Elaine Ryan

Elaine Ryan

 Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN
BandPopAdult Contemporary

www.elaineryan.ca Please see this site for my Calendar.

Biography

Elaine Ryan is the living embodiment of the nomadic troubadour. Her eagerly-awaited debut full-length album, Songs From The River, will feature tunes written in Vancouver, Montreal and Hawaii, recorded in Maui, and mixed and mastered in Montreal. Elaine’s material draws from such diverse life experiences as busking in Europe, studying flamenco in Spain and working in an orphanage in Guatemala, and she distils hard-won lessons into potent folk-rooted songs deserving of real attention.
Ryan first served notice of her creative potential with the 2007 release of a six-song EP, Sisters. It earned a warm response and college, community and CBC Radio play, while club gigs in her Vancouver hometown showcased her prowess as a natural performer.
Elaine now takes a major artistic leap forward with Songs From The River. "This is the album I’ve been wanting to make for quite some time now," she says, crediting her recent residence in Maui as a catalyst in its creation. "It is a very relaxing place to be, and it helps you collect ideas. One of the ways my songs get written is that ideas I’ve been stewing on for years will sort of suddenly come together in my mind.�
The album was recorded in a home studio near the ocean, and the rustic setting helps account for its warm and intimate feel. Elaine produced it herself, and she had a clear vision of the sound she wanted. "It is sparse as I wanted my voice and the lyrics I’ve written to come through," she explains. Drums and bass (electric and acoustic) are used subtly and sparingly, with the focus always remaining on Ryan’s fluent guitar playing, melodic and emotionally eloquent vocals, and convincingly poetic songs.
An oft-cited reference point for Elaine’s soulful voice is Tracy Chapman, while she acknowledges Ani DiFranco as a key influence. "I find her an inspiring character, through her guts and her thoughtful and political lyrics," she says. In fact, catching DiFranco in performance at a festival in Ireland had a life-changing impact on Ryan. "I was 14, and I was just into the pop music I’d hear on the radio," Elaine recalls. "I was still trying to form an identity, and going to Ani’s phenomenal show encouraged me to pick up the guitar."
Elaine was actually born in Ireland, then emigrated to Vancouver with her family at age five. The Ryans are a musical family, and Elaine would often sing harmonies with her younger brother, who’s also a musician. "Music would always be playing in our house," she recalls. She took drama and musical theatre throughout high school. “That was my introduction to performing. Lord Byng Secondary had a great program, and several excellent performers, including Hollywood actors Cobie Smulders and Carly Pope, have come out of it.�
The school of hard knocks that is busking also provided invaluable experience. "Before I even began writing songs, I had a spell of busking in Switzerland. That was good for getting over jitters, and it certainly toughens you up."
Study then took precedence over music, as Ryan took an arts degree at the University of British Columbia, completing a B.A.with Honors, with a major in International Relations and a minor in Political Science. Career options considered included development work and law, while studying flamenco dance in Seville created a dilemma. Ryan proved a natural at this most romantic of dance forms, but she explains that "I had to decide between music and dance and which one to take more seriously. I felt music was a better form of self-expression for me."
Flamenco’s loss is folk music’s gain, but lessons from flamenco proved invaluable. "I feel that what rubbed off from flamenco was the confidence my teachers exuded," says Elaine. "The sense that you can be very feminine, yet very confident and in control at the same time is what I love about flamenco. I also love the intense emotion of flamenco,
and I like to make my songs intense emotionally." That is apparent in a new song like "September Promise," and such passionately poetic lines as "there’s a drunken jailer in my chest…but I will break through the bars of this ribcage to get to you."
Ryan is now fully committed to music, and her development as a songwriter of real depth is showcased on Songs From The River. That skill had first been demonstrated on Sisters, via songs that effectively fused the personal and the political. The title track is a clarion call for female solidarity ("all over the world you’ve got sisters looking out for you"), while she bravely adopts the persona of a womanizer on "Saviour" ("he was looking for a savior in the body of a woman"). Another EP highlight is the tender "Dream Of Peace," a song that encouraged film-maker Shane Morgan to work with Elaine on filming a music video for the 2007 MAD Film Festival, one that won the Best Score category.
Elaine’s powers of persuasion as a songwriter are demonstrated on another tune for Songs From The River, "A Simple Love." Armed with

Lyrics

A Simple Love

Written By: Elaine Ryan

This is just a simple love song
For a simple love
So no, I don’t think it’ll top the charts
Or change patriarchy
But it just might touch your heart
This is just a simple love song
For a simple love, be strong
Now take the next step and be with me

