He finds inspiration in song writers who are also story tellers. Ryland cites people like Guy Clark, Blaze Foley, John Prine and Sam Baker as exemplars of this idea and says, "They can take an everyday story and find something in it that makes it personal and believable. Finding out what it is that makes a story its most human really spoke to me when I started writing songs. I also ended up turning into quite a history nerd in my personal life. I read a lot of non-fiction history as well as historical fiction. I read people like Hemingway and Eric Maria Remarque who wrote All Quiet on the Western Front, so my song writing has become historically accurate."
Writing a song isn't something that Ryland can force on himself. He points out, "If I sit down and think about writing a song that day, I'll get distracted and think about how I should clean the kitchen or something. There are moments when you're struck by something and you have to write it down. I usually write the words first and put it to a melody. I keep both parts sectioned off until it's time to put them together. I have a book of lyrics and a binder full of chord progressions and little riffs that I'm working on and eventually I put a song together."
He continues, "I'm a multi-instrumentalist. It's great to play a show and change instruments every couple of songs to keep the show fresh. It's amazing how much you have to carry with four instruments though! I actually really enjoy the multifaceted musical experience. If you write a song in G and you know the basics of other instruments, you can express that same song in a different way."
Another positive aspect of playing many instruments is the interaction it creates with other people in Ryland's view. He says, "People will come up and say, 'Wow you played the whatchamacallit! I'm learning that!' or 'Have you tried playing this?' My favourite thing is finding people who are fantastic musicians who can totally tell that I'm faking my way through it because I get to learn a lot from them."
One challenge that Ryland faces as a professional musician is his nature as a homebody. He elaborates, "My wife is a school teacher, so when I'm home we're in bed by 8:30 p.m. and we're reading or watching something on Netflix and then it's bed time. I try to wake up pretty early so getting up and playing gigs means that you're staying up later and your schedule is kind of thrown off. The hardest part for me is actually staying awake until the show. I don't think that's a typical thing for musicians."