Ryan Kelly front right

Back Left: McKay Harris, Front Right: Ryan Kelly

Unlike most young kids who are made to take piano lessons and finally convince their mothers to let them quit, Ryan soaked up all the musical training he could receive when young and still does. This has paid off. Ryan Kelly, a local BYU student majoring in Jazz Piano/Classical Piano awes audiences with his perfect pitch and brilliance in musical theory, allowing him to play any song upon hearing it for the first time.

An interview with the humble musician:
Q. What instruments do you play?
A. Piano, guitar, and alto sax; piano is my choice instrument [He also took voice lessons for a couple years]

Q. So I understand that you can just hear a song for the first time and immediately play it. How is that? Can you do this because of your perfect pitch?
A. Yeah perfect pitch helps, but that is more of a party trick. It is my understanding of music theory that helps me more in such situations.

Q. How do you get inspiration for song lyrics?
A. Just your feelings and then sit down and it comes out in your fingers and then you sing. It just comes out and you try to write in the most poetic way possible.

Q. Who are your influences?
A. Bright Eyes, Amos Lee, Sufjan Stevens, Dave Matthews, and the list could go on forever.

Q. What is one of your favorite classical songs to play on the piano?
A. Gaspard de el nuit [by Maurice Ravel]

Although he is extremely talented in music, both theory-wise and performance, Ryan enjoys all kinds of music. Joking with his roommate, he ended the interview by playing some Tenacious D Wonderboy and Tribute on his guitar for me.

Ryan mostly performs solo and even has his own solo album, One Man Guy.  However, Ryan also has a band, “Green Like July,” with his pal, MckKay Harrris. The band, collaborated September of last year, involves both musicians composing and singing with McKay primarily on guitar and Ryan on Piano.  Although separated while in school, the band still gets together each semester for concerts.

Check out  Green Like July’s Myspace for information on the band’s album and concerts or for information on Ryan Kelly’s One Man Guy cd and shows.


imagine dragons

Imagine Dragons is a local band from Las Vegas comprised of:  Dan Reynolds (lead singer), Wayne Sermon (guitar), Ben McKeen (bass), Andrew Tolman (drums), and Brittany Tolman (keys). This line-up, however, is relatively new. Their most recent addition, Ben, has been in the band for only 3 months. Though they haven’t been in the music scene for very long, they have been practicing, writing, and playing as much as the can and have already been able to see results.

I met with them before their show at Velour, in Provo, UT, on Firday (08-28-09). They were fun and easy to talk to and were very excited about their future (which happens to look very bright). Check it out:

Why did you choose the name ‘Imagine Dragons‘ for your band?

Dan: Oh we get that a lot. It’s an anagram  for something that we feel really passionate about. (An anagram is where you take all the letters and rearrange them to form a phrase, or a word, or a couple of words).

Ben: And it’s top secret!

Wayne: I haven’t even told my mother.

Dan: Yeah, our families don’t even know.

Can I ask if it’s one word or two?

Ben: Oh you can ask, but we won’t tell you. (as he laughs..)

What are your practices like?

Ben: We practice 6 hours a day, everyday, from 12-6.

Wow, so you guys are pretty serious about this?

Ben:Yeah, we’ve been hitting it as hard as we can. We’re definitely not treating this as a hobby. At our practices we set achievable goals, and when we meet them, we set new goals. It’s not like we mess around.

Dan: We’re never satisfied, we’re always asking how we can improve. And that’s how are shows and songs have gotten better. We definitely don’t think we’re the bee’s knees at all, we have a lot of growth left.

Ben: But we’re working on being the bee’s knees. Right now we’re the bee’s ankles. We’re slowing working out way up!

What are you guys working on right now?

Ben: We’re really hitting all fronts as hard as we can, you know we try to do as much songwriting as we can, and we try to get out there and play as much as we can to promote our material. We write a new song and want to perform it, and then we get new gigs and want to perform new songs, we write new songs for the new gigs, then we get new gigs and new songs. You know, it’s crazy.

Dan: But we do have a new E.P. now that we’re releasing tonight, and by the end of the year we’ll have a full album. We’re actually back in the studio September 5.

How do you all write your music?

Brittany: We all collaborate, everybody is really open to each others suggestions.

Ben: Usually somebody will bring in a fairly well-developed idea with melody and form attached to it, and then as a band we’ll sit and listen to it and learn it and decide different ways to tweak it. We’ll collectively critique it…we really do everything as collaboratively as you can possibly make it work.

Andrew: We’re practicing a lot together and so a lot of the ideas we have we’ll be able to show to each other often. But at the same time we have time to go home at night and work individually…We’re just very open with communication. We’re finding that the best songs, that we’re the most proud of, are the songs where everybody has pitched in.

How do you handle criticism in composing these songs?

Dan: We’re all best friends so criticism and egos are left at the door, and I feel like that’s been the best thing for songwriting. And we all know we can approve and we’re all open to criticism from each other and that it’s not meant in a rude way.

Andrew: We come up with our best stuff and play for our manager or our friends and family and ask them what they think. A lot of times we get feedback and then try to incorporate that because we’re performing for others to uplift them…we find as we uplift others first, it makes [the music] a lot better.

Dan: For instance the newest song we’ve been working on, we were playing it at my house and my mom came in and was like, “just want to tell you guys, that song was very mediocre.” But we kept working on it and now it’s her favorite song.

Ben: She was right…and it’s much better now. Sometimes it just takes somebody else to give you a new perspective on it. It’s hard to look at your own work when you’re completely immersed in it all the time.

Now I know you guys won two battle of the bands and opened for Kelly Clarkson, how was that?

Andrew: There were like 12,000 people there, the UVU stadium was all filled. It was just a really good experience.

Dan: I think it was everything we imagined it to be, and more.

Have you guys gotten more exposure from that experience?

Ben: It seems like every time we play our fan base is growing and more people are coming out to see us. It’s great, it feels like this momentum has not begun to slow down at all. It feels like we just keep going up.

Why did you guys move to Las Vegas?

Dan: The main reason is because people in the music industry, when they hear Utah, generalize. It’s sad, but a lot of people don’t break out of Utah.

Brittney: Part of it is because there’s not a ton of smaller venues to play at. I mean you have Velour and a few others, but in Vegas there are a ton. There are just a lot more places to play and more opportunities to make a buzz down there. We love Utah, but Vegas just presents more opportunities.

Dan: Utah is just not big in the entertainment industry. But we love Utah and we’re probably more excited to play this show tonight than any show we have in Vegas.

What do you feel are your strengths?

Dan: We move through stuff quick just because these four musicians are very professional, collegiate musicians. Where you say “this is the song we’re playing, in this chord progression, and we want a bridge” and they’re like “okay”

Whereas opposed to other bands i’ve been in where they’re like “what’s this note?’, “Okay, that sounds good” “That note sounds good, where are your fingers”

We take it as serious as we can. I think fans expect something that seems surreal, or like a show, because they’re investing their money. So we try to dress up and give them an experience. We feel like our live show is probably our biggest strength. We try to put all of out heart into it and as much passion as we can and we write about things that we are very passionate about.