Interview: Ryan Hays – The Prayer

Hey Ryan, super nice to have the chance to chat with you. Can you tell us about your early career? Where did you get the idea for the music industry?

As a kid growing up in a small town you tend to always have the thought of something more.  The love for music was always in me but the idea of being a singer didn’t come to light till I was about 9, and the career thought wasn’t until my mid teens.  I discovered music in a different way than the usual story.  When I was 8, I began to develop a stutter from anxiety and it became worse as years went on, becoming a huge factor in my mental health.  Losing one voice however led me to finding my other in music and I used singing to feel confident, normal, and hide what I believed made me look weird to other people. I joined the school choir in middle school and began finding my love for all the things you could create with music. I could almost see the colors within the notes, like a painting.  My passion for music grew and I began to write my first songs in High School, along with getting into our school’s competition choir.  This choir led me to sing overseas in both London and Paris at plays such as Notre Dame.  Soon as I realized the endless possibilities and the joy it gave me, I stopped using it as a defense, and began truly creating.  I later went to school college in NY for music and from there learned how to compose and truly harness my craft.  After graduating college I joined the Army and even there was writing songs for fellow soldiers to send to their gfs or family members, which only further instilled my calling towards music.  I was in the Army Reserves so it allowed me to still work and hustle in NYC trying to make my dream a reality.  I worked as a sound engineer for shows and venues for many years so I could learn the back end of live production but I always knew I’d work my way out of the shadows and into the lights because I truly wanted to inspire others with my story and music.

Where do you start when producing songs?

I began dabbling on the production end of things in college but didn’t truly get into production on my own till only a few years ago. That’s when things just started taking off for me and that is also when I found out I could do more than just write the songs, but I could also create them in their entirety . 

Your latest song is ‘The Prayer. Can you tell us more about the making of it and if there were any unusual things happening during the process?

The process in making The Prayer came after a truly rocky journey for me.  I had to release a lot of negativity in my circle and then my father passed away in November which really made The Prayer that much more defining for me.  The beautiful thing about the production of this song and the writing of it, is that it all just happened naturally. I wrote it from an honest place and in roughly a week, had the full song written out. I worked with a friend from college of mine who I had only recently reconnected with after almost 10 years. We wrote some of my first songs together in college and now he is my keyboard player and helps me produce a lot of the music you’ll hear from me going forward.  He laid out this beautiful piano part and we took it to the studio and in one roughly 5 hour live session, we put everything else together.  I’d like to believe my fathers spirit was right there with me the whole time because it was truly the most seamless production of a song I’ve ever experienced.

What was the most difficult challenge you faced?

I spent many years in the background and due to my stutter I was hesitant about stepping into the light.  I wasn’t sure I could do it and it took many years for me to realize that I belong in the light.  So my most difficult challenge had to be realizing that I was able to do things on my own strengths and that I was fully capable of making my dream a reality on my own.  I could no longer fear the things that made me different but instead I could use those stories to inspire and grow as a person.

What is your goal in artistic activities?

My goal is to create timeless music that can move someone regardless of age, gender, or sex.  I wanted to inspire growth in others and show through my career that regardless of what you have going on, anything is possible. I want to use my platform to speak about stuttering and its true effects on a person or child who deals with it. I want to elevate others and more than anything be able to support my family and the ones I love. I’d also love to work with other great artists and create works that last for generations.

How do you know when the work is finished?

I think for me I had to learn to accept when something was done regardless of always hearing something new I could add or change. I am a perfectionist in life and with music it is no different so I had to learn to take a step back sometimes and understand that changes can be endless if you allow them to be.  I’ll sometimes let a few different people with very different ears listen to a song I’m working on and if no one has a change they would make, then it usually helps me decide as well.  

What is your trademark? It’s about unique sounds or behaviors on stage.

I would say my trademark is in the writing and blends along with the music.  The way I produce and write music is almost as you would a choir where every sound is connected as if another voice in a harmony.  The music, melody, and lyrics feed off each other creating harmonies within themselves that I have always found really beautiful.  I mentioned I have always just naturally heard music as a painter sees colors on a canvas.  You just sorta know which ones go together and you’re not sure how or why but you do. I would say my trademark in live shows is to tell my story and tell the story of some of the music so people have context and know where it came from. I love to interact with the people in the audience and gain a slightly deeper relationship than just a singer on stage.  Allow the fans to know me as much as I can in the time I have.

What are your biggest achievements so far as an artist, but also personally?

My biggest achievements as an artist thus far has been being able to book shows every month so far in NYC on my own as well as see my music affecting people in ways I had never imagined.  I recently played at the World Trade Center outside and performed for people from all over the world who were passing through and it was one of those experiences you don’t forget.  The way people came up to me from all over and told me they felt inspired by my music hit me right in my heart because you realize you are doing something right. As an artist, there is no bigger achievement than having your art truly affect and touch others.  Personally though I have to say this journey has taught me to trust my instincts and ignore a lot of the opinions of others.  I have learned confidence in not only my music but in myself and what I have to offer.  I would say overall my biggest achievement personally is acknowledging that my stutter was a gift and that I am good enough to be with the best of them.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

The most consistent comments I get is that my music is timeless and that it can reach all generations equally. There truly is not one comment I feel should get more praise then another but I recently had a roughly 60 year old man from Austria tell me my music would be felt by all. That it had no limitations by race, gender, sex, or age and that meant a lot to me and in the same show I had a young black kid, probably 18 from Brooklyn tell me one of my songs nearly brought him to tears.  The responses so far to my music have been beyond what I ever imagined and I could never truly put one as being more memorable than another as they have all been nothing but positive and inspiring.

What are your plans for the future?

My immediate future plans currently are to release another album by the beginning of next year, one day book a national tour for starters,  and later this year win the chance to perform at the Hollywood Bowl in LA.  That competition is currently running now and I need votes, so if you read this then please go to my instagram @rhaysofficial and the link is in my bio.  I simply want to inspire others that share my story and gain a platform where I can talk about the issues that are not spoken about often enough.  I also want to continue to change the narrative and stereotype on certain things and to have my music reach as many people’s ears who need to hear it as possible.

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