What Music Means To Me – by Ryan Young

Hi! My name is Ryan Young and I play the fiddle. I’m from Cardross, near Helensburgh and this is the first time I have ever written a blog. This year has been a great one so far! I’ve been playing lots and lots, and in lots of new places. I released my first album last August accompanied by the wonderful James Ross and Leo Forde on piano and guitar. Making an album was a dream of mine since I was wee and I had no idea what would come of it. I felt a bit lost for a long time. I’ve always loved playing but I had no idea what I would actually do with my life. A musician’s life isn’t the easiest, and although it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, I didn’t always have the confidence to pursue it; and I didn’t really know how to either.

After trying for several jobs I didn’t really want to do and being consistently knocked back, I decided, ‘why shouldn’t I spend my life doing something I actually want to do. I’ll never know if I don’t even try’. So, all of my energy is currently focused on trying to be a full-time musician. I’ve had fantastic support from my family and some close friends. I love to play live and share my music with an audience and I feel incredibly honoured and humbled whenever I get to do so.

This summer has been lovely, and very busy, and I’ve loved every opportunity I’ve had to play! I travelled over to Ireland in May for a short string of gigs in Dublin, Kilkenny and finishing off at the Baltimore Fiddle Fair in Cork. I have always wanted to go to the Fiddle Fair and couldn’t believe my first trip over would be to play! I played with guitarist Jenn Butterworth in a beautiful church, and as the acoustics were so good, we were able to play totally acoustically; which is another lovely thing. It’s a wonderful festival and the people are so friendly and appreciative of the music. We even managed to grab some tunes with the lovely Brittany and Natalie Haas (whom we were also sharing a house with).

I’ve been playing all over the place recently including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Trelawnyd in Wales, the Isle Of Wight, Wickham, Sidmouth, Normandy, Brittany, Belfast, Belgium and I’m set to go to Denmark soon before heading back to Belgium with some gigs scattered around Scotland in-between. Wickham, Sidmouth and Normandy were three of the biggest stages I’ve ever played on and it was a huge buzz to think that there was such a large audience watching. I do get very nervous before playing but I think this is partly because I’m very self-critical and spend too much time putting myself down. Music has a hypnotic affect where you can become transfixed by it and forget everything around you for that moment. I get nervous incase that doesn’t happen for me when I play. It’s addictive and I feel like I need it to make sense of the world sometimes. I’m looking for this whenever I play, whether there’s 800 plus people or whether I’m on my own.I’m very confident in the actual tunes themselves though. I play almost entirely traditional Scottish tunes I’ve found hidden away in books and I try to put my own spin on them. These tunes are so well written that they almost speak for themselves, and the battle is often to get out of their way. I’m very influenced by the fiddler Martin Hayes and he often speaks about a whistle player, Micho Russell from Doolin who influenced his approach to music. I haven’t heard recordings of Micho play unfortunately but seemingly he knew which notes were the important ones in tunes and often got rid of the ‘unimportant notes’. I find this very inspiring. Getting out of the way, for me, is about letting the tunes breathe, not cluttering them with ornaments or fancy bits and basically letting the simple beauty of the melody be heard.

I love the way traditional tunes are very malleable but still retain their integrity. Each person could play the same tune but get a different feeling from it; so the feeling is different but the melody is still the same. They lend themselves to being played around with, and I love changing the key and pushing them so far in one direction to see where it might lead; which is often when I change tune actually. Before I play on stage, I know what order I’ll play the tunes in each set (the majority of the time); but I don’t know how I’ll get from A to B. I’m really just looking for a particular vibe I want to create and don’t mind how that happens, as long as it does. I’ll often tell Jenn or the guitarist I’m playing with what I plan to play, in what key, on the day. I’m very indecisive! But I also worry I’ll overthink things and like having to try and let go and feel my way through the music. It’s very in the moment for me!

I’m hoping to make another CD next year and I would love to do a Live album. Finding the right time and space is tricky though. A few people have told me that my live performances are quite different to my first album. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline, nerves or pressure of the live situation, or whether my playing has just moved on in some way; but I’d like to try and capture this so I can learn from it and hopefully go deeper within the tunes going ahead.

I’ll finish with a live video of Jenn and I playing at Sidmouth Folk Week in the Ham Marquee:

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