I met with Ryan Aderréy in the shadow of the Prudential Center, in his basement apartment a few blocks from Berklee College of Music. He’s a blossoming singer-songwriter in his 20s, so without much recorded music for me to listen to or interviews to peruse, I didn’t quite know what to expect. An anguished poet? A practiced instrumentalist? Not really; Aderréy’s character and story were nothing I could have predicted. From his spirituality to his stint as a professional soccer player, Aderréy opened up about his path to the top of the Billboard charts.

Adam: Let’s start with your career path, which seems to zigzag. You started at Boston University as a journalism major but eventually decided that it wasn’t for you.

Ryan: I did an internship at the Boston Globe. I was there for a couple of years and I saw how they never went home. They tucked their kids in to bed over the phone and never really saw their families. I was like I don’t know if I want to do this. Then the music opportunity came up and I took it. The rest is history.

AK: So do you think that music has allowed you some sort of flexibility to be with family, to live a typical life?

RA: I think that it has, yeah, and definitely compared to journalism. I have more opportunities right now. When I travel I go down to south Florida because I have a production deal with a producer there, and my family’s in south Florida so I’ll get to see them. I do a lot of shows in the Northeast, too. I have some friends in DC. I think that I get to see a lot more people now than I would have if I had chosen journalism.

AK: Music is obviously your passion. When did it become such an important part of your life?

RA: I think when I was in high school. I was a sophomore and my friend who sings—he’s actually part of an electronic duo called Just Now—got me into making electronic instrumentals with a keyboard at home. They were terrible but we were really proud of them. Music still wasn’t the main focus, but that’s when I really started to develop a passion for it. For a good 10 years I just made these beats for fun, just on the side.

AK: And while we’re talking about careers, I know you were once a professional soccer player.

RA: I was, for just a little under three years.

AK: That’s such a contrast to your music career. What does music give you that soccer couldn’t? Soccer is an admirable and interesting profession, one that I’d assume most professionals have a passion for.

RA: They both have their own forms of competition. I think I prefer music in that I compete with myself to be better than I was the next day, whereas in soccer it’s very literal—you have to beat the opposition out to score the goal. In music there’s so many people trying to do it, that if I think about the thousands of people trying to sing, they’ve already won, so my main focus is just to be better than I was yesterday. I prefer that kind of competition: pushing myself instead of directly having to compete with someone else. I think that’s what music gave me that soccer couldn’t.

AK: Music can definitely be collaborative, but certainly the business seems cutthroat at times. Have you felt that at all?

RA: Oh absolutely. It’s more like what can you do for other people. When you’re collaborating with a manager or a promoter they’re not going to take you on unless they can benefit too. So it’s definitely cutthroat.

AK: You’ve had the chance to collaborate with some well known producers, haven’t you?

RA: Absolutely. I’ve been blessed with being with Jimmy Douglass, Timbaland’s righthand man. He did the whole Justin Timberlake album, the 20/20 experience. I’ve also worked with Zach Ziskin, a Grammy-winning producer. I just have to soak it in and pick their brains and figure out what made them so successful. It’s been a blessed opportunity.

AK: So a lot has changed since you were this kid making beats on his own. What is your music career now, to you?

RA: Well if you were to ask me a year ago, we would say it’s going nowhere—we’re quitting. And now we’re number 33 on the Billboard indictor chart with our single, so it’s legitimately taking off. We can say that we belong, we’re a part of this scene, and we think we can really make it.

AK: That song is “A Miracle, My Love.” I have to ask, are you religious at all? Do you believe in miracles?

RA: You know, a lot of people do think that it’s a religious song, but when it was written it wasn’t intended to be. I do believe in a higher being that governs us. Not really sure what that is. I struggle with that everyday. So I wouldn’t call myself religious, but I am educated in the religions, though I think I could be a lot more so. I’m more spiritual than religious.

AK: Do you see your own spirituality in the songs that you write?

RA: I think subconsciously it comes through in a lot of them. Even in a song like “We Are One,” there’s a line about your words through the rubble, and there’s a lot of religious or spiritual imagery that comes across. I don’t think that it’s intentional, but maybe subconsciously there’s something there that when we write we want it to be that way.

AK: Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics? I’m sure you’re well read as a journalism major. Do you find influences from your college studies?

