by Kimberly Shires
Ryan Wright, of Northern Virginia, debuted her first solo single, “Voices,” in January 2019. “Voices” is the first single from her EP to be released in full later this year. “Voices” is an ethereal waltz with a haunting underbelly, voiced through its minor key.
Ryan, who is otherwise full of life and laughter, giggled, “I don’t know where that darkness comes from. I have never suffered heartbreak.” She laughed that her worst experience is when her dog ignores her. Ryan feels like it is easier to be expressive when using darker words, concepts, and tones. “I can’t write happy.” She is a big fan of crime shows, sci-fi, and “anything creepy,” she admits. Ryan’s lyrics start as a concept, usually fueled from her favorite TV shows such as Black Mirror. She doesn’t typically know what the song is about when the words initially fall out of her subconscious. Much of the imagery and space-age sounding words in “Voices” were inspired by the first season of Stranger Things.
Ryan collaborated with Adara, a pop artist based out of Nashville, and her dad, local singer-songwriter Todd Wright, to create “Voices.” Adara wrote the first verse of “Voices” and sent it to Ryan over a voice memo. Ryan took Adara’s cue and started crafting the next verses. The song sat in the back of the girl’s imaginations for a year until Ryan asked her father to help shape and record it. The song still didn’t have a chorus at that time. She sat down with her dad, and they tackled the chorus together. Ryan collected her production notes from her favorite contemporaries and the father-daughter team turned the vision into a tangible track.
One of Ryan’s favorite contemporary artists is Billy Elish. She loves how Elish inventively layers everyday sounds like striking a match into the music. Ryan points directly to Elish when she describes her sound. The young artist also enjoys Lennon Stella and Lana Del Ray. Ryan drew direct inspiration from Del Ray’s “Cherry” through the low drum pulses heard in “Voices.”
Ryan reflected that patience proved to be quite a challenge while creating her first project. She wanted to share it with friends while the track was still a work in progress. She held back, due to her dad’s advice to let it be a surprise for the big release. It was a hard secret to keep. Ryan finally burst last Halloween, when she picked up her best friend’s out-of-tune guitar and played an acoustic version of “Voices” for her first captive audience of one. Sharing her first single with her best friend was one of the most satisfying moments in the whole process.
After the release of “Voices,” Ryan is reminded of that jolt of energy each time she shares her music with friends, family, and new fans. Ryan has started to tap into the power of reaching people beyond her immediate spear. She mused, “People I don’t know were posting “Voices” on their Instagram feed.”
Ryan’s enthusiasm to share her music has not always been natural to her. It took her a long time to sing in front of her dad. He was floored the first time he heard her sing Adele’s “Someone Like You.” He immediately responded, “Let’s go write.” Her dad is one of Ryan’s biggest fans and sources of encouragement. He pushes her to achieve things she didn’t believe were possible.
Ryan has been writing songs since she was three. While her songs started out as nursery rhymes, she has undoubtedly matured. Ryan’s dad has helped her find her authentic voice as a songwriter. Ryan and her dad have a process to transform her initial concepts into a song. Ryan described the process as structured chaos where they let their energy fly around. They first do a three-minute brain dump to get the random thoughts out. Then they start to project ideas onto one another. They might start with just a cool melody and three words. Once there is something tangible, they start building a track. Sometimes the whole song is done in an hour and others take much long to shape.
Ryan says her dad is one of her best friends. “He’s so cool.” He influences her so much that she says sometimes it seems like they are the same person. They harmonize so well together and their musical phrasing is even the same. Ryan says the best advice that her dad had given her has been to try something new. If she doesn’t like it, then she can move on. This advice has helped her figure out who she is as a musician and as a human being.
Or maybe her dad’s best advice was “Eat the mic.” Ryan laughed, “It’s so gross.”