Artist Interview Series: Ryley Smith

Cat Family Records (CF): Tell us about your music Ryley, if you had to describe it.

Ryley Smith (RS): I’m trying to go for like a jazzy / blues fusion…I have a really heavy classical Spanish influence but I never get to bring it out; I never have a reason to use it so in my own time. I really like to write instrumental, classically influenced pieces. When I perform, I feel like I perform better singing to more rhythmic like bluesy, jazzy, guitar. So it's weird combing the fusions of a classical Spanish influence with a jazzy influence.  

Jeff Buckley I would say is my biggest inspiration. I got his words tattooed on my side when I was seventeen. It says, “It’s never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder.” I still to this day don't know how to play that song, it's the one song that baffled my brain, “Lover you should have come over."

CF: So you already named Jeff Buckley, what are some of your other influences?

RS: I would definitely say Carol King. Led Zeppelin is a big influence on how I play guitar. Jimmy Page, Lindsay Buckingham, and especially Amy Winehouse on the guitar. Learning her music has been one of my biggest guitar influences. She is so iconic, a heartbreaking story; I’ve watched every video I could get my hands on. Allen Stone, he's a great influence. Warpaint! They really inspired my song “So Bad." I produced “So Bad” with my bass player/producer Logan in the living room of my house in a matter of two hours. I showed him a song by Warpaint and I wanted to make something similar so we did, with just a computer and interface and a salt shaker and now that song is on Spotify. It's so crazy to me to think about the fact that my song is on Spotify and I made it in my living room. I didn't think that would ever even happen. We free-styled most of the words, they didn't even make sense to us at the time… it was good.  

CF: How long have you been performing in Tallahassee?

RS: I moved down here in early December and by January 1st I booked a show at the Crumbox. I came down to Railroad Square one day with my grandmother, she was showing me around Tallahassee and I saw a musicians wanted sign.

CF: What inspired you to pick up the trumpet?

RS: I had originally met my trumpet player last October through mutual friends. A while later I was driving through Chapel Hill one day and I saw her leaning over this balcony and this parking garage was on fire. It turned out that someones car was on fire, but me being the nosey person that I am stopped on the side of the road in between all the firetrucks and the cops because I was interested. I see her leaning over the third floor balcony, so I roll down my window and yell “Elena." She's looks down on me like “Hey!” and that was the first time we really met. She invited me upstairs so I just left my car on the side of the street and walked up to her building. I saw she had a ukulele on her couch and she's like “Oh I have a trumpet too!" So I told her I play guitar and ask her to join my band! I heard her play a couple days later and we just started playing together immediately. The weekend after I met her I went and bought a sax, but a shitty pawn shop guy sold me a faulty sax so I sold it back to him and went and got a trumpet. I'm actually much better at the trumpet and I’ve been writing some trumpet songs trying to catch up with Elena.  She doesn’t know it yet but I am.  

CG: What have been some of your struggles as as artist?

RS: Sometimes its a little hard to be taken seriously as a female musician, people don't give you as much credit as a girl.  From my experience if you meet a guy their music is taken more seriously. I have noticed it feels a little illegitimate trying to sell myself on people. 


Charles Bell