"When My Eyes Are Closed..."
A Candid Interview With Ryan Andreas
By: Michele Mannis
RME - Your audition on America's Got Talent was incredibly emotional, not just for you but for the viewers as well. I noticed that after some initial hesitation you took this deep breath. Your hands hit the keyboard and you started to play. For the fans or the viewers it was as if the floodgates opened and out poured this amazing talent. Can you tell us what was going through your head in that instant?
RA - I went to that show with the intent to do the best that I can do. You know music is a very personal thing for me, it is something that I utilize for my own self healing and my own salvation. To escape from my own struggles with the outside world and something I've used ever since I was a child and to be able to do what it is I've always done for myself in front of 2000 some odd people was exhilarating and nerve wracking at the same time. There was a lot of acceptance within myself at that very moment, and it was captured on TV. You know I looked off to the side and I see my girl and her son over there and in that instant I not just realized the impact of what it is I needed to do. You know this is make or break. This is your chance right now to do something spectacular. And in that very moment I took that breath and I found peace within myself and I went for it and about maybe, I don't know, maybe 5 seconds into my voice hitting the microphone I immediately got response from the fans that were in the building. There was about maybe 2500 people in that building and every single one of them were with me in that moment, and it was a moment of -pauses - it was the most spectacular moment of my entire life captured on TV.
RME - It was beautiful it really was. And you were like in a state of disbelief when the judges praised you. -laughs from Ryan- What went through your mind when Sharon (Osbourne) said "We'll see you in Vegas"?
RA - You guys don't necessarily see most of the conversations and there's a lot of conversation going on with the judge. You actually speak with them for quite a few minutes but for the sake of TV continuity they do a lot of TV edits to it. But the conversation that they did capture was a great glimpse of what really transpired on that day. It was wonderful. To feel cceptance not just from the judges but to feel the acceptance of the entire crowd that was rooting for you, chanting Vegas, waiting for Sharon just to say it's time for you to go. This is yours. It was very empowering, not for cockiness or any other reason other than it was extremely touching to be fully accepted by a complete room of strangers. From watching the TV prior to being on the show, I got to literally walk into the TV and surreal stand on the stage, and to talk to the judges I've seen talk to other people. To be that guy on the stage was very very surreal.
RME - Did you feel like a Rock Star?
RA - Laughs - I have to admit if you watch the episode and you watch about halfway through the song when I pause - there's a pause in there - and I open my eyes and I take a breath and I kind of look real quick into the crowd almost as if that was my show.
There was that moment of WOW I can do this! I can really do this and this is something I would love to do. When you have the crowd rooting for you the whole entire time your performing, it instills you with a certain sense of confidence and it allowed me to pretty much push that song out. Very risky, I mean there were some - a little range area - acrobatics. I took a risk. My voice could have broken at any one of those times but I felt the energy from the crowd and I gave them what they wanted to hear. I didn't go in there to do a sterile version of that song. I went in there and played it as I was feeling it at that very moment and the song come out different than I'd ever played it before.
RME - Well good! I guess your on your way to becoming a Rock Star huh?
RA - laughs - It's funny cause it's been quoted, it's such a generic thing to say but you know I just want to make a living doing what I love to do and be counted. I've been a tiny tiny fish in the big sea in the IT industry and I'm one of a number of millions of people that know how to do that very same thing, but when it comes to music I do think that what I do have to offer is my own. It's genuine, it's original, and it is like Kobe Bryant on the basketball court. There's something different about him when he's out there in his game".
RME - Since your audition on AGT, Ryan Fever has taken over. So how are you handling your sudden jolt into fame? Are you starting to live your dream now?
RA - I have to say were still on a very small level of that but if I look at where I was a little over 3 weeks ago I was an unknown and if you look at it now just between the mainstream YouTube videos and the embrace of the Christian faith community - which was something that I completely unexpected - we are pushing about 1.2 to 1.3 million views between YouTube and GodVine.com.
RME - Thats amazing!
