“I Think Maturity Is The Biggest Difference” – An MM Exclusive With Ryan Trey
19 Jan 2024
Ryan Trey is an artist not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. Born and raised in St Louis, Missouri, the emerging talent is able to tap into a multitude of styles that inform the output of his discography. As one of the most exciting prospects within R&B, Trey’s ability for vulnerability is what sets himself apart from his peers. Whilst in London for his fellow Missourian Jordan Ward’s tour, I sat down with Ryan to discuss his journey up to this point, his latest album ‘STREETS SAY YOU MISS ME’, and his appreciation for the UK scene.
Growing up in St. Louis, how do you think the city has influenced your music?
I think just like the competitive spirit, you know? You’ve kind of got that underdog type of vibe just because it’s such a smaller market – a smaller city. I think everybody from St. Louis, whether it’s me, Sexyy (Red), Jordan (Ward), Big Boss Vette – all of us have kind of got like a battery in our back right now. We just push the city as much as we can. Before us it’s been Nelly I think that was the last person to really come out of there. And you know, Smino has been around. But yeah, I think that’s how St. Louis is making everybody feel right now.
Like you said the city is having its moment right now. Do you feel like you’re playing a major role in that?
Yeah, of course. I feel like everybody’s role is even right now. Just because it’s not like other cities where, you know, 50 artists sound the same like New York (laughs). It’s like everybody’s sound is different. I don’t sound like Sexyy, Jordan doesn’t sound like me. Everybody in St Louis has got their own sound so I think that’s what’s making it unique.
What would you say are your earliest memories of music?
Just growing up, my parents played everything through the house. My dad would just play a lot of different Rap, My mom would play a lot of different things like House music, R&B, different stuff like that. We were always listening to music, just playing different albums with my dad when he used to drive me to school and stuff, listening before practice when I was playing sports. It had a major impact.
When do you think your musical journey really started?
I would say around 2018. I was moving around a lot when I was a kid, so just having to start over being in my own room, not having friends: I was alone a lot as I moved around, and that just kind of led me to get into writing, and eventually that turned into music. When I did meet the right people who put me in a studio, I felt like, “Man, you can really write! Like, you should take this somewhere.” I tried to put melodies behind it and it just kind of turned into a whole thing.
The project you released in 2018, ‘August’, feels a little more in the Rap space than your music right now. Would you agree with that?
I feel like it has an Atlanta influence – it’s like chopped out a little bit. I feel like it’s still R&B driven, though, you know? It can live on either side of playlisting. I definitely think the drums and the things that I use actually just hit harder. We used a lot of Rap influenced drums, for sure, so you can say that.
From August to your latest release, ‘STREETS SAY YOU MISS ME’, what’s changed in your life? And what’s changed for you as an artist?
I think I’m just more mature. I felt like I was very innocent and I didn’t really go through too much when I first made that project. I was so young, so I feel like now it’s been some years since that first project. I think maturity is the biggest difference – the way I talk, certain things I say, experiences. Just living life – that’s the biggest change.
In terms of your musical influences, who would you say you have looked up to or drawn inspiration from?
I really like Brent Faiyaz. That’s somebody I’ve been listening to a lot. I think growing up it was really like Lauryn Hill, Drake, Frank Ocean, Michael Jackson. Just a lot of different artists like that, who kind of like blended genres in their music.
What in particular do you like about Brent Faiyaz?
I like artists to have a certain texture to their voice. As a fan I like it when people’s voices can’t be replicated. I feel like nobody sounds like him. I’ve been listening to him since like, 2017 when he first dropped that Sonder tape. I like his growth, and him being in his own lane.
Before we dive into your project, let’s talk about ‘WHITE CROCS’, your song with Jordan Ward. It’s one of the songs of the year. How did it come about?
Yeah, me and Jordan actually met in LA. We didn’t know each other was from St. Louis until we met in LA one time. This brand was having an opening party or something like that and we both pulled up there. We kind of realised we were both from St. Louis and that was probably like, three years before we even made the record. He sent it to me and I knocked it out in like 15 minutes, but I didn’t even know the record was coming out because I did it like a year and a half before it even dropped.
He hit me to come to New York to shoot the video for it and so that’s when I was like, “Okay, it’s coming out”. Just over time, I started hearing it more and more and started to see really good feedback. It just goes back to us both being from St. Louis. I feel like this is gonna keep our foot on the gas.
