Being confident in yourself is a hard thing to do. It could take people years to build the confidence to jump over their life’s hurdles. It’s a process and we respect it! Someone who understands this is R&B artist Ryan Whitman, who dedicates his new EP Body Heat (drops June 22) to “being confident.” It’s never easy but we want to guess that after listening to his latest track, “If You Really Want To”, you’ll be feeling some type of way. Check out our interview with the talented songwriter to learn more about this rising artist in the industry, embracing other lifestyles and putting out his very own music for the first time.
The Young Folks: Since many of us are hearing about you for the first time, tell us a bit about yourself! How did you get your start in music?
Ryan Whitman: Music has always been something I loved; I sang before I could talk, started playing the piano when I was five. I always loved jazz music growing up, which then spilled into a love for R&B and soul music. There’s so much passion in those genres, and the beats just make you have to groove. I started writing music when I was 12 and have been writing ever since. It’s really one of those cases where even as a child when people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say a singer.
TYF: I read that you grew up with a taste for R&B and soul. Who were some of your favorite artists to listen to? Since growing into your own career, what did you learn from them that you eventually took into consideration for yourself?
Ryan Whitman: Whitney Houston for sure, many fake music videos took place in front of the mirror to The Bodyguard soundtrack. I also loved Toni Braxton, Luther Vandross, Monica, Shanice, Mariah Carey, Anita Baker, TLC, En Vogue, Brandy, Janet Jackson, and of course Aaliyah. I think the biggest thing I took from them all was how to sing – I never had a voice lesson until I was a junior in high school, so all my riffs, my styling, I learned from them.
TYF: Congrats on your new track “If You Really Want To”! I love the message behind it. How did this song come about for you?
Ryan Whitman: Thank you so much! I wrote “If You Really Want To” halfway through the recording process in response to an article I read about a mother who refused to let her son get a butterfly painted on his face at a fair because “he was a boy and butterflies were for girls”. I started thinking of all the times I’ve heard people say “I wish I could be ok with…” or “I wish I was comfortable enough with myself to…” and I just went to the piano and started writing. It’s a plea that if we want a brighter future we have to let people be true to themselves and come together as a worldwide community in the spirit of love and acceptance.
TYF: At any point in your life, have you felt that yearning feeling of wanting to embrace other lifestyles? How did you overcome that desire?
Ryan Whitman: I think we all have had times of going against the status quo or societal grain. It’s like we start out as children really knowing ourselves, and then as society starts to teach us, we lose a bit of ourselves and try to fit into these societal “roles”. A few years ago I read an article about elderly people being asked about their one regret in life, and most said that it was not doing what would have made them happy for fear of judgment. That’s when I realized there are no rules on my life, and at the end of the day, we all have to leave this place. I’ll be left with my choices and you with yours, and I intend to be happy with mine. The simplest example for me is wardrobe, I now wear all the shiny, pastel-colored, funky clothes I want. Someone may think they’re ugly or un-masculine, but it makes me happy.
TYF: So cool to hear that you’re also releasing your EP Body Heat really soon. What was it like putting the whole project together? What difficulties, if any, did you face?
Ryan Whitman: Thanks! I’m really excited about releasing Body Heat in June! One of the biggest difficulties was simply what songs to put on it! I write very prolifically, so we had a lot of material to choose from, but at the end of the day we (my producer Nate Martinez and I) wanted the collection to feel cohesive and meant to be. Also, going into this project I really wanted to work with a producer who pushed my boundaries, brought their ideas to the table, and made me challenge myself. Nate was the perfect match and really made me think about how I look at my songwriting process. While that was great to have, it is a bit difficult to go through and rethink songs that have lived in you for so long.
TYF: What themes can we expect to hear on this EP other than the one we hear in “If You Really Want To”?
Ryan Whitman: I feel like the main theme of all the songs is confidence, there’s a lot of going out on limbs. Embracing wants, taking leaps of faith to create a romantic spark, feeling self worth to walk away from a relationship where the spark may not be enough. All throughout there’s a lot of empowerment in going after what you want.
TYF: What do you hope everyone who listens to the EP takes away after giving it a listen?
Ryan Whitman: I hope they feel sexy and empowered. I want this EP to bring people joy, a feeling of understanding, and a sense of self – that they can take on the world.
TYF: Just reading your bio, I feel as if you’re a pretty confident person who is very aware and accepting of themselves. Were you always in this mindset or did you sort of have to jump through some hoops to get to where you are?
Ryan Whitman: I love that you went with confidence, thank you for that! I think this really relates back to what we were speaking of earlier about growing back into your true self. I feel like the older I get, the closer I get back to my childhood self, the less I care about what people think. I would say there were definitely some hoops, people love to give their opinions that you never asked for, and you have to drown that out and think what is best for me. I don’t care about fitting in, I don’t care if someone thinks what I wear is cool or ugly, or if my interests are lame, if it brings me joy and makes me feel strong, that’s all that matter.
TYF: What are some of your biggest goals as an artist that you wish to accomplish over the next few years?
Ryan Whitman: There are so many things I would truly love to accomplish. I’m not very superstitious, but I do keep my dreams pretty close to my heart and am tight-lipped, especially about this topic! For now, I’ll tell you my biggest goal, my main goal for my music is to bring joy to as many people as possible, make them feel heard, and understood.