Los Angeles-born musician NotRye is shamelessly honest and transparent when it comes to communicating their emotions through music. Dark, sincere, and eclectic describe their sound, which also includes a wide range of instrumentals, heartfelt vocals, and heavy lyricism. NotRye’s artistic expression strikes the perfect harmony between new-age experimentation and recognizable nostalgia, with a side of pain.
Music about suffering and battles with mental health are nothing new, but NotRye takes it a step further by embracing extreme emotion and speaking his truth. While many people tend to avoid certain subjects or words, NotRye speaks his mind without holding back. If he feels it, he says it. Check out the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
NOTRYE: I was born and raised in West Los Angeles, CA and am still currently based there. I grew up in a home that was seldom quiet and was surrounded by music: a family with an affinity for karaoke, an untuned piano that was well loved until the end of my stay there, and so many holidays, parties, and get togethers that never went without a familiar tune playing in the background. I remember stealing my mom’s iPod shuffle just to listen to the songs she showed me. My parents bought me my first guitar for Christmas when I was 9 years old, and, since then, I’ve been chasing melodies and I’ll never stop.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
NOTRYE: I only took guitar lessons for about a year when I was young, but after that, YouTube tutorials and having a natural inclination to play things by ear have been my saving grace. The funny thing is that I gave up on martial arts classes to take up guitar instead. Even though I stopped taking guitar lessons, I never stopped practicing or teaching myself new things, and I’m still learning a little more each day. As for vocals, I was always able to hold a tune, but the technique wasn’t always there. In 2021, I invested in some private vocal coaching and I’ve grown a lot! I can notice not only a difference in my sound, but also in the way it feels to sing.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘NOTRYE?
NOTRYE: When I started writing at 15, my 3 main influences included P!nk, Sublime, and Ed Sheeran, though the true heart and soul of NotRye was born in 2022. Influences more recently include Mitski, FLETCHER, and Charlie Puth. The name NotRye actually came to be in a bit of an unexpected way. Originally, I had a list of potential stage names. I was going through a really tough time last year, and I frequently felt like I didn’t want to be myself or have the life I had, then it hit me: “I don’t want to be Ryan. I don’t even want to be Rye. NotRye.” I typically write on the raw and sad/angry side of things, so NotRye is the personification of those feelings, but NotRye has become such a big part of me in such a short time. It feels like NotRye and who I am are changing and merging as we speak and it honestly feels so freeing.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
NOTRYE: Pain, rawness, and transparency. I also love a good shock factor. Just when you think you get the gist of one of my songs, I like to include something that shifts the sound and meaning.
5. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own personal way?
NOTRYE: It’s important to me for those who connect to my music to interpret it as they deem fit. Those who know anything about my life and story know why and how these songs were written, but I aim to create pieces that are specific enough to leave my own mark on listeners, but are ambiguous and fluid enough for others to relate in their own way. I adore when others tell me that my writing meant something to them that I would have never alluded to intentionally. I aim towards relatability because my music is meant to not only send a message to those they’re written about, but to also send a message to others that they’re not alone in their experiences; I know what it’s like to feel alone in something, so I’m writing songs I wish I had in times of hardship in hopes that someone that’s where I was will feel seen and heard.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
NOTRYE: To me, all art is a conduit of change in many, if not all, aspects of life. Music is powerful, thought provoking, and carries a message that words alone cannot. In relation to my music, I aim to express my own feelings and experiences to show others they’re not alone. Mental health is an important thing that many sweep under the rug because it’s not “socially acceptable” or “digestible” to openly express anything that’s “too heavy.” My goal is to challenge that societal standard and be completely transparent and open with my art.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
NOTRYE: Each of my songs is like a journal entry; I feel something and I write it though an unfiltered lens. With that, I feel a sense of relief and validation when I share my music with someone and they’re moved by it. No financial or social gain can ever compare to the feeling of being heard, understood, and related to. As for the future, I just hope that my music can reach those who need it, no matter how it happens.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
NOTRYE: It honestly varies from song to song. Some songs flow out of me with no effort, though other songs start as 3 incomplete projects or ideas, then end up merging to make one piece. Never Mine started with the words “I don’t hate you, never could” while sitting on my bathroom floor, drunk and sad. I ended up recording a demo of it that night at around 4AM and thought it was done, but I wrote a second verse the night before performing it at my release party for my first song.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
NOTRYE: The most difficult thing I’ve had to endure was the loss of 4 loved ones in the span of 3 years, one of which was my grandfather, Tony. He was one of the main reasons I was surrounded by so much music as a kid. Though I’ve been a musician and writer since I was just it kid, it was only after this that I decided to dedicate so much of my time and spirit to music. I was so upset with myself for not sharing enough of my music with him and it really messed me up.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far
NOTRYE: The most proud moment in my music career thus far has been organizing a release show for my first single, Move On. Though I’ve always been a performer, I was always so scared to put myself out there and post anything online related to my own music, but performing my songs in front of a crowd of people I loved and having my music released to the public has been the most rewarding experience in both my career and personal life.