Ryan Beatty opens his latest album with an ending. The singer’s 12-track Dreaming of David (released earlier this year) greets listeners with “In the End,” a binaural narrative on rising waves of warm electronics with lyrics of intimacy and isolation. Beatty’s voice transforms until the last syllable—soaring, supporting, moving—but when the track comes to its end, seamless production steps the sonic profile into the next song. It’s not only sound, but also substance that carries forward. It’s an album designed for and worthy of being listened to from start to finish.
Beatty’s previous release, 2018’s Boy in Jeans, satisfies on many levels, especially for those in the LGBTQ+ community who yearn for relatable, honest, and honestly good pop music. That album, along with several superb collaborations (“QUEER,” “SUGAR” and “BLEACH,” with Brockhampton, among them) underscore Beatty’s dynamic vocal capabilities and the budding direction of his career. For Dreaming of David, Beatty worked with producers Daniel Fox and Austin Anderson. Textures stream through the album, unified by mood and melody. To hear from the voice behind it all, we spoke with Beatty on the developments that led to one of the year’s most important albums.
We’re a few months past the release of Dreaming of David. How do you see it now, after it’s been out there with listeners?
My opinion remains the same as it’s always been. I’m extremely proud of the music and watching people continually connect with it is wonderful.
Your album harks back to days of LPs with cohesive thematic and sonic storytelling. Was your intention always for the entire album to be listened to from start to finish?
I’m never going to police people on how to listen to music, but I do think the album makes perfect sense when you listen to it in order, front to back. It’s complete to me. Although I do think the songs have enough substance to listen to on shuffle. I’m extremely particular with the progression of songs on the albums I make, it keeps things interesting.
Dreaming of David was a massive puzzle that I’m extremely proud of, but lately I’ve been inspired by the simplest of things and I think that will reflect in whatever I make next
You’ve spoken about developing your sound between Boy in Jeans and Dreaming of David by following sounds you were drawn to. Where were you going for sonic inspiration? Where are you going for it now?
I kept leaning toward sounds that were atmospheric and slightly industrial. I’m not sure why but that soundscape really connected with me at that time of my life. It sounded how I was feeling, sort of cold and metallic, which I guess seems kind of sad but that also wasn’t my intention. I love making albums because of the time capsule they can represent. I’ll never make a sequel to another record or anything like that. I always want to keep learning and pushing myself, because I like a lot of things. For whatever I make next, I want to sing a lot more. Dreaming of David was a massive puzzle that I’m extremely proud of, but lately I’ve been inspired by the simplest of things and I think that will reflect in whatever I make next.
Have other art forms infused/influenced your process, too?
Sure, I looked at a lot of furniture while making this album, and interior design and sculptures—things that were masterfully made and done with precision.
Everyone’s so eager to put music into categories. Many have been applied to the tracks on Dreaming of David. Are you drawn to any or is that classification not necessary?
I guess it’d be under the pop umbrella but I wouldn’t really classify it as one thing, I’m fine with everyone having their own interpretation.
How do you decide to take on a collaborative project?
I like to collaborate when I have something to really offer the song.
Can you explain or help us visualize what it’s like to take one of the Dreaming of David tracks to the stage—prepping it or translating an album version into a performance. And how you feel when performing, in general.
I drew the stage design and we were days away from building it—and then tour cancelled because of you know what. It’s devastating but there are worse things going on. I can wait. But I’m eager to perform and think about it constantly.
What role has social media played in your career recently?
I’m still uncomfortable with having an online presence, but I do enjoy lurking around sometimes. I mainly use social media to look at things that make me laugh, and I enjoy Instagram for archival purposes.
Images courtesy of Ryan Beatty