Prove your humanity

This week, country singer/songwriter Ryan Daykin spoke to Grok about country music, his full-time job in real estate and his new EP Keeping Secrets.


So, it’s been a big time for you. Ain’t Gonna Miss Me debuted last month at #4 in the iTunes Country Singles Chart, and your new EP Keeping Secrets was released this Monday, debuting at #8 on the iTunes Country Albums Charts. How does it feel?

It was awesome, it was really good, but everything about it was totally unexpected. I had no idea how it was going to go. I hadn’t really released anything for a few years, so to have such a good response from a good, obviously decent, fan base after all that time has been fantastic. I can’t complain whatsoever. I’m stoked.

So, what was the process of making the EP like for you?

It was long [laughs], it was a long process. This was my second release. It was harder than the first release in the way that there was obviously a bit more of an expectation. There were people who’d heard what I can do in the past and what I have done in the past and then kind of … an expectation to improve and develop as an artist for sure. So, to have a second time around is always going to be different.

In terms of your career and music, what’s been happening in the five years since your last EP Dreams?

It’s been a lot of writing, a lot of gigging, a lot of, I suppose—I don’t want to use the word ‘soul-searching’ because I think it’s such a cliché word—it’s been a lot of time thinking about where I want to sit as an artist, and where I want to pitch myself and what I want to release my music to be. I’m pretty blessed in the way my voice itself isn’t technically or strictly a country-sounding voice … I think that stems from my listening habits and my influences that I’ve got the ability to—if I want to bring out a pop release, if I want to bring out a rockier release or an R&B kind of release that I’ve got the opportunity to do that. I’ve been lucky in that aspect. It took me a few years to realise that the country industry is the one that I do want to be involved in.

I feel like country music has this real sense of honesty, simplicity and wholesomeness to it, I guess?

With country, there was the continuous element of honesty and that was something I really wanted to relate to because that was the thing that grabbed me into songs that I loved—the honesty and the storytelling and the connection that was there so that was what I wanted to continue with.

Which sort of artists have you been listening to?

I listen to such a wide range of music but country wise—a lot. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Kacey Musgraves, a lot of the more Australian stuff like Brad Butcher and so many different artists with so many differences themselves, so a bit more pop stuff like Danielle Bradbery—a couple of artists like that. It’s a bit of a varied mix, but it all comes down to the country roots, I suppose.

What was it like working with other country artists on the EP, like Hayley Marsten and Aylece Simmonds?

Yeah, fantastic! They’re both amazing girls and quite good friends of mine … over the last few years when we wrote, we all became quite good friends and Hayley now is one of my best friends. So, it’s funny how that’s kind of developed. They’re both amazing artists to work with. Both so driven and focused on their careers, that it helps to inspire me as well, in turn. They’re both completely different artists as well. Both completely different styles. Different voices and different in concert as well. It’s been really good to work with them.

Yeah, sounds great! Another thing you’ve said is you’ve been told that you’re not country enough to be country and far too country to be anything else. What are your thoughts?

Yeah, [laughs]. I suppose it gives you the opportunity to be more versatile with everything, I suppose, and not be so much pigeon-holed and put into a box as to what you should sound like and what you should do. I mean, I’ve had a few friends that I’ve shown [my music] to and they’ve said ‘there’s no one else, really, in Australia that kind of has the type of voice that you do, doing what you do’, so there is a bit of a niche market in there, I suppose … I’ve done some pop music in the past as well which was funny. When I worked with those pop producers they used to [say] I sounded very country, then I showed it to other people, and they said, ‘you sound so pop’, so I don’t know. I’ll just try this thing and see what happens [laughs].

That’s pretty interesting because, I guess, nowadays, a lot of music doesn’t belong to one specific genre—there’s a lot of appropriation from other places.

No, no it’s not. The lines are so blurred nowadays—it’s one of those things. You’re getting crossover artists left, right and centre from different genres going to different genres here, there and everywhere … I mean, I personally got into country music originally from hearing Shania Twain, obviously, and she was the first ever crossover artist, probably.

So, in terms of the actual songs on the EP, do you have a favourite song?

I’d probably say it’s a tie between Arms Length and War Fair.

War Fair’s quite an aggressive one, aye?

It is a bit. It’s funny—it’s got a bit more of a rock influence in that one than some of the other stuff. I mean, it goes from having a nice soft ballad to jumping up with the rockier influence and shift. I love to show that versatility and that ability to, kind of, move between those styles. I think it all sounds the same and can get a bit boring after a while [laughs].

There is a lot of versatility in the EP, like Arms Length as well; that’s a much softer track.

Yeah, I always said to Brad my producer when we first started that I want every song to sound like it could possibly be a single. I don’t want too many similar songs on there because you’ve only got six songs—so limited opportunity to win people over—so I want to make sure it does its thing and has a good impact.

You mentioned a full-time job; what is it?

I actually work in real estate.

You don’t hear of a lot of musicians working in real estate full-time.

Yeah, it’s a funny little industry because there is a lot of weekend work as well. It can be a bit tricky, can be a bit of a hindrance at times, but it’s also one of those jobs where there is a bit more flexibility during the day as well … You’re not really locked in to be sitting at a desk for a certain amount of time or serving customers for a certain amount of time. So, it does give me that kind of versatility, which has worked quite well.

So, what’s the plan for 2019 for your music?

The plan for 2019 is obviously to bring out a few more singles and see how they go, and I’d do a couple music videos as well and then do some touring probably towards the second half of the year. Hopefully some interstate stuff. Obviously, I’m quite restricted being on a full-time job … so yeah, hopefully towards the second half of the year I can book in a few things and go from there.

Ryan Daykin’s EP Keeping Secrets is out now.