For Woodgrove High School senior Ryan Wright attending classes online from her father’s couch resulted in a very productive year.
This summer, when her classmates will be walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, she’ll be putting the finishing touches on her first EP, thanks to a new recording deal with Handwritten Records.
It helps that she grew up in a musical family and that her father is singer/songwriter Todd Wright who has a recording studio out back. But the yearlong COVID quarantine has provided an opportunity to experiment with her musical interests, get weird, and chart a course for her future.
While she is still finalizing her list of college options, there’s also the possibility of a gap year to walk even farther along her musical path. “It’s all kind of up in the air. We haven’t really had like a sit-down family meeting and talked about exactly what I’m going to do,” she said during a recent interview.
“We’ve been writing all summer because of quarantine and I couldn’t go anywhere else except my dad’s house and my mom’s house and my one friend who I know has been safe,” Wright said. “We’ve just been creating so much stuff, writing new songs and adapting my style of music, and really getting experimental, which is super, super exciting.”
She has taken a deep dive into old Pink Floyd records (“music doesn’t sound like that anymore, she says.) and cites Lorde and English pop rock band The 1975 as strong influences for their ability to build concept albums in which the songs tie together. And she’s a fan of writer and producer Jack Antonoff, who collaborates with Lorde and Taylor Swift.
“I learned a lot from Taylor Swift growing up,” Wright said. “She has such great hooks and great lyrics and really cool production. I’ve used that to come up with different concepts. She has really inspired a lot of young artists.”
Lorde’s “Melodrama” inspired Wright to “make my songs more emotional, make my songs more personal, but also be more creative, try to create imagery and try to get weirder with my stuff.”
The result has been an indy pop sound that continues to evolve. “It’s not super pop, it is just weirder,” she said.
“My music tends to be very dreamy and weird. We experiment a lot in the studio with different sounds and production ideas to try to see how weird we can get without making people not want to listen to it,” she said. For example, the scraping of a shovel sounds hash in the studio, but can really work within a song after a little Pro Tools magic.
Wright has found a comfortable home with Handwritten Records, which she said provides its artists more freedom than many of the major labels. “You can kind of be yourself rather than have a bunch of people tell you what to be, which is what I like, because I have a lot of concept ideas that might not float by major labels.”
As a result of her productive quarantine, she has 16 songs nearly ready to go. There will be two or three singles released and then a six or seven song EP. Two of her most streamed songs will be in that mix: Screw You will be a single and Burn in Hell is slated for the EP.
“I didn’t have the belief in myself that I could put out music and get signed to a record deal and work with a manager and really try to do the music thing. I had this fear in me that it wasn’t possible. If I failed, how would I support myself?” Wright said. “It wasn’t until this year—until quarantine—when we started just having fun and working with my dad and dear family friends that it started picking up and getting noticed.”
She may not have found that path without the pandemic.
“It is such a bummer that I don’t get to do the senior year thing and see a bunch of my friends,” she said. “It’s been a very eventful, fun quarantine. And having school online has been very convenient. It’s been a dream to not have to go to school every day, then stay in class for a long time and then have to drive everywhere. I can just go to my dad’s and do school on the couch and we can just bounce ideas off each other.”
“It’s been a very fun senior year just getting to do things l love with my friends and family.”