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Oxford singer-songwriter Chris Ryder hits all the right notes
Singer-songwriter Chris Ryder explains to MATT AYRES why moving to Oxford helped kickstart his solo career
For Chris Ryder, great songs don’t come from hours sweated away in a stifling recording studio, nor fidgety post-production techniques. This Cowley-based singer-songwriter is an advocate for honest music. For him, that means recording his folk-rock tunes in quick, single takes, without so much as a metronome for accompaniment. Having just released his second EP, Chris is keen for others to see the magic in such a pure and simple approach to music.
“The idea behind it was to bring music back to being minimal, not-over produced,” the 30-year-old bar manager at Big Society explains. “It’s called To The Bones, so what you hear is what you get. I went into the studio for a day, just me and my guitar, and recorded four tracks. There was no vocal manipulation or anything like that.”
Originally from Birmingham, Chris moved to Oxfordshire three years ago in awe of the renowned music scene that buzzes all around the county. Acoustic guitar in hand, he first became acquainted with fellow musicians by signing up to play a variety of open mic nights at pubs in the OX4 area, from memorable performances at The Cape of Good Hope to “a bizarre night” at The Half Moon.
“It was just a case of needing to meet people,” he recalls. “I was quite lonely here, and it was going out and playing at open mics that helped me to do that, covering the likes of Jeff Buckley and Bob Dylan.”
Unlike many of the fervent fans who often cover these immortal artists, Chris only stumbled upon the influence of folk singer-songwriters recently. Originally, it was his love of a different kind of music that got him jamming with friends back in Birmingham: the Seattle grunge rock scene of the ‘90s.
“I loved Nirvana, they were a massive influence while I was growing up,” he says. “I always remember my Dad bringing the Nevermind cassette home and thinking ‘Why is there a naked baby on the front?’ Then I listened to it, and I couldn't stop. It was just incredible.”
This formative discovery led Chris to playing in his first garage rock bands, performing at regular gigs and discovering his talents as a songwriter. When it came to those first solitary performances in Oxford, though, Chris admits that going it alone was a completely new experience.
“It’s very challenging to play solo, you’ve got nothing to hide behind,” he acknowledges. “There are tons and tons of singer-songwriters out there – amazing, some of them. With a band you can plug in and be as loud as you like, it almost doesn’t matter who’s listening. It’s a different vibe as a solo artist, but when it is right it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“I played the Truck Store, and it was a great crowd, everyone was attentive. People seemed to really like it, and it was just a lovely gig. When you hit it right, and hit it with the right people, it’s the best thing ever.”
- Chris plays The Port Mahon, Oxford on December 5. Tickets from wegottickets.com.
- Get his EP at the Truck Store for £3.
- Look out for more details at chrisryder music.com
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