Last month, Ryan Egan released his wonderful debut album Soft Power, a record he record over a short period last winter.
We chatted with the Paris-based American musician to talk about the inspiration for the new album, making the move from New York to France and his next moves.
Check out the full conversation below.
What is the meaning of Soft Power for you?
It can mean a lot of things but it's really my acknowledgment that if I have any strength, any power, anything of value to offer to the world, it's my music. I've never been above average at anything else I tried in life. It's my way of expressing myself, of moving/influencing others, of presenting myself to the world. It's a gentle power, a dynamic, non-violent force, and these songs are my weapons.
Life took you from New York to Paris, but what was it like making such a big jump like that?
It sounds like a big thing, and to some degree it was, but it was really a slow process. Over about six years, I was visiting France often with my partner and developing a life there—speaking French, getting to know family and friends, etc. So at a certain point, I found that if I wanted to become fully fluent I needed to stay longer and it was just a perfect opportunity to try another major city where I had a support system and home base already set up.
And then the pandemic hits. Did that add more uncertainty because you were now in a different country?
Absolutely. At first, I was happy to be in Paris because the response from the [French] government was astronomically more adept—and therefore comforting—than the fucking Trump administration, and I just saw how much of a shit show it was back in NYC and other U.S. cities—really exacerbating the long-running crises in America pertaining to health care, housing, and beyond. That said, it also put a major damper on my ability to grow my career in France/Europe because I couldn't play shows or meet people in person, and after a while that became quite confusing and frustrating because it's always hard to know if you're in the "right place," industry wise, and so it's taken some time to get my footing in that regard.
You’ve been making music for a while. How did you know this was the right time to release your proper debut LP?
It was just a creative question and the answer was clear. I'm always writing a ton of songs, and over the previous six years or so releasing music as a solo artist, I had self-produced a lot but also collaborated with different people, resulting in a pretty diverse catalog stylistically. Thinking long-term, I believe this is a strength. But I was really itching to release a more coherent project for listeners to latch onto and pursue a more clear vision. So it just took a particular batch of songs to inspire me to go down that road and thankfully linking up with Kevin Basko helped to gel things together sonically in a way that I would not have achieved alone.
Is there anyone whose music you hear and think you’d love to collaborate with someday?
All the time! The list is too long but it could be anything from collaborating with a dream producer, behind the scenes songwriting for other artists, or more public facing features with artists I like. We're living in an era of unbelievable talent (and output) that inspires me daily and keeps me on my toes to create the standard of art I want to live up to.
What do you hope people take away from the record?
I hope that it's the kind of album that they can have a myriad of experiences with; eyes closed with headphones on in the park, playing in the background while cooking dinner, blasting it at the summer BBQ, whatever. I hope they re-discover it over the years and find new favorite songs that didn't quite hit them upon first listen. I hope they love it and need to share it with a friend.
What’s your next move?
LP2! LP3! I've got some cool treats to expand this album release coming soon, but in general, I've just got dozens of songs in the canon that I'm currently considering how to present to the world. Maybe EPs, singles, albums...probably all of the above. Also live stuff. NYC album release party on June 8th at Union Pool! Yoo-hoooo!