Ryan Vail | Tickling the Ivories

Ryan Vail | Tickling the Ivories 

By Stacy Fitzpatrick

“The idea was to create an album that people aren’t doing … having loads of different genres all in one album. So when a lot of people listen to it … they won’t know what to expect ‘cause everything’s different, but it’s the same sound running through it.” So says Ryan Vail on his new album For Every Silence; his first solo album release following last year’s hugely successful collaboration with Ciaran Lavery, Sea Legs.

“My record collection has everything from folk to rock to everything… so why not make more albums that kinda cross them boundaries. So yeah the album is quite different.” This album really is different. The concept is completely original, Ryan drawing on an inherited piano for inspiration giving a remarkable narrative. “The whole concept of the album is trying to tell the story of what it’s like to be a 90 year old piano and what you’ve grown up through. So I was trying to imagine what it’s like sitting in the corner. A piano comes to a house and everything’s new fangled with it. Everybody wants to play it, it’s all well looked after. Then over time it kind of starts to get forgotten about and it’s sitting in the corner. Pictures appear on the top of it. It’s not tuned anymore, it gets rustier. “It’s all from the perspective of the master of the piano, or the piano looking back.”

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The piano now sitting in Ryan and wife Katie’s home has been in Katie’s family since it was made in 1927. “It was Katie’s grandfather’s. He was a doctor. He was a big part of the town … a pioneer back in his day. So there’s quite a lot of history about where the piano came from and a lot of stories about him. A lot of the earlier stuff in the album relates to him and his bond with the piano because he was a piano player. It’s almost like a tribute to him.”

Featuring collaborations with Best Boy Grip’s Eoin O’Callaghan and violinist Racheal Boyd, it combines a range of genres to express the emotion of the song. “There’s parts of the album you might have a piano track and it’ll break into a bit of poetry and an electronic track will start.” Each track flows like chapters of a book, forming an auric journey of the pianos origin to the present day. Opening with track 1927, Ryan also technically explored new boundaries to create new, experimental soundscapes to really bring the story to life musically.

“In 1927, what I was trying to record, was to imagine what people would be hearing back then. Basically you have single glazed windows, windows are open, there’s a lot of outside noise and rain…”, he explains, meticulous on capturing the essence of the era. “As the album progresses the piano starts to degrade in sound ‘cause it gets older. The final track is called ‘My Mechanical Insides’ so I put the mics right inside the piano to try to hear the noises. It was basically just trying to get it to an honest recording of what the piano sounded like.”

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To fund the making of For Every Silence, Ryan used Pledge, an initiative that encourages fans to purchase the album ahead of its release, giving the artist the financial means to actually make the album. “I said if we’re going to do a pledge I would like to do it really with loads of information about what the album’s about and help people understand the story, the artists involved … basically give the background of what it’s all about.”

He also offered pledgers unique extra’s in return for their support, including oil paintings of collaborators painted by Ryan. “There’s things like paintings, limited 7 inch vinyl … Stuff that you can’t actually do for shops. So you get a lot of personal things out there for people to get their hands on … and they all sold straight away. It proves that Pledge is a real viable way of supporting an artist.”

Ryan signed to local label Quiet Arch which also got an unexpected boost through Pledge. “When we applied for the Pledge we were told we were eligible to enter this competition called the ‘Emerging Artists Fund’. It had around 3,000 artists from the UK and we won! They recognised us as someone they wanted to help so it meant I didn’t have to take out as many loans and get myself into as much debt. And it’s not just about my album, it’s about building Quiet Arch as a label too because it employs people. It was nice to keep it on a local label but still tap into a bigger market which we’d done with Sea Legs … people ended up ordering it as far away as Seattle.”

Making For Every Silence has had a distinctive synergy forming valuable connections for Ryan.

“One of the people from halfway across the world that bought Sea Legs is an artist called Hexxr. She’s on Instagram and does short videos and photography. She ended up designing the front cover of my album and she shot say, 30 photos for the album.” Hexxr, based in Seattle matched Ryan’s creative vision perfectly. “I said to her ‘Would you know any poets? I’m looking for a poet to write a poem pretending they are a piano wanting to be played.’ It turns out Hexxr herself is a spoken word artist. I said ‘Can you try and write something that would be a piano lusting to be played, how it would feel?’ he explains. “She then sent a photo of this beautifully typed out poem and I was sitting reading it going ‘This girl’s amazing!’. So this was someone that Pledged, that I had never met before and she ended up being a real integral part to my album.”

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From February, an album track will be released every fortnight followed by music videos directed by Michael Barwise. Already making an impact, the first track Wounds premiered in the US gaining 5,000 plays within days.

Released on 24 March, the official album launch is on 16 April at Cool Discs record store in Derry. “Cool Discs is 20 years old this year so we’re going to do our gig from the shop and restrict it to maybe 30 or 40 people. It’s a nice connection to do it for Cool Discs because they have been selling my vinyl and Cd’s for so long and I’ve never got a chance to do anything for them. So now I’m going to launch my debut album so it’s perfect.”

Find out more about Ryan on Facebook. To order For Every Silence visit: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/foreverysilence

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