Creative Coronation: Ryan Beatty Interviewed

Creative Coronation: Ryan Beatty Interviewed

"Hopefully my story can give them light..."

Ryan Beatty has a story to tell.

Once a teen-pop star with a closely guarded secret, he’s evolved to become a genre-less trailblazer, breaking out of creative and personal shackles to embrace pure, unadulterated freedom.

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The phrase ‘Prince of Pop’ is reserved for the absolute top tier of pop artistry. In the past few decades alone, Justin Timberlake has ascended the throne, before Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes began to jostle for the music industry crown. However not everyone who gets labelled a Pop Prince necessarily wants that tag. Listening to Ryan Beatty’s powerful admonitions, it becomes abundantly clear that this is an artist who’s trying to break as far away from this title as possible, and forge his own path into the not-so-royal family of the music industry.

“It’s been about nine years since I started this all, but I feel very refreshed because I’m doing it my way,” states a voice packed with confidence at the other end of the phone. That assertive tone belongs to alt-pop royalty-in-waiting Ryan Beatty, an artist who – despite only being 24 years old – has spent almost half of his adult life entwined with the music industry.

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Since being labelled and marketed as the ‘next Justin Bieber’ back in the early 2010s, Beatty has been through a chaotic few years in which he was embroiled in a bitter dispute with his old record label. However, in 2016, he was free to release his music once again, and all the built-up emotion and anger spilled out into what was a watershed moment for him, his debut album ‘Boy In Jeans’.

“After I made ‘Boy in Jeans’, it gave me the confidence and belief in my writing,” reveals the infectious Beatty. “Being in the industry at such a young age, it definitely broke me down, and made me feel a lack of confidence,” he states before adding that “it made me question my identity in general. Now I feel like I know myself very well, and I allow myself to constantly evolve”.

Growing up in the industry at such a young age is always going to be tough, but when you’re discovering who you really are as a person, while knowing that your inner revelations could profoundly alter your career, is ultimately the toughest situation you can be in, and one that Beatty knew all too well. Whilst he was being paraded as the next teen pop heartthrob, the California native was secluding the fact that he was gay from the people closest to him.

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As this internal conflict ate away at him – whether to keep quiet and carry on with the façade, or to face up to the way he was feeling – Beatty was finally gaining his own confidence as a performer. “Back then I definitely felt controlled by the people working with me... the audience too, in a way, ‘cos I had to perform but I wasn’t comfortable with it,” he confesses. “It wasn’t until I felt I’d lost everything anyways, that I thought: wait, why am I still afraid of this, when music is the one thing that brings me joy?”

In so many ways, the decision made itself: “I had no choice, I felt like ‘this is who I am, take it or leave it’, and as soon as I came out, it definitely took weight off my shoulders”.

Taking the life-changing step to announce that he was gay allowed him to truly discover himself as an artist, something that he feels made its way into his music. “I’m very open about my sexuality, and in doing so it gave me that freedom to say what I wanted,” he reveals. The magnitude of the inspiration he holds for his fans who may be struggling with their own identity isn’t lost on him. He knows that the music he makes and the lyrics he writes could give others the confidence to come out, too. “I’m very comfortable with my identity,” he states, “but I realise that there are people around the globe who simply aren’t, and hopefully my story can give them light. I want to continue to be less afraid of what people think of me and inspire others to do the same”.

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From that brave and inspiring Instagram post in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting in Orlando – an event which devastated LGBTQ community – to the present day, where he’s just released his second album ‘Dreaming Of David’, Beatty has grown enormously as a person.

He can count such auteurs as Tyler, The Creator and the Brockhampton boys among his friendship circle, working on music with both parties in recent years, something which Beatty credits for getting his creative juices flowing. “I’ll say this: surrounding yourself with people who are constantly pushing themselves is very beneficial,” offers the young American. “When they don’t have limits for themselves and are always wanting to push forward... that’s what I recognise in my friendships”.

These friendships have also lead to an expansive new sound for Ryan, one which blurs all lines within genres and mixes them all so well to create almost the perfect combination. “I definitely apply the creativity that those guys bring out in me, I try not to box myself into one genre or be afraid of change,” he offers. “There was a point whilst making ‘Dreaming Of David’ where I knew it sounded very different to my last album, but it didn’t scare me, it actually excited me”. The young star consciously drew the line after his debut ‘Boy In Jeans’, making sure to separate the two projects. Bursting with passion, he tells Clash: “This isn’t a sequel to my last album, this is its own completely different piece of art”.

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Those ties have helped shape his latest effort ‘Dreaming Of David’, an awe-inspiring mix of genres that effortlessly flow together creating a unique listening experience. “The way the track-list is lined up, the journey to get from point A to point B (the end of the LP), somehow all blends together, and that’s what I’m really proud of on this album,” he proudly states.

The fact that Ryan Beatty can have so many songs that sound so dissimilar to each other, yet still keep you hooked and intrigued is testament to his writing style, something he says is a natural process. “When you can take all the different things that influence you, and blend them together into your music, that’s when you’re being true to yourself,” he suggests. “The more self-aware and honest you are in your writing, no matter how unique they are to you, people can still relate to it”.

It’s that relatable dimension to his music which has garnered Beatty the army of loyal fans that he has today, as well as the plaudits he’s drawn from critics and fellow artists alike. “People do come up to me and say that they feel like they’re being heard in my music,” Beatty reveals. “I think people want to hear real personal stories in the music, stuff that they can relate to, even though they might not have been through that situation before”.

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The Cali native finds it hard to pick out his own favourite joint from the album, but when Clash presses him, he finally caves. “I think I feel most proud of ‘Genesis’, structurally at least,” he reluctantly offers. “I feel it’s almost got this kind of waltz, as I’m questioning this relationship I’m also questioning my faith”.

With the album mysteriously titled ‘Dreaming Of David’, a lot of fans started to wonder just who David could be? And more importantly, what was making Beatty dream of him? “Y’know it’s funny, when I decided on the title for the album, I knew that everyone would ask me ‘so who’s David?’” he laughs. “The idea of who David is, is completely up to the listener. I kind of want everyone to interpret it their own way, the whole thing to me represents a search for answers, I’m asking very strong questions in my music”.

If ‘Boy In Jeans’ was the coming-of-age debut that finally saw Ryan Beatty break the shackles of the industry juggernaut that was holding him back, ‘Dreaming Of David’ is a triumphant reminder that he is one of the most exciting talents around. Whether it’s his passionately genre-bending music crafted in isolation, or the in-studio collaborations with some of the world’s biggest stars, Beatty’s coronation is only just getting started. The term Pop Prince isn’t regal enough for this young star.

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Words: Mike Wood
Photography: Danny Kasirye
Fashion: Harry Clements
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers

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