After a whirlwind set at The Graziers, in Wakefield on Friday, I sat down with one of the most enigmatic young men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Ryan Spendlove is a force of nature to be reckoned with, both musically and on a more personal level. After many sambucas and plenty of vodka and cokes, I tried to get a better understanding of one of the hottest talents ever to have emerged from oop t'north.
Ryan supported the legendary Howard Marks last week in Wakefield. I asked how he got the gig, was he also a fan of Howard's and did he have a cheeky smoke with him after the gig.
Ryan: I'm not really sure why they ask me to support Howard Marks. The promoters or booking agents must think I'm some kind of stoner or summat [he laughs cheekily]. This month I will be supporting him again in York. I am a fan of his, he's a really interesting character who has some great stories from his travels and I bet he must have seen some cool stuff in his time. As for getting stoned with Howard, no I haven't got stoned with him, yet! There is usually a slow moving cue of stoners eager to light one up with him after the show..."the poor guy".
Given this boys skill and passion for the blues, I raised the question of whether he felt he was always meant to sing the blues or would he consider flirting with some obscure styles.
Ryan: I think my music will always have some element of Blues in there, but I have written in many different styles and genres previously. I guess I would class myself as a soul purist of sorts.
You would think that someone so touched by the blues would have a long list of artists such as Howling Wolf or Big Joe Turner to name but a few, to list as influences, however as Ryan explains, his influences come from the much more dissimilar source of Bob Marley.
Ryan: I have always found Bob's music to be full of character and bursting with life, and this is why he will forever be one of my favourite musicians. Bob Marley was the main trigger who made me want to become a musician. I would like to think that people will hear is influence in my voice now and again.
With such a distinctive and sometimes lilting voice, a lot of Ryan's lyrics are quite gritty and hard hitting, but I wanted to know where the main sources for lyrics come from?
Ryan: In my opinion, great lyrics should be honest. I would never write lyrics that didn't mean something or anything to me. Lots of people ask me how I can remember all the words to all the songs I write. I think that if your lyrics are honest, you will always remember them because they are tied to certain experiences you have had at some point in time. These undoubtedly leave a lasting impression. When you tell a story that means something to you, you will never forget how to tell it.
I asked Ryan, now a solo artist, if he ever thought he would go back to being part of a band after being the one time front man for The Blueskins.
Ryan: I do feel really comfortable playing solo and would definitely be content to carry on, however I do like to have my little side projects and love to jam with other artists.
Staying on the subject of lyrics, I enquire what lyric(s) he had heard that made him think he wished he'd have written it.
Ryan: There are lots of amazing lines, but the first that comes to mind is the first verse of 'God Only Knows' by the Beach Boys.
"I may not always love you, but long as there are stars above you. You'd never need to doubt it, I'll make you so sure about it. God only knows what I'd be without you" - AMAZING!
Even though the venue and the crowd this evening was small, what is extremely apparent is that Ryan is very at home performing on any sort of stage but does he get lost in his own world or feed off the ambience, whatever the audience?
Ryan: I do tend to feed from the vibes in a room, and you can feel when people are really listening although I can't deny that I do drift off to somewhere strange when I play.
So what would you consider to be your biggest musical achievement to date, Mr. Spendlove?
Ryan: MMMM? Tricky! [ponders for a moment].
I have been lucky in my life. When I was in the Blueskins, we travelled quite a bit and played some massive venues, including both the Leeds and Reading festivals. I've played with some popular acts like Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, The Cribs, Shed Seven, John Squire and so on... We had some great times, so I guess those were great achievements so far. Some of the people I was fortunate to work play and record with will all stand out for me personally. When we went to Clarksdale, Mississippi, I found myself sat by the roadside playing some blues with some amazing musicians. I found this to be a major point of achievement in my life because Clarksdale has, for generations, bred a true pedigree of artists who have contributed massively to lots of music we hear today. A true, down to earth sound, created from working class people.
So which venue(s) is/are his most favourite places to play?
Ryan: I often play in York quite and there is an acoustic group called The Fillmore. The gigs they put on attract a lot of real music fans and dedicated listeners. The ambience of the venue is created by the crowd, so I don't have definite favorite venue. I like to play anywhere and love it when people really listen. Guess I have got lots to say sometimes.
Dirty Dog has got to be one of my preferred songs in your set list, but what is Ryan Spendlove's favourite Ryan Spendlove tune and why?
Ryan: I guess the newer songs are most exciting to play. It's nice to see people's first reactions to a song they have never heard before. I don't have any favorites that are written by me [he laughs modestly].
Given the diversity of his musical influences, which artists or styles does he rate personally at the moment?
Ryan: At the moment I am really into an artist called "The Tallest Man on Earth" people should check him out, he's mint. I am not easily impressed and prefer songs that stand the test of time and sound like they could have been wrote today or yesterday. I'm not a fan of trendy type music that comes and goes with the seasons. I prefer songs that give the middle finger to fashion.
I can honestly say that you will never meet anyone as open and honest as Ryan Spendlove. It is apparently clear that he has always acknowledged his working class background in his material and his persona, but how important is it to him that people also know where he's from and not just the origins of the music he produces?
Ryan: I don't consciously promote the fact that I'm from a working class background, but it is something I am proud of. In my experience, some of the warmest, honest and friendliest people come from a working class background or have been raised by people who have. I would prefer not to spend my time with people who obsess over money and I hate the way some artists promote the idea that life is all about cash, you know the whole bling thing. Rappers who throw their hands around 5 inches from the camera sporting diamond jewelry and swaggering in front of a sports car...its just 'shit'... just thinking about it makes me wanna bitch-slap some mo fo [laughs].
So as the evening comes to a very tipsy end, I am interested to know what we can expect to see from Ryan Spendlove in the next six to twelve months.
Ryan: My next move will be to Fly to the states January/February time, to record my first album with an indie label over there. Currently I'm recording some new videos and writing some new songs... on average, I write about 1 new song per month, so hopefully in the next 6 months I will have my first album out for sale in all good retail outlets [cue cheeky laughter and a flash of a cunning smile you have not seen the last of].