In 2010, Burlington songwriter Ryan Power self-produced an album that combined ‘80s-style crooning pop with stark lyrics about his personal demons.
The album was I Don’t Want to Die, and it’s just been released internationally on the Burlington record label NNA Tapes. Now that Power’s music is receiving more attention than he’s used to, he’s learning that it doesn’t always pay to Google yourself.
Ryan Power is leading an impromptu tour of the Colchester recording studio where he produces other musicians.
"So this is the control room at the old Dan Archer studio, which is now my studio – Stu Stu Studio. And this is the control room. And Phish recorded Lawn Boy here. That’s the history here."
A wooden table commands the center of the room, with a mixing board, speakers, a computer, keyboards, and sundry other tools for album production.
Two windows offer a view into the tracking room, which lets him get eye contact with musicians while recording.
Power is an in-demand recording engineer, mixer, and producer. He works with Burlington acts like Maryse Smith, Anna Pardenik, the Smittens, and Tommy Alexander.
But it’s his own album that’s generating buzz right now.
The label, NNA Tapes, is something of a darling in the underground music scene, with praise bubbling up ocasionally in magazines like SPIN and the New Yorker.
Thanks to NNA’s buzz, I Don’t Want to Die has been reviewed by tastemaker websites like Stereogum and Pitchfork. Power hasn’t had this kind of attention before, and it’s lead him to obsessively reading online mentions of his work.
That’s a habit he’d like to tone down a bit. Let’s just say not all the reviews have been kind.
"I don’t take it too seriously, but still, sometimes you’re like, Oh, why do they think that? Or blah, blah, blah. But I just have to ignore it all and not even look at it. I think that’s my new thing: I’m not going to ever Google myself again. I mean, of course, I’m going to, but I’m going to cut down on it – a lot. ‘Cause it’s pathetic. Completely pathetic."
It’s no surprise that Power’s first flash of exposure on the Internet is making him uneasy. He’s a sensitive guy. He’ll admit as much, usually with a laugh.
Eight songs make up I Don’t Want to Die, and they dwell openly on Power’s own mortality, fractured relationships, and his wild times as a heavy drinker. (That experience) led him to get on the wagon, where he’s been for a few years now.
And though he’s developed a complicated relationship with the internet, Power appreciates that the collaboration with a label has opened up his audience.
"More people will hear my music now, just because NNA’s doing well and they have a publicist, and they just get my music out there more."
"When I had that review on Stereogum or whatever, I started getting emails from people telling me how much they like my music, and that doesn’t – that hadn’t happened that much."
Power has been rehearsing a new band for the past few months, and taking life one day at a time at his studio. After all, a little buzz on the internet doesn’t exactly pay the bills.
"Tape machine on the floor there, which needs to be fixed. And a Juno 106 keyboard that doesn’t work. There’s a lot of things in this studio that don’t work. You’re always dumping money into fixing them up. But, it’s worth it."
Power hopes that his new audience includes engineers or producers who want to help him bring his own music to the next level. He’s been working on new songs, writing from experience, as usual.
The topic of his newest tune?
The ups and downs of the music business.