ANYBODY WITH A BASIC knowledge of tabs can pick up a guitar and woo the ladies with a cover song, but it takes an awesome understanding of music to add your own twist – to make somebody else’s music your own. It takes an even greater talent to write music thats sounds so original people stop and think, “What is that?” Ryan Colestock, with his blend of Sublime-esque, Rastafari reggae and homespun hip-hop, has mastered all the above.
We’re routinely approached by girlfriends, boyfriends, fathers and mothers telling us how we need to write about so-and-so. We always give it a consideration but don’t usually make it through the first song on their Myspace page. With Ryan, we blew through his Facebook and quickly set out in search of YouTube videos including originals, covers and an appearance on Radio 104.5. We figured this was a kid we could get behind, so we sat him down for a photo and a brief interview just days before his 21st birthday.
And what made you stick around West Chester? I was looking at the whole music program here, but after a while I realized it wasn’t going to work for me. If I wanted to play guitar I’d have to be a music teacher or play in an ensemble, and that wasn’t what I was looking to do.
Did you give it a shot? I took some vocal classes, but the teacher told me from there my options were basically to go into theatre, so I knew I didn’t want to do that.
So, what are you doing in college? I took some sociology classes and thought that was pretty easy.
So you chose your major because it was easy? Well, really, college is just a backup plan for me. I know a lot of people who graduated high school and just decided to become musicians, but I was like, “But what if that doesn’t work out?”
Have you always been into music? I played saxophone in elementary school, but really I just made the thing squeak a lot, so that didn’t last long. I was part of an honors program chorus when I was in elementary school, too, which was the first indication that maybe I had some talent, but then I got into middle school and suddenly thought it wasn’t cool because I was the only guy in chorus. I started playing the piano in middle school, and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t like practicing. I guess I realized that there was really no sense in playing an instrument that I didn’t like to practice, so I stopped playing piano. But then I picked up a guitar.
And that stuck? Yeah. I started off with an electric guitar, playing all the classic rock like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. I wanted to rock.
Were you taking lessons? I was just teaching myself, playing what I could, but when I wanted to get better, when I wanted to learn to play rock solos and stuff, I started taking lessons. In the end the teacher just wanted to teach me songs, so I went back to teaching myself. Eventually, in tenth grade, I realized I didn’t want to play electric.
When did you start writing your own music? Also in tenth grade. The winter of tenth grade to be specific. I look back on that song now, and I really like the tune, but it could use a lot of work.
Do you enjoy writing music? I love it. I used to just like jamming out, but now I like writing just as much as I like playing.
And of course, the standard, ‘What are you influences?’ question. I’m often told that I sound like Sublime, but I try to make music that is my own. I grew up in the nineties, and I love nineties music. It has just completely died out, so I try to bring it back.
In what way? I try to tell a real story. Modern music seems so straightforward and risqué. How much of it can you listen to before you tire of violence, drugs and sex? I want people to be able to find meaning in the music I write.