“Homey,” the fourth major release from local collaborative project the Ryne Experience, is available Friday.
A Lowell native, Ryne Clarke is a 22-year-old singer-songwriter who runs the project. He invites his friends and other musicians to record songs in his bedroom studio in Lowell.
Clarke started this project in 2017 after his first band, The Preservers, disbanded. In 2018, the Ryne Experience released its first studio project, “Hokey,” which had 22 collaborators on it. The following year, the collaboration released an acoustic album called “Shopworn.” Earlier this year, the Ryne Experience released a psychedelic alt-country concept album titled “Funky Town” on the Texas tape label “Under the Counter Tapes.”
Grand Rapids Magazine: What got you interested in performing and writing music?
Ryne Clarke: The earliest thing would be playing the accordion when I was a kid. I was going to play in either band or orchestra, but I was too late for the signups, so that was the start. An early influence for me, which is still relevant, was “Weird Al” Yankovic. My dad also got me started into some classic rock at about the age of 14. And then I started playing guitar and found out my friend’s brother played drums, so I roped him in and started playing in a band. From there, we were looking for a singer for a long time, and no one wanted to step up, so I decided to start writing songs one day and have stuck with it since.
GRM: Tell me a little bit more about your history as a writer and the different albums you’ve done.
RC: The very first song I wrote was for our first Preservers album, which was the high school band I was in. It was a nine-minute concept song about this dystopian future with music things happening in it. From there, it was the first Preservers album in 2016. Later, we self-produced the second Preservers album in my bandmates’, Jeremy and Patrick’s, basement. After that, (my bandmates) ended up going off to school, and I broke solo to the (Ryne) Experience project I have going on now. I debuted “Hokey” in that basement as well, it had about 20 collaborators on it and it was a really big studio-built project. Right now, I’d say that helped me shape the sound I have today where I’m doing just a bunch of overdubs and singing with my own voice and adding harmony parts.
GRM: Is your fan base in your following mostly local or do you have fans outside of the GR area?
RC: It’s pretty local with the GR area and Lowell but with our most recent album “Funky Town,” we had this label from Texas fund our Kickstarter project, and he got us a vinyl made. We have some following from him, and he has a lot of different connections to people around the country so he’s getting the word out outside of the state.
GRM: What message do you want to convey with your music in “Homey” specifically?
RC: It’s a really short and sweet thing, which I don’t think we’ve ever really been able to do before. Normally, an album starts off with maybe an EP and a few songs and morphs into an album, but this thing really felt like a collection of songs. All the songs were written and recorded in the past couple of months, and it’s a nice, light, summertime release.
GRM: What inspires your music?
RC: (Gesturing to records behind him) All of these vinyls inspire my music. More music, new music, gives me inspiration. Every time you hear a classic album for the first time, something changes and new ideas pop inside your head. I feel like without hearing other music you can’t really create music of your own. Having something to draw from inspires me.
GRM: Are all of your pieces collaborative or just the pieces released by the Ryne Experience?
RC: I’d say pretty much all of it is collaborative, but there are times when I end up playing everything in a song, except the drums. There’s select tracks where I’m doing a lot more on them or a lot less depending on the person I picked out. I work with roughly the same 20-30 people, so I know what kind of person I want for a certain track. I either bring them in on my own accord or they will come to me and want to do some sort of song. I’d say overall, I do collaborative pieces, but on a live show, I could be playing underneath the same name by myself doing solo acoustics.
GRM: Do you have any ideas as to what your music career is going to look like moving forward? Do you have any plans laid out for the future?
RC: We had some good shows set up for this year that unfortunately got canceled, so I think going into next year, so long as shows are a thing, we could have a major release at the Pyramid Scheme again. We were supposed to release our “Funky Town” album there, but that came out in April. We had this music festival set up that we were going to play over in Illinois, so we have connections there for the future. As far as shows, I don’t think we are going to play as many bar shows. We were doing that for a while, and we got a lot of our friends to come out and support us. But I think we are going to stick with some of the bigger shows and maybe do one or two bar shows instead of like six or seven. As far as releases, we are going to have two nonalbum singles go out after this EP this year and, possibly, another EP. When the next album is done, that will be coming out next year.
GRM: How has COVID-19 influenced your music and your career? Performing has been a struggle, but is there more to it than that?
RC: To me, it’s almost been a bit of a blessing because I enjoy the recording and engineering part of making music just as much as playing shows. For me to have all this free time and to be able to sit down and write more, I’m able to write a couple songs a week. It feels great to get that out and still be creating things, so it feels good to me. The shows can be tiresome because you’re practicing once or twice a week and you’re playing a show every weekend. It’s a lot of the same old same old, and you’re trying to work in new material while playing some of your old pieces. But it’s been pretty good overall, especially after being able to knock out this EP super quick and pretty much running at our own pace. It wasn’t a rushed thing because we all had the time and it was a perfect time to do it.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.