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Singer-songwriter Ryland Moranz releases new record

ryland moranz
Singer-songwriter Ryland Moranz has a new record.

Fort Macleod singer-songwriter Ryland Moranz has released a new record with an underlying theme that reflects on the passage of time.

Moranz didn’t set out with that theme for XO, 1945, but it developed as the record came together at Rebeltone Ranch in Lethbridge.

“I’m a bit of an armchair historian, and with the six months, a year ,or whatever it is I’ve been spending on the road the last five years I guess the passage of time would be on my mind,” Moranz said. “It’s hard to be away from home that much, especially when you’re as lucky in that department as I am.”

This is the second record for Moranz and his first working with Tonic Records from Vancouver, which he calls a dream come true.

“The changes from my usual release routine have been drastic, in a very good way,” Moranz explained. “My manager Kate has worked so incredibly hard during this pandemic to make sure this record could release and I’m very lucky to have her and her amazing team. They’re the real deal.”

The songs for XO, 1945 represent a mix of tunes that Moranz had ready for his first record but didn’t put on Hello Old New World, and others he wrote while touring with Leeroy Stagger and the Rebeltone Sound.

“When I decided it was time to make another record I picked these 12 out of my collection. There are still some left over for B sides, or maybe some of the unrecorded ones will make the next album,. Who knows.”

Moranz’s songwriting style has developed since his first record but XO, 1945 retains the spirit of his initial effort.

“I’ve tried to go deeper in my storytelling and to challenge myself in the arrangements. I took more chances on this record and tried more things that were out of my comfort zone which is always a good thing.”

A voracious reader of history and classic books, Moranz finds some of his inspiration on those pages. The influence of authors such as Thompson  and Vonnegut can be found on XO, 1945, along with the work of Russian writer Boris Pasternak.  

Moranz puts his ideas to paper as quickly as possible, then tears those pages from his notebook and arranges — and rearranges — them on the floor or table until he finds it makes sense.

“From the outside it probably looks like I’m trying to catch a serial killer, but it’s become a tried and true method. Our home is full of notebooks with all the pages ripped out and stuffed back in.”

“I also have a very strict rule: If I feel a song coming on I have to sit down and start it. It’s made me late for a lot of things, but it’s another thing that I’ve identified as an essential part of the process. Getting started is the hardest part.”

Moranz writes a lot when touring, which forces him to be more mobile and make notes on his smart phone or computer. The voice memo function comes in handy for a songwriter on the move. 

When he first started writing songs Moranz would begin with the melody and add the words later, but his style has changed.

“Now it’s all at once. I find I’ll either have a lyric or melodic idea and use that as the jumping off point, but after the ball gets rolling it all organically starts to develop together. Sometimes what I start out with is completely gone by the time I’m finished. I’m a big advocate of letting art be its own thing without too much coaching.”

When he set out to record XO, 1945 Moranz didn’t have to look too far for help. He enlisted Leeroy Stagger to produce the record at Rebeltone Ranch.

“He’s got such a great ear and sense to him. He’s invaluable as a sounding board for ideas. He’s always got a cool perspective that’s different than mine and it really elevated the whole thing. Some of the ideas didn’t make it, but the ones that did were all gold.”

A recording engineer, Moranz engineered most of the album and recorded about half of it himself, with Stagger doing the rest. A versatile musician, Moranz played guitar, banjo, mandolin, mandola, harmonica and slide guitar in addition to vocals.

“It was really fun to just have the studio to myself and try things. Once the record started to take shape I got my pals from the Rebeltone Sound to come fill the thing out.”

Joining Moranz from Rebeltone Sound were Tyson Maiko on bass, Michael Ayotte on keys, and Kyle Harmon on drums. They were joined by George Fowler on cello and Kalvin Vollrath on fiddle.

“We recorded some of the tracks live off the floor and then they punched in with their parts on what I’d previously done. Once tracking was done Leeroy and I mixed it and it was out the door.”

The record’s name comes from a performance art piece Moranz created for a class on music after 1945 at the University of Lethbridge while he was completing an undergraduate degree.

“My professor asked me if I would could demonstrate some actual performance art as part of my presentation and told me to be as creative as I wanted. I had this idea to tattoo myself in class using a friend’s tattoo gun, despite never having given a tattoo.”

“The idea was to create a connection through a shared experience. After my formal presentation, without saying a word to my fellow classmates or my professor, I drew a long sheet off my prepared tattoo station, removed my pants to give me access to my inner leg, and gave my first tattoo. It was intense. I got an A.”  

“What I’d decided to tattoo on myself were the words XO, 1945. For me it was  a reflection on how history is just a postcard. A big ‘wish you were here’ that’s collectively experienced and more often than not, not the same as you remember it. I liked that, and I tattooed it, and then it just seemed to fit as the album title, and so it was.” 

Moranz takes it as a point of pride that professor now has a clause in his course outline stating that no student under any circumstances should tattoo themselves in class.

Moranz was excited to complete XO, 1945, after pouring so much energy and time into the project.

“You spend all your time and energy working on something that only exists in the etherial realm, then one day it’s in the real world. It’s a crazy feeling.   Hearing your new album for the first time never gets old.”

Moranz drew on a support system that includes his wife and family to weather a bout of depression that came as the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled performances and tours. He ran 1,000 miles in a virtual race across Tennessee, raised his chess rating to 970, from 550 and enjoyed more time than usual with his wife and their cats.

“I am anxious to get things rolling again though. That being said, definitely not until it’s safe. When people ask me if I’m ready to get out and play my line is, ‘I’m ready for everyone to stay home, then I’ll be ready to get out and play’.”

XO, 1945 comes out Jan. 15 on Apple Music, Spotify and other streaming services. Physical copies can be bought at www.rylandmoranz.com/merch or at www.tonicrecords.com.  

If you order XO, 1945 before Dec. 24 you get the album shipped to you early.

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