Ryan Woods Talks Influences, New Music, and Bird Calls
Ryan Woods is a rising bedroom pop artist based in Los Angeles.
Woods released his debut EP King of the Basement on April 16. KOTB is filled with relatable lyrics and earworm melodies, which are sure to have you singing and dancing. KOTB is perfect for fans of Dreamer Boy, Wallice, and Frank Ocean. "Bad Texter" is an upbeat anthem; its catchy hook and feel-good instrumentation are perfect for the summer. In a world of social media and technology, Woods's lyrics are poetic, witty, and most of all, authentic.
We spoke to Ryan Woods about his influences, new music, and even heard some bird calls.
Read the full interview and listen to King of the Basement below.
Where are you from? What is the music scene like there?
I was born in Orlando, but I moved to Knoxville, Tennessee when I was around eight years old. There is a really sick DIY music scene there-- it’s kind of a college town, so there are a lot of basement and frat house shows. I grew up going to shows in those small venues, and to see anyone bigger, we usually had to drive to Nashville or Atlanta. My first show was in 2014 or 2015. I saw the band Judah and the Lion on one of their first tours ever.
At what age did you start playing music?
When I was around five or six, I started taking guitar lessons from a guy at my church. I was pretty young, so I learned simple stuff like “Hot Cross Buns.” After I moved, I stopped taking lessons and playing music for five or six years; I didn’t pick up the guitar again until I was around 14.
How would you describe your sound?
Someone called it “psychedelic bedroom pop” once, and I really like that, but it’s also a lot deeper than that. Moving forward with my music, I want it to be Bruno Mars meets Tame Impala meets Frank Ocean. It’s a bedroom interpretation of those artists.
What has been your biggest musical influence?
My biggest influence growing up was my Band class. I was in Band in high school, and that totally changed music for me… I learned how to love music and gained this very complex understanding of it.
What message(s) do you hope to convey to your fans through your music?
It varies within the songs, but the number one message I try to get out there is mental health awareness. I write about anxiety, depression, and other mental health topics and how they’ve affected my feelings and relationships. It’s ok to feel how you feel; it’s better to face your demons head-on than to run away from them. My goal is to celebrate art at the highest level I can, and through that, I’ll be able to bring people together. I think that’s really beautiful, and I want to inspire people.
"My goal is to celebrate art at the highest level I can, and through that, I’ll be able to bring people together."
What is your hidden talent?
I can whistle in 14 or 15 different ways. I think the most impressive one is that I can make a really realistic-sounding bird noise.
What is your favorite holiday?
Probably Christmas, especially since I moved out; I go home for Christmas, so it means that much more to me. The Fourth of July is also a lot of fun because my birthday’s the next day, so I get two days of celebration.
Tell me about your favorite memory performing live.
I went on tour in 2018, and I only had music on SoundCloud. I was opening for a band in Atlanta and when we pulled up to the venue, there were already a bunch of people waiting in line. We walked past the line, not thinking anyone knew who we were, and there was this group of girls in the very front. They said they were there to see Ryan Woods, and it just really stuck with me. There was one song that did particularly well on SoundCloud at the time, and when we got to that song in our set, there were a bunch of people singing the lyrics back to me-- it was surreal. Every show I play just completely sets me on fire and reminds me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
"Every show I play just completely sets me on fire and reminds me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing."
Talk to me about your latest release, King of the Basement.
I moved to LA in 2019, and I had just moved out of my parents’ basement. The basement-- not the physical place, but the atmosphere-- means so much to me. Being in a small town, there wasn’t a ton for me as an ambitious, artistic kid. I didn’t have a lot of friends who were into the same stuff as I was; there was just a disconnect and a feeling of never really being comfortable around people. I went through a really rough breakup when I was 16, and that marked the era of King of the Basement. I just sort of retreated into the basement, and all I wanted to do was make music. Within that next year, I taught myself how to use Logic and produce. I wrote my first song that I was truly proud of during that time. I found a lot of myself in the basement-- did a lot of thinking, overthinking, lying around, staying up three nights in a row to finish a song, watched a lot of anime down there. The thought processes and experiences that I had down there inspired a lot of the writing on the EP. When I left, I was able to write about it with a clear mind and a new perspective.
What inspired the EP’s name?
At the time, I was playing a video game called The Witcher a lot. There’s a storyline in it where you meet this guy who’s starting a resurgence. In the city, there’s a huge poverty gap, and this guy is the first person to question society and unite the poorer classes. They started calling him “King of Beggars,” and that wording really inspired me. The people were suffering, but when they put their heads together, they were able to take over everything. They didn’t need money, weapons, or fancy clothes to unite and make a change. Growing up, my family never had tons of money, but our strength came from the fact that we had a lot of love for each other. We didn’t need a lot because we had that love. That’s kind of the heart of the title King of the Basement.
If you had to pick one song off of the album, which would you say is your favorite?
Probably “Sorry / happysad.” That was my baby of the EP. I started it right after the quarantine started, and I worked on it probably 20 to 30 hours a week for around seven months. It was one of two songs I produced myself on the EP, everything else was co-produced. The song was my masterpiece: six and a half minutes, two songs in one. I fell deeply in love with all the lyrics, too, because it was a feeling I had been trying to get out but couldn’t; there were so many nuances. It was about a breakup and how I was the one who had to end it, although we had never really defined the relationship. I would be working in sessions in the studio without my phone for an entire day, and I would miss messages from her. I wasn’t trying to ignore her deliberately, but I was working, and it escalated really quickly. “Sorry / happysad” is about the constant miscommunication that kept escalating and turned us into this tragic, “how did we get here?'' kind of thing. I wrote the song a few months later (after I had processed everything). It’s about me being sorry for not fully understanding her or articulating myself, and moving into the happysad part, it’s a bittersweet mix of emotions. It’s relief, but also regret, happiness, freedom, confusion, and sadness. I feel like I perfectly got that across in the song, and I’m proud of that.
"It’s relief, but also regret, happiness, freedom, confusion, and sadness."
What’s next for Ryan Woods?
I’m working on a second project, and I’m hoping to have it out by the time I start touring. There are some very real and serious conversations happening right now, and I’m beginning to conceptualize my next project. I won’t give too much away, but each song I’ve picked out so far has been a deep-dive on psychological human interaction and mental health. There’s a song I already leaked (called “Gray Area”) and it’s a dreamy, dark, and psychedelic lo-fi tune about confusion. Moving out of my parents’ house, I learned how to see the world with my own eyes, and that I am in control of my own life.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?
I want people to know I’m as human as it gets. I remember seeing Justin Bieber blow up on YouTube as a little kid, and thinking “I can do that!” We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but I think we’re a lot more in control of things than we realize. Basically, it’s ok to be human.