It’s been nearly a decade since Ryan Beatty posted a cover onto YouTube and people started twigging that he was something a lil’ bit special. Originally pushed onto the ‘Justin Bieber path’ - y’know the one: millions of hits, record deal, smile for the cameras - he soon realised this wasn’t what he had in mind, retreating from the spotlight to learn more about himself, before releasing hypnotic debut album ‘Boy in Jeans’ back in 2018.
After sharing second record ‘Dreaming of David’ earlier this year, he’s older, wiser and fully ready to flex his newfound musical and lyrical muscles to prove himself among other pop names. Blending experimental melodies with R&B hues, he’s also found time between experimenting with his pop stylings to hang out with “best friends” BROCKHAMPTON to collaborate on several tracks, including both the recent remix of ‘SUGAR’ with Dua Lipa, as well as the original.
We caught up with Ryan to reflect on his near-decade in the biz and what pop’s most promising new prodigy has in store next.
For those unaware, can you give us a little summary of how you first started out?
Music was the one thing that I’ve always felt drawn to since I can remember. Singing was a natural talent that I was born with and then it’s like what do you do with it? There are a lot of talented vocalists out there and to be an artist is something else. Naturally I could sing, then as I got older, I started to see where I could go with it. That was when social media was really cracking off and people were posting videos of them singing and getting recognised for it. I would post on my sister’s channel and that’s really how I got my start. Just seeing the feedback even back then reminded me that I had a talent in this.
It wasn’t until I was probably 20 that I felt like I was a songwriter. That’s when I felt like things really started for me because that’s when I connected all the dots of a vocalist, singer, visually knowing what I like… It was all these things coming together at once.
You were originally compared to Justin Bieber. What was the experience like?
It definitely made me angry because I felt like people were saying that in a condescending way. It felt like a lot of the times people would say that in a way to diminish me as if that’s already been done before. It’s so funny because that’s just such a surface level thing to compare me to!
“This time around feels different because I actually really enjoy it.”
Obviously you retreated away from the spotlight after that happened, what were you doing during that time?
Being 17/18 and realising that I don’t really know myself at all or that I knew that I wasn’t in a place I wanted to be and what I was doing then wasn’t going to last forever, I definitely felt a sense of a search for something greater than what I already had and it started off with me just being a normal 18 year old and exploring my own identity and what I liked and didn’t like.
It took a long time for me to really understand myself. It’s hilarious to think about though, since I started this at such a young age, I feel so old and weathered now that when I talk about this I forget that it’s nearly a decade since this all started!
This time around feels different because I actually really enjoy it. Before I felt like I was a character for other people and really submitting to the audience and playing that up. At the end of the day, back then I had the crowd that I had and I had the attention that I had, and it’s like, if I were to really be myself it would’ve gone against what people liked about me. It was all a really scary time. I had no clue if I would ever come out the other side and that’s why this time around I’m really excited and find the joy in it all because this could have all gone completely differently. The fact that I’m in a place where I feel like an artist that people appreciate for the art and what I create just proves that I wasn’t wrong.
'Boy In Jeans' was really about self-discovery and reflecting on my youth and talking about all that I went through in my late teens and early twenties. It was very much a reminiscent of my life. 'Dreaming Of David' is very immediate, very what I’ve been going through in my life right now, and I think even more introspective than the previous one to the point where a lot of the details on the record I don’t even think people will understand because it’s so specific lyrically, which I actually really enjoy.
Writing like that must have been quite a cathartic experience?
Writing is something I love just as much as singing, and to write and sing about the things that I’m going through and experiencing just helps me understand it all really. It helps me make peace with the things I find difficult and helps me understand relationships because it allows me to reflect on them. I can be writing something and what I’m writing and looking back on it seeing what I actually meant versus what I thought I was talking about can be completely different at times. This is a place where I can be very honest with myself at sometimes.
I’m lucky that I’ve surrounded myself with people that I work with that I don’t feel any judgement towards and I feel very supported with all my ideas. I think it’s very important that you create that environment.
“At the end of the day you have to be your biggest cheerleader and you have to believe in everything that you’re doing.”
So when did ‘Dreaming Of David’ start taking form?
I started working on this album March 2018. The first song I made for it was the title track and it’s a title track and kind of a concept in my mind that I’d had for a second. The way that it all came together was exactly what I hoped for, which is the most natural and following my instincts. It’s funny because I had such a fear after I made my first album. I felt like I’d made something so personally great I was like 'How do I follow up on this?' I think I’ve answered that question with this album. Also, my last album laid out expectations of who I am as an artist, this album kind of goes against that in a way that not a lot of artists do right away after their first album.
I just had rapidly started growing and changing right after I made that album. The confidence that making ‘Boy In Jeans’ created, it made this thing in me that made me go deeper into the feelings I had and made me realise that I could flesh out these ideas I had and create something. That confidence just unlocked and unleashed something within me that felt really powerful. At the end of the day you have to be your biggest cheerleader and you have to believe in everything that you’re doing and that’s what I lean on a lot. When things can feel tough and really hard on the outside of things, I always go back to the music and realise that I need to be doing this and I’m glad that I’m doing this and people are going to enjoy this.
To be an artist is almost to be seen constantly. I feel like I still hold on to a lot of my privacy and that’s something that I’ve learnt form the past from the early days in my career, that I don’t have to give everything away, that I can still keep things for me, and that I can still be successful.
Is it weird knowing some of those personal stories will be heard by the world?
There are definitely parts of the album which are scary to think about with like I’m telling this story and this is gonna come out, but I obviously did it for a reason. I’m not over thinking it and I’m not stressed, but knowing that the person you wrote it about will probably know that it’s about them too that’s more so the interesting part.
The album all about exploring personal relationships with many different people, whether it be friends or family or past relationships or current relationships, and the way that those relationships have affected me. Part of it is a lot about letting go of things and people that mean a lot to you but knowing that you have to in order to move forward or learn anything else about yourself. There’s a bittersweet feeling to the whole thing. A lot about what I write about on this record is kind of sad if you look at it and really read the lyrics, but there’s still a lot of hope in it and realising that even if you’ve just gone through these things there’s still a light at the end. It’s kind of that moment of self-awareness, I guess.
And what overall are you hoping that people take away from the record?
I just want it to be heard, really. I want this music to be heard. However people take it is how they take it. I want the chance, at least, for people to hear it because I think they’ll really understand where I'm coming from a lot. I feel good in my position and the way people see me. When you make stuff that is exactly what you want to say, that’s when you’ll be perceived in the way that you really want.
'Dreaming Of David' is out now via Interscope.
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