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Ryan La Valette: Behind The Beats

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

Ryan La Valette may not yet be a household name like Kenny G or Dave Koz, but he might soon be recognized as one of the next generation of Smooth Jazz’s superstars. Ryan La Valette's debut album, "New Beginnings," has had four singles reach the #1 spot on Billboard, a huge achievement and a first for the smooth jazz record books. Two of the four tunes spent several weeks at #1 here on our Smooth Jazz Top 20 Chart. "Lovers Melody" held the spot for 3 weeks and "Closer To You" was #1 two weeks in a row.

We sat down with Ryan La Valette at the end of 2023 for our year-end BEATS magazine. Check out the magazine article in our BEATS magazine here, but first keep scrolling for the extended version of our interview in text format.

Allen Kepler: Ryan, congratulations on all of your success! Thanks for taking some time with us for this year’s BEATS magazine. Coming from New Zealand, tell us how you made a connection with “Smooth Jazz”. 

Ryan La Valette: Firstly, thank you so much Allen for the kind words. It’s truly an honor to have my name mentioned amongst such greats, and to have a spot on this wonderful magazine!

I always had a deep love for Jazz music, even though I come from a family who aren’t Jazz lovers. It was something I always gravitated towards with no real explanation as to why. Maybe divine intervention? My parents are huge music enthusiasts though and American music was all through the house. The one George Benson record we had sealed the deal for me. My further curiosity towards the genre led me to discovering the artists whose music I fell in love with, and the drive to want to pursue a career in it.

I first reached out to Greg in 2018 on social media. I’ve always been a “go-getter” and was never afraid to reach out to anybody. I had written material and released music prior to connecting with Greg, but I wanted to work with another producer to learn, grow and develop my “musical voice”, so to speak. Chris, I reached out to in 2019 when I was getting to work on my EP “Dimensions Of Me”. Greg had gotten so swamped at the time that couldn’t work on the whole project with me anymore so I had gotten in touch with Chris. I think I caught him off guard at first but when I started sending him music, he was ALL IN to help me out. He has been a huge supporter of my music ever since and of course he went on to co-produce one of my biggest hits yet! Both Chris and Greg are amazing humans and Greg's relentless drive to get me seen is what led me to this point now. He wanted me to send a demo reel of my music from my EP to him so he could pass it on to Trippin’ N Rhythm Records. The rest is history..

AK: And you have worked with several other notable musicians.

RLV: Yes. I had the honor and privilege of touring with a Pop icon by the name of “Stan Walker” in 2018. Stan isn’t famous in the US or Europe, but is a household name in the NZ/Australia scene. I toured for a month and a half with him up and down New Zealand as Tenor Saxophonist in his horn section. It was a great experience being a side-man for a bigger artist. From the US Saxophonist, Donald Hayes who was one of the first people to help me out, before I had made the connection with Greg and Chris. I was still in college at the time. Donald featured on two singles I released when I first started releasing music. Donald has been the “go-to” sax player for huge artists in the US, from Robin Thicke to Beyonce. In Smooth Jazz we have other known names whom I’ve worked with like Nathan Mitchell, Lin Rountree, Randy Scott and Nicholas Cole.

AK: Any artists on your future wish-list that you would like to collaborate with?

RLV: Absolutely, yes! Pretty much all the legendary artists we have in Smooth Jazz today like Najee, Dave Koz and Brian Culbertson, but I believe that stuff has to happen organically. The right place and timing.. I’d very much like to work with artists such as Will Downing, Charlie Wilson, Anderson Paak, Kem and Bruno Mars too.

AK: Tell us about your start in music and any early musical influences.

RLV: George Benson was the very first major influence at the age of 5, then other Jazz artists such as Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane, Pat Martino, Pat Metheney and Bireli Lagrene. I got into more of the traditional/straight ahead and Bebop Jazz first. Smooth Jazz came later. From there, the major influences for me were Norman Brown, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and Everette Harp, just to name a few.

AK: Your music education includes audio engineering. How has this background helped you to produce songs that connect so well with music fans?

RLV: Yes, I went to College to become a Recording Engineer and my 3-4 years of study were fantastic. I found that I always had great ears, and learning to use them properly was a much valued skill I developed while there. To be honest, I did the most growing and learning after College. So much information gets thrown at you when you’re in the middle of it, so it takes a minute to rehash through everything you learned, you know? Learning how to mix was the most exciting thing for me though. How a song really sounds, even to the untrained ear is so important. A mix can either make or break a song. It’s such a crucial part of the process. In terms of the producing side, my focus has always been to create music that makes me feel good, and hopefully that message translates to the listeners feeling good too. It’s something that I can’t explain, but it has been working very well for me.

AK: How has social media impacted your career?

RLV: Immensely. I would not be here without it. The connections I have made all over the world have been through Social Media, with artists and producers, you name it.

AK: What’s next for you? New music in 2024? Touring?

RLV: Yes! Working on record number 2 as we speak which will now be entirely produced by me. I’ve got some wonderful material on it that I can’t wait to share with the world and fans. “New Beginnings” has done so ridiculously well that the bar is now set very high! I’m up for the challenge though. Enjoying every bit of this process! Shows are slowly getting locked in back in the US. I very much look forward to coming back when everything is set in stone. Hopefully the start of the second quarter of 2024!

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Colby Adkins
Colby Adkins
6 days ago

After college, I spent the most time learning and developing. You're thrown at a tonne of information when you're in the thick of it. Dordle


Steele Nickle
Steele Nickle
Apr 09

 The one George Benson record we had sealed the deal for me. geometry dash subzero

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