Every now and again an artist arrives on the scene who seems to have such a roll of momentum behind them that everywhere you turn, they are there. Rarer still is the feeling that the songwriter and musician in question deserves the attention that's coming their way. Ryan Hamilton is one such artist and whether through his band, Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors, his increasingly respected podcast, his upcoming album with Terrorvision frontman Tony Wright, or through the live shows - both solo acoustic and full band electric - that are finding more and more loyal Traitor followers joining the throng, Ryan is leading from the front and deserving every piece of hard fought favour and fortune coming his way. Ahead of a new EP and upcoming UK tour from The Traitors, Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid spoke to Ryan to ask him about, well, everything, starting with a rather bizarre coughing related injury…
Hi Ryan, and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for Sea of Tranquility… firstly, I have to ask, after your crazy coughing fit and your fall on the steps, how are the broken ribs coming along?
Oh, man. It has been TERRIBLE. Anyone I come across with broken ribs will now forever have my empathy. I was out for a few weeks, but am finally feeling well enough to get back to work and sing again. We're super busy these days, so being out for a few weeks was NOT fun. Ribs take a long time to heal and they're not 100% yet. But it's gone from ridiculously painful, to only a slight annoyance. So, I'll take it!
All of 2017 and the first few days of 2018 have been an amazing time for you and the Traitors. Things really have been - in a good way - crazy since the release of The Devil's In The Detail. Can you believe how things have taken off since then?
It's crazy, huh?! It's a strange combo of things going as planned, but also being surprised and excited about how well things are going. I mean, we all HOPE that things go well. You work hard, and cross your fingers for success. To see it starting to really happen is the BEST feeling.
Very thankful. Very happy. VERY excited about the future.
Especially where I am, here in the UK, you seem to have really grabbed the attention of both the fans and the music media. Your previous bands, Smile Smile and People On Vacation, had more success in America than the UK, can you put your finger on why things have been going so well on this side of the pond this time?
I cannot. If you figure it out, please let me know. Haha. That being said, I really love the UK. They get me.
You're hitting the road in the UK in March for eight shows. Between full band tours and acoustic shows this will be your third headline tour in 12 months. You must be delighted by the bond that is growing between you and your growing group of Traitor fans?
I am ABSOLUTELY delighted! It's very important to me to be a great live band. We work really hard to maintain our reputation as a great live act.
I want to give people a fun night that they won't soon forget. Not only that, I feel like we're getting better and better. I think it comes from experience. I can't accurately explain how wonderful it is to work hard, deliver, and get the response back. The live shows have become their own animal. It's probably the thing I'm most proud of.
And of course, you've just announced that you will be part of the Camden Rocks Festival in London later this year. You must be delighted to be asked to be part of such a prestigious event?
Damn straight! We really want to get on the festival circuit over there. But it's pretty tough to do when you're an independent band. We're thankful to the fine folks at Camden Rocks for not buying into all that corporate bullshit. It's gonna be a such a great time.
You have a new song and EP just about to be released - "I'm So Glad". It's a fantastic upbeat but still bittersweet piece of pop-rocking goodness. Tell us about how that song came together and the motivation behind the lyrics of the song.
Hey, thanks! I can't remember if it was a phone conversation, or something silly, like a Facebook "memory"... but something reminded me of an old girlfriend. I remember being at home alone, and saying OUT LOUD, "I'm SO GLAD you're HIS". Haha. I really dodged a bullet with that one. Anyway, I knew it was the beginning of a new song. The best songs just appear. That's what happened with this one. I grabbed a guitar, sat down, and the song was written in about 10 minutes.
The rest of the EP will be made up of songs recorded for your excellent Traitors Club which provided two songs a month to all members alongside Q&A's, bespoke articles and columns and artwork. As a fan I've been really enjoying the whole experience, how has it been for you and the rest of the band?
Thank you. We love it, but it's a lot of work. Lots of moving parts, and we have to constantly and consistently be on the same page. If we do it for another year, we'll definitely have to do some things differently. It's been a challenge, but a very rewarding one. I'd love to do it for another year, but a new full band track every month is really difficult. So, I can see it moving in a more acoustic based direction if we continue. I've also considered moving to Patreon. But who knows.
How did you choose which Traitors Club tracks to put on the EP and send out to a wider audience?
It's tricky. Because we want some of the songs to stay in Traitors Club for the fine folks to enjoy exclusively there... but the songs were coming together so great, I also really wanted to put them out into the world. It's why we're only releasing 7 songs. I'm super happy with the group of songs we've decided on. I think folks are really going to enjoy them. You can really hear the direction we're headed in for the next studio album. Particularly on "I'm So Glad" and "Same Page".
Every month in Traitors club you did an acoustic cover for the fans. You chose an eclectic mix - what have been your favourites and how much did you enjoy the whole process of covering those songs?
I really enjoy doing the acoustic covers. I think my favourites have been the 80s tunes. Particularly "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul!
Across the last few months you've also been creating the Ryan Hamilton's Lost The Plotcast podcast. How did that come about?
A media company called Mileu Media Group heard my interview on Matt Stocks' podcast, Life in the Stocks... and based on my interview they offered me my own show! Haha. So crazy. I knew NOTHING about podcasts. But it's become a big hit! It's also become something I very much look forward to. It's inspired me, and educated me, so much.
In the podcast you've been examining areas within the music business that most of us don't get to experience - both the highs and the lows. It's something that's never really been done in this way before. Did you immediately know this was the topic you wanted to explore - and how has the response been?
The response has been huge. Much larger than anyone anticipated. When they asked me to do it, yeah, I knew that was the direction I wanted to go. I was thrilled when the response was - and continues to be - so great.
And you've also been lucky enough to talk to a mix of musical friends and heroes like Frank Turner and Amanda Palmer during the series so far. How rewarding has the whole experience been to be allowed to tell these stories with the help of the people who experienced them?
I can't tell you how rewarding it's been. It's just incredible. It's fuelled an already big fire when it comes to my drive, and creativity. I love learning from these other people/friends/artists. I can't remember ever feeling so inspired.
With all that happening people might presume that your plate is already over brimming with goodies, but you've also somehow found the time to start recording an album with Terrorvision frontman Tony Wright.
Ok, so THIS has been the most wonderful surprise. People are going to SHIT - in a good way - when they hear this album. It's fucking magical. Tony had heard about my band, and we have a mutual friend in producer, Dave Draper. Those two got to talking about me and my band... and before I knew it, Tony and I were recording an old school Country song together. We were just gonna do the one, but it went so well, we decided, "what the Hell... let's do an album together". Haha. Love that dude. No one else like him. He's my favourite new friend.
The album is shaping up to be more country in flavour. Was that the approach the two of you wanted to take or just the way things have organically worked out as you have been writing songs?
We definitely went into it to make an old school, pure sounding, Country based album.
The two of you seem to be having a great time working together, do you see this as a long running collaboration?
Yeah, we really love it. Definitely wouldn't be surprised if we did more together. We've booked a short tour together later this year... but I'm not supposed to talk about that. Oops...
And as if that wasn't enough there's also talk of a new Traitors album coming our way soon. How is that shaping up and when can we expect to hear it?
It won't be here till the end of the year, but yeah, it's happening! I've already got the songs written and the demos recorded. I think... no, I KNOW it's the best group of songs I've ever written. I think this next album will be the thing to get us to that mysterious "next level" we're all working toward. Could not be more excited about the group of songs for that album.
That's all my questions Ryan, thanks for taking the time to answer them.
No prob! Thank you!
Photos by Dave Kai Piper