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Jeff Ryan: Behind the Beats

Updated: May 4, 2022

Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Jeff Ryan.

Jeff Ryan's single "Sentimental Soul" featuring Adam Hawley is 2021's Song of the Year! We interviewed Jeff in our annual BEATS magazine about the accomplishment. Check out the magazine article below but keep scrolling for the extended version of our interview.

Read the rest of the BEATS magazine here.

Jeff, you have become one of the smooth jazz format’s hit makers! How does it feel?

It truly feels incredible! Smooth Jazz has meant so much to me since I was a young child. I knew the saxophone was the voice that would translate my emotion the best. The sax has a raw and visceral quality that speaks to human emotion. So really my job is to be personal and expressive, to hook people in with a grabbing melody that tugs at peoples emotions. Ever since being a young instrumentalist, I knew that developing a tone and sound that could captivate was of paramount importance. The sax naturally speaks to people, but you still need to develop a nuanced sound and style that people can embrace. Songs also need to be strong for live performance, which is the other half of these tracks. When I’m developing melodies, there is always a sense of how the song will vibe with a live audience and what emotions will come through. To have my music received is an amazing blessing and I hope that everyone can come experience these songs live. The live experience is where the real power and expression is on full display.

Tell us how you came up with the title “Sentimental Soul.”

Sentimental Soul really stands for all the life, experiences and emotions that have culminated to this point. Our lives are always the sum of our parts and what we learn along the way. I feel Sentimental Soul is drenched in all the ups and downs, loves come and gone, every emotion from this journey that have been experienced thus far.

Tell us about the song structure of “Sentimental Soul.”

The song structure of Sentimental Soul is a basic song format. Intro-Verse-Chorus-Breakdown-Solo-Chorus with a special outro line to finish off the tail of the track before returning to the chorus one last time, but the emotional climb through the track is really important. I am always trying my best to tell a story with the ebb and flow of intensity through the structure of the song.

You started on saxophone at age 10. Who are some of your influences?

My initial influences that really pulled me to the sax was the funk group Tower of Power with the Back to Oakland album and the mainstays of Smooth Jazz like Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot, Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, Dave Koz, Steve Cole, Brian Culbertson and many more. As a kid, delving deeper into the instrument, I explored artists such as Stan Getz, John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon. I also had some incredible instructors over the years who introduced me to artists such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker and Phil Woods. But all genres of music have been influential, especially with the involvement of my family and their classical roots. Composers like Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Chopin have made their melodies regular in my musical memory.

And Darren Rahn produced both singles from “Duality.”

Darren Rahn is an incredible producer. Working with him was an absolute dream and it seemed effortless to put together material that we both felt would be translatable to the smooth jazz audience. We both love the format dearly and that passion really showed on the tracks we worked together.

How does it feel to be back playing in front of fans?

Nothing feels better than getting back on the stage to a live audience. I think so many artists will agree, that the true artistry really comes out fully when performing live. When talking with Dave Koz, we shared that the true joy and essence of what we do is connecting with people through live performance. Performance is very personal, sharing that vulnerability and honesty can be a challenge. However, nothing quite compares to the joy of expressing the love we have for music.

Your single “New Day” featuring Adam Hawley is doing well on the charts currently. Any additional radio singles coming from “Duality”?

There are a few tracks I would love to bring to radio, but I would especially like “A Forever Love,” which was produced by Greg Manning who worked my entire first album called “Embrace.” Greg really means a lot to me. We’ve had the pleasure to perform around the world together and I really enjoy everything he brings to the table.

Keep up with the latest from Jeff Ryan here.

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