Interview: Dream-Pop Artist Rynn Talks “Tokyo” and Gaining Confidence as a Songwriter

This past Friday, L.A.-based pop singer/songwriter Kathryn Kempthorn, better known by her artist name Rynn, released her official music video to her summer single “Tokyo”, which was also featured on our 7/20 edition of Early Bird’s TGINMF – Best of New Music Friday playlist series. Intrigued by the song, Early Bird caught up with the young musician to hear more about her latest single “Tokyo,” and to give fans a more detailed picture of her musical and personal development as she’s started to come into her own as an artist. Watch the new “Tokyo” video, and read our full Q&A below the photo gallery, where we discuss her education at Belmont in Nashville, how adversity has helped her grow as a songwriter, and her recent move to sunny Los Angeles, the epicenter of the creative industry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSbJr-MQPg8

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

EB: You went to school and spent your formative years at Belmont University. How did Nashville impact you as an artist and as a songwriter?

KK: “It definitely helped me learn about and focus on the art and craft of songwriting. Going through the songwriting program at Belmont is very storyline driven. I was exposed to a lot of country at that time, which is not anything I was interested in before being in that environment. It exposed me to a lot of really great songs that I never would have been exposed to otherwise. There are so many clever country songs that have the coolest twists in them. Many other genres donʼt have that type of storyline or as much of a plot twist as country songs do, which I love.”

EB: Was there a particular lesson or moment that stuck with you, and made it click that songwriting was going to be your main gig?

KK: “I think itʼs something that I always loved. One of the main things that stuck out to me was that they were like “Itʼs not always who has the most raw natural talent, but a lot of the time, whoever sticks around long enough and is persistent enough, and keeps writing. Those who are the people who are going to make it.” I remember it was Freshman year, and there were around 20 of us in the room. Our professor said “Thereʼs probably only going to be five of you who actually end up writing songs for a career. Thatʼs because a lot of you are going to, for whatever reason, give up on it.” Now looking back, thinking about all those people who were in that room, itʼs so true. And even personal experience, just writing and writing and writing, for every twenty songs thereʼs maybe one that turns into something.”

EB: What made you want to pursue the solo artist route?

KK: “I think a lot of it was just that Iʼve spent a lot of time writing by myself, especially in Nashville. I guess I just didnʼt really meet a ton of people who I felt like I necessarily clicked with on a musical, artistic level. I think because there was a lot of country, and I was still really trying to figure out what I wanted to do in general, I spent hours and hours and hours in my bedroom by myself, messing around with sounds, learning Logic, and discovering my sound on my own.”

EB: When you were discovering your own sound, and when inspiration hit, what was that process like for you? When you had an inspiration that made you want to write something, did you put it in your phone, a notebook, etc.?

KK: “A lot of the time itʼs just typing notes in my phone/ranting. Almost like poetry, itʼs tons of lines about anything and everything. A lot of the time Iʼll open up a Logic session, and start messing around with synth sounds and a bit of a beat, and then go through those little poetry notes as I start to make a song. Then, Iʼll ask myself if thereʼs anything from those rants that I could pull out to form a song, and I start to build it from there.”

EB: What’s it like being at school and being a musician, trying to have to write songs –  maybe in a dorm room or an apartment, when you have a bunch of other people around?

KK: “I would just wander around campus and try to find some abandoned stairwell or something that I could play in. I was also fortunate that a friend of mine from my hometown moved to Nashville around the same time. She didnʼt go to school, so she had an apartment, and when she would be at work, I had a key and I would go in, bring all my stuff – my computer, guitar, and keyboard – and would write at her house. So that was definitely a saving grace during my freshman year.”

EB: Tell me a bit around the background of “Tokyo”.

