• Discovery Music: How a Near-Death Experience Inspired Ryan Lofty to Follow His Musical Path

    Ryan Lofty always showed signs he was destined for a career in music. As a youngster, his mother would conduct music lessons in their home. When the lessons were over, Ryan was able to play back what he had heard on the piano. An ear that good is a gift, and his mother knew she had to help cultivate Ryan’s talent. She helped get him started playing guitar at age 10; by the time he was old enough to drive, Ryan had also picked up drums, bass and trumpet.

    Ryan’s path may have been set for him long before he even realized it, yet even with his natural talent, he still had trouble seeing all of this as a lifelong career path. It wasn’t until a near-fatal car crash at the age of 15, which put him in a wheelchair for an extended period, that he realized he needed to drop everything and pursue his passion for music completely. With nothing much to do while he was off his feet, he devoted his time to expanding his sonic palette and began a ritual of constantly producing.

    It wasn’t until he was 21 that he fell in love with electronic music. At that point, already a burgeoning producer, he had the skills and knowledge to develop something fresh and in harmony with who he was. What emerged was a take on tropical house, which combined all the skills he’d spent the majority of his life perfecting.

    Ryan recently released his full-length debut album, Tourists From the Future, a stripped-down journey through chilled-out beats and organic sounds that combines his love for live instrumentation with heavenly synths, inspired vocal offerings and an aesthetic influenced by the desert landscape surrounding his Las Vegas home. While he has been categorized under the tropical house umbrella and has been compared to Kygo and Thomas Jack, Ryan’s sound is so much more than that. His diverse background has allowed him to thrive, with a sound that is intelligent, cool and laid-back yet still totally danceable.

    We caught up with Ryan between sets at both SXSW and Beyond Wonderland SoCal this past weekend, where he followed up a night of techno with his melodic sound for a crowd that was more than ready to join him on his journey.

    It seems you’ve been releasing this style of music for only a few short years. What were you doing musically before that?
    Throughout high school and college, I played in bands and composed for all kinds of different projects. That experience ultimately led to me landing a job as a composer for Disney in Los Angeles. After working at the creative campus for 18 months, I decided I wasn’t cut out for the whole day-job gig. I left and founded my own music publishing company, where I compose mainly for TV, web and film. That gave me the breathing space to focus on developing my own unique sound, and I finally started releasing artist music under my own name in 2015.

    How did your accident inspire you to start producing?
    I was a passenger in a car that ran a stop sign onto a highway and was struck by an SUV traveling 70 MPH. No one thought I’d survive. I always wanted to create music. The realization that life is short and can end at any moment took away the fear of failing, and now there’s nothing that could change my mind about this career. 

    Do you feel like that changed the direction of your life?
    Definitely. I started being a lot more positive about everything and figured out that I 100 percent wanted to create music for a living. It was the feeling that if I only had so much time on earth, I wanted to make the best out of every single day and situation. I still operate with the same principles today. I’m incredibly lucky to be here!

    Is there a particular reason you landed on tropical house?
    I wrote a majority of my new album, Tourists From the Future, two years ago while I was first starting to find my sound as an artist. When the album was almost finished, my friend Bonx and I wrote “The Mountain,” which sounded different from all of the other songs. It felt more like a single than part of the album, so I released it. After the response was so great, I decided to shelve the album and release singles in the same vein all summer.

    With such a saturated market, how do you set yourself apart from your peers?
    I think being an independent artist and composer simultaneously is pretty unique. I use the two different career paths to play off of each other and find a lot of enjoyment in always working on something different every day. My focus as an artist is melody and storytelling, and my format is live instruments over electronic beats. This isn’t revolutionary, but the fact I have a sound that can be identified across all my music is good for having only been working on this for a couple of years. 

    On the commercial side, I have a library of over 200 songs and own all my own masters and publishing. I think this is pretty rare—being able to independently license my own music and live off the income. This is usually what interests labels and publishing companies when they first approach me, though the deal has never been right, so I’m happy to stay 100 percent independent for now.

    Electronic music has become incredibly diverse. Where do you think things are going next?
    I think live elements are key. There has been a big backlash against ghost producing, because fans feel lied to. They want to know the person they’re watching perform the music is the person who created it. In response, I think live instruments and live vocals are becoming more common for DJs who produce their own music.

    With such a rich musical background, I’m sure you have diverse tastes as well. What are you listening to right now that isn’t electronic?
    I definitely have diverse tastes. I listen to quite a lot of hip-hop and R&B music. I recently produced a full-length album for an artist from Chicago, Rich Jones. He’s an incredible rapper, but I’ve always known he could sing. With that in mind, we set out to create an album that showcased a different side of both of us. We debuted the project for the first time at an official SXSW showcase this weekend, and it went extremely well. I’m excited for the rest of the world to hear what we created. 

    Other than that, I love the alt rock station on SiriusXM and also enjoy listening to podcasts like John Fulford’s Music Licensing Lifestyle. I enjoy learning in this way and find it both relaxing and motivating. I’m also always growing my vinyl collection. My studio is in the same building as a coffee shop/record store that plays vinyl all day long. I’ve found quite a few records just by stopping by and hearing what they’re playing. My favorite recent purchase is Chick Corea/Steve Kujala Voyage. It’s a really trippy piano and jazz flute album.

    We always want to know what inspires our artists. Check out what Ryan Lofty had to say about three of his own tracks.