For more than 20 years Kelley Ryan, the effervescent singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and inveterate studio rat, has been making distinctive, infectious and wholly original music. Initially recording under the moniker of astroPuppees and subsequently working under her own name, Ryan has released eight highly accomplished albums that combine sterling melodic songcraft with sharp, grown-up lyrical insight. Ryan’s latest release, “Telescope” has received rave reviews, so be sure to have a listen to one of the tracks below. In addition to her music, Ryan has a strong passion for traveling and splits her time living between the United States and Ireland.
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Sean Ritchie: Being from Portland, Oregon, I wanted to start by getting your perspectives on growing up there. How long did you live there for? Where in the city would you send a first-time visitor?
Kelley Ryan: I grew up there until I was 19 when I headed down to California to pursue music. My family stayed in Portland, and I would make that trip [between the cities] many times. Portland is a great city to go to. It’s really beautiful, kind of like Ireland in a way. It’s really green. What I really enjoy doing is taking a drive down the coast, from Portland through the wine country, taking the Route 1 all the way down. You eventually hit the red wood trees in California. It’s just beautiful.
The Oregon coast though is really rocky, and there’s not a lot of development. It’s real beach towns. It’s not super sunny. Outside of the amazing restaurants and things to do inside the city while you’re there, I would encourage people to take a drive down the coast.
SR: I’ve always heard great things about the area, and you just confirmed that. You had mentioned earlier that you did an around-the-world trip. Talk our readers through that a bit. What was the route?
KR: My husband loves to book this stuff. It was a couple of years ago for our anniversary. We went from Los Angeles, where I am now, to Australia. I had never been there before and we went to an island off the Great Barrier Reef. It was amazing. We were there about a week and a half. We then flew to Beijing, China, had never been there either and stayed a week as well. When we travel we tend to try and spend a week in a place instead of a few days scattered around. You soak in the destination more. You sort of live in the place you’re in.
From there we flew to Paris, France and then Ireland where we spent the summer. On the way back we went to Canada and San Francisco, before taking the last flight home to LA. It worked out that we felt like we were home for most of it, with vacations on either side.
SR: Wow, that sounds incredible. It’s great that you had the ability to spend a long period of time in Ireland, your second home. I’m sure it broke up the rest of the travel nicely, replenishing you for the home stretch. Now, how does music and travel fit together for you?
KR: What’s interesting to me with the music part, my music has kind of reflected where I lived or traveled. When I’m in LA my music is load and poppy, but it’s really remote where we are in Ireland and I feel there my music got a little more acoustic. It’s on a cliff right by the ocean. There are fields filled with cows. Very rural. I feel my music reflected that.
Now, when I’m in Palm Springs, another just gorgeous area. The palm trees and the beach, with the atmosphere is amazing. It’s quiet. I really feel it has an influence on the music that I write. I can look back and see how certain places had an impact on me and my sound, either living or traveling there. I do find a strong connection between travel and music.
SR: Fantastic! That’s wonderful to hear. It’s interesting how travel and music impact each other in that way for you. I wanted to touch on your new album “Telescope” that came out this past January. What went into it? What was your thought process or influence behind it? How has it been received since its release?
KR: I have a group of people I work with that are amazing. We’ve worked with each other on records for years, and this one was that same group of people. This time around I took about two years writing songs. I did this one differently in that usually I write a song from beginning to end and be done with it, but this one I worked on something until I got to a wall and I moved on to another song. This time around I had 10 hooks going at the same time, rather than finishing them one at a time.
I use the studio as much for writing songs as I do the guitar. I get a skeleton of a song and then we sort of keep adding to it. That’s how I did this one. People seem to really like this record. I’ve received a great reaction from this record. It’s funny, because it was one I felt the least confident about when I was making it. It’s been well received at radio stations. SiriusXM has picked it up and it’s been playing regularly. People have been buying it up online too. I guess it’s just about 30 minutes of calm and soothing that people want.
SR: That’s great. It sounds like you just let this one come out naturally and had so much passion behind it. I’m excited for you to see it doing well. Lastly to wrap this up, everyone has a list of places they haven’t been to but still have to hit. What are a few destinations on yours?
KR: It’s funny, because my husband and I just wrote a list of 10 and we got to pick one each. One place I’d like to go to is Iceland. That is a place I’ve never been to that I’d like to go to. There’s a direct flight from Ireland to there. It’s not that far away. It just seems so different from anywhere else in the world. It’s so exotic.
I’ve been to South America, but I think I’d like to go back to Iguazu Falls in Argentina. I’ve been there, but I want to back there. There’s not many places that I really want to go back to either, because there’s so many new places to see, but that was an amazing place. It’s a national park, but they have one hotel within the park right by the falls. I just have never seen anything like it. There is miles and miles and miles of these waterfalls. It’s Niagara Falls times 100.