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Ryan Hemsworth on dealing with dead ends and moving on

For many touring musicians, ‘home’ is a strange word, one that often refers less to a location and more to a nebulous, hard to define concept.

After all, the life of a performer is a migratory one, and the demands of the road are ceaseless: one need only briefly scan the travels of DJ and beatsmith Ryan Hemsworth to realise that few who make music fulltime ever really stay still.
 
 “I’m out in Europe right now,” says Hemsworth. “I’ve been here for a week or so. I’ve been spending a little time back and forth between Canada and here, recording and being out on the road pretty regularly.”
 
Such intensive touring has helped Hemsworth keep up his forward momentum following the release of his second long player Alone For The First Time back in 2014 – though he might not have dropped a great deal of material since then, he’s more than made up for that dearth by treating his international fans to show after show.
 
That said, life hasn’t exactly been easy, and the demands of performing have been creeping up on Hemsworth a touch. “It used to be a little easier for me to go and stay out all night and then work on stuff all day the next day,” he says. “Now I go out and play and then come home and sleep the whole next day.”
 
Although it might have been a while since fans got anything substantial in terms of a release from Hemsworth, that’s all set to change sometime in the near future — if he can keep his focus, that is. “I’ve been working on a rap album for the past six months or so,” he says. “I’ll sit down and go, ‘Okay, I’m going to make a beat really quick.’ Then it turns into a whole other thing, and I have to be a bit like, ‘Oh shit, I don’t know what to do with this now.’ So I put that somewhere else for later.”
 
Such a scattershot approach is not new for Hemsworth, and he often finds himself taking odd creative left turns that he can’t quite predict. “The more and more you work, the more it turns into something else,” he says. “I’m a bit all over the place when I get into making music, so if I go in thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to make a solo song,’ it’ll probably end up being something totally different. It’s about preparing for whatever might happen throughout that process.”
 
Of course, such a process means that occasionally Hemsworth finds himself barking up the wrong tree sonically. But he’s learnt to deal with such dead ends, and adapts his style rather than giving up entirely. “Writing is about hoping that it will end up somewhere good,” he says. “Sometimes you spend hours or days on something and then you’re like, ‘This kinda sucks.’ And then you have to leave it and move onto the next thing.”
 
As a result, as much as Hemsworth loves the writing and recording processes, he obviously derives a great amount of joy from debuting his work to audiences and adores the moment when a song stops belonging simply to him. “It’s great, the process where everyone hears [a song] for the first time and at the same time,” he says. “It’s very different from when you release it on Soundcloud or Spotify or whatever, and you just put it out there like, ‘Hopefully people will like this, I guess?’ ”
 
Ultimately, for Hemsworth, hitting the stage isn’t just about receiving a paycheque, or about fulfilling obligations in order to keep recording – it’s an opportunity to learn. “[Playing live] is something that I’ve had to pick up quite quickly,” he says. “But I think that’s the way with a lot of people who make stuff at home in their basement, and then they’re thrown out into the world and know exactly what to do. You’ve got to work it out on the road.”
 
By Joseph Earp

Ryan Hemsworth will play Beyond The Valley, Lardner Park, running from Wednesday December 28 until Sunday January 1.