Interview by Bre Cura and Matt Davis // Photos by Bre Cura
Article by Amanda Sigman
From SoundCloud to a verified Spotify artist with over 185,000 monthly listeners, Ryan Leahan fully embodies self-taught, self-grown success. Between landing on Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists, to being featured in a TikTok star’s videos, Ryan’s career has developed in a unique way. After receiving negative feedback on his music in high school, Ryan took the summer before college to truly hone in on his skills and pursue his musical dreams. It was through that intense dedication and refusal to give up that he found his true sound.We had the chance to sit down and talk with this incredible artist and hear more about his journey, current undertakings, and future plans.
How did you go from putting stuff out on SoundCloud to full projects on Spotify?
“End of high school, after getting roasted for how bad the music was, I worked at Wawa over that summer. The days I wasn’t working, when my parents would go to work for like 10 hours, I would wake up as soon as they left and I would teach myself how to make music that I actually wanted to make. I would watch YouTube videos and listen to music to see what other people did in it, and then make 2-3 full songs a day that were not good, but were ideas, and I would learn something new in each song. So, I spent the entire summer not like releasing anything, just like focusing on like doing what I wanted to do and getting good at that so that by the time I got to college I would be able to like put stuff out. That summer was what helped me go from random little guy who makes stupid songs on SoundCloud, to this being something I could actually be good at.”
What would you say your genre is?
“I don’t know. It’s really hard because if you listen to my music, there’s so many different sounds, and I hate limiting myself to something. On my album, there’s 11 songs. I could give 3 songs one genre, 3 songs another genre, and 4 songs another genre. But if you try to throw them all together, I just don’t think there’s anything to place them under. A lot of people in my position would say bedroom pop, but I don’t think bedroom pop is a genre, it’s more of a movement. It’s people that make pop music in their bedroom, which is really a new concept and [a testament] to how accessible everything is.”
How does your production process work? Who all is involved?
“I mainly produce all my own stuff. There are a couple songs on the project that I’ve had like my friends make the whole beat, and I was there when they finished it up. We started laying vocals on it, and I kind of adopted the song on to my album. And then on my song Heatwave my friend played the guitar, but he just sent me the guitar and I built everything else around it. I can’t play the guitar, so I typically ask people to send me random guitar things. But other than those two things, everything is mine (except mastering, I have another friend that helps me with the master).”
Tell us about what it was like to watch your music blow up.
“So, as an artist who doesn’t have a manager, doesn’t have a label, doesn’t have anyone to help push their music other than their friends and the people that like it, my best friend is the Spotify algorithm. Every week you’ll get Discover Weekly and Release Radar and its songs that you haven’t heard yet. So, if I’m able to get my music on to those things so that people who have no idea who I am listen to it, that helps me so much. It’s the most I can do for myself. I had a song called “My Little” that was off my album that I dropped in the beginning of this year in January and it got put on Discover Weekly. It started going up 1000, 2000 plays a day and I was freaking out at the time.
So, one night, I went on my Instagram and I refreshed it and I had like 20 new followers (and it had been an hour since I checked). A couple of them DMed me and were like “Oh, I found you from Caleb Finn” and I was like “Who is Caleb Finn?” So, I went on his story and he put my song on his story and he has like 500,000 followers on Instagram and is like a huge TikToker. He has a fan base that absorbs everything he does and so I replied to his story and I was like, “Dude this is my song. Thank you so much for putting it on your story it means a lot.” He responded to that by putting it on his story and tagging me. So, since I was tagged, everyone that was seeing his story would click on my profile. I was just refreshing and getting 5 new followers like every 10 seconds. It was crazy and me and all my friends were freaking out.
Now there’s always new people listening to me and everyday people who say I really like your music. It can be really great and really motivational but it also can be distracting at the same time. Especially because I know the next thing I release so many people are going to be listening to it everywhere in the world. It’s a lot of pressure, but good pressure.”
What’s the pressure of making music like?
“The past two months, it’s been cool. I’m really grateful for all of it and it’s what I wanted, it’s just a lot of changes very quickly, especially with how fast it grew and got to that point. So, those two months where you start getting emails from record labels, managers, and lawyers and stuff like that, I’ve just been trying to keep up with it all. [I was told] as soon as it becomes business it’s not fun anymore, and so for the past week or so I’ve just been ignoring everything from labels and stuff. I think it’s at a point that I can handle it on my own. As long as I keep growing, people will come to me if they want me to do things, and I enjoy having 100% full control and trusting my own vision for what I want to do.
I’m just going to get back into making music every day, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past week, regardless of what it is and just getting back into album mode and just focusing on the music.”
See more photos of Ryan here .