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Those stop-time moments are critical, he says, for providing ink in his songwriting quill. "I think we all have those moments where we have our own personal declarations of what we are," he says. "It can be as simple as somebody leaving, a relationship falling apart, even something political...all artists are trying to express their relationship to, and their liberation from, those moments at the same time."
Oddly, it's that content that has secured Ryan a longer career in music -- in America, sure, but more so in Great Britain and Europe. Ryan's records have had official releases in England, and he, like many neglected American artists, is a much better live draw abroad than at home. He makes the point that though there are great American audiences, overall "there's a completely different energy to shows in the UK and Europe," he says.
"When people go to see music over there, they value it more as art, whereas here when people go to see music it's often just a night out. As somebody who spends a lot of time working on what they do, I think you can guess which one would be the preferred night out for me," Ryan adds.
American critics and marketers tried to squeeze Ryan under the alt.country umbrella at first, but the music was, with rare exceptions, too grand and sweeping in its scope, and too eloquent, to be consigned to the barroom. No, Ryan's music is for leaving town, driving home, moving on. Like other American artists forgotten and ignored in their homeland, it's precisely their uniqueness that works against them.
"There are many brilliant artists that work under the radar of popular music," Ryan writes on his website, citing Joe Henry, Sparklehorse, Mark Eitzel and Calexico. "All of these artists work in a medium that defies simple labeling. They may require a few listens before their resonance is clear."
You could -- and probably should -- say the same about Matthew Ryan.