"I believe we’re all blessed with a gift in this world, and once we figure out what that gift is, it’s on us to put the work in to meet our dreams halfway."
WFA is all about gaining and sharing insights from varying perspectives. In a new series entitled: BEHIND THE MUSIC, WFA aims to do just that: to look at those people behind the scenes in music. Starting us off is Ryan Chance: a talented music writer from Baltimore who, like most young people, is trying to pursue their passion rather than settling for a career unsuited to what their mind truly desires. In a piece for STEREO CHAMPIONS Ryan writes "You ever wonder how many people live a life of comfort in misery?...well I can't allow that life to become my own." I feel this truly encapsulates a millennial frame of mind: seeking happiness in life. i.e. Happiness > Wealth. I initially discovered Ryan's first blog Dreams Find You on Wordpress and was immediately drawn in by the fluency of his writing and the emotion behind his words. I had a chance to hear from Ryan on how he got started with writing and his views on the current state of music/pop culture. Have a read below:
So I know you from your blog “Dreams Find You” which is currently in the midst of a re-brand, to those that do not know you, what will the new site be about?
Honestly, I have no idea. Still wrapping my head around whether I want to stick to a music-based site or heavily focused on lifestyle. I’m very picky when it comes to the content I want to put out and how I want to present it, which has been difficult. So, I’m giving it time. Until then, my current writing home is Stereo Champions.
How did you come up with the name "Dreams Find You?"
In High School, I had a blog called “Find Your Dreams”. That stemmed from the sample in Kanye West’s “I Wonder” - my favourite Kanye song. Eventually, I came up with dreamsfindyou as a play on words from that. I thought it was just a really cool Twitter handle, but a conversation with a friend helped me realise that the name has a purpose. I believe we’re all blessed with a gift in this world, and once we figure out what that gift is, it’s on us to put the work in to meet our dreams halfway. So, technically, dreams find you. Hopefully that makes sense...
Being a Creative in 2016, how important are Twitter & Instagram in promoting a site? As a quick social media link, I have to ask about the influence of Snapchat: are DJ Khaled’s “keys to success” a fad or real influence?
I believe it’s very important because everything’s on social media. And it’s interesting because of the access it gives. As cool as that is in reference to promoting a site, I also think connecting with the people is just as important. Being the mysterious guy on the internet with solid content is great for the image, but sometimes you have to go outside. As far as those people that you can’t physically reach, the internet is your best friend when promoting a site.
Now, as for DJ Khaled, I think the influence is there. To refer back to access, Snapchat offers that live look-in that’s just as good if not better than Twitter and Instagram. It goes to show how helpful social media and reinventing yourself can be. And he’s taking advantage of the moment. I mean, he’s just been on tour with Beyonce! With that said, some things he does can be repetitive or rehearsed so I guess the question is how long can he keep it going? Also, his next album will be very crucial to his success. Will people continue to care if the music doesn’t deliver? That’s a major key. See what I did there?
What inspired you to start writing?
Writing is my place of relief. What inspired me was my Journalism teacher in High School, Ms. Gillespie. It took some time for us to click, but she had me write for the sports section of our school’s newspaper. Ms. Gillespie is the reason why I keep going. Funny thing is my original thought was to be a Sports Journalist - to work with ESPN and such. I actually worked with one of their magazines (ESPN RISE) for a few days as a part of this contest during my senior year. Crazy how things change. I don’t have the big personality to sway a room, but she helped me believe that my writing would catch people’s attention. It was the one thing I felt I was good at (besides sports) and I fell in love with it. To put my personality on paper or in a post, to create conversation - it’s an amazing feeling. I’m very layered, so I must admit I don’t make it easy for people to get to know me upfront. So, if it’s hard for people to understand me, it’s all there in my work.
The first evaluative piece about SZA I read was on the old Dreams Find You – how do you decide on who to write about in general?
