Kent troubadour Ryan Kralik has set his way-back machine to explore the expansive sounds of classic rock. His third album, Fast Winds From Dying Stars, is an 11-song set of solar breezes that sound like some long-lost ‘70s radio station. Tune into tracks like “Wherever You Are,” “Always Never,” and “Refuge (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)” and you'll wormhole through decades of pop-rock iconography, smoking cigs, swigging whiskey, and jamming with the likes of Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, and John Hiatt. Before he releases his new album this Friday at the Outpost in Kent, we sat down with Kralik to discuss the recording process, his obsession with supernovas and Bruce Springsteen, and his mother’s love for a song called “Sometimes Shit Gets Fucked Up.” —Keith Gribbins
Ryan, tell us what you’ve been up to since 2009’s Desperate Measures? Have you been playing out much or have you been holed up in your Kent abode, writing new music?
After Desperate Measures, I took a few months off of writing. I had a lot of stuff that didn’t quite make it on that record for a myriad of reasons, and I wanted to wipe the slate clean a little bit and not always be dragging the last record’s rejects into the new record. So I didn’t really write for a few months. I followed Pearl Jam around the country for a few week-long stretches. That’s always good for re-energizing me musically.
In 2007, you released Night Driving, a hard-rock album. In 2008, you released the folk-rock solo EP, Wasteland. Last year’s Desperate Measures had a little bit of both. How would you describe Fast Winds from Dying Stars, which is being released this Friday?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about genres. I hate them. Fast Winds is like a melting pot of different types of musical styles I’ve done in the past. Some of it is soft and pretty; some of it is hard and fast. To me it’s a nice rounded rock and roll record. A big difference is that I really produced the whole record. In the past, I’ve produced but had others taking a kind of driver’s seat for a lot of it. This one I was really driving — fast.
I remember your last album, Desperate Measures, was recorded at O.S.R. Studio (On-Site Recording) in Hiram with owner J. Crypt. In fact, J.’s piano playing, drumming, and production work really fleshed out your sound. Was he involved with this project?
He was involved. We did six songs off the record at his studio in Hiram. He played drums and keys. He even wrote one of the melodies on the record [“Circles and Squares”]. The other five songs were done at My Other Car Is the Space Time Continuum studios [MOCitS/TC Recording Studio], which is where I did my Wasteland EP with my old friend Charlie Loudin. He and I grew up together and he’s one of my favorite people to work with. I was a little concerned about doing two different types of songs at two different studios. I thought it would be a nightmare to try to mix and master and make sure everything sounds good, but alas I was wrong. It works just fine.
This new album has the song “How Did I Fuck this Up” and the last album has a tune called “Sometimes Shit Gets Fucked Up.” Do you often find yourself in abnormally fucked up situations? Do these predicaments end up making great songs?
Well ever since Desperate Measures came out, everyone I know uses the phrase “sometimes shit gets fucked up,” including my mother. It’s just so true, and it’s a great line. “How Did I Fuck this Up” is a different kind of tune altogether. It’s a song about shit getting fucked up and you know exactly why — you. Shit didn’t fuck itself up on this one. It wasn’t the universe exorcising it’s will on you. It’s: “You’re an asshole and you fucked up, so there.” That song might actually end up in a film this year. The producers of the picture asked me if they could use it. I said yes. I know they’re going to be premiering the movie at Sundance, so a song with the word “fuck” in it might in fact break me.
Fast Winds From Dying Stars reminds me of all those awesomely beautiful Hubble telescope photos — like the cover on the album. How does the title and album art tie together?
How my albums come to be named and how I choose artwork is both random and secret. But Fast Winds from Dying Stars is pretty much the definition of a nebula formed after a star supernovas. The more I thought about that, the more it seemed to imitate human life to me. I see situations where things get most intense, generating the most output prior to the end. Not sure if I have an analogy, but it’s just a feeling that seemed to capture something. The songs themselves I thought were atmospheric. I used a lot less instruments on most of these songs and they just kind of breathe.
Ryan Kralik albums are always full of hearty, meat-and-potatoes Americana rock and roll. It’s classic guitar rock in the vein of heartland icons like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger. What do you love about that rootsy Midwest sound that probably peaked two decades ago?
I’ve actually never been a big Bob Seger fan. If there weren’t so much piano in a lot of my songs, I’m not sure if people would make that connection. Bruce is the man. I’ve seen him a few times. I listen to a lot of his records. Guys like that — Springsteen, Dylan, Warren Zevon — I really like the stuff they did when they were past their prime better than their classic stuff. I’d rather hear Devils & Dust than Born in the U.S.A. I like guys who write great songs, play and sing them with a lot of character and conviction, and who maybe don’t have traditional, good voices. I have no idea why that is.
What do you have in store for friends and fans at your CD release party this Friday at The Outpost in Kent? Laser light shows, midget tossing, pizza parties? Do tell.
We will not have midgets. I know you’re disappointed. We are however filming that show, so people should show up so it looks like we have a lot of fans. Girls, bring a spare pair of panties so you don’t actually have to take the ones you’re wearing off to throw on stage. The Outpost is my absolute favorite place to play around Cleveland. Best stage, best sound, best lights, and best crowds — hands down.
Catch Ryan Kralik Friday, Sept. 3, at the Outpost in Kent, with the Dusty Sanchez Band and the Mulligans Show. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $6.
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