“I want [listeners] to realize that no matter what happens, whether it’s a relationship ending, or not getting that job they were hoping for, whatever it may be, that it’s OK to accept an outcome despite the result.”
Ryan Scott Graham is a fixture in the pop-punk world, creating music and touring the world with his uber-popular band State Champs, but his side project Speak Low If You Speak Love has become important to Graham as the popularity of the act continues to increase.
Hailing from Westland, Mich., work on Speak Low material began as early as 2011, pre-dating his time with State Champs, having joined them in 2014. Graham released his debut record Everything But What You Need in 2013, but was re-released with Pure Noise Records in 2015, as a solely acoustic act.
With Nearsighted, Graham shot for an entirely different sound by adding in full instrumentation throughout the record, showcasing a maturation in songwriting. A pleasant surprise that has been perceived well from his fans, so far.
In anticipation of the release of his sophomore album, and a massive show in support of Neck Deep at The Majestic Theatre in February, Graham took some time to speak with Resurget Magazine about what he’s been up to in the last three years.
Robert Sherman: Nearsighted has a different sound than previous Speak Low If You Speak Love work, what was the decision-making process on progressing into a fuller sound rather than stick with acoustic styling?
Ryan Scott Graham: I’ve always loved experimentation, so I think having the freedom to take the sounds wherever they felt they were supposed to go was something I didn’t fight. The first record was my first crack at making something cohesive and semi-conceptual, so I kind of wanted to establish a base before I tried a handful of new things. With 4 years between the releases, I had grown immensely as a musician and as a person, and I think some of the songs and sounds can’t help but reflect that.
RS: What were some of the challenges in creating Nearsighted that you may have not experienced with this project? Did you learn anything about yourself within the scope of Speak Low?
RSG: I think just writing and deciding which tracks were strong enough to create a vibe was the most difficult part of making this record. I went back and rewrote multiple songs, multiple times, and it was frustrating at first because that was something I didn’t do at all with the first record – but I think it shows, and in a good way. I was more deliberate in my decision making, regarding the music and lyrics. There were times when I thought maybe I didn’t have what it takes to finish Nearsighted, and it got me really down, but then I realized it was because I was taking the time to get it right.
RS: This project has started to grow quicker after the re-release of Everything But What You Need, has the reception of the project been more than you expected when you started it?
RSG: Obviously it’s been a huge surprise to me! I put out EBWYN independently, expecting a handful of people to hear it, and when I re-released it 2 years later on Pure Noise it gave the project new life. Now with Nearsighted we’re climbing hills that looked like mountains before. It’s all very exciting.
RS: What would you like your fans to take away from the new record, and what were some of the themes of Nearsighted through your eyes?
RSG: I want listeners to achieve some kind of closure while listening to Nearsighted. Not necessarily in the typical understanding of the word, you know, “Okay, I’ve heard their side of the story, it’s over, I can move on.” I want them to realize that no matter what happens, whether it’s a relationship ending, or not getting that job they were hoping for, whatever it may be, that it’s OK to accept an outcome despite the result. There’s so much more than what’s right in front of us, and that’s the theme of Nearsighted in a nutshell. Look ahead, or at least try.
RS: Nearsighted is obviously more mature of an effort than of Everything But What You Need, some time has passed between releases, how has that time helped shape this record?
RSG: Moreso than the time, it’s the experiences I’ve had in between. EBWYN was a collection of what I thought was my best material up until that point and so I put it out, but since then I’ve learned a lot, traveled the world, met (as well as lost) numerous people who I will never forget, listened to their stories, read some books, etc. All of that stuff complies and makes you think and react and create in a different way and I’m thankful for what came out.
RS: How has the reception been to new songs that you’ve played in your recent shows?
RSG: We played our first show in Indianapolis last night where we showcased a lot of the new record and I think it went over really well! I’ve been dying to play new material for a while now and it’s finally the right time. It’s a somewhat dense record in my opinion, so it may take time for some fans to really “get it” but I think it will happen, and when it does it will be special.
RS: You’ve played some big shows with State Champs, but this tour coming up with Neck Deep might be the biggest tour that you’ve done as Speak Low; what does that mean to you?
RSG: I’m stoked for the exposure, honestly. Speak Low has always been my passion project, but I haven’t had proper time and energy to dedicate to it for the past few years. The tour couldn’t have come at a better time, with this new record coming out. Hoping there will be some open minded people coming out to these gigs and make some new friends and fans!
RS: Coming from the Detroit area, I’m sure that you’ve been to plenty of shows at the Majestic Theatre where you’re playing on February 9th, what are your thoughts on playing that stage to a near sold out show as Speak Low?
RSG: The Majestic is actually one of the venues in Detroit I have never had the opportunity to play, so it’s very exciting. The prospect of playing the new record in front of the friends who were by my side during the creation of it is nerve wracking and exhilarating all at the same time.
You can check out Speak Low If You Speak Love’s new record Nearsighted, released through Pure Noise Records, on Jan. 19. Don’t forget to catch Ryan Scott Graham with Neck Deep at The Majestic Theatre on Feb. 9!