Good question. Okay, so I hate the politics of music. It bothers me that folks in the industry make decisions or are influenced on everything but the music itself. For me, I absolutely love music so that’s always the deciding factor for me. If the music is good and I genuinely see the potential in an artist, I’ll run to my laptop or my phone to talk about it. It’ll always come back to the music for me. If I haven’t written about a certain artist yet, either I dropped the ball or I’m not impressed. Luckily, I’m blessed with the freedom to write about whatever I want to, and I use that to my advantage.
How difficult is it to come up with new and original content in a sea of bloggers?
It’s very difficult. Well, at least for me it is. It’s not due to the sea of bloggers, either. People always say that certain professions are “oversaturated”, but I no longer see it that way. The difficulty comes from the fast paced music releases and the struggle to catch up - especially when you want to write a good piece on all of them. Also, when writing your own content, the words simply aren’t there some days. I can’t even explain how many times I’ve sat with a draft, just looking at a blank screen. You want to write, but you definitely don’t want to let yourself down or those who look forward to reading your stuff. (Sidebar: I despise copy and paste writers, but I guess they’re necessary for those same reasons).
"As far as those people that you can’t physically reach, the internet is your best friend when promoting a site."
Now onto the Streaming Debate: Soundcloud’s new Service with ads or payment each month – can you see it really catching on?
I don’t. The beauty of Soundcloud was its freedom and opportunity for independent artists. It’s still there, but the new service sort of hurts more than it helps. I’m not a fan of the changes.
Moving on to the Tidal vs Spotify vs Apple Music debate – where do you sit?
I’m in between all three. They all offer something different. I love what Apple is doing with their exclusives and expanding out to TV. I saw the commercials for ‘Views’ (Drake) and ‘Coloring Book’ (Chance The Rapper) during primetime television - it’s great marketing. Also, love their radio stations (OTHERtone is amazing, by the way). Tidal does great things as well as far as being true to their subscribers with their offers (tickets, live streams, etc). You know, Tidal is much better than what people give it credit for. As a broke writer, I do have to be selective at times though. So, if I need to hear something quick and for free, Spotify is my go-to service. Great respect for them all.
What is Ryan Chance listening to at the moment? and what's your fave album of the year so far?
Right now, I’m in between Views, Coloring Book, and Kaytranada’s new album 99.9%. There’s so much music dropping left and right, it’s been tough to sit with just one. I’m really into stuff that makes me feel and makes me want to dance, though. My favourite album so far is Anderson .Paak’s: Malibu. It’s awesome - that’s the one album that I’ve listened to consistently this year. 2016 has been great for music and we’re only in the 2nd quarter.
What did you grow up listening to?
A lot of Hip-Hop and R&B was played in my house. I grew up around women, so there was plenty of R&B blasted through the speakers. My older brother and I shared a room, so I was listening to whatever he played. There’s so many to name, but I’ll try to keep it short. Jay Z, Three Six Mafia, Tupac, Biggie, etc. It’s a really long list, trust me. But, I think it was around the early 2000’s where I started to figure out what I liked besides what my family put me on to. Hearing The Neptunes, Jill Scott, and Kanye West really caught my attention in a major way.
What do you think the blogging landscape will be like in 5 years?
I’m not sure. I hope more people will stop hiding behind what a PR person sent them in an email and actually put their own voice out there. We need those voices whether it’s through blogs, video content, or podcasts. It’s cool to read and really feel what a writer is saying. I respect that more than anything. That’s my one wish in the future. Oh, and I hope that trolling on the internet will come to an end. Don’t ever play yourself.
Over the past 12 months who has really impressed you?
Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, and Anderson .Paak. They’ve all grown and taken their artistic abilities to new heights with their latest projects.
Now you’re a writer for Stereo Champions – what’s your favourite piece you’ve written for them?
Yes, big shout out to Rodney and the SC family. They’re good, genuine people. And they allow me to be myself, which has always been important to me when joining a media company/publication. I’m never really satisfied with my writing because I’m always looking to get better. I get fussed out about downplaying myself all the time, but that’s how I feel. Now, if I had to choose a favourite, it would probably be my review of Views. When I get into a certain zone and words are flowing and they represent me 100%, I can press the publish button with the biggest smile. That’s how I felt about that review.