RA: I took poetry and creative writing as a minor, so I’ve read the best writers and yeah, absolutely. I draw inspiration from them. I draw inspiration from growing up listening to Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Jackson Browne and those kinds of artists. And I just draw inspiration from things I hear and see. The other day I had had writer’s block for months, couldn’t write a thing, and I kept hearing these neighbors having dinner parties on their patio. I started listening to their conversations, and I wrote a song based off what I heard them say. It’s called “Leave the Window Open” because as long as I left the window open, the inspiration kept flowing in.

AK: How would you describe your music without using genre names or any other conventional labels?

RA: It’s just music with the intention to make you feel. When you go through the album you’re going to go through the entire emotional spectrum. You’re gonna be mad, you’re gonna be sad, you’re gonna be happy. If at the end of the day our music makes you say, “Hey, I’m so glad someone else went through what I did, I’m so relieved I’m not the only one going through this, the only one that felt this,” then we’ve succeeded in our minds.

AK: You mentioned how you want your audience to relate to your songs and really feel what you’re feelings when you produce and write this music. Have you found that that’s been reciprocated in the music you listen to? Do you feel yourself latching onto the emotions of, say, the poets you read or artists you like?

RA: I tend to gravitate toward guys like Ed Sheeran. I love Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy where you can just feel the cynicism and the sarcasm hanging in what they’re saying. They try to be funny, but you can just tell that they’ve been hurt in the past and it really comes through. We just saw a group called Penny and Sparrow and they’re unbelievable. It’s just a guy and his guitar and a singer. That’s it. It was mesmerizing. The guy has a once-in-a-generation voice and you could just feel the pain in his words. He stood there with his hands in his pockets, didn’t move an inch, and you were just like… wow.

AK: I think this is true for a lot of people, but it sounds like you enjoy listening to painful music, which is funny if you think about it. Who wants to feels pain? Who wants to feel miserable? But somehow when it’s encapsulated in music and lyrics, there’s something about it that’s really likable and enjoyable.

RA: I agree. I think that that’s the beauty of music. It’s taking such an ugly feeling or an ugly emotion and making it into something beautiful. It gives you the voice to do that. And like you said, you might be having a bad day or you might be pissed off at something, and this music just lets you let it all out. It’s cathartic. It’s therapeutic. It’s awesome. Music is the only medium to really allow you to do something like that.

AK: I feel like that really comes through during live performances. Have you had any live performances of note where you could really tell the audience is feeling your music while you’re feeding off of them, having that cathartic experience?

RA: Yeah, we had one in Indiana, and afterwards people came up to us. One girl referenced my song about hope, which is a song about a little girl growing up in an abusive household. The girl said she’s a recovering drug addict who was abused by both of her parents. She said that the song really tugged at her heart strings. It gave her hope. It was really the moment when we said okay, we know why we do what we do now.

AK: This may be a touchy question, but where you did you find inspiration for that song?

RA: It was a friend of mine [whom] I watched growing up. I just witnessed it first hand, how abusive the circumstances were. It wasn’t physically abusive, but it was so emotionally abusive and so obvious that you just cringe. You don’t want to set foot in that house. You get the goosebumps when you hear how they were talked to or see how they were treated. It was just like wow, you need to get yourself out of this situation. And no matter how bad it got, I was just inspired and in awe that they never gave up. If you had witnessed this, literally, I wouldn’t have blamed them for committing suicide. It was that bad. It was that abusive. And they couldn’t get out until they were 18. Luckily they did eventually, but the strength that that person showed to not give up and not take the easy way out was just so inspiring that I had to turn it into a song. That’s what it’s about.

AK: Do you have any upcoming shows in the area?

RA: We have the one in New York coming up, and then we’re playing a number of shows at Camplified, which is a place kids who can’t afford camp go to in the Summer. They bring in performers and stuff. The first one is actually in Brookfield, Massachusetts, in the middle of the forest. That’s our first one and then we’re going to upstate New York and playing a couple there. That’s all that’s on the schedule right now. I think that they’re looking to get me as an opener on some bigger tours. That’s really what they’re working on so they’ve lessened their aggressiveness in getting the local shows. We’ll see what happens.

AK: Okay, so I have one last question. You were a professional soccer player. Did you have any favorites in this year’s World Cup?

RA: Well I was rooting for the US, being American and all, but I knew they were a heavy underdog. I knew they weren’t going to go that far. Playing in the Netherlands, I think that that’s my adopted country, so I was really rooting for them and was really upset that they lost in the semi-finals in PKs. That was a tough loss.

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