Interview: Ryan Hemsworth Talks Growing International Appeal And Staying True To His Musical Quirk

Features

By: Stacy-Ann Ellis / November 26, 2013

Ryan Hemsworth knows he’s weird; it’s part of his charm. “I … try to make people notice that you can be weird and still have success,” he tells us over the phone. Hemsworth is, without a doubt, well on his way to success. He’s often straddling the fine line that lies between electronic dance music, R&B and rap, which aids in building a steady fan base across all genres.

The Nova Scotian DJ/producer’s music has been given the nod of approval by dance music titans A-Trak and Diplo, and his infamous guest remixes (he’s reworked songs by Migos, Frank Ocean, Mikky Ekko, Lana Del Rey, Lianne La Havas and others) have become crowd favorites. On October 22, Hemsworth dropped his debut full-length album Guilt Trips via Last Gang Records, which boasts vocals from a potpourri of artists like Sinead Hartnett, Kitty, Tinashe and Baths. With a sound that bounces all over the place, there’s more room for creative expansion and an even greater platform for global appeal.

VIBE chatted with Hemsworth about slowly but surely figuring out his style, having supporters beyond Canadian borderlines and his desire to pull up emerging talent to share the spotlight with him. –Stacy-Ann Ellis

VIBE: What about street culture influences you and the work that you do?
Ryan Hemsworth: It’s funny to me because nowadays I’m pretty much a hermit and live inside, but growing up I was really into skateboarding, obviously music and everything. The sound and the stuff I saw through videos. And kids my age growing up influenced my tastes. I guess I’m a fan of people who are working hard and I look to people from my generation, whether its rappers or kids I know who are starting their own brands. I definitely get influenced by people who are at work everyday and trying to make something of their own name.

Since you’ve gotten a lot of buzz, how much do you think you’re influencing the culture?
Just by how I try to push my music, make myself seen in a way and try to make people notice that you can be weird and still have success. I try to approach my music the way that I wanna do it. I can only speak on music. I think if people are getting any sort of inspiration from me, that’s where it’s coming from. Be as weird as you want and if you stick to your guns and keep doing it, people will just notice and they can respect your uniqueness.

How’d you describe your sound and style?
Um… I think my style is probably confused or uncertain [laughs]. I feel like I’ve always tried figuring it out. I’ve gone through lots of different phases throughout my life. I’ve been into rap for a little while, then I’ve been into indie rock for a while and stuff like that, so that kind of influence today is like trying to dress like Kanye West during his 808s and Heartbreaks or today I feel like dressing like Kurt Cobain. I jump around a lot, so maybe indecisive is my style.

That’s not a bad thing.
Yeah, you get to make things fun instead of being the same everyday.

How exactly did you get started with your music?
I started making music when I was like 13 or 14. I started playing guitar and singing and recording myself, then producing my own stuff on my computer at home. Eventually it became more and more internal, just on the computer to the point where I didn’t need any outer equipment or anything. That’s how I became a producer/DJ or whatever. But growing up, I just followed stuff online. I had a cool cousin who put me onto good music, but it wasn’t a super creative household or anything. I had to dig for stuff myself, which is kinda the fun part for me. I discover things and that’s what makes music fun.

Did you have a co-signer kind of spreading your name around?
Yeah, for sure. When I was young and nobody cared at all, it was probably my cousin who’s from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He definitely pushed me to keep doing stuff and put it out there regardless of if anybody listened or not. But I think once I was actually starting to get a little bit of attention, it was more people from other countries, which I think I appreciated the most. People in France like Brodinski, and in Australia, this radio host, [people from] from NY supported for a while. People in different countries and stuff, I think that I appreciated them because it meant that I could get out of my country and see the world.

Musically, what inspires you? What kind of sounds do you draw from when you’re creating?
I think my friends, the producers that I listen to and that I’m associated with. I find that’s a great push. If I’m listening to Baauer or something, it’s a push for me to make stuff sound as good as their stuff sounds to me. It’s also good to see those people having success. Sweet, they’re doing it. That means I can do it too. I get inspiration from that.

In your opinion, what creators should we be checking for?
I’m a big fan of this kid who produces under the name Suicideyear. He’s from New Orleans. It’s funny because I followed him on Tumblr before he even made music. Random internet connection. And then he starts producing and immediately has his sound figured out, which I really admire because I feel like I’m still, after making music for a long time, trying to figure out my sound. Like damn, that kid’s probably really gonna go somewhere and he’s only like 17 or something. And there’s another producer named Eric Dingus, which is his real name, which is awesome. He’s from Texas and he literally just goes to a coffee shop every morning as soon as it opens, works on his computer all day and produces like 10 songs a day. I think his work ethic is gonna make him pretty huge. I think he’s starting to do something with Been Trill. There are definitely some kids who are killing it.

What impact would you like to have in the long run in the music game and what are your next big plans?
I’m just trying to continue proving myself. People in interviews ask how I feel about my success. It doesn’t feel like I’m anywhere near a point where I consider it success. Great things have been happening for sure. I just wanna continue to put out stuff, work with more and more unexpected people and also put on the musicians that I’m a huge fan of. If that’s anything that I’m noticing, I now have the power to show people, hey this artist is really cool. I can feature them on my album, then someone would follow that and check out their SoundClouds or whatever, you know? That’s the kind of stuff I wanna continue doing.

Which artists would you like to work with? Think dream collaborations.
Ben Gibbard from The Postal Service, the singer from The Wrens or work with random singers that I thought were awesome when I was in high school or in university. Like the singer from Jimmy Eat World. That would be amazing to do some collaboration with him. I think that would be a lot more unexpected and rare than doing another thing with a rapper or whatever.

It’s funny. I definitely expected you to say Drake.
I mean, Drake goes without saying [laughs].

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