In the music industry, artists are able to share their honest experiences with fans without judgement through their music, but there is still work to do in the industry.
Music and mental health share strong links, as evidenced by the influence Ryne Meadow’s own struggles have had on his music. A singer-songwriter from Athens, Georgia, Ryne spent the last year polishing There Are Clouds in the Sky, his sophomore album, with “those who feel silenced from depression” in mind.
When asked about this connection, Ryne said that “This album process found me in the darkest place I’ve been in to date. I was, in the words of my dear friend Tanya, ‘writing my way out.’ I put words to feelings I didn’t even know I could feel. And it felt liberating….”
Ryne’s work to bring hope to those struggling with mental health is much needed in the music community. Although, according to Ryne, “as of late, some pretty influential artists have opened up about dealing with…mental health issues,” it is “still such a taboo thing for the layman, and I think it forces people to bottle things up.” Ryne feels “that we, as humans (in any industry) need to work on compassion.” There Are Clouds in the Sky brings the music industry a step closer to this goal.
The first track of the album it titled “Not the End.” It begins with soothing acoustic guitar strumming and Ryne’s smooth vocals as he paints a picture of a relationship: “I’ve been swept away by your tide/There’s not a sailing ship in sight/And we once stood side by side until we lost the light….” The imagery in the lyrics is beautifully highlighted by the track’s simple instrumentals. The hopeful way Ryne sings, “this is not the end,” is a wonderful contrast to the harder-hitting parts of the song, when his vocals become louder and more desperate. The contrast in “Not the End” makes it interesting to listen to from start to finish.
The piano part in “Wandering” is beautifully integrated into the song, helping to highlight the highs and lows of Ryne’s voice. The instrumentals feel very full and emotional, each piece falling into place behind the trickling piano melodies. Even if the lyrics themselves are ignored, “Wandering” is beautiful for auditory enjoyment alone. When the lyrics are taken into account, the track blossoms: “I disappear in shades of gray/In my forlorn state of mind/Words said in vain….” Despite the “shades of gray” mentioned in the lyrics, “Wandering” is a rainbow of color.
I love the title of “Hot Air Balloon.” Beginning in a leisurely, building ballad, the song allows for tension to grow gradually, almost without listeners even noticing. The slow simplicity of the instrumentals until the climax allows for Ryne’s voice to be the star of the show for the majority of the track. The song flows well from part to part, almost like a hot air balloon floating quietly up above before Ryne’s dragged out notes form a puff of wind that takes it up into the clouds and out of sight.
“The Mess We’ve Made” features more soothing acoustic melodies in a classic singer-songwriter style track. The lyrics and phrasing of “The Mess We’ve Made” were some of the best of the album: “It’s been ten days since I’ve seen your face/And speaking with you has become a relentless rat race/You left the place you call home/Without a trace/Said you needed space….” Although the track does have the typical lost love aesthetic to it, the lyrics don’t feel cliche or overdone.
“Dandelion” has a fuller piano part than many of the other tracks, which provides it with a more saturated auditory experience. It would be easy to see “Dandelion” as part of a Broadway soundtrack when the hero of the show has a quiet moment of realization. Between the genuine emotion in Ryne’s belting voice and the building, flowing instrumentals, “Dandelion” glows, making it one of my favorites of There Are Clouds in the Sky.
The next track, “Wishing Well,” is much quieter than “Dandelion.” Although it does get a bit lost between “Dandelion” and “Foggy Eyes” when listened to as part of the album as a whole, it does have plenty of merit on its own. Ryne’s voice is strong throughout “Wishing Well,” and it is clear that a lot of effort was put into making sure the genuine emotion was palpable in his delivery. The lyrics, too, show thought: “I wish upon the dandelion seas/And I hope the echoes fade/And I know my heart breaks each and every day/Sometimes it’s okay to say farewell/I watched my dreams as they fell/Into the wishing well….”
“Foggy Eyes” is a song Ryne holds close to his heart: “It was written late at night. In a way, chronicling a breakdown step by step. The way I was feeling. The self pity of the boy I used to be. And the realization that I was ‘tired of waiting to die’ and that it was time to dig my way out of this dark cave I’d made my bed in. I really woke up in that moment.” The track feels a lot like a breakthrough, too; its soft, breathy vocals are intimate, brought even closer by its steady backing instrumentals. The lyrics are the focus, bringing one part of Ryne’s journey to life in a song.
The lyrics of “Trees That Fall” are beautiful: “I’ve been led astray all along / And I’m wearing thin / This worn out skin, I don’t belong / When all that is known comes tumbling down….” Accompanied by a beautifully simple piano melody, Ryne’s words tell a story of being lost that many listeners will be able to relate to. Being united in loneliness and loss is a powerful tool that might help others realize that they don’t have to be alone, and it will get better.
“The Shore” is another emotion-packed track. In his goal to be open with the music community about mental health, Ryne’s lyrics are honest and heartfelt: “And it shows that the harder I fight/The quicker I’ll be taken by your tide/And it really, it really feels like/I died on the inside….” Although the deep, swooping background tones are a bit distracting from the lyrics at times, they provide a dark tone to Ryne’s confessions of struggle in an effort to show listeners that they’re not alone.
“I’ll Hold On” is the final hurrah of There Are Clouds in the Sky, and a fine one at that. Brighter in tone than its predecessor, the track has a great rhythm to its phrasing and light, airy instrumentals. It ties together many musical themes of the album in a hopeful, lifting package that is pleasant to listen to. “I’ll Hold On” is a reminder to keep going no matter what is in your path.
Ryne hopes that There Are Clouds In The Sky has a big impact on those who listen: “I realized kinda midway through making the album that it wasn’t just about me. There are millions of people that need to hear my story. It’s for all of us. And honestly, that’s what keeps me going.”
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