While on tour with New Found Glory in Chicago for a 2nd night sold out at Concord Music Hall, Ryan Key of Yellowcard sat down and talked about Lone Tree Recordings. Lone Tree Recordings, his new project, will be a studio based in Nashville, Tennessee. Yellowcard is touring in support of their latest studio album “Lift A Sail” and New Found Glory is touring in support of their album “Resurrection”. Ryan Key has recently finished a crowdsourcing campaign in an attempt to start his own recording studio, “Lone Tree Recordings”. The campaign was successfully funded and construction has begun on the studio.The brief history lesson on Yellowcard goes like this; they were formed in Florida in 1997, they underwent a few lineup changes and then moved to California in 2000 to be closer to the emerging scene. The band made their debut full length album, Ocean Avenue, in 2003 and quickly began to get recognition from a large part of the music industry. In 2005 they released their sophomore album, critics and some fans claim that this album wasn’t as strong as the debut, Lights And Sounds featured a much different approach than the previous album. Paper Walls, the third release from the band, was released in 2006. Then in 2008 the band announced that they would be going on an indefinite hiatus. Many fans were unsure what to think about this announcement, though the band assured fans they were not breaking up, but instead just needed some time to get their personal lives in order. And now almost 8 years later they are going just as strong as before the break, and some, myself included, would say they are even stronger than before, more mature and better equipped for success.
Josh Custer: How’s life? We always talk about tour, lets talk about life.
Ryan Key: Life is interesting, and continues to prove to be interesting. The last few years have been a lot of good and a lot of bad, but you know I’m pretty psyched on Nashville and working on putting a studio together there. We had an amazingly successful kickstarter campaign a couple months ago. We are starting to work on getting gear together, and construction. We are calling it the “Lone Tree Recordings”, and going to start working on stuff as this tour gets done and writing and looking for bands and trying to put on the producer hat. And I guess tour is kind of part of life, and this tour has been just awesome. It has been blowing our minds, so many sold out shows and it’s been a long time since we have been on a tour that has been this successful. With New Found Glory it has been so good, the hangs have been awesome dude. Everyone is just so seasoned and there are no egos or anything. It’s just such a well-oiled machine from start to finish; there hasn’t been a day that’s been complicated or weird or anything like that. I just can’t believe how great everything has been going. It’s been killer.
JC: So like you said you’re working on starting up your recording studio. What sparked that vision for you?
RK: Yeah, I don’t know, I guess if you would have asked me 10 years ago, I never would have imagined taking something like this on. I love making records, I’ve always loved making records with Yellowcard, and always been fascinated by Neil Avron our producer and Eric Talba our engineer and watching them work and learning from them. I’m a song guy at the end of the day, more than I am a knob turner or gear head. So that’s where I have a lot of work to do, and studying and learning more about the actual audio engineering side of it. At the end of the day there are a lot of legendary producers that don’t touch knobs. What’s important to me is making the best song possible and working with artists to create that song. I think the most valuable thing that Neil has given to me over the years is how to really write a song and helping me craft that skill. When we first came in there in 2003 we had no idea, I mean we wrote songs and had recording stuff but when he got a hold of us as writers he really showed us how to hone that skill and it was a game changer.
I’ve had the chance in recent years to work with artists, whether it just be in a song writing session with some super huge writers that get cuts off records, and even some with some younger artists that their label helped to set up. Immediately I realized I loved that side of it first, and then 2011 I got an email from a guy who manages a band. It basically said “Hey, I manage this band, they’ve been getting ready to make their first record, on their own dime. We have a little bit of budget for co-writes with artists that they love, and we want you to come to Sweden and meet the band and write some with them.” And I’ve never been to Sweden so that sounded awesome. I met with the guys they are amazing, we wrote a song, and before I left I talked them into making their record with Ryan Mendez and myself in LA. So we had been doing some side project stuff in the break from Yellowcard, and recording. Ryan is much more of a knob guy than me, he is also a song guy so he has a better skill set than me, but I’ve learned a lot from him too.
So I said “Hey do you guys want to come to LA and make this record with Ryan and I.” they said yes, and we used a friends studio. They are called “Like Torches”, finished the record and it was just killer to have that experience of being on that side of the glass with a full band. Every part, every bass line, each part, being involved in the creation of that, and helping them and seeing how psyched they would get when we would help them, I think that’s when the fire got lit. So did a couple things after that, co-produced the Ocean Avenue Acoustic and then this year in the winter I went back over to Sweden and produced Like Torches 2nd album. I was terrified to do it without Ryan, to have all that on my plate. It was so awesome to make the whole record, and when faced with a problem I just had to figure it out, and I love those guys and the relationship that we have. I hope they continue to go on as a band and become successful and I hope that I get to work with them as they grow, like Neil did with us. It just fired me up, and I just thought maybe later on in life, we aren’t getting any younger(laughs), its something that I could maybe take pretty seriously and make records. It’s not a secret that as the years pass there will be more time off tour, and I just want to be prepared for that and have something to do that I love. It’s definitely standing out on a ledge but its something I feel good about.
JC: So after the tour, during the down time, are you planning on focusing on the studio in Nashville?
RK: Yeah I mean we will get together and talk about making the next record and try to schedule that out some. They are currently running wires under the floors and building the rooms and all that right now while I’m gone so I have no idea what it looks like or anything right now. It makes me nervous, I’m hemorrhaging money, but thanks to all the people that supported the project, it was overwhelmingly incredible, I just can’t believe it. I’ve also got a ton of work to get all the reward tiers ready for the people that contributed. I’ll front load that when I get home and we’ll get the band together to talk about music.
JC: So lets call it a soft date, how long before you think you’ll be taking artists in the studio to work?
RK: It all depends on what goes on with Yellowcard making a record next year. So I’ll say probably about a little over a year away. Its probably going to be sometime in 2017, we definitely want to do another Yellowcard record and get a full cycle in on that. It’s going to be hard to dig in until I know what that all looks like, but obviously when I am home between things I hope to be working, whether it is just a song write here or there, or if I get to make a whole record. Ill definitely be putting the feelers out as soon as the space is ready, I say 2017 but maybe I’ll get something in April that I can do because we have the time. First thing I am going to do is music for a tv show, they are going to send me the tracks and the actors to sing on them. It will be a cool way to feel out the space, there are going to be different people writing the songs, and send me demos or acoustic demos, then I am turning them into more complete tracks. I don’t know the details of the show or anything like that yet, they just know they want these songs and kind of their vision for it. So that’s already booked. But as far as booking a band, my dream, would be to make the next Like Torches record, to me that would be a great ribbon cutting. I’m hoping in 2017 they are ready to make a record and we can get together on it. That would be rad, that would be super special for that to be the first record to come out of the studio.
JC: So you said that is going to be Nashville based, is there something that drew you to Nashville?
RK: I’ve had a love hate relationship with LA for a long time, tried to leave a few times and just been pulled back for different reasons. As I got more into songwriting and co-writes, I was able to go to Nashville a few times. Being from the south where I grew up and as I get older, I kind of want to be back in that vibe. LA was cool when we were 25 and in our stupid party and red carpet phase. It was a crazy whirlwind back then. It lost that luster, and I feel so at home in Nashville, I get that southern vibe that I love, but there is so much work there, so it feels to me like the only place in the world I can get both those things. I can feel at home but also have the opportunity to do something I love and a career later in life. At some point something is going to have to happen Monday through Friday and I want it to be music and that seems like the best place to be.