RA - That is incredible! I mean when you look at some of the novelty acts you can see, ok a guy who juggles tools over his head with flames around them. You can see that just circulating like crazy and you see those kinds of people with numbers in the millions almost immediately. But what you don't see is an unknown artist garner typically that quickly of a hit. I mean I think any artist established or not, record deal or not would be happy to see 1.2 million views. That occurred not over 2 or 3 years but occurred in under 3 weeks and we're still climbing!
You know 3 weeks ago I was kicking back on my couch playing Xbox 360 and now my voice is going, cause I've had back to back shows over the last 2 weeks. We're selling out local venues around my area. My cell phone is lighting up. I'm getting calls from business and venue owners around where I live. I got a call from the House of Blues. I'm getting some very very strong contacts not only from California but I'm getting hit up from producers from the East Coast, you know from New York. It's all happening very very fast and I can't deny there is some level of momentum. Some could call that potential fame on the rise.
We're gaining hundreds of new fans a day. I have fan mail that I can't even keep up with. It floods my inboxes. My Gmail inbox is about ready to explode from YouTube comments with love and messages from around the world. We're talking the UK, Quebec Venezuela, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Croatia, Russia. YouTube has penetrated the entire global market for me. I had no idea. There are videos I posted on the day of the airing on NBC from my home studio- from my little tiny bedroom - are being watched in Japan. I could not in my wildest imagination could not believe that that could happen.
RME - I'm star struck just listening to you.
RA - "Its crazy. It's really crazy when people talk to me like you guys or they meet me at the shows. I tell you I went from completely anonymous to signing autographs. People waiting from the front of the stage all the way outside the doors just to stand next to me and take a picture with me and to sign autographs. My friends and family are in complete amazement cause they've witnessed it. They've known me for 35 years and to see the recognition I'm getting from the public - even on a local level. Obviously it's now past that.
I'm actually travelling to Alaska of all places. I never ever thought I'd see Alaska. I'm performing for a two day concert event for their largest radio station program. The radio DJ called out to me through YouTube and put together a two day concert event out there. I mean I'm just a normal guy now being flown out to Alaska and I'm gonna do a great show for them. It's anticipated that these shows will sell out. Some of the cover tunes I do on YouTube are literally getting airtime on the radio there in Alaska. I'm interviewing with a radio station in Boston, getting a lot of love from Canada. It's no longer containable in my bedroom. It's going by itself!
RME - I read your bio on the Ryan Andreas Fan Page on Facebook. And after reading it, tell me, with all the positive reviews you've been getting and with so many fans reaching out to you, has it gotten any easier fighting your inner demons?
RA - laughs -
RME - Cause I know that can be tough. A lot of us have been there and you are now an inspiring others.
RA - That's a really good question. - pauses - I mean - That's a really good question. I think one of the things that I've always struggled with ever since I was a kid - as that bio document suggests - I never felt normal. I never felt that I belong in the circle of a lot of people. I have my own hang up of claustrophobia around a lot of people and it almost goes against everything that you would need the skills required to be a stage performer, to be around crowds of people. Having people huddle around you, wanting your autograph. The anxiety still exists but one thing about me, because I worked in the professional IT industry, from a business aspect I am able to put myself in a state of mind to have proper discipline to get through this. When I'm on stage and I'm behind the piano or behind my guitar that's when I feel my most comfortable.
I'm gonna get to your question.
One of the tools I utilize to put myself in a state of tranquility while I'm performing and not let that anxiety get to me - those demons - is to close my eyes. Some take my eye closing as I'm ignoring the crowd but it's really the opposite. I place myself in a state of Zen if you will. Kind of a state of just tranquility within myself. The music is taking my body over. I hope that doesn't sound cheesy but that's what's happening. When my eyes are closed is when I'm in the pocket. When my eyes are closed it's no different than being in my little bedroom when no one is listening or being in front of 2000 people. When my eyes are closed it is me doing that. I just let my fingers to the talking and my mouth do the walking.
RME - How about some of your influences.
RA - My influences are very wide. I mean I started playing when I was 15. I didn't want to be a singer; I just wanted to be like the next Santana, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix. I just wanted to be a guitarist that's all I wanted to do. In the earlier bands that I was in, the teeny garage bands, I was always a guitarist. My earliest influences when I picked up the guitar at first was Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth. All of those you know, heavy metals bands. That's where my roots came from.
