This month I had the great pleasure of interviewing the lovely Ryan O'Neal from Sleeping At Last. The wonder behind the amazing album Yearbook, Ryan takes time out of his busy life to answer some of my questions. This is surely the best Valentines present I have ever received.
RYAN: Hello there! My name is Ryan O’Neal and I make music under the name, ‘Sleeping At Last.’ I’m from Chicago, Illinois and have been privileged of making music for quite some time now. The name “Sleeping At Last” has stuck with me for a while. I am the only official member of Sleeping At Last, however I have lots of friends that play with me on tour and such.
I once read that you approach songwriting like an audio journal but I have also noticed you use a lot of imagery in your songs, which I have often found when listening to your music that I tend to picture myself in a moment or time when I myself have felt what I believe your song is trying to portray – When writing a song do you always use situations you have experienced to help write lyrics?
RYAN: That’s really neat to hear! Thank you. I definitely write a lot about my own life experiences. I also write with other’s experiences in mind, that I’ve observed. And sometimes I make up stories entirely to express a specific idea or thought. And sometimes my songs aren’t really a specific story at all, but a collection of thoughts. So I definitely pull inspiration from a lot of directions. And In my writing, I’ve always been attracted to imagery and analogy. I’m not entirely sure where that comes from, other than perhaps it’s just my way of better understanding things explained to me through visuals and analogies.
One of my favourite lines from one of your songs is “There’s nothing in this world that we can’t fix with some scissors and some glue” Truly a wonderful line that inspires me every single day.
RYAN: That is so nice to hear!! Thank you so much for that! That’s from “Next To Me” – Enjoyed writing that one a lot! I had a lot of fun writing about my own childhood and using child-like imagery, to tell a love story.
You approached recording in a different way with Yearbook. What was the inspiration for this and how did you motivate yourself to write an EP a month?
RYAN: The idea for “Yearbook” came from asking a simple question.. what do love most about being a musician and songwriter? It was a very simple answer – I love writing songs! So, with that idea, I tried coming up with a project that was challenge the typical “album” release format, and also challenged my more than ever before in my craft of writing songs. So that led to the idea of writing, recording and releasing 3 songs every month for 1 entire year. I finished that up last September and am SO thrilled to have had the opportunity to devote an entire year of my life to writing songs! In spite of the challenge and the constant deadlines, I honestly couldn’t have asked for better. 36 songs later, I feel more excited about writing music than ever. I’m very grateful to be doing this and that folks listen to these songs. Means a lot to me.
If you had to choose any of the yearbook EPs which one would you say is your favourite and what song from the whole collection would you say affected you the most writing it?
RYAN: Wow, that’s a tough one! I feel like I poured just as much of my life into each of them, so I’m not sure I’d be able to choose… but releasing the first EP “October” was very special, as it marked the beginning of a very long and amazing year! I’d say my favourite song, at least at the moment, might be “Silhouettes” – that one came together very easily and naturally, which isn’t always the case. And I love the clarinet lines that my friend, Paul Von Mertens played on that song… it was one that came together with little wrestling. I like it when that happens.
Recently you had the great opportunity of having one of your songs played in Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 1. ‘Turning Page’ a truly wonderful song. I read that you tried to put yourself in ‘Edward Cullen’s’ shoes in order to write the song. How hard was it to write a song from someone else’s life experience (even though they are a fictional character)?
RYAN: It was actually quite fun to write from Edward’s perspective! I enjoyed the process of watching the Twilight films and trying to capture a sense of a character… the 3 movies prior to “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” were all leading up to these incredible moments in the final films – the wedding, the honeymoon, etc. So writing a very straight forward love song felt right. I was SO thrilled and honoured that they picked the song to be a part of those scenes – I couldn’t have hoped for better.
Since having Turning Page used in the movie your life must have gone from one extreme to the other? Although a very positive moment in your life has it come with any hindrances?
RYAN: Not at all! It’s been a truly incredible experience. The Twilight fans, as well as the folks behind the films could not have been more welcoming and kind to me from the start! So this whole experience has been really special to me. It’s always been a dream of mine to have music I wrote, featured in a film on the big screen. With Twilight, I feel like I was given the deluxe super version of that dream, because not only does my song get to be a part of a film, but the folks I’ve met through it all have been so wonderful at every step of the way.
What do you see for the future of Sleeping At Last? What great adventures and experiences are you hoping for? Is there a UK tour on the cards?
RYAN: This year I’ll be doing another large new music project – “Yearbook” was such a great experience and has really made me excited about writing lots of new music, so I plan to do a lot more new music this year. I also plan to tour quite a bit this year! Can’t wait to bring all of these new songs on the road. As for a UK tour… I cannot wait for that to happen!! I’m hoping it’s a very near future possibility! I LOVE the UK. Had the privilege of living there for a couple months, during the mixing of my “Ghosts” album a while ago. I’ve missed it ever since!
More on a personal level:When growing up what would you spend your summers doing?
RYAN: I loved to draw. So every chance I’d get, I’d ask my Mom for a pen and paper. I also spent a lot of time “making things” – using old broken toys, I liked trying to make new things. I have some scars to prove it. One “thing” in particular that I was trying to make, involved me “borrowing” my parent’s kitchen knife… I was trying to make a mini basketball hoop out of straws and old RC car tires (strange, I know..) and needed to trim some pieces, but I slipped and cut my thumb pretty good instead. So I probably spent most of my Summers healing from things like that! But one of my absolute FAVOURITE Summer traditions was going to Disney World with my family! I had a pretty incredible childhood, in fact. I have my Mom to thank for that!
When you aren’t taking on the music world what do you get up to in your very minimal spare time? What do you do to help you escape reality?
RYAN: Movies! I LOVE movies. So I tend to see a lot in the theatre. It’s definitely a bit of an escape. Aside from that, I love travelling. Specifically, Hawaii… that’s definitely a favourite escape. It doesn’t happen often enough in my opinion. ;)
I have a quote for you. It is one of my favourite quotes “Gandhi once said what ever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” Would you like to share we me and my readers a quote that means a lot to you and inspires you everyday?
RYAN: That’s a beautiful quote for sure! Hmm.. let’s see… a favourite quote of mine. Here’s one from gorgeous book, The Little Prince “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
If you weren’t apart of a very successful band what would you be doing do you think? As a child we always come up with jobs we want when we are ‘older’ what jobs did you want as a child?
RYAN: For a long while I wanted to be a professional basketball player! That didn’t quite pan out, but I’m thankful that somewhere along the line, music became my passion instead. I wasn’t very good at basketball, so the odds were stacked against me from the start. I also wanted to be a Disney animator! Now I dream of writing music for Disney/Pixar Animations!
As valentines is coming up how about a question regarding romance. Some of your songs are very romantic but what is the most romantic thing you have ever done?
RYAN: Hmm.. good question! I’d say that how I proposed to my wife would hopefully be considered “romantic” … she told me it was, so I’ll take it. I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but the gist of the day was: I put together several small puzzles that told my wife where to go next (some of her favourite spots/things to do) that she needed to put together (actual jigsaw puzzles with messages on them) and then set up a decoy dinner “plan” and had her picked up in a limo, which drove her downtown Chicago, where I was waiting to propose to her on the rooftop of a skyscraper. The very same place, we visited on our first date. She said yes. Win.
Lastly, through all your success with the band what moment in your life are you the most thankful for?
RYAN: Wow, these are great questions! A moment in my life that I’m most thankful for … wow, there are TONS to choose from. I don’t know that I can pinpoint one! I’m very grateful to have the life that I have.
Check out all the news on Sleeping At Last Here: Website