Courtesy of Ryan McFadin
At times, the whole bearded-folk-singer thing seems a little overdone. Columbus’ Ryan McFadin has taken that stereotype and turned it around.
Yes, he sports the classic folk-singer beard, but McFadin is putting his own touches on the genre.
Looking to strip his music of conventional clarity, the fourth-year in philosophy scales back his reliance on recording technology, he said. Taking a different outlook than the majority of folk and blues singers, McFadin seems to have found a niche in bare basics music.
Recording all his own songs on an analog 8-track he bought off eBay, McFadin embraces the less-than-perfect quality, he said.
“I like the idea of listening to something in the analog tone,” McFadin said.
When recording, he plays and records several different tracks, which he then overlays on top of one another, he said. But when playing live shows, he only brings his acoustic guitar in order to achieve a different kind of performance than his recorded tracks.
“When you are playing folk music, it’s easier to have an acoustic guitar and you singing,” McFadin said. “I feel like it makes it more personal.”
Aside from making his music feel personal, McFadin is looking to create more than just catchy music, said former bandmate Spencer Gardner. The two played together in the band The Lampshades until the members got too busy to maintain it.
“He hates Top 40 radio, and not just to be a hipster,” Gardner said. “He wanted to make his own sound.”
McFadin has taken what was once his bluesy sideshow and made it his main act. Blues and folk music started out as a personal endeavor for him, and now he is playing solo shows, Gardner said.
Getting back to the basics of technology, the emerging artist also pushes the blues and folk genre itself back to basics.
“I feel like there’s something golden about the ’60s,” McFadin said.
He cites Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens as his main influences and said a lot of music is “lacking the same feeling of the ’60s.”
“He does a lot of different things but is very influenced by folk music and heavy blues,” Gardner said.
The singer has released two sets of songs on SoundCloud, including an entirely instrumental track, “Jam.”
Having played in several bands, he is not at a loss for experience. He also plays in Muddy River Reverends – a more bluesy band than his unaccompanied act, he said.
“I like to think that I am a punk kind of guy and Ryan likes blues, but we can both appreciate our styles at the same time, and what it does is create this really raw style,” said Muddy River Reverends’ vocalist Dan Watson.
McFadin’s music is heavily rooted in the feeling it creates, he said, and it’s all about emotion.
“When I make a record, I have a certain feeling, or whatever, that I feel when I am writing a song that I try and convey as best as possible,” McFadin said.
“It seems to be the great musical struggle to get music out of your head and out to people, and he seems to be good at that,” Gardner said.
McFadin has been displaying that ability throughout Columbus, having played at The Basement, Skully’s Music-Diner, and Scarlet & Grey Cafe, and later this year plans to take his act outside of Ohio, he said.
McFadin said he has scored a spot at a bluegrass, blues festival in Macon, Ga., in August.
“I’m not the best singer. I’m not the best guitar player, but I feel like for whatever reason I am able to write songs that, I don’t know, express emotions,” McFadin said.