KK: “It happened on a trip to Japan a couple years ago. There was a bit of a toxic guy relationship, and then I realized that there were a lot of emotional and other issues involved in that. That kind of all blew up at once, and then I was supposed to do a study abroad trip in Japan for a month, so everything fell apart. I left for Japan, and basically had a mental breakdown, and bawled my eyes out for a month. I didnʼt really talk to any family or friends back home, and the hotel we were staying in didnʼt have Wi-Fi or anything connected in the rooms. No Netflix either, so I basically just listened to one Coldplay album on repeat, cried and reflected on life, and really got into the emotional place of figuring out what went wrong in that relationship, what I wanted, where I wanted to be in life in the future and moving forward. It was very much re-discovering myself in that period of time that I was in Tokyo.”

EB: Coming out of that, after that reset period, did it change you as an artist in any way?

KK: “A little bit. I feel like a while before that trip, I realized I had turned my emotions off for a while. I was like “everythingʼs fine – itʼs fine,” and I think on that trip, 20 years of emotions let loose and I finally realized it was okay to express emotions as they happened, rather than burying them for so long. Since then, it’s kind of helped me process things, and I’ve tried to express myself through writing about things going on in real-time, rather than burying those emotions.”

EB: After that trip to Tokyo, you released your EP, and it gained some traction – at least “Islands” did. What has the song “Islands” done for your progress as an artist?

KK:  Islands paved a way for me to do music, and was confirmation that I could do it. I released that literally the week after graduating, and I was like “Iʼm just going to put this out here, and try to do the writer/artist thing for a year or so.” After a year, if nothing was going on with it, I was going to happily move on and get some other job – I was a double major in songwriting and music business, so I could have gotten a music business job and been happy. At least with the EP, I was able to put everything into being an artist for a year. Seeing how I was able to continue to grow paved the way and brought in the confidence for me to pursue the artist and writer things long-term.”

EB: When you were telling your friends and family that this is what you wanted to do, to pursue music as a career, what was that conversation like?

KK: “My parents were supportive. Ever since I was a toddler, my mom enrolled me in music and dance lessons, and always encouraged me to explore and develop my creative side. When it came time for college, my dad was never against me majoring in songwriting, but he also really encouraged me to get a business degree, to have something to fall back on. My mom encouraged me to make sure I still got the songwriting degree, because she saw that that was such a deep passion of mine, and studying it in school would give me the time to truly focus on developing my craft. 

As school went on and the longer I was in Nashville, my parents were able to see and understand that there are many other paths and ways to “make it” and that I could have a career in songwriting without having to be one of the few mega-stars of the world. 

EB: now that youʼre living in L.A., how are you keeping yourself busy when youʼre not writing and making music? What are you doing for fun, and how are you connecting with the city of Los Angeles?

KK: “I like to take dance classes sometimes, over at Millennium, which is one of the main studios here. I do boxing classes, too, which I love. Longboarding, too. The beach is always super fun. Itʼs almost an hour away, but on the weekends I love going up there. Iʼve gotten involved in a church around here that’s helped meet people – thereʼs so much to do in L.A., so I can fill every day with finding a new activity.”

EB: Compared to what it was like living in Nashville, in terms of connecting with the city, do you think that youʼre more of a natural fit for Los Angeles, or do you feel like Nashville was were you really clicked?

KK: “Nashville is still probably one of my favorite cities, with how small it is, and how easy it is to get around. I feel like Nashville is almost a giant high school, in a way: Everyone knows everyone, you go to the same coffee shop every day, run into the same batch of people. Thereʼs a comfort in that, but thereʼs also something so exciting about how thereʼs just an endless possibility of things in L.A. So I donʼt know… L.A. is definitely the right move for this phase of life, and I feel like I made the right choice by moving here.

I almost like L.A. more because I feel like people understand all the aspects of doing a creative field in life. It’s better than, letʼs say Ohio, where the day-to-day of a songwriter/artist is a foreign concept for a lot of people. Here (in L.A.), everyone kind of understands the creative lifestyle more, which I like. Itʼs super fun to just experience all that L.A. has to offer. I donʼt know if itʼs the place forever, but I definitely love it right now.” [END]

fans can expect a few more releases to drop before an eventual EP in early 2019, which she hopes will also include alternate versions and remixes of her singles.


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