Ryan Scott Graham is the vocalist for an emo/indie group that goes by Speak Low If You Speak Love and the bass guitarist for a pop-punk band that named the State Champs.
1) How did you come up with the name “Speak Low If You Speak Love” for your solo project?
It’s sort of a combination of 2 interests I had in High School. My freshman year I took a brief liking to Shakespeare and “speak low if you speak love” is a quote of his. My sophomore year I got really into a band called My American Heart and coincidentally they had a song based on that very quote. I felt as though it was TOO much of a coincidence and I decided to adopt it as my moniker. At this point, SLIYSL is such a long, annoying name that I just go by Speak Low. But that’s how it came about!
2) How did your relationship with Pure Noise Records begin?
I started talking to Pure Noise shortly after I joined State Champs. They knew I had a solo project and believed that the songs had potential, so they asked me if I’d be interested in re-releasing my previously independently released full length. Obviously I was stoked to work with a label that I believed would breathe new life into the record that never had a proper release. The rest is history. Incredibly hospitable individuals who gave my solo endeavor a chance. Very, very grateful for the opportunity they’ve provided for me.
3) At what moment in your career did you decide to fully commit to your music?
I’ve always known I wanted to do music as a full time thing. I originally didn’t even apply for college because I wanted to tour. Eventually I did go, but I wasn’t invested because I had my mind on music. Between taking classes and working part-time jobs, I was touring relentlessly with my previous band, Good Luck Varsity. It has been my number one priority since high school and it’s awesome to finally see it blossoming.
4) What was the inspiration behind your debut SLIYSL album: “Everything But What You Need”?
The album covers a massive spectrum, but its main idea is dealing with the idea that you’re not good enough or just not enough in general. I write songs that are personal but still leave a lot up for interpretation. It’s fun for me to hear what listeners have to say about certain songs and lyrics. I try not to divulge too much about the ideas behind each song unless I’m having a conversation with someone. They’re emotional!
5) What was it like creating the music video for “Knots”, considering it’s the first one you’ve made for Speak Low If You Speak Love? How did you come up with the idea for the video?
The video process was awesome. I had been watching a ton of colorful films before I left for a short tour in Japan, and knew I wanted to create something that was visually stunning. Choosing to do it in a country like Japan was a no brainier. Once the tour finished, we stayed 7 extra days to write and plan for the shoot. The conceptual process was just Elliott and I sitting across from each other at a table bouncing ideas. I took a lot of ideas from movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lost in Translation. Movies that don’t necessarily have a happy ending, rather one that you can develop for yourself. It was fun to sort of leave the audience hanging.
6) How is the creative process different for SLIYSL and State Champs?
Very similar, actually. Just a lot of sitting around with acoustic guitars and fiddling with chords and melodies. The main difference is that Speak Low is just me locked away in a room, rather than being a collaborative effort.
7) What venue on your upcoming tour with Aaron Gillespie and Nathan Hussey are you most excited for?
Very excited to play Anaheim’s Chain Reaction. I’ve been there a few times with State Champs and it’s always been an amazing experience, so I’m ready to see what it will be like for an acoustic show.
8) What was the experience like playing on Warped Tour 2015?
Warped was great, but just too short! Unfortunately I was only able to play for a week of the tour, dude to State Champs touring duties, but each show was special. I haven’t done a ton of touring with Speak Low, so some of those places I hit for the first time. It was really incredible to see the reaction in the tent. Some days there were a lot of people singing along with me, and truthfully I wasn’t really expecting that.
9) What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever been a part of, on stage or in the audience?
The Australian arena tour with 5 Seconds of Summer was probably the most surreal show experience I’ve ever had. Playing for upwards of 15,000 people a night was something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. It was strange and scary at first, but as soon as we settled into it, I felt like we nailed it. It was fun and interesting and hopefully something we get to do again down the road.
10) What do you consider to be the best album of 2015 so far?
My favorite record of 2015 is Kintsugi by Death Cab For Cutie. Bleak and beautiful. Ben Gibbard is a brilliant songwriter – one I strive to emulate. Really pleased with their latest effort. Nostalgically brings me back to younger days.
11) Do you prefer performing the Emo/Indie Rock style connected with SLIYSL, or the Pop Punk style of State Champs?
It’s really not comparable. Both projects are so different in a live setting. The intimacy of Speak Low shows are something I look forward to, whereas the energy of a State Champs show really shines. You’ll have to come out to one of each and let me know what you think.
12) Has the extremely positive response to your new State Champs record “Around the World and Back” surprised you?
It hasn’t necessarily surprised me, but it’s been a great affirmation of the idea that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m so happy people are enjoying it and buying it and sharing it with their friends. Really hoping that this record will be able to take us to the next level!
13) If you could collaborate on a song with any artist, who would you choose?
I’d really love to write a song with David Bazan. He and I have similar upbringings and his honesty is something I admire. There are times where I want to just come out and say something, but instead I retreat to skirting around it with a metaphor. He’s someone who can bring a simple idea or concept to life with his candor. It’s really special.