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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best entertainment magazine in the UK“, songwriter and musician Ryan Terrigno shares the inspiration behind his new single, Stare At The Sun, and his creative process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Ryan Terrigno about his life and career, his passion for music, and the inspiration behind his new single, Stare At The Sun.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Ryan Terrigno – I am an indie singer-songwriter from Anaheim, CA – five minutes down the road from Disneyland. A musician since 13, songwriter since 16 – I spent the first 12 years of my career fronting local Orange County rock bands Wester and We Are The Arsenal. On the strength of 2 full-length albums and 4 E.P.s, I toured across the U.S. and Japan with stops on the Vans Warped Tour, and opening slots for Lit, Angels & Airwaves, Senses Fail, Hawthorne Heights & many more.
When the last of my bands went their separate ways in 2013, I came to that age-old fork in the road and had to decide between continuing down the uncertain path of music, or earning a living for my wife & I. So, for the next 10 years, I focused on my professional career – which left a gap in my musical resume – but I never lost that spark. I never stopped writing songs. I always knew I would find my way back to music eventually.
In July of 2022, that’s exactly what I did. I gathered up the best songs I had and entered the studio to record my debut album as a solo artist, “Alive & Well”. It’s largely a singer-songwriter record, but definitely pays homage to my alternative, pop/rock roots as a young man who absorbed all of the incredible music in the late 90’s / early 2000s. The album comes out October 27th, 2023 and I couldn’t be more excited to be releasing new songs and actively pursuing my career in music once again.
When did you first WANT to write songs?
I’ve been in love with melody and good lyrics for as long as I can remember. When I first started playing guitar, I didn’t originally think I would become a songwriter, I just wanted to learn how to play the songs I liked. That said, I knew I had a lot of admiration for the artists I loved who COULD write them – so, my dream of one day writing my own songs started early, even though I didn’t actually start for a few years.
When did you take a step to start writing songs?
When I was 16, I had a garageband with some friends. We strictly played cover songs at parties (Green Day, Blink 182, MxPx, etc). After we’d been doing that for several months, I accidentally started scribbling down some lyrics in my notebook during class one day. I took the words home and played around with some power chords on my guitar until I had my first song – then I just had to convince my band to learn it!
What was your first song released, and what was it about?
The first song I released upon my return to actively pursuing music in May of 2023 is called “Get Lost”. I knew I had to come out of the gates swinging since it had been several years since I had officially released any music. “Get Lost” is an indie-pop anthem with heartfelt, acoustic verses and huge stomp-clap choruses. It’s a song about love & mortality. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but one day we’ll lose the people we love and may have to live out some days without them. I wrote this song for my wife.
What was your latest song released, and what was it about?
The most recent song I officially released was the 3rd single from my forthcoming full-length album. “Stare At The Sun” came out on August 18th, 2023 and is a heartbreaking dedication to a family member I lost back in 2016. It’s a catchy/vibey tune, set to the backdrop of a late 90’s / early 2000’s pop-rock song.
Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with Stare At The Sun?
The biggest challenge with writing & recording “Stare At The Sun” was definitely mustering the courage to tell a very difficult story so matter-of-factly, and set it to music that would make someone want to sing along. The subject of the story was a very close member of the family, so there are sensitivities that had to be considered.
How many songs are you working on right now?
My 10-song full length album was in late October, but I’m already working on some new songs that will likely come out as part of an EP in early 2024. I have 3 new songs written so far.
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
The themes I write about are nothing special or overly unique – just life, love, mortality, work, death, and everything in between. Something I try to do with these basic, universal topics is offer a raw and unfiltered perspective that pertains to something in my own life. I find that if I can make myself uncomfortable with a lyric I’ve written, I’ve likely uncovered the emotional core of the song. If I get emotional over something I’ve written, I can move forard with some confidence that it will have an emotional impact on someone else too.
What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
My favorite song from my new album is the opening, title track, called “Alive & Well”. It was the very last song I wrote for the album, but quickly became one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. It’s a simple acoustic song, accompanied by some piano and pedal steel. The lyrics are sweet and honest, and the whole song elicits a sense of nostalgia from start to finish.
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
I am absolutely inspired by other artists’ music. If I’m awake, I’m typically listening to music and I’m always looking for new artists to fall in love with. I’ll often get very emotional when a song moves me – and I’ll even get discouraged wondering if I’ll EVER be able to write something as good as what someone else did.