How do you like to discover new artists? Do you surf blog sites or explore by listening yourself?
Soundcloud for sure. I’ll listen to one artist, then sometimes go through the related tracks section. You’d be amazed by what you come across if you stop being doubtful and press play. If it’s trash, it’s trash. But, if it’s good, you and the artist both win. So, yeah, either that or if someone with a solid ear for music drops a link on Twitter, I’ll check it out. There’s good music floating around - we have to have faith in that and give artists a fair shot to be heard.
Following on from that, is there too much (music) out there to really be able to give a good amount of time to an artist’s work – i.e. is it overwhelming?
As a fan, no. As a writer, yes. From a fan’s perspective, it’s easy to decide whether something is good or not in an instant and move on to the next thing. From a writer’s perspective, it can be difficult because now you have to dissect and figure out why this song is good and this song isn’t. It can be overwhelming, but I try my best to balance it out.
Is there a difference between being a (music) blogger and a music writer?
It depends on how you want to present yourself. Personally, I can’t label a person who can easily crank out four editorial pieces a week (much love to DJ Booth) as a blogger. That’s disrespectful to the craft. It truly comes down to the work you put in when you’re in front of that keyboard. But there’s a place for both in this field, of course. Balance...
Is the blogging “sphere” too loud – how does one stand out with their writing?
Having your own voice matters. If it’s original and it represents who you are, eventually people will catch on. And finding your voice isn’t easy - I spent a year or two trying to be like Elliott Wilson until I figured out what worked for me. So, while the field is claimed “oversaturated”, you can stand out by being true to yourself and having patience.
Which sites are you reading – (the obvious ones are The Fader, Complex, Pigeons and Planes) – what are the under the radar blogs you’re reading?
I usually catch up on the major publications or a site like DJ Booth because there’s some really really good stuff that inspires me to be better. So I don’t check the under the radar sites as much as I used to. There’s two talented ladies (don’t know their names) from the Baltimore area who created a site called The Hippie Junkie, which is pretty cool. I love seeing and hearing a woman’s perspective on music - very refreshing. Also, Def Pen - they’re based in New York. Their staff are great and have some interesting views on the culture. Those are probably the two sites I check out regularly.
What’s right with the current blogging community/what’s wrong with it?
I love when everyone comes together when a certain artist drops an album. It’s full on debate, but it’s cool because we’re all voicing our opinions in unity. There’s a lot that I don’t like, too. I hate the trendy posts and publications who post about stuff that’s completely irrelevant to the culture. No one cares about Kylie Jenner on a Hip-Hop based site, you know? And this whole pay-to-post thing that goes on behind the scenes with some of these sites. I’m probably not supposed to say that, but it’s very ignorant to me and to the artists who want to be heard.
"Okay, so I hate the politics of music. It bothers me that folks in the industry make decisions or are influenced on everything but the music itself."
What was the last live concert you went to? – (describe what it meant to you).
The last show I went to was Tate Kobang’s about a month ago. It was a big thing for my city since he’s “the guy” right now in Baltimore when it comes to music. To see everyone come out and support him on that night was very special and encouraging to see. We need more of it.
How often do you go to concerts?
I don’t go as often as I would like to. That has to change soon. One thing I will say is I’m grateful to see some of my favourite artists in the early stages. Before they became who they are now, which is great to witness. My first concert was Kendrick Lamar before GKMC dropped and I could never forget it. I’ve seen J. Cole, Schoolboy Q, Big Sean, etc. and they all mean something to me.
What is your definition of success either in music writing or as an artist?
I’ll paraphrase a tweet I saw the other day: "Loving what you do, being paid for it, and being able to take care of your loved ones." That’s my definition of success.
Describe your writing style in a phrase/3 words or can your style even be labelled?
My style can be labelled, but I don’t know what I would label it. I’ll leave that to anyone who reads my work. But, always know that whatever I write is from the heart.
And with that, it was time to say goodbye to Ryan. It was very enjoyable to hear his views on various issues in the music industry right now. Check out his socials and some great pieces by him below:
Follow Ryan on Social Media: