Ryan Beatty doesn’t need a persona

The musician speaks about gratitude, his indifference to social media, and the joys of constant work cycle following his appearance in Document S/S 2019.

A lot has changed since 2012. Ryan Beatty is no exception. Back in the age when Justin Bieber was America’s heartthrob and Youtube seemed like a promised land for emerging artists, Beatty’s boyish good looks, high pitched voice and side swept coiffe made him the ideal candidate for superstardom. After the release of his six song EP in 2012, mobs of screaming teenage girls had him set to be the next big thing. But then he dropped off the grid.

In a drastic shift from the music that brought him into the spotlight, Beatty re-emerged last year as a collaborator on boy band Brockhampton’s albums Saturation II and Saturation III. Shortly after, he released his debut album, Boy in Jeans. The singer, looking much older and much blonder, produced this album as a far cry from who he used to be, or who we used to think he was. Addressing male love interests in his songs for the first time, Beatty uses this album to tell a truth previously untold, a story about a man coming into himself amidst pressures to do the opposite. With Boy in Jeans, Beatty has reinvented himself in the eyes of the world by simply being himself. Document caught up with the singer to learn more about what that means, and what went into making it happen.

Gabriela Serpa—Let’s talk about Boy in Jeans. I love the album cover, with the leg and the jeans. Is this ‘Boy in Jeans’ supposed to be you? Does he stand for anything?

Ryan Beatty— I actually shot that on an iPhone and we made that in like ten minutes, but it felt right. It did feel like a painting to me. Honestly, I might have my own definition for it, but I felt like that statement in general, the title, it just captured the essence of the record. I kind of want to leave it open ended to the listeners. I like it when everybody can have their own interpretation.

Gabriela—Talking about statements, what color is your hair right now? Because it was bleached in all of the music videos for the album.

Ryan— I’m back to brown. In 2017 I shaved my head, I dyed it. It was the first time that I felt the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I feel like after doing that I started playing with other aspects of my life where I was just doing anything to express myself in ways that I wanted to but hadn’t before. The whole bleach thing, everybody kind of does it now, but it’s something that I’d always wanted to do. Now I’m just back to my roots because I got bored of the other colors, so we’ll see what I do next. [Laughs].

Gabriela—The bleach was cool in your videos. There’s also the dancing and even just the way the camera circles around you in all of them. There’s something almost trancelike about watching them, especially all together. Do they tell a story?

Ryan— I never had the thought that all of these have to tell one story. But through the whole record and everything I do, I really expect and strive for cohesion. We shot every single one of these videos within two weeks. It was me and like three other 20-year-olds. We got a little budget, and we just did what we could with it. The videos I’m proud of because they express the songs in a way that I wanted them to, and I have these great memories. I felt so insane for those two weeks because we were working on these videos all day and all night. We would shoot the video and edit it that night. We rolled them out over a two month period or whatever. But I like that they feel like different pieces to one whole video.

Gabriela—The videos are definitely performative. Where, if at all, do you feel like there’s a line between you as a performer in this album and you as a person?

Ryan— I feel like, if something doesn’t feel personal to me, then I’m not interested. So, with all of this, I don’t feel like I have a persona. Obviously, I present myself how I am in real life. I don’t feel a disconnection.

Gabriela—I wanted to ask you about your social media. I’m assuming you handle it all on your own? How is it a platform for you? How does it play into your artistic vision?

Ryan— As much as a tool that it can be, I find that I don’t really want to use it. I’ve had a tough relationship with it. I don’t even know how to describe it. I think that one thing that’s cool is that there’s an immediate conversation between me and the people that are interested in what I’m doing. I’m grateful for that, and that I can use social media for those reasons. But I think that sometimes it can be a huge distraction for me, and I think that it’s easy to sit there and compare and get in your head over everything else that is going on in the world, seeing what everybody else is doing. I don’t really sit on Instagram. I feel indifferent towards it.

Gabriela—So, what’s next for you?

Ryan—I am always working on music. I’m always creating constantly. I keep saying this, but I want to do this until I die so I’m just going to be pushing on. I’m going to push myself. I’m just grateful to be in the position that I’m in right now and in this place that I’ve always kind of just wanted to be in. I guess that I’m grateful that people seem to care in any capacity about the music that I’m making. It’s cool to be able to put out a project like this that means something to me and have it mean something to others. Whoever that is, I’m grateful for.