Leading with a beautifully ambient yet enjoyably organic and later fairly raw rock set-up, Searching is as softly expressive as it is gritty and angst-soaked.
Ryan Bale’s use of contrast between nearly whispered reflections and immensely passionate declarations helps give the whole thing a defiant sense of weight, and this is ultimately what allows Searching to engage with and embrace its audience.
The raw finish is actually quite refreshing right now, the reverb-soaked yet authentically lost-in-the-moment vocal feels like a live performance. Bale dedicates himself entirely to the moment, exploding into the peak of that hook, and indeed the song’s middle-8, in a way that genuinely screams out on behalf of the listener as they too consider their own relationship to the concept of Searching.
It’s a sound that’s been long-missed from the mainstream music world, but I have high hopes for 2021.
Great songwriting, uniquely introspective and appealing for its vulnerability and emotional poignancy alike. Turn it up.
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Your new track Searching has some pretty obvious nods to 90’s alt rock (some of the guitar lines remind me of Failure and Hum), but its production is unique and personal. Did you produce this yourself? What do you strive for when producing your own music?
I did all of the production work myself, yes. Since COVID-19 hit and live shows stopped being a thing, I’ve really made an effort to learn more about the production side and it’s been incredibly rewarding.
My friend Zack Brody recorded the drums remotely and then I recorded everything else and mixed it myself. I hear the mix very clearly in my head and I see all of that production work as just a way to make those sounds in my head tangible.
As both a songwriter and a producer, I always try to put myself in the listener’s position. I think about if I was listening to the song, what would I want to hear? What would I want it to sound like? I don’t know what everyone is going to like, and honestly I think if you’re trying to please everyone, you’re never going to find your niche. All I know is what I like, and I know that if I wholeheartedly pursue that, making something that genuinely represents myself, I will find other people who will connect to it.
I especially love the bass on this track, it kind of reminds me of Pinback if you’re familiar. It kind of has that Jaco Pastorius/mid-range/jazzy feel to it. Was that your intention, and where do some of your influences come from?
Thank you! I think it’s important for a bass track to hold down the fort, so to speak, in terms of the low end and overall harmony. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t have some melodic aspects to it. I grew up with the music of The Beatles, and I really think Macca is the golden standard for melodic bass lines that don’t interfere with the main melody. I think it’s interesting that you brought up Jaco, because my friend Brad Williamson just did an awesome cover of Teen Town, so I suppose you’re hearing a bit of his influence there.
I do have a bit of a soft spot for some fusion stuff though, I love Michael League from Snarky Puppy. I also love bass tones with a bit of dirt to them, I think Krist Novoselic from Nirvana always had some gnarly tones.
Queens of the Stone Age is a huge influence for me as well; I think their current bass player, Michael Shuman, has a great tone that balances the dirt with the low end extremely well.
Did going to Berklee for Music School influence you at all? Did you have to “unlearn” anything to continue to grow as a musician?
While I learned a lot at Berklee, there are definitely some things I had to unlearn. I think there’s definitely a culture there of “hey look, I can play a lot of notes!” I look back at some of my performances and recordings from my time there and really just wish that I had played less. More often than not, a simpler part is going to serve the song better. You don’t need a million notes to express an emotion. While “shredding” definitely has its place, it should be used more as a spice than the main dish.
At the end of the day, music is about expressing emotions and ideas, not showing off. Having said all of that though, the more knowledge and technique you have as a musician, the better you’ll be able to express your ideas, and I owe a lot to Berklee and many of the talented people I met there for my development as a musician.
Tell us about working with Steve Albini with your old band! What sounds like a really cool experience that I’m sure a lot of people wish they could do!
Working with Steve Albini was certainly a surreal experience. I was super nervous the whole time, but that’s on me, not Steve. One of the biggest things I learned from him was that if you don’t get it right on the day you record it, it really doesn’t matter how much production you put into it after the fact. He was all about just capturing the magic of the band in the moment and not trying to interfere with that. There was actually one point where I asked him what he thought of my guitar tone and he simply responded “sounds like a guitar” and walked out of the room. The man is a legend because he doesn’t overthink things and he knows what the fuck he’s doing.
Searching is definitely more of a full band sound, but you go by your name. Did you ever think of using a band name? Was going by your name a conscious choice or a default one?
I did consider using a band name or some kind of pseudonym, but I’ve been in a lot of bands, and coming up with a good name that no one else has taken is not exactly easy. I didn’t want to choose some name that I would get tired of in a few months.
For years, I was afraid to be a lead singer because I was self conscious of my voice. Once COVID hit and everything stopped, I just started writing because I felt a deep need to do it. I usually had written exclusively with bands in the past, but all of a sudden, I discovered that there was more music in me than I even realized. It felt amazing, I was re-discovering myself. Using my own name was a part of me proving to myself that I could do this. I don’t need to pretend to be anyone else. I’m just making the music that feels true to who I am, and I’m happy with that.
You’ve only got two tracks out so far, what do you have in store for the rest of 2020 and into 2021? What can we expect from Ryan Bale going forward?
My next single Moving On is coming out on Friday, September 18. It’s a bit more uptempo than Searching and I’d say it has a bit of a Foo Fighters vibe to it, although there are a lot of different influences in there. I’ve got another single in the pipeline as well, just finishing up the mix for that one now actually.
I’m also in the process of writing a 5 song EP. I recently went through a breakup and while I was talking to my friend Garrett, who does all my mastering, on the phone, I joked that I should write one song for each of the stages of grief. He thought that was a great idea, so now I’m actually doing it.
Usually, I write music first, but in this case, the lyrics just all came flowing. I’m currently in the process of moving out to LA, so I’m definitely very excited about that. My journey as a solo artist is just beginning and I can’t wait to keep sharing this music with the world.
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Download the single via Bandcamp.