When it comes to British boybands, there isn't any other boyband that I love more than Blue. Sorry Take That and Boyzone, but this is the truth I speak. Before Blue's imminent reunion, Lee Ryan is re-launching his solo career with a new album called "Confessions" and from what I've heard so far, it's his most solid work to date. Lee Ryan's solo output has always been really notable and consistent and his new single "Secret Love" is proof positive that we are in for a treat with "Confessions" - and I for one am really excited about it.
In my EQ interview with Lee Ryan, we have a good chat and laugh about growing up in the music industry, what we can expect from "Confessions", why he's so damn popular in Italy, his thoughts on fellow Blue member Duncan's coming out and how his dyslexia helps him articulate his creativity and future aspirations. Enjoy.
EQ: Hey Lee – How are you on this nice sunny day?
Lee: I'm good – I'm at home at the moment in Oxford.
Nice – now I'm loving your new single "Secret Love" – it's a bit of a change for you, more dancey as you are more straight-up pop. Why the change of genre for you in this first single?
It's not just about that. The album is quite different all over really. It's got a range of different kinds of sounds and music. I think more so than anything, it's about "how honest" the album is for me. It's the most honest piece of work I have ever done, hence the title "Confessions". I wanted to make something that I could be proud of. I think sometimes people think things about me which are in a wrong way, because of the way people and media like to twist stuff…
Well the tabloids do like to grab onto you don't they?…
Man I don't know why?! I know that they are interested in me, but at the same time you think "Oh god, gimme a break!" [laughs] But it's part and parcel in being in the public eye and it's a shame because sometimes you get people going "I wish it was just about the music" - but I understand it's really not the industry were in, but it's about who you're dating and what's going on in your life at the time. As far as the first single goes, it was a conscious effort to come out with something that was quite different – so people didn't expect what I was going to come out with first off. That's the reason I went with a dance track for the first single. But the second single is going to be totally different.
You mentioned that your album is called "Confessions" – do you feel there was a lot you had to come clean about on this album?
Yeah – You know the way that Robbie Williams and Pink do it? I think for me, they are great artists because they are honest and I think it's less contrived when you're trying to sell something with no meaning. For me this album and every single song on it has a meaning and I could take you through every song and tell you what I was thinking when I wrote it, and for me this makes it honest and I own it – that's something that I never really done before…
Are there any particular songs on "Confessions" that you'd like to share some of those honest thoughts and feelings with us?
There is one song called "I Am Who I Am" which is a cover song actually – I know I said I wrote the album and owned it, but their are two songs on there which I didn't write, but I chose to sing because they have a real meaning to them. The cover song is by Ben's Brother, but I recorded it before he put it on his first album. He wrote it and played it to me and I was like "I got to sing this!". Everyone who hears it says "wow – it's an amazing song – it's so you because it's an honest performance". It's about saying "I am who I am, take me as I am or leave it". Really beautiful lyrics in there. There is another song that I wrote called "Lonely Travelers's Tear" which is about feeling like I haven't quite reached the point where I want to be yet – talking about having a thousand miles to go, but having to face a broken road. It's my angst to get where I wanna be.
Interesting – that leads me to my next question. I remember the first time I saw Blue perform, you guys were opening for Mel B at G.A.Y. which probably seems like a million years ago to you…
Yeah, yeah it does – I remember that! [laughs]
How do you feel now as an artist versus how you felt back then – just starting out all bright-eyed and bushy tailed?
You know I was young then – I was only 16 or 17. So I mean from being a young boy to being a man now in this industry is such a transition in of itself. Anyone that goes through growing up as a teenager in this industry will say that it's difficult. I probably see the industry a lot different to other people that are in it. Growing up in this industry is a bit crazy – I've learned a lot – there have been a lot of blood, sweat and tears. [laughs]
When I was dropping hints to my readers about doing an interview with you – I surprisingly got a huge response from some of your Italian fans…I didn't quite realize you were so huge in Italy – why is that?
Basically when Blue worked in Italy, I wrote "Breathe Easy" which we then translated into "A Chi Mi Dice" and it was number one for four weeks! With my solo career….sorry my mum's just on the phone she's really loud [both laugh] – I outsold every international artist with my last solo album, I toured twice there and developed quite a big following. I did "Ice Age 2" and "Ice Age 3" in Italian so it was really just an amazing reaction I got over there. I was in massive Hollywood films as it were. I sung a lot of songs in Italian and wrote a lot of songs in Italian – so I had a massive following because of that…
You actually speak Italian?
When I was over there, I started picking it up. You know when you spend a lot of time in another country, you just start learning more. When I was speaking in Italian in "Ice Age" it was more of a challenge – amazing to do. Not a lot of people actually know that did those films – I was one of the main characters – I was one of the possums. Some people are quite shocked when I tell them that…
Very cool, sounds like you might be heading to Italy again to promote the new album…
Hopefully! I really want to get back over there.
You have a show coming up with Sophie Ellis-Bextor at G.A.Y. – coming full circle again! What can we expect from your new live show?
Yup! I'm gonna do a couple album tracks and the single. The album has got some fun tracks and more up-tempo songs so it makes it so much more fun to perform!
I have to ask this Lee, so spill the beans – Is Blue actually re-forming, what's going on there?
Yeah we are – we are going to be doing some stuff – it's just a matter of "when" at the moment. We are doing it. It will be coming back, I can't wait – it's gonna be so much fun!
When Duncan came out not too long ago, you were very supportive of his situation. Do you feel the music industry treats male pop artists unfairly when it comes to keeping their sexuality under wraps? Do you think it's changed at all now?
I think from my experience this industry thrives on negativity – especially here in England. I think here, it's more so than Asia and Europe. I don't know about America, because I haven't spent much time there as an artist. I think, especially in England, it's more so about your personal life like who you're breaking up with and how much weight you're putting on and all the kind of "have you got a drug problem" or "have you been cheating" and less about the music which is a shame really – but that's just the way it is. As far as Duncan goes and his business, he wanted to just come out and say it – so it lifted a weight off his shoulders – so good on him. I think everyone should respect that.
Absolutely – now you got the new single coming out and you're on the promo trail. It's the third time you are going into full force Lee Ryan mode – how do you really feel about it now that you are gearing up for it all over again?
I'm nervous! Very nervous!
Because I'm scared it's gonna bomb! [laughs]
Is chart success really that important for you with this album being all about honesty?
I want the album to come out and chart success does kinda determine if the album will come out or not. That's the way record labels work these days. It costs a lot of money to promote albums and if they see from the first single that it's not picking up, then they will most likely drop it before they spend more money promoting it. That's the nature of the beast really. I understand that – I've been there. My favourite saying is "this donkey has been up and down the beach too many times – we're not gonna pay for that". [both laugh loudly]
That's a great quote Lee…
It's a good headline right? [laughs] – I made it up myself! [laughs again]
Now Lee, I ask everyone what their thoughts are on music piracy and with Blue – you guys came out right before piracy really started to be an issue – what are your thoughts around piracy with you being a solo artist today?
With Blue, we were the last group that came out that didn't have that pressure of the whole downloading thing and it was before X-Factor and Pop Idol so there was more room for development of artists – it wasn't so quick. Right now the industry is just so "instant instant instant" which there is a plus and negative points to. There is so much more opportunity now I think though – I mean I'm on Twitter constantly – I had 5,500 followers on Twitter and I put out to my Twitter followers that I wanted their help in getting to 6000 and I thought it would take a week and they did it – the same afternoon! For artists, it's now about more getting in and getting your hands dirty – that's the way the industry is right now.
Do you think social networking let's you cut out the middleman and get right to your fans now?
Totally – I mean look at the government – they're doing it. They are going onto Facebook and using it as a marketing tool and reaching out to people they normally wouldn't reach out to – a younger generation, people who are not normally into politics and getting them into the economy and trying to make people aware – that's just a sign of the times really. You have to embrace it, you either get on-board and follow and with Facebook and Twitter they are driven by the young people who are driving the future. If we embrace it, we can use it to our advantage and make a difference and a change. There is a positive element to it, you just got to try and swerve around the negative curve balls – and they're are plenty of those!
You've had your fair share of negative curve balls and really positive experiences and you still have a ways to go in life – do you think you'll always focus on music or do you have any other aspirations?
Very much so – For me, I really want to try and get more into film. I love music and I've given myself a ten year mark – I want to do music until I'm about 36 or 37 and then I'd like to turn my attention to films and acting. More so directing and producing – that's what my ultimate goal is. I write a lot of film scripts and stuff…
Do you really?
Yeah, I write screenplays and I have a few projects I'm working on now. It's weird because I'm dyslexic and I never thought I'd ever be a writer that way – but a lot of dyslexic people are creative and just because you can't spell certain words doesn't mean you can't create. The great thing about being dyslexic is that we articulate ourselves in different ways. Just because we can't spell certain words, we go around the other way to try and explain ourselves – you think "I don't know how to spell that and I have to think of a simpler way of explaining it".
Very cool – well, Lee that was all my questions – thank you for your time and thank you for your honest answers.
Thank you very much – you can always get honest answers from me that's for sure!
Let's go behind the scenes now for the "Secret Love" video and don't forget that the single comes out in the UK on May 9th and is available now for pre-order on iTunes.