Artist Spotlight: Kelley Ryan

March 5, 2010

Kelley Ryan, the front-woman for the California band astroPuppees, took a decidedly different approach to recording her first solo record, Twist, which includes a cover of Beck’s song “Lost Cause.” Kelley joins us now to talk a little bit about the cover tune as well as her new CD.
– First of all, please tell us a little about your musical influences.

I’m pretty much influenced by everything I hear…a nursery rhyme, a t.v. commercial, a choir, a busker on the street, church bells, whatever. Not just music, but ‘noise’ and even ‘the lack of noise’ is an influence. Some of my best musical ideas seem to creep up on me in the middle of the night when you could hear a pin drop it’s so quiet. My head seems to be constantly buzzing with melody and words. I grew up in Oregon where my father was a DJ at a little radio station. He used to bring home records every week so I heard MANY pieces of music both hits and failures. He would just bring the stuff home by the armload. My husband, whom I refer to as “the human jukebox”, never stops spinning the music. ALL different kinds. He has a huge record collection, very eclectic, and I am constantly surrounded by swirling music. I live half of the year in Ireland by the sea and half of the year in the California desert. Both places are VERY desolate and beautiful which I think influenced the sound and mood of “Twist” most definitely. As far as any specific artist that influences me….that is difficult to say. Sort of ranges from Ella Fitzgerald to the Archies and everything in between. Music is my elixir of life.

-Being we’re a cover-specific blog, I’d like to know what you look to bring to a song when you cover / remake it? Then can you specifically talk about your cover of Beck’s “Lost Cause” [Download] (Right Click + Save Target As to download)

Well, I consider myself mainly a songwriter. Mostly I record original material, but every now and then I like to put a cover of something on a record. I have to truly love the song AND it has to ‘fit in’ with whatever else is going on already with the other songs. It’s hard for me to do a cover because if I love the way the song is already recorded, (like Beck’s “Lost Cause”), I’m afraid I’ll never live up to its coolness. (You know…why do it again? It’s already perfect). But, it just fit in so well with the other songs on “Twist” all of which are in one way or another about girls or women I have known and loved. I heard Beck’s “Lost Cause” years ago when I was going to a VERY sad event. It was a funeral for a friend that was so beat up and burned out on her world, she took her own life. Drugs and depression. She was way too young. I can’t hear that song without thinking of that girl and that day. The song just perfectly summarizes how hard it is when you realize that no matter WHAT YOU DO to try and help someone with their personal demons, sometimes they are just unsaveable, and you just have to walk away. Maybe they don’t want to be saved. Who knows. But at a certain point…it’s up to them. The more you love someone…the harder it is to let go. But sometimes that is your only option. Beck captured that idea perfectly (for me). I’d never heard a girl cover the song either. LOTS of boys on youtube…but no girls, so I thought I’d give it a go. Don Dixon who co-produced “Twist” with me played wine glasses on the track which, along with all the other ambient sounds and his haunting vocal harmony, REALLY captured the mood of the tune. I’m very proud of how it came out.

-Explain the direction you took for your new CD and how someone who followed the astroPuppees may react to it?

I took the direction I usually take which is: “follow my guts”. This batch of songs just came out more moody and mellow than my astroPuppees stuff. (Again, I am convinced it is a direct result of WHERE it was recorded and written). Also, the early involvement of Van Dyke Parks really pointed me in the ultimate direction that “Twist” took. His excellent string arrangements (and encouragement) definitely propelled me through the process of making this record. And by the way it was THE most amazing ‘process’ I’ve ever been involved with. Last, but definitely not least, my fellow singing co-hort Marti Jones put her magical vocal stamp on the thing. It was most amazing getting to work so closely with her on this project. Completely creatively satisfying. Unbelieveably inspiring. I am a HUGE fan. And, of course, Don Dixon who pretty much did a little bit of everything to build a sort of structure for Marti and I to stand on, was at the core of the whole thing. I just love how the record makes me feel when I hear it. It’s thanks to those 3 amazing people for sure.

-What is your favorite cover song of all time (something done by another artist), and why?

Hmmmm…I don’t know, how about James Taylor’s version of “Handy Man”. I think it was written by Otis Blackwell. I love the way he takes the song and makes it his own. It sounds as if he actually could have written it.

-If you could choose one artist to cover one of your original tunes, who would it be, and why?

You mean besides anyone who already has? I guess I would say KD Lang. She is an amazing vocalist and the Queen of interpretation. Again making a song HER own. She’s right up there with Ella in my book. Or maybe Joni Mitchell because she rarely does covers, so if she did one of my songs, it would be an incredible honor.

-What’s in store for you for the rest of 2010?

Love. Life. Music. Martinis.

To hear more of Kelley’s music, you can visist or you can purchase her new CD “Twisthere.