A longstanding fixture in the Niagara music scene, singer-songwriter Ryan Thomas Smelle has just released his debut album, In The Homestretch, featuring leadoff single, “Novel Study”. We caught up with Ryan to chat about the new song, how he first became a musician, and his favourite Niagara bands and artists.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Novel Study”.
Ryan Thomas Smelle: Novel Study was written about my 4 favourite children’s books from when I was a kid. It was a challenge to sum up an entire novel in 2 lines, but it works.
Having just built my own studio during the pandemic and still learning the in’s and outs of recording, I enjoyed including the horns and keys to fill out the sound. Technology has come so far. Being able to add elements I hear in my head, on my own, has opened up so many options when devising and writing a song.
Spending hours and hours mixing your own tunes can make them tiresome to the ear, but not Novel Study. There is something magical about this track that makes one love it a little more with each listen.
FTS: How did you first become a musician?
Ryan Thomas Smelle: In the later half of high school and after many sports injuries, I picked up the guitar on a whim. Found I had a ear for playing songs I heard on the radio and starting writing my own tunes shortly thereafter. Was a hobby until my early 20’s where I busked across Canada. Lived in the ‘red hot’ music scene in Calgary for a period of time and came back to the Niagara Region to quickly put together my own original band. That band was the first chapter in taking myself seriously as a musician.
Important to note, that I stopped writing and creating music for a period of about 7 years due to some life altering moments. Took a break, focused on family and have reinvented myself and my relationship with music in the last few years. I’m better for it, in love with music more and would consider myself a better musician.
FTS: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current ones?
Ryan Thomas Smelle: The following came out in middle school, shaped my musical landscape and rocked my Walkman for many years: Nirvana ‘Nevermind’, Pearl Jam ‘Ten’, Chilli’s ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’, and G’N’R ‘Use Your Illusion I and II’.
Alternative and Punk were my things in high school and I loved Green Day, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, Lemonheads, Blink 182, Rancid, Sum 41, Beck and Tripping Daisy.
When I picked up the guitar near the end of high school, I was into the classics liked Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Boston, Queen, Neil Young and CCR.
Nowadays, and after many years of being a rocker, I’m on the mellower side of things and love Tom Petty, Elliot Smith, Evan Dando (Lemonheads), Jack Johnson, Bahamas, George Ezra, Foy Vance and Gordon Lightfoot to name a few.
FTS: Who are some of your favourite Niagara artists?
Ryan Thomas Smelle: My good friend Johnny Dee and side project writing partner (Game Changer) is coming up with some great stuff lately. Very excited to see what the future holds for him. He is Uber talented.
Having been inactive musically for most of 2010’s, I’ve recently connected with Arih SK online. Dig his music immensely and would like to share a stage with him one day.
Connected with Craig Rewbury online and love his recent pop anthems under the moniker ‘The Cabaret Quicksand’.
Jay Diem is a fantastic songwriter, with some stuff on the horizon.
Went to high school with Eric Lepp, shared a few stages with him back in the day. He has as always been an exceptional songwriter and enjoy his recent album release.
I like what my buddies in Stellar Ash have been creating as well.
Finally, as we continue to navigate this online musical world, the following local bands have graced my listening ears: Real Kevin, The Cocktails, The Minimum Wage, and Lastli.
FTS: If you could time travel to any different time period to be a musician in, what would it be?
Ryan Thomas Smelle: That’s easy. 60’s. Laurel Canyon. A songwriters paradise.
Check out the lyric video for “Novel Study”, the new single from Ryan Thomas Smelle!