Rynn is a songwriter whose work is the embodiment of a certain type of songwriting. See, her strongest talent is her ability to translate life experiences into song. Using writing as a form of therapy, she taps into a certain current of subconsciousness in order to allow her most organic thoughts to rise to the surface. While this isn’t exactly a ‘rare’ thing, it is something that takes a bit of practice in order to really do well… something Rynn is aware of. This is evident when listening to her new song “When You Lock Eyes,” which dropped on July 31.
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Coming ahead of an EP entitled Headspace — which is due in October — “When You Lock Eyes” is a fantastic encapsulation of Rynn’s talents. Last year, she was a contestant on NBC’s Songland and worked one-on-one with Shane McAnally. Writing this EP after that experience, Rynn found that she had both found reassurance in her pre-existing workflow and discovered new methods for songcraft. Last week, American Songwriter caught up with Rynn to discuss this growth and her writing in general.
Tell me about Headspace EP — when did you start working on it? What inspired it?
I’ve been working on Headspace for about a year and a half, maybe a year. I’ve been collecting songs as they come up. For my own artist project, I never put too much pressure on going into the studio like ‘okay, today we have to write a song for this project.’ I kinda just write as I feel inspired. I started pretty much every song on Headspace by myself — usually with a little poem or something — and then I start messing around with production stuff on Logic in my bedroom. From there, I match some of the poems I’m writing with some sounds that I’m inspired by.
The EP, overall, is my way of processing life as it happens. Each song is a little snapshot of a specific memory or something that I’ve gone through. Writing about it is my way of understanding it better, understanding myself better. It helps me get to the bottom of why I felt the way I did in those situations.
Does songwriting allow you to discover things about yourself that you otherwise wouldn’t have known?
Totally. Sometimes, I have a hard time understanding what I’m feeling until I start writing about it. As I’m going about life and just thinking about a past relationship — or processing stuff — I notice myself jotting down some lines. Then, after I’m able to put the dots together like ‘Oh, this is what I’ve been feeling.’ It’s a way to put words to a feeling that I couldn’t articulate before.
When did you write “When You Lock Eyes?” What inspired it?
I wrote that song about a year ago. My whole life, I’ve always noticed that moment when you’re driving in a car, kinda just cruising along, and you happen to turn your head to the side and notice the car next to you. Sometimes, for a split second, you’ll lock eyes with someone in the other car and it’s this kinda weird moment where you’re like ‘Who’s going to look away first?’ It’s a brief connection — you go on with the rest of your day, you don’t think much else of it. But, I don’t know… that was always something I thought about.
Then, I was getting over a relationship and I realized that I felt a similar feeling. It was someone I was friends with, then it moved out of the ‘friendzone’ for a brief moment and then it was like ‘Ah, nevermind! Let’s go back to the friendzone and pretend this never happened.’ It felt like a big metaphor.
So, there’s an obvious layer of therapy in the writing process — what’s it like when you actually release the songs? Does the additional step of sharing this intimate material with others open the door for even further self-reflection?
Yeah, I feel like it’s a way for me to process these feelings and then let go of them. Sometimes my mind will spin around obsessing over a specific feeling or memory. Once I’m able to write about it, finish a song, record it and then talk about it, I’m able to let go. Once I release it, I’m able to move forward to the next chapter. It really is my personal method of therapy. I work through these feelings and learn more about myself, and then I move forward.
What was it like to be on Songland?
It was such a fun experience. I didn’t go into it with too many expectations. It was the first season and I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. At the same time, because it was the first season, everyone was so excited to be there. It was such a positive atmosphere. Everyone was championing songs and songwriters. Getting paired with Shane McAnally was especially cool — the second we started working together, he felt like an older brother or an older friend who was genuinely interested in hearing my ideas. Going into it, I was nervous. I was like ‘He has over 40 No. 1s, he can do this rewrite on his own.’ But, he made me so comfortable, he was such a champion of me in so many different ways. It was such a fun, positive experience.
The biggest takeaway, however, was the connections I made with the other contestants on the show. Even though I didn’t film with a lot of them, we all found each other and connected after-the-fact. Now, they’re some of the people I collaborate with the most. We even did a writing camp together in Temecula last October, which was so fun. There were 15 of us locked in a big house for a week, writing music nonstop. That sense of community is really what stuck with me.
You wrote Headspace after being on the show — how did your experience on Songland influence your writing?
For my artist project, I feel like it didn’t change things a ton insofar as the way I write. The way I process things — even before being on the show — was all about being natural, trying not to force things. I never went into writing something trying to use a formula to make a hit song or anything like that. But, I think the experience definitely gave me more confidence. You never know where a song is going to lead — now I can let that moment happen and then rewrite it in any way I want. You can take a song in any direction after the fact. Working with Shane and everyone else there really reinforced the idea that you don’t have to put a lot of pressure on writing the song in the moment. Let whatever’s naturally flowing flow… there’s usually something to that.
Was it reassuring to find that your pre-existing process still worked when you were writing elbow-to-elbow with living legends like Shane McAnally?
Totally. Sometimes we’re so hard on ourselves as songwriters and artists — you think what you wrote was so amazing, then the next day you’re like ‘Oh, this sucks, it’s not going anywhere!’ Anything can happen, but, you just have to write the song and it’ll find its own place in the world. Everyone’s ideas are equally valid. There’s definitely a craft to it, as well, to make good art and good music. Overall, the experience was really reassuring. It’s like, ‘Oh, hey, I can do something right!’ I know that I can trust my intuition because when I am in these moments, it does hold up. So, it was comforting to know that these big dreams are achievable and I’m on a good path for it.