By: Laura Beaulne-Stuebing –
Ryan Hemsworth, the Halifax native and popular DJ/producer, released his second LP, Alone for the First Time, on Nov. 4, on the heels of his JUNO-winning first solo album, Guilt Trips, that came out last October. The busy, always travelling DJ is making a name for himself for creating emotional and genuine electronic music, and for endless collaborations with international rising singers and rappers. The JUNO win has upped that busy schedule of his, but it hasn’t changed the way he approaches creating music all that much. We spoke to Ryan about the new album, his creative process, and what’s to come as he wandered the streets of Boston one morning, looking for a cup of coffee.
Did winning a JUNO for Guilt Trips affect the creation of Alone for the First Time?
The JUNO was kind of a huge surprise to me. It wasn’t even a thought in my mind that that was something that was possible for me or my album or anything. So yeah, when it came through, I was just really surprised and happy because I had something to show my parents that they could understand. Like, oh he’s doing something and accomplishing something, I guess, with his music and all that.
Before then, they were like, ‘What are you doing? Music? Electronic music, what’s this about?’
Yeah, it was just, they had no idea. I mean, they tried to understand, but they just like country music. Or my mom doesn’t really care about music that much. So the JUNO was just kind of a way for them to understand that I’m doing something decently and making a living off of it.
But musically, I don’t think it really has changed my approach or anything, that much. I’m kind of always just trying to do exactly what I want. Trying to do something different each time with my projects and just keep changing because that’s what my favourite artists do.
What were the differences in the writing and recording process this time around?
I was, honestly, actually under more stress just from touring and I basically did the whole thing while I was on the road, in between tours and shows. That definitely affected the way it came together, I think. There was no studio time. I was just kind of going from place to place, and working on songs for a half hour or an hour at a time, trying to make all of that cohesive. And to have the same mood and everything throughout the whole project was kind of a challenge, but I enjoyed it.
The process itself – sharing, collaborating by email, dropbox, etc. – what is that like as a creative process, and what are the differences between that and working in studio?
In a way you would have to be a bit more reliant on the talent of the people who you work with, which I had a lot of faith in anyway. I was really just working with people, pretty much in all cases, I was friends with already. In the case of Alex G, that was kind of the first time we started talking, but became friends through that process, just almost like pen pals.
[It was a] situation where you’re just going back and forth so much and trying to figure out the track, I’m just sending demos back and forth. It’s how I’ve gotten used to dealing with a lot of people in different ways. For me it feels natural, more natural, probably, than actually being in the studio and just staring at each other and trying to figure out how to make a good song.
There are emo themes in both albums – Guilt Trips seemed to look at love and being overwhelmed that those kinds of feelings. What did you want to convey emotionally and creatively with Alone for the First Time?
Yeah, I think it’s definitely an extension of those feelings and themes…that’s probably in all my music, but I think that this one is probably a bit more; maybe it’s a little sadder sounding. I guess because I was travelling a lot, probably missing people, and it was more capturing that feeling of being on a train or plane and staring out a window, overthinking every situation. I think definitely just a lot of that overthinking.
What impact does a busy, on-the-road lifestyle have on creating music?
I think it’s just; it’s kind of forced you to change and adapt. For some people, that kind of messes up the creative process a lot, and other people…you find a way to make it work.
For me, I’ve just really learned to do everything on a laptop and with whatever I have with me. I want to make music that sounds like it’s not on a computer, you know, so finding a way to make that middle ground, just through the samples that I use sometimes, and kind of mess with them to make them sound a little more real.