It sounds like something out of a movie:
Singer/songwriter decides to follow his heart. He leaves everyone and everything he knows behind, packs his bags and moves to another place to be with someone. He doesn't speak the language, and all of his previous social and musical connections are an ocean away.
In Ryan MacGrath's case, this isn't a movie script; it's his life.
MacGrath moved to Austria after falling in love with a man who was leaving the country to go to Innsbruck. His upcoming EP, The Pink Lark, is a collection of songs about that experience. Down East chatted with MacGrath via email about the new album, which will be released on March 4.
Tell me about this new EP. How did it come to be?
It's called The Pink Lark. It's essentially a collection of songs that follows my moving here to Innsbruck from Halifax. They were all written here over the past year. The one exception is "Speechless," which was written a couple of years ago. It just made sense somehow to include it with this group of songs. The songs are very stripped down and sparse, something of which was a bit of a challenge for me in the studio. I love layering melodies and instruments, so when I decided to approach the songs more acoustically, I really had to shift my brain and trust in the bare bones of the songs -- that they could carry themselves without all the support of additional treatment/production.
I worked with a young gentleman named Chris Vano on the project. He's a native of Austria and an established piano/keys player. We recorded it in his studio over a three-week period, on and off. I had expressed to Chris prior to making the record that I wanted to KEEP IT SIMPLE (that's been my new motto as of late), and he was up for approaching the songs with restraint. He also reined me in when I might have otherwise had a tendency to want to add more to the songs.
What was it like to leave Nova Scotia, and Canada, for a new country, a new culture, a new language.
It was pretty fucking scary! And exciting. I was in need of a change of scenery after having lived in Halifax for 15 years, and this opportunity couldn't have come at a better time.
Of course, the language difference was (and is) the biggest obstacle in the move. Also, I was faced with the fact that no one here knew my music, and I was essentially starting from scratch as far as promoting myself went. Over the last year I've met some great people who are helping to get my music out there into the Austrian and EU scenes. Just takes a bit of patience and work.
Another major obstacle is being away from family and friends and the support network of fans and fellow musicians in Halifax. There isn't the same kind of musical community here in Innsbruck as I was used to being a part of in Halifax. You know, musicians collaborating on each others' records and shows and writing . . . that singer/songwriter scene just doesn't really exist here. But, there are people who want to hear the music, and that makes things better.
I'm playing more and more shows, thankfully, and I have some people helping me to book a tour in Germany in June as well as a UK tour in July and August. I'll also be playing at the World Out Games in Antwerp, Belgium, this summer. During the rest of the winter and in early spring, I'll be playing shows throughout Austria, one in London and a few more in surrounding countries.
What about distribution? How will your fans get access to it?
The EP will primarily be released online via Bandcamp. There will be physical copies available, as well, through CD Baby and in select stores in Canada and over on this side of the pond. The best place to keep track of how to get a copy is on my website, ryanmacgrath.com.
Also, I'll be selling the EP at shows! And I plan to tour Canada in September/October. Date will be posted in the near future on my site.