With air travel being a gamble these days, the open road is getting a lot more action. And while many are just rediscovering the beauty of road trips, Ryan Hamilton of Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts was way ahead of the game when he headed out and did a little soul searching alongside his dog, Peaches. What came of that trip was his September 2020 release, ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere.’ We talked about the trip, the album, and more in this back and forth.
Kendra: Your latest, ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ was written on a road trip across the Southwest. I love the allure of a road trip, but loathe being in a car. So while that may never be in my future, do you have more trips planned for future releases?
Ryan Hamilton: While I LOVE traveling, I think this was a one-time thing. It was SUPER intense. A lot of soul searching and rediscovering myself. A lot of tears, but also a lot of joy. Sleeping in the mountains, or the desert. No cell signal. Just me, and my dog, Peaches, under the stars. I’ll never forget how quiet it would get. Or how bright the stars were at night. That trip changed me forever.
Kendra: Was there any place you felt inspired the record more so than another? Like any particular pit stop, small town, or natural wonder?
Ryan Hamilton: Ya know, it’s funny. I didn’t plan on writing during the trip. But once I hit Route 66, something clicked. Maybe it’s the long, storied history of that Route. But songs started appearing on Route 66, in New Mexico.
Kendra: With your latest single, “Jesus & John Lennon” you lament about how some things are destined to break. While some would see that as pessimistic, but I found you to be a realist with this track. Where were you when this song came to mind and is this idea something you feel more people should adopt into their reality?
Ryan Hamilton: This song was written the day I realized my marriage was over. Though the song grew and changed a little… The inspiration and the original idea/vibe/feel came from a VERY real moment. I never thought I’d get divorced. I truly believed my marriage was forever. I’m not sure if people should adopt this sort of thing into their reality. It’s almost better to be oblivious… But, I think it’s important to at least ask the question.
Kendra: That is one of two songs you penned with Steven Van Zandt. How did you two come together and did he unknowingly teach you anything while working together that you tucked away in your mind for safekeeping?
Ryan Hamilton: I have learned SO MUCH from Stevie. Forever thankful for his belief, inspiration, and guidance. Countless lessons during songwriting sessions together (via voice messages). There’s no way he knows just HOW MUCH he’s taught me. To have him believe in me so much, and want to work on my songs together, is a gift. Thankful.
Kendra: This year we’ve all had to get used to working, socializing, living apart from those we know. You’ve been doing this though with your band as you’re in the US and they’re overseas in the UK. What are the upsides of a transatlantic musical relationship?
Ryan Hamilton: Not sure if there are any! Haha. Maybe the way they come to the music. Because they were raised in a different place, with different musical influences… some of which America is not aware of… Yeah, they definitely have a different, unique, perspective. I like that part of it.
Kendra: With the downtime 2020 has allotted, you busted out an EP earlier this year. Proceeds from ‘Incommunicado’ went towards Music Venue Trust’s “Save Our Venues.” As someone who has come up in a place like Austin, where music thrives on another level – how important do you feel it is artists, from indie to mainstream, pull together for those smaller venues that don’t have big bucks behind them?
Ryan Hamilton: I’m actually not from Austin. That’s a few hours away. I live in a small town just outside of Ft Worth, Texas. I think that it is vital for the smaller, independent venues to survive. Very, very important. If those venues go away, there will literally be no place for up and coming bands.
Kendra: With that, how do you feel 2020 has shaped your creativity and drive moving forward?
Ryan Hamilton: It’s been difficult. Everyone seems emotionally amplified. Loud, stressed… and lost. It’s not very conducive to being creative. But, ironically, I’ve almost felt forced to struggle through it, and MAKE MYSELF stay creative. It’s like someone is attacking my creativity, and I’m going out of my way not to let them defeat me. What a strange and difficult time we’re all living through.
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are. You can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned but can you also share a song that never fails to get you through when the world around you feels like a mess?
Ryan Hamilton: Everything is up in the air. EVERYTHING. Haha. But all the Festivals we were supposed to play this Summer appear to be going ahead next year. So, at least we have those to hope for. Other than that, it’s all about this New Album. I’ve never been more proud of anything. A song that never fails to get me through? What a great question. I’m gonna go with Colin Hay, “Waiting For My Real Life To Begin.”