Those early Guns N' Roses days, old Def Leppard. My very first song I ever learned was a Metallica song.
As I started to get older just into my 18 - 19 years old, for some apparent reason I kind of found my voice and my musical tastes just transformed into a more vocal style. Music influences then were Elton John, Lenny Kravitz, Lionel Richie. I don't know what it was that converted me, maybe I was just so sick of all the metal head that sounded so the same. I needed something different to continue some kind of creative inspiration and I found music in other adult contemporary artists. Bruce Springsteen, Lionel Richie, Elton John. Those types of artists and I kind of went with that.
I taught myself how to play piano. I played a little coffee shop gigs. I swear I played coffee shop gigs when I was 16 or 17, no job, just in high school and I played for Danishes and coffee. I played for a cinnamon roll from the coffee shop
and that was cool with me. I can be in front of people and I can get free donuts! - Laughs - So when I started doing that I had to kind of change up my presentation - had to be different than just doing acoustic guitar all the time, so I started to teach myself the piano. I ended up getting a keyboard and I just kind of started to apply the knowledge that I understood, the method on guitar to piano. All my learning is by ear. All self taught. I never had any lessons. I don't read a note of music, it all comes from the ear. You know what I found? I limited myself from a sense of a studio musician standpoint. I kind of handicapped myself because you can't really get studio work if you can't read notation but at the same time there's a different level of expression that comes out from a guy who reads music off a piece of paper then a guy that plays from his heart and that's one of things that my family and friends always say. You have heart in your music and that's what puts you aside. You can play but it's your heart that you put into it. I think that was what was portrayed on the TV show as well.
One of the things that I want listeners or readers to learn from the interviews I've done is that I'm such a normal guy. I still consider myself a computer geek. Just a guy who is lucky enough to have a talent to play guitar, piano and sing and have people enjoy it. That's all I can ask. People joke with me all the time and ask did you see the show last night? Did you see the competition? Look I was in the competition. I was at ground zero with the individuals there. I got to see them before the public sees them at large. I don't pay attention to the competition. If I did pay attention to the competition I would be shaping myself into something I'm not. Literally ignorance is bliss. I tell that to everybody. For me I do what I do, I did what I did onstage and that's just what I do. I'm not going to compare myself to anybody else. If you like it - you like it. If you don't - you don't! Take it or leave it. That's just it. So I went in there with that mentality so it wouldn't be like devastating to lose and I wouldn't be trying to be something I'm not, because I think what people are really catching on or enjoying with me is a sense of originality and that originality only comes from not trying to shape yourself through other people.
RME - My only regret to date so far with Ryan Andreas is that I can't buy Ryan Andreas music for my iPod!
RA - laughs - Actually I'm in discussion with a producer in North Hollywood to potentially start going towards that end. Believe me I get that request on a daily basis in the hundreds. I'm not one to say oh man this is a huge business venture but being able to put material out there that I hope people will like - you gotta remember - "Maybe I can ask you as a fan. Is it the voice that drew you in or is it the song that drew you in? I'm still on the fence about that."
RME - It's the soul in the voice of the song. I don't know if that makes any sense to you. There's something about the way you sing. It comes from your heart, so personally I think no matter what you sing if it comes from your heart it's gonna be huge. Honestly.
RA - I'm extremely honored to hear that. It's that kind of feedback that's going to allow me to push forward with getting something out. I mean I had a meeting in North Hollywood yesterday with the CEO of a big company out there. That's how crazy things are!
I was speaking with them and I said, Hey guys what do you think I should be doing at this point? Do I wait for a potential major record release with a large label or do I take advantage of the direct access I have to my fans at a grassroots level and literally
put out maybe an acoustic version to my to be release seed album? Meaning a self produced album without a label on iTunes. Their consensus was do it. You have what most musicians would die for, which is the ear of a lot of people and it's growing on a daily basis. You have momentum. And even if you only sold a thousand ninety-nine cent songs, it's still a thousand bucks you don't have today!
RME - So what kind of music can we expect?
RA - I would say very similar to the kind of passionate music that you've heard.
RME - Power ballads?
