Over the last handful of years, Nomadic Firs have grabbed the attention of many within the independent music world. Listening to the music of Ryan Boos is like taking a psychedelic journey to the top of a mountain and watching the sun set over the town below. His songs seem to brush on almost every aspect of the human experience in a curious way, which somehow makes light of it all. From the layers of trance-like synths, to the folky picks of his guitar, to the abstract yet thoughtful lyrics, the Nomadic Firs have something really special to offer.
The story of Ryan Boos is a glimpse into the life of a true creative spirit, and one that any artist will recognize as real. There is no false sense of self here; His music is his own stripped down soul, like the lyrics say, “Flying forever in the yard/Once you’ve figured out who you are.”
It was around 2005 when Boos moved to Knoxville, Tennessee from Michigan leaving behind his pursuits of becoming a house DJ and picking up a guitar. It was there that destiny had called him, as soon enough he would be introduced to his future wife (now an art teacher) at a friend’s show. They would go on to move into a 100 year old southern home where Nomadic Firs was born. I was recently lucky enough to sit down and interview Ryan for all the beasts out there. Here’s what he had to say…
What can you tell us about your musical journey?
Ryan: I guess I grew up around music. My grandfather used to play in bands when I was a little kid. We would go to these huge conventions where they’d always play European jazz. I didn’t start playing music until I was 18 or 19 I guess. I started mostly with DJing and beat matching. At the time I was sort of learning how to be a house music DJ. When I got into guitar I sort of figured out how to co-mingle those things.
What’s your songwriting process like? How are your songs birthed?
Ryan: I start with a structure, like a beat, then start adding melodies and layering sounds to see if it all starts to make sense. I am trying to get away from that process though for when I want to start performing again. It’s sort of really hard to do; to translate that into a live set.
So Are you ready to start playing live again?
Ryan: Yeah I think I’m itching to do it. I’m just trying to formulate everything down to be able to stay true to who I am but also not relying on technology to simplify everything. I’m not a purist though. I’m actually working on two albums at the moment, and I’m trying to do it all with no guitar.
So how do you go about listening to music?
Ryan: I’d probably say the car. It seems to be where I’m wanting to listen and I’m paying more attention when I have a destination and the song’s gonna get me there. But I try to make time to listen to my vinyl collection too.
So I read that you’re in a self sustaining farm situation? Is that still going on?
Ryan: I think that was chalked up a bit, but you know, we have chickens we’ve been growing food for years. But we try to do our part. We’re definitely crunchier than most people. I’d love to go full solar, but maybe one day down the road when we’re older we can get a flat somewhere out in the country and sort of do these things from the ground up.
How has that situation impacted your creative pursuits?
Ryan: Probably all over the place. I mean, I feel like, before I moved to Knoxville I was kind of in a dark, depressed state. You know, heartbroken from a girl all the cliches of a 23-24 year old. Then when I moved, at the time I was listening to Pedro The Lion, Damien Jurado; you know all that sappy kind of depressing music. I love it but that was all I was listening to. When I came here I basically said to myself “If I’m gonna make sad music, I’ll at least try to hide it in happy sounds,” so that was the goal. And that kind of lead me to this green lifestyle. I’m interested in it, and I think it’s probably the best way to be in life. And if I can control it I’m gonna try to go that way, even if I’m not always happy and stoked about my compost pile.
Cool. So what’s been the best way you’ve gotten your music discovered?
Ryan: Well I started putting all my stuff out on Soundcloud and people took to it. The track that everybody seems to like, “Vines” I hated. That was off the first album, that’s what got people interested in my music I think. So once I saw people were liking it I thought well, let me send this to some blogs. I just sent it out and people started following more and downloading it. On some level I want to just keep going and going with it. I did something smart early on to squeeze as much as I could out of these sessions, I found people and invited them to do remixes for a remix album, which created this network within my own sound basically.
That’s Interesting, must be cool to hear a different interpretation of your recordings also.
Ryan: Yeah it is. There were several where I was like, damn I like this better than mine. So yeah, it was fun to do and I want to do more.
Is it hard to channel all that creative energy?
Ryan: Yeah it can be freaked out madness where I can blow my top like I don’t have enough time or patience to do all these things. But the cool thing is once I swapped over to Ableton Live I could take my laptop with me everywhere. I have a regular job so on my lunch break rather than feed my face with a big sandwich in front of an I-pad, which I do sometimes, I just hop on and work things out on my lunch break sometimes. So I’ve taken it mobile a little bit. I’m not gonna let having time in my home studio deter me from being creative. Even if those things don’t turn into songs, it’s helping me tremendously to just cope with life in general.
Definitely. Is there anything in the future that you’d like to conquer as a musician or even as a person?
Ryan: If I’m ever chilling in a lounge in Europe somewhere, and there’s like 90 people there to watch a few artists perform and I’m one of them, that would be the ultimate success for me as a creator. Just because it sounds mysterious since I’ve never been there.
Awesome. So what’s the best setting to be in to listen to a Nomadic Firs track?
Ryan: I would say any setting really. Maybe it’s great background music, and maybe it’s great one on one music too. I was fortunate enough for the last couple of years to have some free time, where I was able to just sit in my house, my wife would go teach art to kids, and I would have a few hours to just have the windows open, smoke out a little bit and just work on music. That wasn’t every day of the week but at least one or two days a week for a long time.
Sounds like a good period of life.
Ryan: Yeah, I’m still trying to hang on to it. *laughs
What’s been the highlight?
Ryan: Just coming to the realization that I was actually making something that I liked to hear too. You know, It’s something that if I heard I would want to have it. And that’s kind of how I approach making music entirely. You just know. I kind of feel like that’s been the highlight just getting to that point as a person. People find new music all the time and it’s great to be in a rotation that’s out there.
So who are some figures that you look up to?
Ryan: Well, I look up to my stepbrother quite a bit. He’s like a real farmer, out there doing his thing, surviving. And he’s an awesome guitar player and just a cool person. I should say my wife, not that I’d be in trouble but just that she lives with someone like me is pretty awesome. Not that I’m a horrible person but being creative on any level requires a pretty decent level of selfishness so…
Huh, that’s an interesting way to put it. What do you mean by that?
Ryan: Well, I think if you have this burning to be creative, just thinking about that and making anything requires a great deal of your self, ultimately all of your self. So It’s hard to share with other people. Or just the time. Holly, my wife, is also an artist and a super patient person as well. We’re trying to raise a family and be in their lives a lot more.
That’s awesome. So I know you have a young son, what are some of your hopes for the generations to come?
Ryan: Honestly, just simplicity in life. I’m not stoked on income inequality, student debt, those things piss me off. I mean our generation has basically been told “you just work all the time, don’t focus on anything, go to school, do the cycle, and also we’re not gonna pay you an adequate salary for inflation.” It’s bullshit, we should all have a cool place to hang out and live, and work enough to where we can all be healthy but also have money. Simplicity, not freaking out about these genial things that society puts on us and puts us in these boxes. You know don’t be crazy and a recluse, join the society and be in the community. But, rather than conform, be an example on some level for the things that you like and that you think are unique and personal to you. You know, a lot of people would learn from those things.
Great insight from a true artist. Be sure to Check out the music of Nomadic Firs and keep an eye out for their new album coming soon. As for now. Get ready for fall leaves and go chill out in the park with some Nomadic Firs. It’s the perfect soundtrack to bid your summer farewell. Enjoy Beasts.