Ryan Lee's contemplative, straightforward lyrics speak of intense emotions and scarring experiences. His powerful and expressive voice draws you into the jagged landscape of his imagination, and his undulating melodies suspend you there.
As mature as his songwriting is, Lee came late to music. Originally from Janesville, Wisconsin, the 29-year-old songwriter and musician moved to Saint Paul, MN, and studied drama for a couple of years in college before dropping out "to do the whole starving actor thing," as he puts it. Lee says it was the creative constraints he experienced with theater that eventually led him to songwriting. "Songwriting just came along and hit me so hard, so unexpectedly. It was more of a release for me than taking directions from a director. I could write whatever I wanted to and sing whatever I wanted to, completely free from rules or judgment" he says. "It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and I have been hooked ever since."
In the spring of 2005, Lee released his first full-length album, "The Pride Before the Fall". Full of folky electronica, trip-hop, rock balladry and touches of world music, "Pride" offers technology-enhanced melodiousness and song structures that have been opened up and allowed to breathe. Some of modern rock's bravest innovators lurk below the surface of this album. Neil Finn looms large in the loyalty-themed lyrics, circular acoustic riffs and soaring vocal melodies of "Unconditional." Lou Barlow prowls through the vocal doubling and melancholy glockenspiel of "What's Worse." A young Thom Yorke haunts the rough-hewn distortion and sparse arrangement of "Too Little Too Late." But Lee's lyrical technique sets him apart from his influences. He shuns the norms of meter and rhyme in favor of lucid narrative honesty, a technique that makes some tracks seem more like stories set to music rather than plain, old, run-of-the-mill songs. He examines traditional themes of love and loneliness articulately and contemplatively, then tackles parental conflict, the drug addiction of a loved-one, and his experience being mugged on a beach in Brazil with equal grace.
Since the release of "Pride", Lee and his bandmates have been busy playing shows around the Midwest. Radio airplay and a great collection of local press in the Twin Cities has also helped create a buzz around this beautiful album. The pleasingly eclectic group of songs on "Pride" speaks of a strong talent growing stronger, and Lee has begun his steadfast journey as an artist of substance and quality.