Video Premiere: Speak Low If You Speak Love, 'A List Of Things'
Video premiere and interview with Ryan Scott Graham of Speak Low ahead of their Japan tour
Speak Low If You Speak Love is anything but a side project. Frontman and guitarist behind the moniker, Ryan Scott Graham, also spends his days playing bass in Albany, NY based pop punk band State Champs - but makes sure to dedicate the time and attention that a full time band requires. "Speak Low is basically something that started just out of boredom, but became a necessity for me," Graham says. "It was a way to give a platform to the songs I was writing that didn't fit with the other bands I was working with at the time. It's fun for me to open up and take the frontman position."
And, Speak Low does exactly that. An introspective project that at times pushes lyrically into a very personal place, Graham's songwriting "represents snapshots of the things that have happened" in his life, both in and out of music. This level of storytelling and the personalized anecdotes that come with it make Graham vulnerable, resonating with many of his listeners and evoking a sense of trust.
In 2012, Graham released Everything But What You Need, a 10 song collection of personal stories and emotions. In 2015, the tracks were given a more proper release by Pure Noise Records with four additional songs. Speak Low's trajectory is clearly on the rise, but balancing two full time projects doesn't come easy. With Speak Low developing, State Champs took off, quickly becoming a household name to the pop punk community, selling out venues and bringing their brand of infectious pop punk to festivals across the globe. When you're an artist who values privacy as part of the creative process, this can be a challenge.
"You don't really get a ton of privacy when you're on tour," Graham expresses to me from the back of his tour bus during an off-day drive with State Champs, nuances of conversations between his band mates playing out in the background. "When I have down time I like to tuck myself away in my room and write as much as I can. When I'm home and not on the road with State Champs, I'm in full on Speak Low mindset."
But Graham has certainly found a way to make it work, touring both the U.S. and internationally as Speak Low, continuing to connect with his fans on songs written years ago while discovering new audiences and developing his sound as he looks towards the future. It's clear Speak Low is paving its own path.
Ryan Scott Graham chatted with us about his upcoming tour in Japan, the new music on the way, and the music video for one of his earliest songs "A List of Things." Read the interview and watch the video, which we are exclusively premiering below.
Where does the name 'Speak Low if You Speak Love' come from?
I was a huge Shakespeare fan in high school, and it [the name] comes from the play 'Much Ado About Nothing.' But also, during the same time, I was a big fan of the band 'My American Heart' who have a song by the same name. I thought that was way too coincidental, and it felt like a sign. Not really thinking that this would go anywhere, I just named my project Speak Low if You Speak Love.
Do you find your music relating back to literature in other ways?
I went to college for English Literature and I've always been a huge reader and someone that really connects with words. It's a way for me to become a storyteller without having to sit down and write a novel. I want people to have these little three-and-a-half minute long stories that they can take away.
I always think of literature as a way to help me understand feelings and words. I tried to write a song about this book that I really liked called 'The Little Prince,' but I don't think I ever really did anything with it. It's really more of an ethos.
What music or other artists inspire Speak Low?
It's funny, because I think a lot of what I listen to doesn't necessarily show through. Bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Pedro the Lion have been hugely influential to me. I grew up in a very Christian music household and so for me, listening to a band like Pedro The Lion was cool; I think they pushed the boundries where I felt that they had the same mindset as me. They were having the same struggles as me and I always thought that was a really great sentiment - I try to capture that with some of my songs too. I think artists that have a lot of struggles speak to me.
[Photo: Elliott Ingham]
You have a tour in Japan coming up and it won't be your first time over there. What is it about Japan that keeps drawing you back?
It's always been in the back of my mind as a place that is full of new experiences. After the first time I went, I was shocked at how alien it was to me. Everywhere else I toured in the world, I could find some semblance of home, but when I went to Japan I never really felt that way - everything felt like an adventure. In that regard, Japan has always been fun and interesting because it's a new experience every time. The people there are so welcoming. There may be some language barrier, but there is something about the way that music speaks to people that breaks the barrier. You can appreciate the audience and they can appreciate you, even though you may not be able to hold a conversation.
Do you have any favorite stories or experiences from prior travels to Japan?
The first time I went to Japan outside of touring was a few months ago. State Champs had played the Reading and Leeds Festival and I wasn't ready to go home. I was browsing for plane tickets and found a round trip ticket to Japan for an unbelievable price. It was too good to be true, so I decided I would go for the week. I made a friend there on the Real Friends tour, Sho, and he is an English teacher who used to live in Chicago but is native to Japan. He is just the best tour guide and he took me to islands on the west side of Japan. The entire islands are filled with museums and everything is like a work of art. We went there and rented bikes and spent a beautiful weekend of exploring the islands and riding up and down mountains.
I think one of my favorite memories in Japan is riding down a mountain on a bike and feeling like I had no care in the entire world. It sounds kind of corny, but I wanted to ride back down the mountain and take a video of it on my phone just so I could like relive it. I replay that sometimes in my mind. It was a really strong image and it was a cool thing to experience.
What are your tour essentials? What will you be picking for Japan?
For me, over the past year, a good book has become very essential because it's an escape from not only the music, but also the people that you're constantly surrounding yourselves with. It's a little dose of a different kind of reality and for me I think that's really important, as far as mental health goes. It gets difficult being somebody who really likes their privacy and being isolated. When you don't get that you need to find an escape somewhere else. For me, that's always been a good book.
I always bring two books on tour expecting not to read them. I'll end up surprising myself when I blast through them in the first week and then I force myself to go get another.
We're premiering the new video for a list of things. What can you tell us about the song?
A List Of Things is actually one of the first songs [I wrote] on the record. It's based on an experience I had when I was seeing somebody and I knew that I was more invested than they were. There was a moment in the relationship where I knew that it was going to be the last moment that we were together. I wrote the song based on that moment.
How did the video come together?
[The Director] was trying to do a project capturing human emotion and this song felt raw and emotional to him. We talked on the phone and he tossed some references my way. He wanted to make a video that could be left up for interpretation. To me, those are always the most entrancing videos because it leaves you wanting to go back and understand. Some people get annoyed by that but for me it's exciting. I'll want to go back to it and revisit it until I really understand it. That's what this music video is to me.
It's interesting because I feel like this record has been stretched as far as it can go at this point, being almost four years old now. I'm excited to get this video out to bring a little bit of life back as I'm working on my new record.
Can fans expect new music from Speak Low in 2017?I've been working on a new record in chunks. My schedule is crazy -- I usually only have about 10-14 days of time to myself between tours but I'm really trying to knock out as many songs as I can in those gaps. I think the new stuff that I'm working on is a different trajectory as far as content. It's full of different ideas, whereas the first record was a lot of loss and failed relationships and wondering why those relationships didn't flesh out. I haven't been trying to appeal to any one genre or certain type of audience. I've just been writing whatever comes out and making it Speak Low.
Watch the video premiere of "A List Of Things." Everything But What You Need out now on Pure Noise Records.
January 2017 Tour Dates: