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MP3 Ryan Cowley - Chasing Sunsets

Imagine David Gray and John Mayer ran into each other in the street and decided to do something together. It would sound like this.

15 MP3 Songs in this album (58:28) !
Related styles: POP: Pop, ROCK: Soft Rock

People who are interested in David Gray John Mayer Jamie Scott & The Town should consider this download.

Ryan''s journey in music began in late 2003, where learning that his best friend had taken up the guitar he was drawn towards the instrument. "I hadn''t seen Ross for a while and we caught up one day and he told me he could play the guitar, next time we saw each other he played me a few songs and I was hooked. I''d never really got up close and personal with an instrument apart from some basic piano lessons when I was 12, so it was just amazing to hear songs I loved being played right before my eyes. I was really into Blink 182 at the time so when he played What''s My Age Again? that was it. I just had to know how he played that, he showed me how to play the intro and it was then that I really started to understand the songs I loved, all of a sudden I could pick out the guitar or piano, where up until then I had always just heard ''the song''. That was a real eye opening experience for me."

Ryan spent the next year getting to know his way around the fret board. “I had a few friends show me things here and there but I generally just picked up what I needed to know for each song. I kind of learnt guitar backwards. Instead of being shown a few chords and learning them and then playing songs with those chords, I would pick a song I loved and work out the chords I needed for that particular song.. It meant I learnt some really random chords before I even could play an F. But it was great. Because I loved the songs I would work so hard to get it right, and that was the key. I remember taking piano lessons when I was younger and I''d learn a whole lot of little tunes that no one had ever heard of. That wouldn''t have worked for me on the guitar, I wanted to learn songs everyone loved and I loved so I could play them to everyone and they would recognise them."

In 2004 Ryan’s musical tastes starting changing. “I saw John Mayer on his Heavier Things tour in Christchurch and was just blown away. He played a solo with this girl''s cell phone she had sitting on the edge of the stage. He just picked it up from right next to her hand and started playing slide guitar with it. I was just in amazement, I was beginning to learn what you could really do with the guitar and I loved it. The lyrics drew me in too, from there I started finding more and more singer/songwriters I could relate to. People like David Gray and Damien Rice just captured my attention.”

It was in 2004 that Ryan also started writing his first songs, slowly getting to know himself better in the process. “Songwriting is a great way to understand who you really are. Everything that goes into the song is a reflection of who you are or what you think and I found once I started writing and then looking at my lyrics I thought - Is that what I really think?”

2005 was a year of firsts for Ryan. He played his first gig, albeit a small one, in his own garage to a few friends and he was only the supporting act. His first public performance, at the Singer Songwriters night in New Plymouth’s Basement Bar was a learning curve. “It was hilarious, I was so nervous. Looking back at the video of it now it cracks me up. I know everyone plays a bit quicker when the adrenaline is pumping and the nerves kick in, but this was ridiculous. I played Twilight, which at the time was around 3 minutes long, in pretty much 2 minutes flat. I was almost rapping the lyrics.”

2005 also saw a new challenge arise. “Just over a year after picking up the guitar I heard a song on the radio that just caught my ear instantly. The piano in it had me listening to every note. It was Five for Fighting''s 100 Years and with that I decided it was time to learn the piano again – properly. I bought the sheet music from the internet and threw in some Elton john for good measure. When the package arrived I was so excited. I sat down at the piano with 100 years in front of me and stared blankly at the notes on the page. It had been a while since I had taken piano lessons and I’d only done grade one theory so I was a bit rusty. All I could remember was, Every Good Boy Does Fine and All Cows Eat Grass so it took a little time. I wrote all the notes underneath in pencil and slowly worked away at it note for note. Finally after two solid weeks of practicing I could play the first page! It was hardly breathtaking but for me it was the start of something. So I continued teaching myself piano and bit by bit, I picked up chords and eventually got better at reading music. I love the sound of the piano, and it’s great that I can play it now really because of that one song.”

Ryan studied at WITT in Taranaki in 2006 completing a certificate in Advanced Radio. “I was always keen to become a sports commentator and so decided to give it a crack.” Ryan was the top student in his class and ended up getting a job with Newstalk ZB in New Plymouth at the end of the year, doing the sports updates every Saturday.
While studying radio he made his musical debut on air, when he played drums in an ad for a local bar. “It was quite ironic that the first musical thing that people ever heard from me was on the drums, it’s certainly not my strong point.” During the year he also won the WITT talent Quest with a spirited rendition of Blue Suede Shoes by Elvis. “It was funny, all my classmates said I should enter, but you only had a minute to do your thing. So I decided I had to play something short and that everyone knows. It came down to a choice between a Johnny Cash number or an Elvis song, so I went with Blue Suede shoes which just bought the house down.” Ryan won with 27 points out of 30 from the 3 judges and ended up playing lunchtime gigs at the student cafeteria later that year because of it.

In 2007 Ryan played his first big gig, at the TSB Bank Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park. “I played on the main stage at the Hatchery Lawn, it was just an opening slot of 45 minutes but I was another one of those huge learning curves. I broke a string on my first song and that really threw me off. I finally relaxed into it on about the second to last song and started really enjoying myself. As soon as it was finished I began lamenting how it was all over so fast. All I wanted was to do it again as soon as possible.”

Ryan flew to Sydney in late February of 2007 to complete a two week course in Radio Sports Broadcasting at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. “It was phenomenal; I loved every bit of it. At the end of the second week we got to go into the commentary boxes at the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) and commentate the game. It didn’t go out live to anywhere but it was all recorded for the broadcasting course. It was a dream come true. At one stage I was the ball by ball commentator and I looked up at the screen to check the score and saw myself on TV in the commentary box at the SCG and I just lost it. My commentary literally went like this… Bollinger coming in from the Randwick end, Perron takes his stance… (I see myself) …and I’m on TV in the commentary box at the SCG. It was totally surreal.” It was while away from his girlfriend for those two weeks that Ryan wrote Orbit (later recorded as a duet with her and included on Chasing Sunsets)

It was in 2007 that Ryan’s writing started to come of age. “I finally felt like I had a few songs that I was proud of and would be happy to share with the world. The long term goal was an album, but at that stage I wasn’t writing a lot of songs and an album was still a long way off. I had a few friends who also had a few songs at the time so I just thought, let’s record them all and put them on a CD together. It was a really great time, musically I had a lot of fun recording the other guys at my home on a little 6 track mixer and one microphone. We had a few songs each which was perfect. There were four of us and we each contributed 4 songs, making a full album of 16 songs. They were all acoustic and each of us had a slightly different style of music. It was a really cool snapshot of the four of us.”

Called The Burning Question the 4 man compilation album was released on June 23 2007 at a launch party in New Plymouth at a small venue called The Little Theatre. “We had a lot of fun preparing for the launch, we were all predominantly guitarists but for the night we played all kinds of instruments, each of us changing around playing support to whoever’s song was being played. I think I played acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard, bass and even got on the drums for a song that night. And that was the same for all of us. It was really good getting a taste of all the instruments, I learnt a lot in those few months making and releasing that CD.” The other three artists on the album were Ross Paterson, Nick Ditchburn and Alistair Stevens. Together they played a 2 hour set including nearly all of the songs from the CD along with some covers.

2007 was also the year Ryan went travelling overseas, an OE (Overseas Experience) as it’s known in New Zealand. He spent 3 months away, mainly following the All Blacks at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Along the way visiting America, Western Europe, China, and Japan and then making his way across Australia entirely by land. “My OE was another great learning experience. I met a lot of people, saw a lot of places and most importantly had a lot of fun.” However on his return to New Zealand in Late November of 2007, Ryan was disappointed at his lack of inspiration for songwriting. “One of the things I was really hoping for after doing something totally different like the OE was that I would come home filled with hundreds of ideas for songs, and in all honesty since I took my guitar with me I expected to write a few while I was away too.” However the lone song from his trip was She’s Beautiful written about 3 days before getting home, in a hotel on the Gold Coast in Australia. And even then it wasn’t the whole song. “I had nearly finished the song, but technically I didn’t finish it until I got home and unpacked and found some time to work on it. It was quite frustrating, I had lots of time when I got home to write songs, but nothing was working, I wanted to write so many things but it just wasn’t happening.”

In 2008 after the frustration of what was best described as writers block, Ryan finally broke the shackles. “It wasn’t until I’d been home for 3 or 4 months before I finally got one. I sat down at the piano and wrote the song Chasing Sunsets in a very short time, maybe a day or two. And then everything seemed to fall into place, every three or four days I was writing a song, and a few months later I suddenly had about 6 or 7 new ones.”

It was around this time that New Zealand Music Month (May) was fast approaching, and with that came a new competition called SOUNDS FROM YOUR HOMETOWN run by https://www.tradebit.com in conjunction with KFC. It involved New Zealand musicians uploading an original song onto the website and then the public voting for 3 weeks to decide the regional winners. Ryan’s Song Twilight won him the Taranaki Region and landed him the rare, if not interesting honour of playing at KFC New Plymouth.

Ryan called on his good friend Ross Paterson to back him up and together the two of them played a 30 min set outside KFC New Plymouth on the first Saturday in May. “The KFC gig was a lot of fun, it was just outside the front door and KFC New Plymouth is on the corner of an intersection with traffic lights. We had a big P.A. set up and as motorists pulled up at the lights, they got little tid-bits of songs, everyone winding down their windows to see what was going on. We also had some funny little moments at that gig, at one time I was playing this little heartfelt soft piano piece in Flying and this huge truck went past with it’s brakes squealing in the background… the whole crowd along with myself, fell into muffled laughter.”

Writing continued and more songs followed through 2008 and in September Ryan started murmuring thoughts of an album. A few phone calls and meetings led to Ryan connecting himself with York Street Studios in Auckland, and work went into securing musicians for the album. “All along I had this idea of recording an album with my friends, the guys I always played with. I am a solo artist but I didn’t just want to get session musicians to come in and do the work. I wanted to share the process with my friends.” After a bit of negotiating, and preparation Ryan was booked in for 3 weeks recording time starting in November. “It was a really touch and go experience. I was determined to do it at York Street and determined to have my friends there with me, but that was much easier said than done. Ross was heading overseas in December for a whole year, Andrew Mills (Drummer) was studying at Auckland University and Alistair Stevens (Guitarist) was studying at Otago University. It was a real struggle to fit it in before Ross went away, but after the others had finished there exams, and on top of that the studio had to be free. I have to thank Jeremy McPike at York Street for making it happen because he moved another client to fit us in.” To get an idea of how close it was to squeeze it in, they started in the studio the same day of Andrew’s last exam. “Mills was great, he sat his exam that morning, and turned up to the studio only an hour later and we were into it.”

Working with Sound Engineer Simon Gooding, (who has since worked on Neil Finn’s second, 7 Worlds Collide collaboration) they spent a six day week laying the basis of the album before taking a two week trip back to the real world while the studio was in use with another album. They reconvened in early December to finish the album off and again the time was in short supply. “Ross was leaving on the Sunday of that week so we had to get all his parts done before then otherwise we were going to have a bit of a problem. In the end it wasn’t as close as it could have been but it certainly added an extra element to it all.” As for the recording process itself, “I had a running battle with myself most of the time in the studio, some days it was the best thing in the world, and others I just didn’t want to be there. However as we got further into it, I enjoyed the process a lot more.”

The finished product is Chasing Sunsets, a fifteen track look into Ryan’s relationships and experiences. “Overall I’m very proud of the album, It came together really well in the end. I’m happy with the song choices and the order of them, even the Physical CD itself looks great. The actual sound of each track is exactly what I was after, working with Simon was great, he seemed to understand me and what I was trying to achieve with the whole album. I wanted a really authentic, organic feel to it. Not overcomplicated or overdone and I feel we achieved that. I really wanted people to hear the lyrics first so they could connect with them, I just wanted to add to that with the music, not clutter it. The enthusiasm of the other guys in the studio really came through in the playing too and made it worthwhile that we managed to get them all together, even if it was for the briefest of time periods.” The album features Orbit, a duet with Ryan’s girlfriend Sarah Stevens and musical support from Andrew Mills on drums, Ross Paterson on bass, piano, electric Guitars and back up vocals on Flying, along with Alistair Steven’s lead guitar on the tracks Twilight and She’s Beautiful, currently being played on THE MOST FM 100.4 Taranaki.

On January 27th 2009 Chasing Sunsets was released in Ryan’s hometown of New Plymouth at a Black Tie Event at Powderoom. A small invited group of Friends and Family shared Ryan’s big night and it was a great start to what promises to be a big year for Ryan.

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