MUSIC | Ryan readies his new album, Hustle Up Starlings, out next Friday.
A voice like Matthew Ryan's can twist you up inside. "Careful who's driving. You don't want to be a ghost," the Pennsylvania native suggests on withered, vanishing love with his new track. "Close Your Eyes" scrapes the bottom of the heart, with the gravel of Ryan's vocal sanding you down until you're nothing but raw and exposed. "Now, it won't always be easy. But it won't always be hard. Just listen to the cracks in your broken heart," he later counsels. The song--premiering today--is lifted from Ryan's upcoming new album, Hustle Up Starlings (out May 12).
Following 2014's whiskey-soaked Boxers LP, Starlings is produced by The Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon and recorded at Doug Lancio's studio in Nashville. At the time, Ryan had considered completely abandoning his music, saying, quite frankly, that "music had become too lonely." But his new-found friendship with Fallon sparked something inescapable inside of him, and he found himself again at the mercy of music. With a bevy of musicians at his disposal--including Brad Pemberton (known for his work with Steve Earle and Ryan Adams) on drums and other percussion; long-time collaborator Brian Bequette on bass; Lancio (who not only mixed and engineered but added in extra synth and guitar); and David Henry on strings--Ryan crafted what is assuredly his most poetic, gnawing and adventurous album of this career. Fallon also played electric and acoustic guitar. "Artists are like boxers. They have to test each other a little before they can trust each other," Ryan says about the dynamic in the recording studio.
"It was all just a dream," Ryan later considers on "Close Your Eyes," a mid-tempo number reflecting on the vast emotions heartbreak elicits: anger, sorrow, devastation. "Don't think I didn't love you. I just didn't want to try." "It's an intimate story I'm telling here. These songs are personal, but if I'm lucky and I've done my job, they become universal," he explains about the album. "The story I'm living and writing about is happening in the context of this world we're all observing and feeling right now, a world that feels like it might catch fire with all its uncertainty and friction, the ugly politics and rising impulses."
While the song certainly explores the deterioration of one man's spirit, it is ultimately a story about resilience and surviving through the pain. And that serves as the mechanism propelling the entire record forward. "You see, this is what we do though, even when the world feels like it's about to burn down. It's all hope and perseverance. We get up and we go to work. We believe in tomorrow, even when we're not sure what tomorrow will be. Joe [Henry] helped me to realize that I should probably tell the whole story as best I could. Brian and Doug and the band helped me bring it to life so it could be heard and shared. And hopefully felt."
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