The reader’s companion to Ryan Van Slooten's ‘All But My Soul’You may know Ryan Van Slooten from such Twin Ports outfits as Bone Appétit, the SuperTacks and Rock Brigade, but his solo stuff may not be as instantly recognizable.
You may know Ryan Van Slooten from such Twin Ports outfits as Bone Appétit, the SuperTacks and Rock Brigade, but his solo stuff may not be as instantly recognizable.
“Doing the rock thing is great,” he told the Budgeteer, “but my solo material is far more personal, and a better representation of who I am.”
Van Slooten is referring to “All But My Soul,” his recently released solo disc. That’s right; the man who so effortlessly blew out an entire region’s eardrums with such blistering tracks as “Brave T-shirt” and “Fight to Kill” is back with a (relatively) mellow collection of songs.
“In doing this album, I’ve finally fully invested myself into my solo material, so hopefully I’ll be turning some heads still,” he continued. “… Playing covers [in Rock Brigade] can be fun, and it does bring in a little extra money, but I am really passionate about playing my own music. I’m at a point in my life where I can finally give it my full attention, and I feel like this album is a great start. I’m very proud of it.”
With that in mind, we turned over our track-by-track coverage* of the “Don’t Forget to Write” follow-up exclusively to Van Slooten, who, you’ll soon find out, is as thoughtful and entertaining with a pen in his hand as he is with a guitar in his lap:
1. “Working Man’s World”
As is usually the case, I wrote the music before the lyrics. I recorded a demo of the music to write lyrics over, with a melody in mind, but it took a few weeks to find the right fit. I went to work on a Monday morning, feeling tired — with that “case of the Mondays” feeling — and the song came together quickly. I’d been thinking a lot about how we all go to these jobs we don’t really like, day after day, spending more time with co-workers than we do with our families and friends.
It’s not an anti-work song; it’s a song about the reasons why we do it, for the things that really matter to us outside. I think the line “This ain’t no way to feel alive, but it’s a way to make a living” says it best.
2. “Taking it to the Skies”
I’ve always loved the idea of superheroes. When I was little, my dad turned my entire room into a full-scale mural with all my favorites on a cityscape background — it was awesome. I was always intrigued by the dual identity aspect of it, not only because of how cool it would be to be extraordinary, but how difficult it would be at the same time.
This song is about how maybe the idea of it is better than the reality of it, but that no matter how old you are, having a childhood fantasy isn’t such a bad thing.
3. “Stand Your Ground”
I wrote this song three years ago, the day after I’d been fired from a job that ended messily. The circumstances that left me jobless were maddening and it left me feeling very angry. My wife was four months pregnant at the time and, as if there wasn’t enough pressure, that made me feel even worse.
When I need to collect myself, I use music; so, during my first day of unemployment, I picked up my guitar and out came this song. At the time there were huge wildfires in California and, as I watched on TV, the first line that popped in my head was “The fire’s spreading, and it’s only getting bigger” — and that’s what it felt like.
It’s a song about pressure and survival. Sometimes it feels like the world is coming down on you and, even when you don’t think you can, you have to be strong and not let it beat you down.
4. “Real Living (Teenage Love)”
This song is all about reconnecting with that feeling we all had when we were teenagers and would fall head over heels for somebody. As adults, we get so wrapped up in our busy, hectic lives that we forget about the simplicities of being in love and having fun.
5. “Days Are Gone”
This is one of my favorite songs to play live: There’s so much raw energy to it. I have a manila envelope full of old pictures from college, and I was sifting through them a few years ago. There were a lot of good times in those pictures and I realized that, as the title states, those days are gone. I don’t live in the past, but I am a very nostalgic person, and it got me thinking about getting older. It’s a song about being OK with growing up, living with the past, accepting it and looking forward to the things ahead.
6. “No Heroes Among Thieves”
This is a song written out of frustration over our politicians and government. I was never really a political person, and I try to avoid it in my songs these days, but the events over the past 10 years have opened a lot of people’s eyes, including my own.
7. “Little Fingers”
This might be my favorite song on the record. When my daughter was just a few months old, my wife would get up to feed her, and then bring her to me while I was in bed. While my wife would go get ready for the day, the two of us would lay there together. She’d grab my fingers and make little baby noises and it was the most peaceful time I’ve ever experienced.
Like the song, those moments would last for only a short time because the sun would come up and break up the stillness, but those brief moments are priceless to me.
8. “Across the Line”
This song is about the awkward things about yourself that you’re maybe afraid to reveal to someone, for fear they might not take it the way you want them to. At the same time, though, it’s about being true to yourself and not being afraid to show who you really are to someone.
This song is the oldest on the album, written roughly about seven years ago. Before Jane and I got married, I moved in with her into a tiny studio apartment in Lakeside. We lived there for only a few months, but I fell in love with that neighborhood in that time. I had gone through some rough times in the years prior, and it was a breath of fresh air out there. This song is about where we were in our lives and relationship, and what that little place meant to us.
Being the tedious person I am, I had nine songs recorded and desperately wanted to get this one on the record to make it an even 10. I had been struggling with the lyrics for months, but the day before the vocals were to be recorded, I finished them. Being a musician comes with a lot of sacrifice — not just for me, but for my wife and daughter as well. It seemed appropriate to finish the album with a thank-you to them.
*In addition to talking about each track on "All But My Soul," Van Slooten was also gracious enough to answer a few of our questions:
Budgeteer: When you first started doing your solo stuff, what was the reaction like from people who only knew you from Bone Appétit, the SuperTacks, etc.? Were they surprised by your range?
Van Slooten: I’ve definitely surprised some people, and that’s a great feeling. It’s always nice when people hear what I do and dig it. Doing the rock thing is great, but my solo material is far more personal, and a better representation of who I am. In doing this album, I’ve finally fully invested myself into my solo material so hopefully I’ll be turning some heads still.
Are you in any other groups at the moment, or are you solely concentrating on the solo stuff?
I am also in Rock Brigade, we do primarily ’80s covers around the area, but we are branching out into our own material. Playing covers can be fun, and it does bring in a little extra money, but I am really passionate about playing my own music. I’m at a point in my life where I can finally give it my full attention, and I feel like this album is a great start. I’m very proud of it.
“All But My Soul” is readily available for purchase, but what about your older discs? Are they still in print? Easy to find? (On that, will the SuperTacks’ download section ever be turned back on? For those of us who failed at nabbing physical copies of their stuff?)
My last disc was done in my home studio and is not near the quality of this new one, but I am hoping to get some, if not all, of the songs back up on my Web site for download. The SuperTacks site, and band, is no more, but I would like to find a way to make those songs available as well. I have no idea when this will happen, however.
The album is sincerely a triumph — the beautiful “Little Fingers” being my personal favorite. Do you think you’ll try to shop it around and let people outside of the Midwest hear it? I know you’re a family man, so I don’t know how feasible a cross-country tour would be....
Absolutely. I plan on getting this out to as many people as I can. Touring would be difficult — I am most definitely a family man — but I’m going to use the resources I have to get it out there. Having people hear my music, and hopefully connect with it, is always the most important thing to me. I don’t worry about the other stuff. If something comes of it, great, but I’m not interested in chasing rock ‘n’ roll fame.
NEWS TO USE
“All But My Soul” is available at the Electric Fetus or at www.ryanvanslooten.com on disc or as an MP3 download.
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