If the walls of Nashville’s Gnome Studios could talk, they’d have quite a few tales to tell. Transplanted from Phoenix, Ryne Norman was lying dormant for a number of years and hidden away in an allegorical cave until his primal creative beast could regain consciousness and thrive. When he was finally able to sink his teeth into music again, undressing his mental block and reconfiguring his ambitions, influences and what was ultimately at stake, he ripped the chord on a motley crew of eight new songs. Red Mountain, his long-waited debut full-player, produced and engineered by Chase Weber, whose studio has housed work by Kris Allen, Kellie Pickler and Jake McMullen, among numerous others, flies across such sonic touchstones as classic rock and ’80s synth-pop and is heartily grounded in folksy songwriting. The brick and mortar surrounding him and his band is mirrored in his plainspoken vocal swipes, seeping with cracked discernment of life’s ever-changing revelations.
“Life’s such an easy thing without you / Love’s such a pretty thing without your hue,” he sings matter-of-factly, on “Over You,” flushed from opaque guitars and bizarrely-layered backing vocals. Later, he sharpens the knives, “I hate the person I’ve become…I’m fucking over you.” Norman doesn’t mince his words, and as disastrous as the breakup was, he detaches himself from allowing it to destroy him. That seems to be a prominent thread line sewn into much of the record. “[This] is an album of rediscovery and embracing change,” he tells B-Sides & Badlands, premiering the album in-full today.
He pushes the limits of not only his songwriting ⎯⎯ exhibited in themes of “breaking the mold of being creatively dormant and realizing that I still have more to say,” he notes ⎯⎯ but eclectic, enterprising musical exploits. “Mountains” balances his voice on the tightrope of rich gospel acrobatics and untreated rock belting, while lounging in the confetti-pop wind machine of COIN, The 1975 and Fickle Friends for standout “LA//NY.” “Sleeper” is well-brewed Depeche Mode, and “I Choose You” hoists the shimmer of doo-wop and the Nashville Sound into a delicate waltz. “I wanted to explore the limits of what I could do, genre and songwriting wise, while creating an album that single handedly put my writers block to rest,” Norman says.
Below, the singer-songwriter walks us through the album, track-by-track.
Red Mountain hits the streets tomorrow (Dec. 1).
This song is about the essence of natural attraction. It’s about being intoxicated by someone’s presence. I liked using a word like pheromones to describe love in such a different, yet natural, way.
2. “Stranger Things”
Masked in somewhat of a throwback style, this song is my approach to marry nostalgic and modern [sounds]. It’s a power balled about falling in love when you least expected it and the strange emotions that come whenever something so powerful like real love has taken you by surprise.
3. “Over You”
This is a song of angst, frustration and overcoming self-made obstacles. It’s less about a person and more about overcoming a mental state of complacency. This is the tough-love pep-talk that gets someone who’s down back on their feet again, while sticking it to the man, themselves.
Following in a less angry approach, this is a song about change and overcoming dormancy in a creative life. Overcoming artistic blocks and realizing that your creative side that you thought was finished due to inactivity was really just dormant and waiting for the best time to work again.
This is, ironically, about waking from a far too comfortable reality of where you find yourself. For me, it was the reality of not pushing myself towards anything. I wanted to get angry and change that. I wanted do something bigger than myself; wrestling with that idea is where this song came from.
“LA//TN” is a sort of parody song. It’s making fun of the many conversations I’ve had in Nashville with people who are trying desperately to stand out in a world of creatives ⎯⎯ some who are maybe trying a little too hard. It’s a reminder that it’s okay to make fun of ourselves at times.
7. “I Choose You”
This is the oldest written song that I brought back to life for this record. [It’s] very cut and dry about my promises and love for my wife ⎯⎯ the way she makes me feel and why I will always choose her. This is the lovey-est of love songs on this record, and I wanted to mask it with a throw back doo-wop sound.
8. “All Night”
The final song on the album is about disconnect and conflict with someone you love. Often, we find ourselves getting angry for reasons we may not understand at our significant others. This song is meant to send you off wanting to grab a new meaning every time you listen. I wanted it to be vague enough for deeper interpretation, yet hit home for those that look strictly at the surface.