You may not have heard of Nick Ryan yet. The 26-year-old finger pickin’ poet is the next in a string of young songwriters from Grand Falls-Windsor to make their mark on the St. John’s music scene.
When he returned to the island from Nova Scotia last year, Ryan started rock band The Elizabeatans, which dabbles in blues, jazz and folk and will be releasing its first record this summer.
But he wanted a different way to share the poetry he had written for his second book of published works.
So he picked up his guitar, harmonica and, inspired primarily by the ’50s style folk music that led Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan to contribute in no insignificant way to the evolution of bare bones songwriting and playing, he composed the songs to accompany his lyrics.
He then nabbed fellow Grand Falls native Justin Davis of Heavyweather to, in a session that lasted only about two hours, record his first solo album “Side Saddle Flower”, a reference to the Pitcher Plant.
“About half the record is literally one take,” he says, sipping a pint at a local brewhouse. “I just practised for a month, going over and over the songs.”
Tunes like “If Love Falls Down,” “Ballad of Jenny Lou” and “Dorothy” touch on love and relationships, while “Unrequited Love” and “Side Saddle Flower” address the longing for home he felt after spending five years away.
But the most significant theme on the record emerges more from the vulnerable nature of Ryan’s style of playing.
“It’s about the songwriting, and I found it intimidating to record like that at first,” he says.
“I felt like if I take away pretty much everything — if it’s just me and an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, then it’s pretty much just about the song. I wanted to make it as much about the words as possible.
With the honesty and insight of a seasoned poet or songwriter, “Side Saddle Flower” will likely perk some ears when it’s released this weekend. And, in keeping with unconventionality, Ryan is not releasing the album on CD. Instead, he’s offering the songs as a free download on his website.
“I don’t want people to have it if and then not really like it,” he explains. “I’d rather that, when they’ve heard it, they can decide if they want to support it. I think that’s a lot fairer, personally, and I think it’s where music will go recording-wise.”
Joined by musical guests John Ennis, Clayton Saunders, Paddy Byrne, Joanna Barker and The Elizabeatans, Ryan will celebrate the release of his album Friday night at The Ship Pub. Showtime is 10:30 p.m. and cover is $10.
“Side Saddle Flower” will be available for download at nick-ryan.bandcamp.com.