And your new album, ‘STREETS SAY YOU MISS ME’ – what does the title mean to you and what are the themes of the project? There seems to be a lot of love and loss of love running throughout it…
Yeah, I feel like there’s two ways you go about a breakup in a relationship. There’s people who breakup with somebody and never talk to them again, and there’s others who break up and go to war with them. I feel like the second option is kind of what I did. There was just a lot of pettiness between me and this person. We really care for each other but we were just kind of trying to make each other feel the hurt that we got from each other.
We were both trying to be outside at the same time. Going to different clubs, different parties, trying to talk to new people. Because we had similar friend groups she would hear through the grapevine or ‘the streets’ that I would still miss her and vice versa. That’s also alongside the music that I put out, so that’s really where the title came from.
A lot of thought clearly went into the album artwork as well. What was the inspiration behind it?
We actually had two covers – I was out in LA and we shot this alternate black and white cover with this portrait photo I had. Then I was with my boy Bash in Atlanta. There’s this movie called ‘City Of God’, and there’s like this reference picture we saw where it was like the split screen – almost like a collage. That’s where we got the inspiration from. Then we kind of just twisted it where it was like I was alone in the big part of the picture with the person I cared about in the small one. We stitched it together and it looked really dope. A lot of people love it but some people hate that it’s a little bit off centre, but I kinda like that.
What song from the album would you say has been the most impactful?
I have a song on my new project which I feel like is impactful at the moment called ‘FUCK TRYIN’. I feel like it’s a really dope song. I’ve performed it a couple times and I love the feedback I get on it. I see more and more people talking about that one so yeah, it’s probably my favourite right now.
And across the project you work with four different artists, Vory, NOCAP, Chase Shakur, and Mariah The Scientist. What do you think each of these bring to the album?
Just like, diversity. I feel like they’re different artists as far as not only the music they make but the creativity they bring to the table. They all brought different ideas even to the ones I was expecting when I sent the music to them. Everything they brought to the record was dope and I feel like they took it to a whole new world. So yeah, shout out to the gang.
Is there anything you could take away from working with them?
I just think that everyone has their own integrity and creative process. No two artists create exactly the same so I think that’s dope. You end up taking little things from everyone and I’m like a sponge so I can apply it to things moving forward. That was my first time working with so many artists on one collaborative project with one goal, so I definitely took a lot from them writing wise.
Going forward, is there anyone else you would like to collaborate with?
I’ve been talking to J.I.D’s people a lot. I’ve also been going back and forth with Ayra Starr a lot too. There’s also a girl called Natanya who’s from London, actually. She’s a good friend of mine. I was just hanging with her all day yesterday so we got some stuff we’ve been working on. I think me and Bryson Tiller are trying to get back in, so I’m still working – for sure.
Speaking of Natanya, you’re in London at the moment. What do you think of the music scene here and is there anyone in particular that you look out for?
I love it. I’ve been tapping into the No Signal Yearbook which a lot of people have told me about. Obviously Natanya is a good friend of mine so she’s been putting me onto a lot of different music too. I think she’s my favourite artist right now because she just dropped an EP. She has a song on there called ‘23’ which I really liked. In the Rap scene I love Dave, and I’ve been listening to Strandz, too. I’ve definitely been tapped in a little bit.
You’re on tour right now. What would you say you prefer – performing or creating music?
I think they go hand in hand. When I’m creating I’m always keeping performing in mind. I want to make performance records and things that will move people. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day. If you take ‘White Crocs’ for example, it was moving people in the streets so I knew it would be fun to perform. I think both are equally as exciting.
How would you say your creative process has changed across your career?
I think it’s just gone from me writing as an individual, like by myself, to this project, where I was working more in a collaborative effort – just having more people in the studio and getting a different type of vibes. I think it just varies from project to project. Like with this next one, I may go back to being a little bit more independent. It’s tough to say though. I feel like I might say something now and I’ll feel completely different by the time I write something new.
Just to wrap up, how do you sum up your 2023 and what are you looking to achieve in the new year?
Yeah, it’s been my best year musically and career wise. I’ve gone through a lot as a person and I’m definitely gearing up to do more tours and shows. I think that’s what we’re trying to line up right now. And then from there, more music. That doesn’t stop, so I’m excited. I feel like next year is going to be my best year for sure.