By Alan Ranta
VANCOUVER – Born and raised in Halifax, Ryan Hemsworth is arguably the greatest musician to come out of Nova Scotia this side of Buck 65. Hemsworth sure stuck the landing with his debut solo album. Guilt Trips was released by venerable Canadian indie label Last Gang in late 2013 and went on to win the Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year the following year.
Hemsworth quickly followed up Guilt Trips with 2014’s Alone for the First Time. It still managed to pick up a Juno nomination, but didn’t quite resonate as much with critics, perhaps seeming a bit rushed or that Ryan was trying to do too many things at once. Four years later, and he’s ready to silence those critics with Elsewhere. He practically scoured the globe to make this record, reaching out to as-yet unnamed artists in such disparate locales as Atlanta, Nigeria, London, and the Bay Area, among others.
“Honestly, a lot of the process for [Elsewhere] has been getting better at actually making music in the studio with people,” Hemsworth muses. “Over the years, I’d gotten so used to making a lot of the production at home, and then sending it to a singer or something. A lot of the sessions with different rappers in Atlanta, it was really working on your feet. I had to make a lot of stuff in advance just to have lots of options for whatever session I would have with a certain artist. I was trying to not overthink my production and spend too much time on certain sounds as I was making it, because you have to be quick when you’re working with certain artists like that.”
Having worked on this Elsewhere project for so long, Hemsworth has absorbed a lot of influences along the way. He’s been listening to a lot of film soundtracks, citing Johnny Greenwood’s textural compositions for Phantom Thread and You Were Never Really Here, as well as Korean music, namely the R&B and pop that he sees as taking a lot of risks most wouldn’t care in comparable North American genres. Elsewhere also sees Ryan attempt to alter the mood somewhat.
“I’m trying to make happier music,” Hemsworth laughs. “I don’t know if that gets across, but I think that’ll probably be the most surprising if I accomplish that. Everything up to this point has been fairly melancholic, and there’s definitely still elements of that in the music now, but I was trying to prove myself through the production, make something more polished. There’s a couple of R&B songs that I’m really trying to make sound like the R&B that I grew up on. I want the whole project to be surprising, in a good way.”
Hemsworth recently signed up with Third Side Music for a synchronization deal, and he’s hoping that relationship will develop into more film and video game soundtrack work. On a smaller scale, he wouldn’t be opposed to Vancouver bringing him some chocolate chip cookies and kettle chips either, if they’re so inclined, but if they just brought their usual good time, that would do nicely.
“I love playing there,” Hemsworth exclaims. “It’s always a good mixture of people. Some cities I’ll play in, one type of person is the crowd. Vancouver is a good mix of people there to get drunk and people there to hear every song I’m going to play.”
Ryan Hemsworth uplifts Fortune Sound Club (Vancouver) on May 10th.