Talk about yourself—Who are you? Where are you located? What band(s) do you play in?Any other hobbies?
Hey! I’m Ryan Scott Graham, a musician, artist (and self-proclaimed vintage stylist) living in Studio City, California. Currently I’m playing in 4 bands (two full time, two low pressure hobby pursuits). My full time gig is playing bass in a pop punk band called State Champs, as well as fronting a solo indie rock endeavor called Speak Low. My two new bands have yet to drop music (as they were started during the pandemic), but they both kick ass – I promise. My other hobbies include collecting and curating vintage t-shirts, amateur film photography and reading a good book! I got really into caring for plants over the past year, so I’m pretty obsessed with that right now. It brings a whole new energy to my life that I didn’t know I was missing!
(you’ll find all the info you need at these links)
What genre do you play?
State Champs is heavily influenced by early 00’s pop punk, think bands like Blink 182, New Found Glory, Simple Plan and Good Charlotte, although I think we’re on the poppier side of punk. Speak Low started as an acoustic singer songwriter project, but has evolved into a full band indie rock outfit for fans of Death Cab For Cutie. My new bands are more influenced by 90’s alternative rock like Pavement and the Pixies and powerpop bands, like Jellyfish and Superdrag.
What is your instrument of choice? Do you play other instruments? Is there any you wish you could play?
I play bass in State Champs, and although I love writing bass parts because it involves using a different part of my brain, I would almost always prefer to play the guitar. Guitar is my first love! I dabble a little bit on the keys and need to keep up with my lessons if I’m ever gonna get better! I WISH more than anything I could be a badass drummer, but for whatever reason I cannot separate my hand from my foot, so me playing the drums is just simply noise.
Tell me about your gear—what did you start out with and what did you upgrade to (if at all)?
I started out with a small Danelectro electric guitar when I was about 14, but my mom said she wouldn’t buy me an amp until I learned some chords. So I basically strummed as hard as I could to even hear what I was doing until I got good enough to buy a little amp, of course that was about 20 broken strings later. After that I bought an acoustic guitar and fell in love all over again. For whatever reason, writing songs on acoustic always came natural to me so for the first few years everything I did was based around that. I was really influenced by Goo Goo Dolls and Dashboard Confessional at that time, two bands who perfected playing in huge open tunings. For the last few years I’ve rotated between two guitars, a Fender Telecaster and a boutique company out of Detroit called Reverend, and I’ve had the same trusty amplifier since high school, a Fender Hot Rod Deville 212.
What bands influence your playing style?
I’m obviously influenced by a ton of different artists for different reasons, but when it comes down to my personal guitar playing style I’d say I’m very influenced by the first few Third Eye Blind records. Kevin Cadogan is an extremely tasteful and underrated player in my opinion and the way he thinks about chords is really unique. He pushed me to experiment a lot more when I was first starting out. I also fell in love with a band called As Cities Burn in high school and the reason I loved them so much, aside from their lyrics, was because the guitar work was just different than anything else I had heard before. It was technical and smart, but didn’t sound forced. It was natural and full of energy and passion and that was evident to me. I think I’ve always strived to capture that gut instinct feeling when it comes to making a guitar part that moves someone.
If you were to recommend music for others to listen to, what would be your top 3 bands/artists?
Counting Crows is one of my favorite bands, so I’m always encouraging people to listen to their early records and not just Mr. Jones haha! Adam Duritz is a truly gifted storyteller and I get lost in their music almost daily. A band that I’ve been really influenced by lately is Teenage Fanclub. Super incredible powerpop band from Scotland who blew up in the 90’s – if I can remember correctly, I think Kurt Cobain said if he could be in any other band it would be Teenage Fanclub. That’s pretty significant. And lastly if I were to recommend a third band to someone it would have to be The Sundays. Gorgeous jangly ethereal pop music, you’ll just have to listen to know what I mean!
Were you a band geek? If you weren’t, how and when did you decide to be a musician?
I wasn’t a band geek in high school and I actually regret it! I definitely thought being in band in high school was lame, I was more of a class clown so I felt the need to poke fun at everything. Looking back I think being in band probably would have been one of the best things for my career, I’m sure I’d be further along in regards to overall musicianship, but hindsight is 20/20. It didn’t occur to me until I went to my first local show that I decided to get the guitar and try out being a musician. Before music, I was focused on playing baseball. All that changed when I realized how cool it looked to rock out on stage with your friends. The rest is history.
What is your song writing process?
My process is pretty simple in my opinion! It either starts with a thought or a concept for lyrical content or a riff. It’s never the same thing twice. If something moves me, whether that’s a lyric or a piece of music, it always seems like that’s a good place to start.
Do you have any future goals or plans?
After being on the road for the better part of the last 7 years, I’m finding my priorities are starting to shift. My next goal as far as music goes is to become a songwriter for other artists. In the beginning, I think I used to look down on artists who didn’t write their own songs, but now that I’m older and have seen behind the curtain a little bit, a good song is a good song. It doesn’t really matter who wrote it and who is singing it. If I can be any part of that vessel for a song to come to life, I’m happy to devote time to being on both sides.
Any advice for aspiring musicians?
Be real, be you and don’t be afraid to try new things. Music is always evolving and you don’t want to get left behind. Also practice your damn instrument! People have no attention span these days, so you may only get one chance to make your mark on someone with your art.