It usually takes years for a musician to become an “overnight sensation”. Such is the case with Ryan Hayes, also known as 1/2 of the epic and eclectic duo “Midas Whale”, who recently exploded on the music scene thanks to their strong performances and witty humor on the hit television show “The Voice”.
I sat down with Ryan to find out more about him, and what comes next for the folk duo.
Linescratchers first became aware of you when you were part of the brother-sister duo “Sunshine Brady and the Moonlight Lady“. Tell us a little bit about this project – how did it get started? Did you record or perform or both, and what was the music like?
RH: Sunshine Brady was my first performance project. I have always been a writer of music or musician of sorts, but to stand in front of people and play was an entirely foreign thing that I wanted to try out. I recruited my sister Becca because performing solo is very lame in my opinion. She has a way of making people comfortable and that made performing very easy. The music was fun and folky and we were a hit in Rexburg in no time at all. I think a lot of people were drawn to what we did because we refused to take ourselves seriously. We never recorded, though some live recordings do exist if you know who to ask.
Was that duo your first serious effort with music? If not – where did you really get your start with music?
RH: It was my first effort as a singer, but no. I played the trumpet since I was 11 and I had been writing music on the guitar since I was 14.
You mentioned you think playing solo is lame…
RH: I always work in groups. Like I said, I think solo artists are lame. For me, I get much more joy out of hearing one of my songs sung by another person than I could ever get from singing it myself. Deep Love is a prime example of this. It has grown into a family of 40+ people with many moving parts and I am content just being a part of the motion rather than the star.
How did “Midas Whale” get started, how long have you been together, and where do you see yourselves going?
RH: Jon convinced me to form a duo specifically for the show in August of 2012, so this is a brand new thing. Jon and I have collaborated for several years on producing a rock opera I co-wrote with Garrett Sherwood called Deep Love. We thought that going on national TV would help us to promote Deep Love, and even though it wasn’t talked about on the show we have certainly given Deep Love a sure future by doing this. Midas Whale itself was an instant fan favorite on the show and our untimely departure was a shock to the nation. We are now entirely devoted to keeping Midas Whale a household name and actively increasing our reach. We are hard at work raising money for an album (via Kickstarter) and planning for a summer tour.
You have a sound that is very original, and yet completely classic at the same time. Tell us a little about what music and what artists have influenced you.
RH: My sound probably seems original because I don’t listen to much contemporary music. If you were to listen to music from the early to mid 1900’s you might hear something familiar to what I write. I am a big fan of the piano plunkers like Hoagy Carmichael and George Gershwin along with singers like Bing Crosby and Yves Montand. The writing and singing style of those days appeals to me for its melodic value and as a result can’t stomach much of the rhythm driven music of today.
How has being on “The Voice” this year impacted you personally and professionally?
RH: It has been very nice to see the degree of personal pride my friends, family and acquaintances all take from it. Many people I know personally who have had it rough this last year have found strength and pride in seeing me on TV. It’s weird how that happens, but I know I would feel the same way if I had seen some schoolmate of mine doing the same thing. If I can be the means of raising someone’s spirits then it’s all worth it. Professionally I would say that this season of the Voice has marked me as a musician. Before, I would have hesitated to call myself a musician. Firstly, I am a working geologist and secondly I don’t see myself professionally in the same rank as people who have striven all their lives to master an instrument. THOSE are true musicians in my opinion. The reality, however, is that I think more about music than any other thing, and being paid to do it makes me qualified for the title. I have started calling myself a musician, and it’s beginning to feel less weird.
What was your favorite experience/favorite part of being on “The Voice” ?
RH: I would say the most amazing part of it all is becoming familiar with and close to all of the singers on the show. I feel like many of them are my kindred spirits and I can’t even imagine not knowing them. I made relationships with people there that I will keep for the rest of my life. Initially I thought that they would all be the reality TV type that are competitive and arrogant, but what I found was quite the opposite. They are some of the kindest, most genuine and talented people I have ever met. I know that I’ll be working with many of them for years to come.
In my circles, people seemed pretty surprised and genuinely interested that a couple of young folkies were able to speak fluent Spanish with Shakira and that you had both lived in foreign countries. Did this prove to be an opportunity to have conversations about the gospel, as part of your explanation of how/why you had these skills and experiences?
RH: Hardly. I don’t try to hide the fact that I am LDS, but I don’t try to advertise it either. When people would ask me how I learned Spanish I would simply say I lived in Ecuador, and that was usually enough for them. I am always excited to talk about the gospel but will only open up if I feel like the moment is right.
There were several LDS artists featured on “The Voice” this year…
RH: Yes, Ryan Innes and Amy Whitcomb were both on the show and I have grown rather close to both of them. Coincidentally we were all eliminated on the same week. I am so honored to have known both of them and we all plan to go on the road together this summer.
How has the public reacted to your music? Has the LDS Music community embraced you?
RH: I think the timing is perfect for our music. We are at the beginning of the new age of folk music, both nationally and internationally. Because of my lifelong love affair with the genre I feel somewhat like I do have something to contribute amid all of this. I feel right at home doing it. I think the LDS community in Rexburg stands very firmly behind us, but we’re working to win over Utah. We claim Rexburg because we met there, but the fact is we live and work in the Wasatch area.
I agree that the time is right for a new folk emergence – just look at the recent success of groups like Mumford and Sons and others who have displayed clear folk influences in their music. Even the commercially driven show American Idol produced a folk-flavored winner in 2012 with Philip Phillips. So – What is next for you?
RH: Kickstarter, then album/touring. We’re very hard at work to make sure this all happens.
Where can people find out more about you, buy your music, see your shows, etc etc etc?
and interact with us on our website http://www.midaswhale.com/
Midas Whale is in the last week of their Kickstarter fundraising campaign – if you enjoyed them and would like to support them, please act quickly to help make sure their album project becomes a reality.
Matt Mylroie is an independant music producer, audio engineer, songwriter, and musician from Tampa Florida and a semi-regular contributor to linescratchers.com. You can connect with Matt via the contact info on linescratchers or at www.driftwoodtidemusic.com