how this self-taught producer is tackling music's male bias
We’re here for Callie Ryan.
A couple of years ago, Callie Ryan was in a car crash. “I felt so lost -- all of my imagined ideas about safety and my own control over my surroundings and health were totally destroyed,” she says. “That was scary.” Around the same time, in 2016, the Oakland Ghost Ship Fire killed 36 people at a warehouse gig hosting artists from 100% Silk, a record label Callie has many ties to (her latest video, PASTE, is directed by the label’s founder, Amanda Kramer). It was a traumatic period, one in which Callie struggled to regain control. Recovery came in the form of her nine-track self-produced debut album, the aptly-titled HEALTH.
It may be her first official album, but Callie’s been climbing the rungs of the LA underground music scene for a while. In college she pieced together a self-taught music education via Garageband experiments, YouTube videos and the aid of willing and skillful friends. She then polished off her production at the University of Santa Cruz, taking advantage of 24/7 studio access to nocturnally toil away at her trade. “It took a solid year or more of problem-solving and trying different techniques to get to a place where I felt I was able to produce in a way that felt fluid, and allowed me to convey whatever emotions I wanted to communicate in my music using my own production.”
It clearly worked. Callie’s voice runs a relatively monotonous line of melody, atonal notes underscored by electronic drums, sirens and a sound effect that’s like water bubbling. It’s equal parts soothing and jarring. This dichotomy epitomises Callie’s post-accident discovery -- the realisation that through intense loss and trauma, you can grow. Because while it was tough, Callie says, “I feel like if my accident hadn’t happened, not only would I have not created my record HEALTH, but I don’t think I’d be in the right mental space to take on this next chapter of my life -- musically or emotionally.”
The accompanying music video treads the same carefully balanced tightrope. There’s disjointed dancing, unsettlingly long stares, a haunting look in Callie’s eyes that even she struggles to watch sometimes. But this is juxtaposed by an abundance of voluptuous fruit, pastel hues and languid moves. Such stereotypically female tropes were also reaction to a woman trying to find her place in a male world: “I was in a music scene that was so predominately male, and didn’t realise how hard I was fighting to be accepted by my male creative peers.” Once she did, she embraced the softness that PASTE envelopes us in. And while tulle-adorned women in a kitchen may sound a bit regressive on paper, it’s not -- she’s reclaiming femininity and sensuality in a very Frida Kahlo (or Molly Goddard) way. Which is fitting, because she looks a bit like Frida too. See for yourself, then get your daily dose of HEALTH, out today on L.A. indie label, OUTSIDE INSIGHT.
If your music was a food, what would it be?
It would probably be the smoothie I’ve eaten almost every morning for the past ten years. It’s really viscous and has a lot of different textures. I’m vegan so to me it tastes like ice cream, but everyone else says it’s gross.
What’s your horoscope, and why does it fit you?
I’m an Aries and I definitely feel like one in most every way. Aries represent the fire element and in Ayurvedic medicine, digestion is described as the ’sacred fire’ or the ‘fire belly’. I’ve always had a really sensitive stomach and attributed my creativity to my hyper awareness of my digestion. The connection between our digestive system and emotions has always been at the conceptual core of my personal manifesto and creative process. Aries are often described as independent, passionate and relentless in their pursuits and very loyal to their immediate crew of people. I definitely relate to all of those things.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I worked at a restaurant and most of the customers had really bad attitudes -- I’m a really sensitive person and soak up any energy around me, so that was a challenging few months. Whenever someone would be rude to me I would try and have compassion and blame it on the fact that maybe they were having a bad day. People should just be kinder to people.
What song do you wish you’d written?
Simeon’s Dilemma by WHY?
What’re the last four songs you played on Spotify?
Doom by Oklou
Scuse Me by Lizzo
Prey by Duendita
Excellent by Princess Nokia
Do you keep a diary?
Yes! Journaling has been a constant for me since my best friends from summer camp showed me how special and helpful it is back in middle school. I have a huge box of finished journals in my room at home. I’m really grateful for journaling.
What was the last dream that you can remember having?
I had a dream that I was in my kitchen with all of my best girlfriends and my sisters. Nothing crazy happened in the dream but it was just really nice. I love being in my kitchen and I love all of the women in my life.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.