At long last our story-book moment has arrived
So now we won’t believe our eyes
Come on and catch my next wave babe
And we’ll see
If you can see the sea I see
You say that you don’t believe in fate
But that part of you still twitches away like a phantom limb
Well tell me who cut it off in the first place?
Cause we’ve been showered with blessings from up above
And I know that inside you believe in this love
So don’t tell me that everything you’ve done has been all your own doing

Chorus

We’re fed an alphabet soup of rationality
If you could question all your questioning then maybe you could see
And when GODDESS floats to the top
Think of me while you’re eating
Because the only thing that makes a thing a tragedy
Is the underlying fact of our divinity
Why would we even be sad if we didn’t know deep down we’re all worthy
So come on jump with me into the sea of doubt
You know there’s nothing really there for us to talk about
If there’s no heaven then we’re double-fucked
It’s either do it or die wondering

Chorus

Sisters

Written By: Elaine Ryan

Do you ever wake up on sunny mornings and know you should feel happy inside
But all that you feel is so much confusion over the man by your side
Does he love you, and if he does why does he come home so late at night
And why is it so hard for him to remember the little things that give you peace of mind

CHORUS
If you’re feeling all alone
In all that pain you’re going through
I just want you to know that all over the world
You’ve got sisters looking out for you

Are you that soft spoken woman, shaky hands and tired eyes
When you speak do you stutter, then look to him to see if what you said was right
I’m not trying to preach and I’m not trying to tell you what to do
See I’ve been exactly where you are
And I got no right to look down on you but…

CHORUS

And every woman who’s been there will tell you there are moments of truth sometimes
And all I wish, all I hope, is that you’ll listen to that voice inside
But if you can’t hear it for all of the screaming and the battles raging in your mind
Just remember that you’re beautiful and I swear there’s so much more to life

Your Reckoning

Written By: Elaine Ryan

The wind keeps trying to talk to me
Name-dropping all the time
Too much coincidence to be mere events that coincide
And you know the thing you know the thing you know even if you cannot name it
You know the thing you know the thing you know even if you can’t explain it

CHORUS
Sometimes you’re tested and it’s so hard to leave the scene
Sometimes you’re tested just to prove where you’ve been
But can you brave the dull discipline
No ego bath to revel in
No little secret to your grin
Just who you are when you begin
Your reckoning

Here is my body on day fourteen
Beggin in places that cannot be seen
As a thousand tiny daggers stab their warning at me
Let’s see if I will heed them, let’s see

Cause self-betrayal’s second nature and what if pain means love
And ain’t it funny how our culture would tend to back that up
And the western world won’t trust a wisdom so strong
If it can’t trust the soil it was built on

CHORUS

Cause I still feel weak when I hear your name
But I built my strength in the time away
And I got no tricks to keep you down
But I made sure I learned how to stay

The wind keeps trying to talk to me
Name-dropping all the time
Too much coincidence to be mere events that coincide

Dream of Peace

Written By: Elaine Ryan

Remember those worried days
Watch them as they drift away
And bask in this moment of grace
Happy to be in this place

And dream, dream, dream a dream of peace

Forget all your wisdom, your whistles and bells
I’ll love you for free so you’ve nothing to sell
Just bask in this moment of grace
Happy to be in this place

And dream, dream, dream a dream of peace

Close your little eyes and
Open up inside you’ve
Never really had
Anything to hide

Just bask in this moment of grace
Happy to be in this place

And dream, dream, dream a dream of peace

Discography

April 2010 Full Length Release: Songs from the River

Dream On! MLK Collaboration
"Dream of Peace"

EP: The Sisters EP
Single: 'A Simple Love'

Radio play:
Radio Centreville, Montreal
CHOQ FM, Montreal
CBC radio
CKSF, Burnaby
Vancouver Coop Radio
Radio Pio-Paia, Maui
Mana'o Public Radio, Maui

Set List

Set List:
Sisters
Reckoning
Monday Morning
Cry In My Arms
Tea
A Simple Love
September Promise
The River
Making Eyes
Trial by Fire
Diesel
Your Kind of Woman
Saviour
Dream of Peace
Aching
Still On My Mind
On My Side
Good Little Girl
No Excuses

Covers:
Sorry-Tracy Chapman
You had Time-Ani Difranco
Steal My Kisses-Ben Harper
I Shall Be Release-Bob Dylan
Good Boy-Barenaked Ladies

I usually play two 45 minute sets, almost all originals with a few covers thrown in.