Music Review Database: What was it like picking up a guitar at a young age?
Ryan Keen: It was cool, when I first picked it up I didn't intend on (playing the guitar.) I had no intention on involved as making it my career as I only fancied the idea of it, I was only eight at the time when I first got the guitar so I learnt flamenco and things when I was a kid, it was cool, good fun.
What are the main influences on your music?
Flamenco certainly had an influence on my style, Bon Ivor, Coldplay, I guess early Coldplay stuff.
Yeah, from Parachutes and X&Y I thought were incredible and A Rush of Blood To The Head were all good great albums they were quite the impression to me. And in terms of guitar playing, there is this guy called Eric Roche who was a massive inspiration to me and that led me to find artists like Newton Faulkner, Thomas Leeb and Antoine Dufour and Andy McKee and them guys play in this style called finger style, which is the style I play now.
What was it like before with Newton Faulkner?
Awesome, really, really cool, he's a brilliant musician and an all-round nice guy, so you know, it's weird because he's an inspiration a few years ago so now being friends and writing and touring with him is really cool.
What was it like self-funding and recording your own album?
Difficult, but good.
In what way was it difficult?
It’s when you're self-funding and I didn't have a big budget so I was calling in favours from friends and it was done on a shoe string budget. The plus side of it for me was because there was no label there telling how or where or when I should be doing anything and I had full creative control so I got to make the album I wanted to make, so it was good.
What was it like with people like Leona Lewis around?
You mean supporting them?
It’s cool. It's just different and when I've done a support show playing much bigger crowds you're aware that you're there to see the other artist, but rather than being daunting about it, it's an opportunity to try and get some new fans, so it's fine, it is what it is.
On your EP Aiming For The Sun there was a song called “Thank You” what was that about?
I got some inheritance money when my Grandma passed away and I spent all of it on a guitar, so the song “Thank You” is for kind of funding it. They're beautiful guitars I play called Benjamin guitars, a guy called Nick Benjamin who is a luthier guitar maker down in Lewes near Brighton, he makes and they're built for the percussive style of playing that I do.
What's next for you after this tour?
Loads more touring basically, and finding out about a support tour, potentially next month, in the next few days it might be around Europe, otherwise I'll be doing a bit of promotion in Germany and Ireland in December, touring Australia in January and more of Europe, so lots of gigs!
For the past two years, how much has your fanbase grown?
Pretty significantly, two years ago was the first time I supported Ed Sheeran, at that point, it's grown a lot significantly tenfold I'd imagine, maybe more than that. Since I've done a lot of gigs in the last two years, I must've done between three or four hundred gigs in the last couple of years or so, and I've released three EPs and an album in that time so there has been a lot more stuff going on and lots of features and co-writes and other bits and pieces, so I feel my career has only being going properly for two years.
Do you aspire to play bigger venues?
Yeah I guess so, I'm not in search of fame or anything like that, but in terms of success, yeah definitely playing bigger venues would be nice to of have a full crew going doing proper lighting and sound that kind of stuff. Again, to tour worldwide is kind of what I'm aiming for, it doesn't need to get massive in crazy stardom but certainly just to have a good working business where I can make music, for me this is the best job in the world and to be able to continue to do that on a bit further level up than what I'm on at the moment is where I'm aiming. You never know, you can write a song that might use on an advert or something, you know, you never really know what's going to happen so I'm just going to roll with the punches and see what happens.
Where did the album name Room For Light come from?
That's a lyric in one of the songs called “Skin and Bones” which is “a darker place has room for light” it's kind of the vibe of the album, it's finding optimism and positivity in sort of darker or negative situations I guess. I've often write when I have been more troubled, but most of the songs have an optimistic twist to them.
So are all your song-writings based on troubles or is there other aspects?
No no no, it started like that, I lost a close friend five years ago and that's what got me singing basically before I had the confidence to sing, so when I first started out, I guess I was struggling a bit dealing with his death because he was young, fit and healthy and it did confuse me and it puts things into perspective. At that point it was a little bit darker, I mean it's not depressing music by any means, but it's often therapeutic to write about subjects when I'm more confused about it, it's about putting it down in words and expressing it that way.
Like a brainstorm?
Yeah, my way of getting through it, I'm an upbeat person and optimistic generally and that sort of comes through in the song writing, it'll be about a more negative thing but it's always with optimism.
~Matthew Clewley @The Sugarmill in Stoke.