Some of my biggest inspirations as a songwriter are: Ruston Kelly, Noah Gundersen, Alex Dezen, Andrew McMahon, Ben Gibbard, Carter Hulsey, Tom Petty, Noel Gallagher, and John Mayer.
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
All of the songs on my forthcoming full-length album were written by me, with some co-writing by my wonderful producer, Alex Dezen. He helped out with a lot of the instrumentation in the studio, and helped me enlist the help of some other world-class musicians who elevated my sound in ways I could have only dreamed of. On the piano, we had Zac Clark who is a phenomenal piano player and songwriter. He also plays with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, who has been a major influence on me for years – so, it was truly a dream come true to have him on the album. I also had a pedal steel player named Rich Hinman who brought a whole new emotional layer to a couple of the songs. He’s played with some major artists like Sara Bareilles and Maren Morris. And lastly, a fantastic drummer named Brian Griffin played on one of the songs – he spends most of his time touring with The Black Crowes and Richard Marx.
Do you play any instruments?
Yes – guitar was my first instrument when I was 13, and continues to be my instrument of choice when writing my songs – acoustic, specifically. I’ve been playing guitar for over 25 years now.
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
I absolutely love playing live – it doesn’t scare me at all. In fact, the stage is probably the place where I feel the most natural and myself. I haven’t gotten to do it as much lately with my solo music, but that will change very quickly with my album almost out. I played hundreds of shows with my bands in the past, and I remember like it was yesterday. You never forget that feeling. It’s absolutely electric and nothing can match that adrenaline rush. I’ll be playing a record release show for my new album in Los Angeles, CA in November, and I’m very excited to get back to the stage and perform these songs for a crowd.
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?
Yes – I have several singles available NOW for streaming on Spotify & Apple Music.
Are you able to make music full time, or do you have a day job?
I do not currently make music full-time. I have a day job as a software product manager for a tech startup. The interesting part about this, is that I didn’t go to school for this career – I developed most of the skills that landed the job by managing my rock bands for so many years. While I’m very proud I’ve been able to thrive on this career path – I still feel as though I’ve been working day after day, year after year simply to find my way back to music as a full time venture.
Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?
Yes – my wife supported me through both of my rock bands long before she was ever my wife, and she continues to be my biggest fan still. The rest of my friends & family are supportive in the sense that they really appreciate that I’m still following my passion after all these years.
What’s something you never expected about being a songwriter? What have you learned that surprised you?
Something I definitely didn’t expect when I started down the path of writing songs is just how much it would consume me. I’m not the kind of guy that’s taking mental pictures and jotting down mental notes for future song ideas as I go through my day-to-day life, but I’m ALWAYS thinking about songwriting. It’s my favorite thing in the world, and the place where I truly lose myself in a spiritual sense – so I’m always looking forward to the next time I get to sit down with my guitar and write. If I’m on an airplane and we hit some turbulence, my first thoughts are “I’m gonna miss my dog” and “I’ve got so many more songs left to write.”
Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?
The experience that stands out most is my first band’s Japanese Tour back in 2005. I was barely old enough to drink, but here I was traveling across the world with my rock band to go play some songs that I wrote in my bedroom for sold-out crowds every night. When I think back on this adventure, it still doesn’t seem real – almost 20 years later.
Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?
- I have a single called “Supernova”.
- My debut full-length album came out October 27th
- I’ll be performing a record release show in Los Angeles, CA on November 18th, 2023
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?
You don’t need to be a virtuoso musician to write a song – your instrument of choice is simply the vehicle to get your words and melody out into the universe. Whether it’s guitar, piano, or something else entirely – just put in the time. Dedicate real time to your writing. It won’t all be good. In fact, it SHOULDN’T all be good. You need to get some of the bad stuff out to make way for the brilliant stuff. Songwriting truly has no rules, but only one simple guideline – honesty. Write honestly. Don’t be afraid to say something or write about a topic if it’s meaningful to your life. Write about it even if it hurts – in fact, write about it ESPECIALLY if it hurts. If you can feel it, others will too.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Writing and recording my forthcoming full-length album “Alive & Well” was one of the most prolific and creative periods of my musical career. I feel like I evolved as a songwriter more in this time than any other. I’m extremely proud of the songs on this album and I truly cannot wait for people to hear them. It was worth every ounce of effort.
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