Matt Ryd

Chicago singer-songwriter Matt Ryd creates pop music in the classic sense--accessible yet meaningful lyrics, crisp production and hooks galore!

He released his first EP, "Rock and/or Roll," in 2008. The EP included the winning track "Healed," which has been featured on an episode of the popular TV series Scrubs and turns up on the new full-length CD, "Looking For Home."

Ryd recently celebrated the release of "Looking for Home" with a sold-out show at Schuba's Tavern and has been getting some serious attention from radio and press in the Windy City!

How do you describe your music to people, Matt?
If I have to describe it quickly, I say: “pop/rock”. If I have a little more time, I describe it as: “what would happen if Simon & Garfunkel, Rilo Kiley, and Journey got into a fight with a blender.” And, if pressed for specifics, I usually say: “Upbeat, catchy melodies with introspective lyrics.” My goal is that the songs get stuck in your head because of the melodies and that the lyrics make you want to keep them there.

My parents forced me to take piano lessons for four years when I was growing up. At the time, it was pretty much the worst punishment that I could possibly imagine, but it was probably the greatest gift that anyone could have given me. The piano lessons gave me a grounding in some of the fundamentals of music (e.g. reading scores, understanding harmony, etc.) and really set the stage for everything that I have done since.

I wrote my first song when I was 14 years old. It was a sappy piano ballad about a girl that I had crushed on since the first grade. I’m not going to lie... it was a pretty awful song, but the basics were there. Listening back to it, I’m a little surprised how much form the song has--it fits fairly well into the traditional pop/rock mold of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus.

When I turned 16, I decided to try my hand at guitar, and I’ve really never looked back since then. The first song that I ever successfully learned on guitar was a song that I had written, and that fact has really set the tone for the rest of my music career.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Ignoring anything music-related, my favorite activity would have to be reading. I have a ridiculously large collection of books--everything from fiction to sociology to memoir to history.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Being an independent artist means that you have to fill a large number of roles. I fulfill the traditional roles of singer and songwriter, but I’m also my own manager, my own web designer, my own social media manager, my own recording engineer, my own graphic artist, and more. It has definitely been a challenge to figure out how to manage all of those different aspects of my career--to find a balance between the creative and the practical and be able to both create music and promote it. I’ve improved since I started, but I’m certain that I still have a great deal to learn.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I definitely never thought that I would be a musician. At one point, I thought that I was going to become an artist. At another point, I think I wanted to be a detective. For a while, I wanted to be a lawyer. Then I decided that I’d rather just be an author who writes legal thrillers (I went through a big John Grisham phase in middle school).

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I live in Chicago, and I absolutely love this city. I was very lucky to plug into an open mic community very shortly after moving here. The other songwriters at the open mics were great sources of inspiration and feedback.

Also, since I live in a large city, I spend a great deal of time on public transportation. I love that this affords me a great deal of time to read, to write, and listen to music.  Several of my songs have been finished on the El train--I load my iPod with an instrumental demo and bang out verse lyrics during the ride from the far north side to downtown.

What other artists out there do you love?
I spend a lot of time listening to local music. The fun thing about being an independent musician is that you get a chance to meet a lot of other indie bands, and there is never a shortage of new music. Some of the highlights include Cobalt and the Hired Guns, I Fight Dragons, State & Madison and The Aesthetic. And there are more great singer/songwriters around here than I could possibly remember: some of my favorites are Heather Styka, Mike Mentzer, Alain de Courtenay, and Gia Margaret (who are just starting to record under the name “Little Light”), Emily Claire Palmer. That’s barely scratching the surface of the talented people that I’m lucky to know.

And in terms of all-time favorite musical acts, I’ll always love Matt Nathanson, Simon & Garfunkel, Rilo Kiley, Nickel Creek, Journey and any band that has ever written a power ballad. I love power ballads.

What does your future hold?
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for hoverboards and shoes with power laces. Failing that, though, I plan to keep making music. I did an East Coast tour this past summer, and I’m hoping to make it to the West Coast this winter. Also, spending two years working on a full-length album has made realize that I’d greatly prefer to put out shorter, more frequent releases. I’m already excited to start recording the next E.P. or single!