Amber Ryann’s Underrated Artist Season Puts Listeners In Charge

· Updated on October 4, 2023

Los Angeles-based artist Amber Ryann doesn’t just make remarkable music, blending the singer-songwriter, R&B and alt-pop genres to create an entirely unique sound. She makes the space for other artists to shine, too.

In addition to dropping her latest album “EVEN WHEN IT FALLS APART,” Ryann has been curating Underrated Artist Season for the past year. What started as a TikTok livestream where Ryann highlighted new music from unknown artists has grown into a multi-platform movement, including a Spotify playlist of her fans’ favorite underground music, an Instagram account, a Discord community, and a Twitch channel. Ryann, inspired by her own difficult climb through the music industry, is now bringing a whole community of underrated artists with her into the limelight.

INTO sat down with Ryann to talk reaching maximum coolness through music, being a self-proclaimed control freak, and why the music industry needs a serious makeover.

INTO: Congrats on releasing your new album, “EVEN WHEN IT FALLS APART”! What was the inspiration behind it?

RYANN: I wanted to go deeper into depth about my life and like my past experiences within the last one to two years. I feel like throughout the majority of my life, I’ve been someone who’s held on to a lot of things that have happened to me and allowed them to become a part of me. So it was a matter of learning to disconnect from that and move on from those experiences.

What happened in the past two years you feel you need to move on from?

Specifically, abusive, toxic relationships I was in that definitely defined how I accepted love and received love moving forward through my adulthood. And then just going through the experience of almost losing my mom two years ago. She almost succumbed to her surgery for her cancer. That was very difficult. 

There’s been many moments in life where I’ve questioned, like, “Okay, I don’t think I could handle much more. If one more thing happens, I’m out of here,” type shit. And then you go through things in life that you don’t think you would naturally be able to endure. And you make it through that. And you’re just like, “Wow, I’m here.” I feel like those moments in life that are the most difficult really show you your own strength, in a weird way. Certain situations that I never thought I’d be able to make it through, I’ve been able to not only make it through, but make something positive out of that experience, at least later on.

The album cover for “EVEN WHEN IT FALLS APART.” Courtesy of Impulse Artists.

Has music always been an outlet for you in that way?

Yeah, definitely. Music and art in general has always been like my only outlet and my biggest solace in life, for sure. To an extent, like music doesn’t define my existence — but it kind of does. It’s pretty much all I know.

When did you get started with music?

When I was 10, I got started with music. I remember they had music videos on MTV and stuff like that. Some of the first bands that I saw were Linkin Park, and The Used — even Under Oath and My Chemical Romance. I just thought those people were, like, so cool. So then I was just like, “I just need to be that cool.”

That’s a great motivator: “I have to become the coolest person possible, and this is the only way.”

Exactly!

I also know that your LGBTQ+ identity informs your songwriting. How do you feel like your queerness is present in your music and your process as an artist?

I try to be fully transparent in my music. I feel like in the current landscape, I would say there’s transparency to a sense, but I don’t feel like there’s a lot of songs that are written for queer people and for queer experiences. We kind of leave it in this ambiguous place. And I’m very direct with my music. I’m reflecting on past experiences, whether it’s relationships with women I’ve been with or men, I’m very specific to those people and to those experiences. So I try to be transparent in that way, and I just try to be as open as I possibly can with the opportunities that I’ve been given.

Photo by Alex Cobain. Courtesy of Impulse Artists.

You’re not only a songwriter, but for much of your career, you’ve also been your own producer, merch designer, social media manager, and music video director. Why do you take on so much as an individual rather than outsourcing or building a team?

At first, it just started out of pure necessity, because it’s like, “Okay, who’s gonna help me get this done?” Not to mention the amount of anxiety I have. Like, “This needs to be done, or else I’m gonna flip.” So I just started doing things on my own in terms of the videos and the design and whatever else — I learned how to do it, because it needed to be done. I ended up developing a passion for marketing and content and directing music videos and stuff like that. 

Then I started to realize, the more I am involved, the more I can control the narrative, which is important for me. I do believe collaboration is important, and whenever I have the opportunity to collaborate with people that do see eye to eye on my vision, it’s absolutely incredible. But for the most part, I’m very specific on what I want the narrative to be. And I don’t want that to fall away from me.

That makes sense. I’m a little bit of a control freak myself — not that I’m calling you a control freak!

No, you can. I am a control freak. [laughs]

Amazing. Alright, let’s talk Underrated Artist Season. Why did you start it in the first place?

It was the most random idea I’ve ever had. I’ve been on TikTok for the last several years. I love the platform. It’s so funny how my FYP is completely different from the content that I post — like, if you looked at my FYP I think you’d be scared. The humor on there is just really strange. 

But yeah, I started livestreaming on TikTok a while back. I was just like, “Send me your music! Let me see what’s good.” We would just listen to new music, and I started finding a lot of really good music. So I was like, let me add it to this playlist. And then more people were like, “Yo, where can I find this music? Do you have it on a playlist?” Then I added it to the playlist, and it just started exploding, honestly. And then we ended up here. We have a large community of music listeners, producers, engineers, other creatives, stuff like that.

Things go viral all the time, but the creators behind those viral moments don’t always keep building on them. Why did you decide to keep pursuing Underrated Artist Season, and why do you think it’s important that something like it exists?

I just feel like there’s a lot of platforms that are dictated by one to two to however many people. Like, we have editors for playlists, we have a handful of people for blogs and platforms. But do those one to two people completely define what music listeners would be receptive to as a whole? In my opinion, absolutely not. So being that artist that’s had to constantly push against the grain just to be listened to, just to be heard, just to be received — I got tired of that. And I was just like, how many other artists have phenomenal music that no one’s paying attention to for whatever reason? Whether that’s money, or not being signed to this record label, or not having clout, or not having the rapport with certain people in the industry, why isn’t there a platform for music that’s literally just defined by the people that are hearing it for the first time and probably want to hear more of it? 

Just that thought alone, and with the progression of the platform, I was like, “Okay, people legit are thinking the same shit that I’m thinking.” And that’s taken it to where it is today. 

You’re someone who did manage to break into the industry without a platform like Underrated Artist Season to help you along the way. What was your experience coming up in the music industry, and did it influence you as you built Underrated Artist Season?

I feel like it’s a total underdog story, because it really has felt like it’s been so against the grain and so uphill. My journey has been a slow burn, one that was necessary to learn all these different things. Every door that’s been closed in my face has given me an opportunity to progress and go harder and learn something new and break different barriers. But I can’t say that my journey has been easy or smooth sailing. 

 

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A post shared by Amber Ryann (@ryannbreezy)

It might be an unpopular opinion, but I genuinely don’t feel like the industry has been very receptive. It’s always been the fans. The fans are the driver. They’re everything. Once they started believing in the music, more people started believing in the music, whether that’d be someone at a blog or someone at Spotify editorial. It’s really so much in the hands of the fans, because you could be on the biggest record label on Earth — they can’t buy you real people to listen to your music. 

I started to realize very early on in my career, if I’m not going to get the industry attention right away, if you guys aren’t going to be receptive, I’m really going to have to start saying, “How can I get people to listen to my music?” It might not be the big important people, but it basically is the people that will show up to the shows, stream the songs, buy the merch. So yeah, I feel like that’s been the basis of my journey, is really just finding fans, building a fan base, connecting with fans. That’s pretty much all it’s been.♦

“EVEN WHEN IT FALLS APART” is now streaming on all platforms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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