Song Deconstructed: ‘Midwest Kids’ by Andrew Ryan
Taken from upcoming album ‘A Tiny Death’, the Missouri singer-songwriter returns to his Americana roots on this hopeful new single
On upcoming album A Tiny Death, singer-songwriter Andrew Ryan is returning to his roots. Having tackled folk, garage-rock and alt-country on 2020’s Wild Terrain/You Cannot Delete Yourself! this latest collection of songs finds him embracing heartland Americana. Equally inspired by the twin forces of the transient road life of the working musician and the anchor of his home, the historic mining town Desloge, Missouri, there’s an unforgeable authenticity to Ryan’s music that will appeal to fans of Jeff Tweedy, Townes Van Zandt and Kris Kristofferson.
Here, Ryan gives us the lowdown on the album’s lead single Midwest Kids. It’s a song about discovering your place in the world, as its creator explains…
The inspiration for this is being a father and watching your child grow. It’s an exciting, frightening, and wonderful experience all at the same time. I know the transitions and growing pains of life can be difficult, but it’s also what helps shape us in the process. Just kind of my way of saying, ‘You’ll be alright,’ and that not everyone’s opinion should matter to you anyway.
Lyrically this is a conversation with myself and my child about the pressures of life. Not always being in control of what’s happening to you but about being in control of how you respond to things:
Your face says it all
You’ve got your mothers fire, it’s obvious
I know that’s something I’ve learned the hard way growing up and wish someone would have let me in on knowing instead of just reacting all the time.
Another example would be:
So darling daughter remember your name
Keep your head up and don’t feel ashamed
Life will not always be like this, Midwest kids are oblivious
Life definitely feels harder when you’re at an impressionable age, and the things you focus on aren’t necessarily what matters. Like where you’re from or the size of your home. I grew up in an old lead-mining town that has been economically depressed for decades and, like most of middle America, has experienced an opioid crisis over the years. The older you get, the more you realise what really matters and what’s important. For me, it’s relationships with your friends and family that hold more weight than any material objects.
Musically this is a very simple song. A lot of my music is simple and to the point. It’s actually the same progression in both the A and the B sections. I like the idea of having the melody change to signal a change in the song, especially to hold onto the same feeling throughout the song. The added weight of the piano helps keep its balance. Also, the backing vocals in the B section really help this song take off and put you into a daydream for a moment.
IN THE STUDIO
I had a lot of friends that I had met touring from 2018 and 2019 lend a helping hand on this record. Since we were all landlocked and everything was on hold, I think it helped us stay busy and keep our sanity, at least momentarily. I would spend six-eight hours a day recording and mixing in tracks sent from my friends across the country, and it was a simple, painless process. I graduated from an audio recording school CRAS (Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences), in 2005 and have spent many long hours in studios and experienced all of the ups and downs that happen to bands when making records, the good and the ugly moments. So everyone working from their home studios at their own pace was actually great.
Midwest Kids is an important song for me, and it feels important because it comes from a hopeful place. There’s a hope to do better and become better at being better. I also hope that translates to the listener. To help someone who’s feeling troubled or dealt a bad hand to realise it’s in their control to turn things around and life is what you make of it. Not what you didn’t have access to at the start. I’m grateful to be able to share this song and experience.