RA - Laughs - I'm a crooner, but you have to remember I'm that because I'm a solo artist. You can't really get down, funky and bluesy with just yourself.
If you see me in a band, you'll see my control of my guitar influences
from Jim Hendrix, John Mayer, Stevie Ray Vaughn. I'm in that style of guitarist, somewhat of a modern edge. I'm a very aggressive guitarist so that music would offset that very passionate dreamy style music that I have on the other end. So I think I have a good gamut in between.
RME - As far as AGT goes how important is it at this point for you to win, or is it par for the course - does it even matter?
RA - Oh I would hope to take it all the way to the end - I mean how glorious would that be for my own knowledge that I made it to the end and I that gave it all my best. And my continued involvement on the show and in people's heart throughout America for the entire season. You cannot buy that kind of exposure. You just can't! And gaining not only just being on TV and having that popularity growth is one thing, but to be able to continue to be able to touch America by the millions, I can only hope to get past the next round. Just being on TV once man I got literally 15.5 million people saw that show. That's mind blowing - come on.
RME - Will you be using your guitar next time?
RA - laughs - It's been discussed. It's one of those things. I want to be able to change it up and I want to be able to continue to provide an interest within the foundation and maybe gain new fans by switching it up now and then. I don't want to be locked into one genre. I mentioned him before in another interview - Chris Daughtry - an amazing talent. I listen to him as well and he's a huge success from these types of competition shows and look where he is now, but he's very very classified to be like a 3 Doors Down power rock singer. That's what he does. I don't want to be like that. I want to be like a Dave Matthews, who can play anything that he wants. John Mayer that can conquer blues - pop - acoustics. That's what I want to be like. My fan base runs from a 3 year old to teens, from teens to 20's to 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. I want to maintain that. I think one of my oldest fans is 86. So not many artists in general - period - even established acts can really say that. You have guys like Sting that really have been cross generational. Bruce Springsteen is cross generational. I have a chance and an opportunity to maybe play is those guys same place and that is mind blowing to me at 35.
Are you familiar with ryanim's? The fans are so enthusiastic they created a whole new vocabulary and it's just blowing my mind. I hope that people have found something in me as the artist and not just the guy on TV. The truth of the matter is at any time I can be canned from the show. I hope that doesn't happen but I will try to do my best, but you can't win everybody every time. You can't be somebody to everybody at the same time. It's very very opinion sensitive. Really I commend the judges. How do you compare what I do to a guy that juggles -
you know - stun guns. You know what he does is pretty amazing and wow I wouldn't do that, but how do you compare that to my skills. You know it's very taste sensitive. It's not necessarily judged on it's own merits against merits or on equal value like The Voice or American Idol - voice on voice - pit on pit. America's Got Talent is a very very interesting show in the sense in that it takes multiple genres and pits them against each other. It's public opinion. It's a popularity of public opinion.
And there's a comment or two, you got your trolls out there. You see them on YouTube. They try to cause disruption amid positive reviews. I don't want a singer to win this year. A singer won the last few years. Why doesn't an act like Illumination or some of the dancing acts win? Let's give the win to other acts. That's the kind of mentality that I'm speaking about that makes AGT have its own dynamic. So I have no false pretenses - that high in the sky fantasies - that I can get even passed the next round and all I can do you guys is do what I do
RME - Well I think you'll make it to the next round.
RA - I hope so, but you never know what can happen.
RME - Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
A message you want to put out - someting you want to say - Perhaps a reflection.
RA - Other than the huge gynormous thank yous that I can give everybody which I try to do on a nightly basis. I read every single message. I can't thank everybody enough for showing me such respect and a welcoming open arms that's changed my entire life.
First in my personal life to feel accepted by people and now it's happening on a scale that I could never imagine. Please what I'd like my fans to know is that I hope they find the love in their hearts for me as the artist regardless of my continuation of the show from episode to episode. I hope they know the artist shall remain in victory or defeat. I will still be here - I will still be putting out music - I will still be trying to continue to touch you. I would only hope that if I were to leave the show they would still remain fans of the artist cause that's what I am. I'm not just a contestant. I'm gonna be a continued artist/musician out there hoping to make a living doing what I love to do.