One man’s early leak of a new album is another man’s staggered release. Singer/songwriter Matthew Ryan prefers the latter to describe the fall 2009 digital distribution of his latest, Dear Lover (Dear Future Collective), that preceded the mid-February arrival of the physical product in retail outlets.
Whether talking about the thought process behind the two-part release of Dear Lover, why he started his own label or explaining the story arc that runs through the new album, Ryan is not at a loss for words.
Medleyville.us: What’s the full story behind the so-called early leak of Dear Lover, and what have been the positives and negatives from making it available digitally months before its brick-and-mortar release?
Matthew Ryan: “Well, I’ve been releasing records for a while now and have come to understand that often my music requires room to breathe. Dear Lover is a collection that once again deals in a bit of the unexpected. It’s a grower; these are the types of songs that deal in subtlety and patience. Because of that, we wanted to give people time to fall in love with it, and become advocates. Our process and my music depend on advocacy. I would rather attract people to my music than to sell it to them.
“If there was a drawback to releasing it digitally, well, I would only be guessing. So far, it seems to be helping to build momentum. Rather than a leak, though, I would refer to it as a staggered release, with our official efforts revolving around the Feb. 16, 2010, traditional in-store release. Admittedly, though, the staggered release has caused some confusion as to the actual release date. That’s the only negative I can gather.”
Dear Lover was released on your Dear Future Collective imprint. What were the reasons behind starting your own label?
Ryan: “Honestly, I got tired of feeling that my ambition and dreams were being compromised — even downsized — by some other entity’s willingness to work or not work. Self-possession, conviction, work ethic and commitment are important elements to any success in any life.
“Monica Hopman, my partner in the DFC, and I are committed to making a case for my art over time without compromising or feeling that success or failure is measured solely by a week-to-week stock report. Again, our goal is to build it over time. Our mode is to attract people, not to sell to people. It’s gonna take time, but we feel it’s the right road.
“I also just wanted to have only myself to answer to as far as what I do creatively. Monica is a true advocate in that she never interferes with the creative process. Often, in the past, opinions would fly around and interfere with the distilling. I believe the best music and art in general comes from a pure place, where there’s no doubt. So I guess on some level I’m trying to insulate myself from static that can undermine my intent as an artist.
“To be clear, though, I love the world and community and collaboration — I just want to be able to limit the interference [and] make the purest music I can. And usually, that’s a very singular process for me, like a photographer or painter.”
Do you see yourself signing other artists to Dear Future Collective, or will it be strictly for your music only?
Ryan: “Personally, I would love to bring other artists into the DFC. But it’s gonna take time for us to reach our goals and define our waterlines. Monica and I haven’t really thoroughly discussed this. Our priority right now is to right my ship and correct some mistakes that have been made in the past. It’s gonna take time, but we’re up for it; we have plenty of patience and work ethic.”
“Spark” is a curveball of sorts when compared to what you’ve done in the past. Talk about your collaboration with DJ Preach on that song.
Ryan: “I’ve done things in the past that hinted at a track like ‘Spark.’ ‘I Hope Your God Has Mercy on Mine,’ off Regret Over the Wires, was scratching at that door. But Preach is an excellent and immersed trance DJ and producer. He did a great remix of ‘American Dirt’ off Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State that got some pretty good play in clubs in Europe and Canada last year. He really earned my trust with that, so it seemed only natural that we do more together.
“You see, my goal was to make an internal movie for lovers with Dear Lover. ‘Spark’ represents the collapse, the implosion even, of the space between the characters on Dear Lover. The production Preach created really adds to the manic sense of desperation, like a skidding car, out of control. It feels good to me, and it makes sense if you follow the arc of the story on Dear Lover. It’s one of my favorite moments on the record. It’s a car chase of sorts.”
In May 2008, you included a copy of your last album, Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State, with every ticket sold for your concerts that month. What promotional efforts do you have planned for Dear Lover?
Ryan: “Well, with Dear Lover there are various things we’re doing that are within our means to do. Most of it leans on creativity and the live show. We’re trying to create an intimacy with Dear Lover. The live shows have reflected that, as have a collection of videos we’ve been releasing via YouTube called The Raw Version. Basically, they are solo versions of songs off Dear Lover recorded in various intimate locations. We also just collaborated with the great fine-arts photographer Jack Spencer for a video.
“But again, all of these efforts are an attempt to attract people to us. Music plays many roles in people’s lives. All of those roles are important, be it escapism, anger, romance, reverence for the past, humor, heroism, politics, comfort and so on. I guess we’re trying to carve a place for honest music – and, maybe in turn, [we can] turn people onto other music, arts and films. Hopefully, we can become a conduit of sorts.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Matthew Ryan on tour (schedule subject to change):
* March 11: Tin Angel – Philadelphia
* March 12: Iota Club & Café – Arlington, Va.
* March 13: Drew’s House Concerts – Ringwood, N.J.
* March 14: The Saint – Asbury Park, N.J.
* March 16: Eddie’s Attic – Atlanta
* April 12: Cicero’s – St. Louis
* April 14: Vaudeville Mews – Des Moines, Iowa
* April 15: Rochester Civic Center – Rochester, Minn.
* April 16: Sauce – Minneapolis
* April 17: Project Lodge – Madison , Wis.
* April 18: Schuba’s – Chicago
* May 7: Memphis House Concerts – Memphis, Tenn.