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Calgary Folk Music Festival: Exclusive Interview [Ryland Moranz]

We sang, we swayed, and we savoured the unparalleled pureness and rawness of live folk music. Calgary Folk Music Festival 2018 came and passed in a whirlwind of energy, musical talent, and electrifying performances. Even better, we at Stmpdr (IG: @stmpdr) had the opportunity to interview a number of acts, such as Ryland Moranz (stay tuned for our other interviews!). Read on to find about more about this rising folk star.

(Photography by IG: @copaello)

Stmpdr: Tell us about yourself. How did you get into folk music?

Ryland: My parents actually started a folk festival in Fort Macleod 32 years ago, so it’s kind of a long run family tradition.  My sister works for the Vancouver folk fest, and I never had a chance to be an accountant or anything. [Chuckles]. Some of my earliest memories are falling asleep in lawn chairs backstage at my hometown festival!

I learned the mandolin at age 9, and began playing in punk bands during high school. In a town of 3500, I was the only punk kid. Painted nails, bad hair – the whole deal. [Laughs]. I played in a punk band for 9-10 years, but it was hard for me to write punk songs. Folk songs came naturally; I had always been a folkie at heart.

Stmpdr: It was your fate! How did your career in folk music take off?

Ryland: I did my first folk record in Leeroy Stagger’s studio, and he produced it. Funny story, Leeroy was actually looking for a keyboard player, but I didn’t know how to play the piano. I only knew 3 chords. When the record was done, I still somehow became the keyboard player in the band for a while, learning while playing. Now, I perform both independently and with Leeroy’s band, and it’s very humbling to be a part of such a cool fit. It’s a great opportunity to learn and grow and just be on this cool ride.

Ryland Moranz & Leeroy Stagger

(Ryland Moranz & Leeroy Stagger)

Stmpdr: What do you like the most about being an artist?

Ryland: Being an artist fills my heart up. It’s the satisfaction of the soul, and I’m happiest when I’m playing. I only wish that Alex, my wife, could be with me all the time when I’m on the road. Playing is the release I need to survive, and it’s just how I’m set up. I like it that way.

Stmpdr: What’s your number one motivation behind lyric-writing?

Ryland: Storytellers. True stories, real-life events – I’m a big history nerd. Definitely also the experiences of other folkies. If you get on the festival circuit, you see the same people over and over, and it’s wonderful sharing our lives. Just like summer camp!

Stmpdr: It really does seems like a tight-knit community among the artists. Who are you most influenced by and why?

Ryland: Man, that’s a hard one. I would have to say it’s a solid tie between Joe Strummer from The Clash, Willie P. Bennett, and Sam Baker based in Texas. Strummer because everything he said was honest and genuine, and he didn’t give a shit about what people would think. If he thought a problem existed, then he believed we should fix it. Bennett, well, he was a family friend and I used to watch cartoons with him as a kid. His song writing was simply outstanding, and his work ethic was equally amazing. As for Baker, he cuts through what you don’t need to hear in a story, and gets to the heart of things, which I admire. He’s very empathetic and just cares for people in general. I really look up to these guys and learn from them.

Stmpdr: Thank you. What are your own values in life?

Ryland: Empathy, being real, and the capacity to get past the division. It is such a divisive world these days, but everything has got something you can find as far as a commonality, and it’s important to look for that. If you don’t agree on everything, it doesn’t matter. But if you keep looking you’ll find universal truths.

Stmpdr: Definitely! Did you have a lot of hardships along the way?

Ryland: You see a festival like folk fest, and everything looks perfect, but it’s a hard life. You look at a band’s tour van, and sure it looks cool, but you can’t smell the van in the picture – you can only see the outside. That’s the difference. Once you get into the real thing, it’s not all peaches and cream. Performing is like wearing your best clothes, but everyday life is laundry day. It’s really hard to be an artist, there’s always an uncertainty. You tie so much of your self-worth to how your career is doing, and the highs and lows are just staggering. I am very stressed.

Stmpdr: Let’s talk more about the behind-the-scenes that the public doesn’t always get to see. What’s the biggest challenge that comes with touring?

Ryland: I’ve toured in Canada, the States, and Germany. If you strip everything away, just being gone from home is the hardest part. It’s difficult to be away, and you feel like you’re missing your life. Right now, I’ve been on the road for 50 days, and I can’t thank my wife enough. Alex is extremely supportive, to the point where I couldn’t do this without her. On all levels. I appreciate her more as I travel more. In contrast though, when I’m home I feel pulled to go out and play. So I never really am at rest, because it’s always the other thing that I want. [Shrugs]. It was absolutely a learning curve we traversed as a couple.

Stmpdr: It’s amazing that she supports your passion so strongly.

Ryland: Yeah, she’s the best thing that has ever happened to me!

Stmpdr: Do you have a favourite tour experience?

Ryland: I don’t know if I can pick a favourite actually. I love to explore, see new places. Touring has allowed me to meet a lot of cool folks that stay in my life. You meet people who become your friends and family, and that’s really something.

Stmpdr: Where do you see yourself in the future?

Ryland: Just doing this, but older. Being able to pay a few more bills would be nice too. [Laughs].  One way or another, I’ll be doing something I love.

Stmpdr: That’s all any of us can hope for. Is there advice you would give to your younger self?

Ryland: Keep going. Be kind to yourself, and to anybody who is an artist. Be kind to yourself because you don’t have to rip yourself apart over little mistakes.

Stmpdr: Speaking of mistakes, do you have any major regrets?

Ryland: Mainly little things. But my one major regret is having my wife deal with things by herself when I’m not around. I just always want to be there for her but it’s hard with my lifestyle.

Stmpdr: Understandable. We can tell you’re a very family-oriented individual.

Ryland: For sure. Family is extremely important to me.

Stmpdr: Alright, one final question before we wrap things up. What message would you like to share with the world through your music?

Ryland: Be excellent to each other. Be honest. It’s just a rip-off of the movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure but I really do believe it. If you can be excellent to and for each other, you will be okay.

Stmpdr: That’s everything. Thank you so much for your time today and for letting us see inside your world. It was incredible learning about you and your experiences!

Ryland: My pleasure. It was great chatting with you guys too!

*End interview*

Wow. Ryland is truly an authentic and down-to-earth individual who has an inspiring outlook on life. He undoubtedly has a gift and is blessing the world with his soul-searching music and lyrics that stretch far beyond his years. Speaking with Ryland was a killer opportunity to learn more about the folkie lifestyle, and we can’t wait to see what Ryland has in store for us down the road!

Until next time.