Ryan Hanifl, Minnesota-native, would say he’s a “joke of all trades” as aptly referenced in one of the many songs he written or co-written over the years. “I moved around a bit after I graduated high school, spent some time in the twin cities Minneapolis/St Paul studying classical guitar, immersing myself in the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, then traveling around Europe in the working at remote fishing ports. I was a deckhand on boats for a while, with nothing but a mandolin on my back and a copy of On The Road in my back pocket, immersing myself in the Beats and 50s jazz.”
In the late 90’s, Ryan found himself on the east coast – soaking up the singer/songwriter scene, emulating newer artists like Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, and Sigur Ros. “I was trying my hand at writing my own songs then, performing every week at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I wanted to be a writer, a poet, a troubadour. I was pretty free-spirited and wide-eyed back then, always had a little tape recorder in my pocket so I could spout off whatever random lines I had in my head on one of my late night drunken séances.”
Ryan eventually found his way to the other side of the continent in 2001, finding work at famed Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer’s studio in Los Angeles. “It was a great education seeing how all these big movies get scored. I assisted the various composers on such films as Black Hawk Down, Spy Kids, The Ring, Time Machine, and a couple others. Hans was pretty standoffish, but I watched and learned and kept my mouth shut.” Eventually Ryan found himself working for a music production company writing instrumental music for hundreds of low-budget reality TV shows in a cramped little office in Studio City. “I had no idea what I was doing – but I realized quick you could actually write music and make a little money doing it so I was hooked!”
It was during this time Ryan formed his first band VERTICES with some guys who were then students at USC. “We made an immediate fuss of it, trying to be the next Incubus/Radiohead derivative.” This was 2001, and it was a pretty exciting time as labels were still signing bands and had their eyes on what we were doing. Coldplay had just exploded on the scene and bands like Lit and Hoobastank were favs among the teens and 20 somethings in LA, and we were right there in the mix making a name for ourselves. I was playing lead guitar, trying to be the next Jonny Greenwood and Mikey Eintzinger, but really wasn’t very good. Thankfully nobody really noticed me behind my long hair and ridiculous array of guitar pedals and amps … it was fun. I was trying new things.”
Ryan and his band were playing to crowds of 200 or more every other night of the week. “Our first gig ever was on the sunset strip playing at the Roxy to a packed crowd of drunken college frat boys and ogle eyed girls who looked like they would throw themselves at you, the first chance they got.”
Eventually the other band mates graduated and parted ways and Ryan found himself fronting a band as the lead vocalist, having never sung in a band before.
“It just clicked right away. I always wanted to try singing, but never really had the balls to do it. Then I was trying to do my best Jim Morrison schtick, mixed with a bit of Scott Weiland pomp. It was mad fun!” The band, Your Horrible Smile, toured all over the states and ended up recording an EP at The Village Recorder and showcasing at the SXSW music festival.
“After coming back off from the road I was spent. I felt I needed a break. I’d been doing the band thing for about 4 or 5 years by that point, and needed to do something a bit more personal that really portrayed what I was feeling musically at the time. I wanted to make record of my own – where only I could be responsible for what it was.”
This record was Ryan’s first effort as a solo artist “Sourpuss.” Released in the Spring of 2007, it was an ambitious effort of 13 songs with live strings, drums, horns, accordions, and varied percussion. “I didn’t l know what I was doing at the time, I just knew I had a lot to say and wanted to put it out there. “ I recorded the whole thing in my bedroom and asked a friend of mine to mix the thing who happened to be famed T-Bone Burnett’s mixer/engineer.
Ryan became a regular at The Hotel Café and Tangier in Los Angeles during this time, performing his songs that straddled the line between orchestral and modern pop/rock. Big life changes happened around this time – Ryan found himself at a crossroads. “I’d made my solo record, I’d made a bunch of money doing music for TV and commercials, a 5 year relationship had just ended and I was miserable. I felt this inner pull to return home.” Ryan left LA in 2010, thinking it was for good. “I hadn’t been back to Minnesota in a decade. “Minnesota is the coldest place on earth in the winter. Negative -20 degrees on any given night, not including whatever the hell wind-chill, but I loved it. And I found my muse again. I lost a bunch of weight, slowed down the drinking, and grew a beard. A really long beard. I wrote all kinds of songs during this period. Love songs, slow songs, kill me now songs…”
“Early 2011, I got a call from this really well known trailer music composer to sing on a couple songs for his next project and we just clicked right away. We recorded a bunch of stuff which culminated in Break From This World (Globus) – a hybrid of trailer music and epic rock arrangements. Go on Youtube and google Globus the band – there are millions of hits and hundreds of clips of this music. Its known all over the world. Was a great experience to be part of – It’s still an ongoing collaboration to this day but is on hiatus at the moment.
Ryan is currently working on his next release. “I’m not totally sure what it will be just yet, but I hope to put it out sometime in 2015”
Ryan also fronts the indie-rock band Black Belt KARATE