Matthew Ryan has been a busy man the past five years. After mulling a possible retirement from music for a spell, the Nashville-based artist found his passion for rock and roll reignited with the recording of the folk-punk album Boxers in 2014 and Hustle Up Starlings two years later. Those albums found Ryan working with a full backing band for the first time in a stretch, a change up that he in part credited to a personal and musical friendship with Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem. Both records were toured exhaustively.
Earlier this month, Ryan unveiled his first new music since 2016, a 3-song Maxi Single featuring the tune “On Our Death Day” as its flagship. As moribund as the title sounds, Ryan insists it is a mission statement of hope and love, an antidote to the creeping political darkness he sees taking root across the land.
In the press notes for the song, he elaborated on its inpiration.
“One of my favorite writers is the Irish Poet and thinker Seamus Heaney,” Ryan wrote. “He once said that every artist worth their salt feels a certain pressure during politically difficult times. He was referring to The Troubles in Ireland. I’ve been feeling this ‘pressure’ watching our current events: the divisions and disinformation; the rise of authoritarianism, propaganda and tensions; and the seeming fundamentalist lean and zeal for profits and deregulation over the convulsing environmental concerns here in America and world-wide. I’ve always felt at the center of music there’s a humanitarian cause. We do these things to contribute not only our interiors, but to how we move through the time we’re living in, and hopefully even to what happens next. Rock n Roll and Folk and Poetry is powerful stuff. I’ve loved it my entire life. I work in it humbly. I felt compelled to share this song now rather then wait for a full album to be ready because of the ‘pressure’ I mentioned earlier. It feels like an important time. Each us should do what we can to offer intelligence and beauty and conscience in contrast to this stormy weather. ‘On Our Death Day’ is a love song. It really is.”
The song was recorded for a series called The Need To Know Vinyl Sessions. In conjunction with “On Our Death Day,” Ryan has also released a new, full-band version of an old song called “And It’s Such A Drag,” as well as a cover of the Leonard Cohen tune “Steer Your Way.”
You can hear the title single below.