. We decided to focus on Star Wars, and specifically a positive outlook on this franchise that shaped us our whole lives. Nick came on board just a few months after we started it, and the three of us absolutely love the project. We put new episodes out every Thursday.


You recently released your latest single “Brighton”, from your new third solo EP Everything Except Desire, which you have said is a manifestation of your desire to set yourself free from the constraints of what you’ve created in the past. What can you tell me about the single? Having wondered if it’s too far removed from the music people have come to expect from you, is that something you’ve struggled with since going solo? Have you at times felt constrained by the expectations of others rather than feeling the freedom to make the music you wanted to make?


It has been important for me not to get stuck in the way of thinking that leads me to question what I am doing based on other people’s expectations. With all of my solo releases I have written exactly what I wanted to, and just hoped that fans will enjoy the music. I am fully aware that what I am doing now may not be everyone’s cup of tea if they are a fan of rock, and specifically the music I made with Yellowcard for almost 20 years, but that can’t deter me from creating music that I love. I have to just put it out there and let go. ‘Brighton’ is a great example of pushing boundaries and not concerning myself with how it will be received. There is so much happening in that track that showcases the different sonic influences in my life at this point.


Your new EP, Everything Except Desire, was released on February 11th. You have said that ever since you have been making your own music, you think you have been searching for what became this EP. In what ways is this EP what you have been searching for? What can you tell me about the album art?


It just felt like I had arrived somehow when I was recording it. I felt truly comfortable in my skin as a writer and producer. This EP has opened the door to everything that comes after it for me musically.


The art was done by my friend Brandon Stecz. I actually had a piece by another incredibly talented artist and friend, Justine Raymond. Brandon did the art for my first EP Thirteen, and Justine did the second Virtue. I reached out to Justine about using the piece for this record but she said she couldn’t find the source file and didn’t have the time to recreate it from scratch. I asked her if she would mind if I used it as inspiration to have another artist draw something up and she was very cool about it. I sent it to Brandon and asked him to make something new drawing on the colors and vibe and he crushed it. I love how it is mysterious but hopeful somehow.


The EP explores different genres and instrumentals and on it you dive deep into the cinematic and conceptual music world. What can you tell me about the process of writing these songs and exploring these new avenues? Did you have a specific direction in mind for the EP before writing the songs?


These days a sound will usually inspire an entire song. What I mean by that is, I will just be playing around with a synthesizer or software library and all of the sudden something will jump out that inspires a melody or bass line and then the flood gates just open. All of these songs started with some unique sound that I built the rest of the track around. As far as direction, all I knew was I wanted to embrace the ambient electronic sound that I love so much and see what came out.


The EP was conceived and produced by you on a month-to-month basis through your Patreon at the start of the summer of 2020. What was it like to produce and record an album in this way and what can you tell me about working with you friends Ryan Mendez, Erich Talaba, and Mike Kalajian on the EP? What do you feel they contributed to the process?


It was nice to just do it one song at a time. I was releasing a new song every month for a few months on Patreon. It allowed me to take my time and really craft something I was proud of. Ryan mixed the four songs with vocals, Erich who was Yellowcard’s engineer for every record from Paper Walls on, mixed “The Swim Back”, and Mike has been my mastering technician for all three EPs.


You have said that the EP is a deeply personal record, tackling topics such as mental health and expunging emotional toxicity and that in writing the album, you examined why you let certain things happen to you. What was that personal journey like for you and did you find the process of writing the songs cathartic?


I have always found songwriting to be a form of therapy for me. In 2020 I was really starting down the path of improving my mental health for the first time in my life. Coincidentally I had just been through a very toxic situation with someone I cared a lot about, and the writing allowed me to sort a lot of that out.


In what ways do you see Everything Except Desire as a progression forward for you, rather than an extension of your first two solo records Thirteen and VirtueHow is the new EP a big step for you as a writer and producer?


I mentioned that I feel like it has sort of opened the door for all the music I make from here out, and I think that is very true. I don’t see myself stepping back from this sound going forward, and I am excited to keep growing and learning.


What’s next for you? What are your goals going forward as an artist?


These days I am just so happy to still be making music for a living in any form that my goal is just that. If I had to reference a specific goal, I would love to find some success in scoring film and television. I am focusing a lot of energy on that right now and hoping for the best.

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