>>Crazed and amused Ryan Warren, Front man for The Stedwells, opens up about losing it and getting it at the same time.
On stage he’s thrashing, jumping, hopping around with the determined look of a prized fighter with weight of the world on his shoulders. Off stage in the comfort of his own home you can’t find a more easy-going person in all of Western New York than Ryan Warren, lead singer and guitarist for The Stedwells, who is perpetually laid back and smiling. I had the privilege to interview him recently, even though it was by phone made me feel like I was sitting in his living room sipping a Genny Kolsch.
Riffs pour out of Ryan naturally. Along with his talented brother on bass who has the same boyish charm and smile, and Alex Durr on drums, who not only is one of the best drummers in the area, but has serious recording acumen, this just isn't your average garage band. They may be easy going guys, but their passion and dedication are as serious as a heart attack. Unfortunately, their tenacity towards giving the band a broad and resounding voice led them into a troubled direction.
The band’s music business acumen wasn’t as nearly as deft as their prowess for writing killer songs and it left them in a bit of a bind. They found themselves under a contract with a management company that didn’t care about anything other than money and wanted hits to be turned out at once, suggesting that they start writing 30 or more songs per week, and start “acting a certain way, sounding a certain way, being a certain way” as Ryan put it. The band couldn’t take it anymore. It was obscene if nothing else. The Stedwells aren’t about making pop hits, they make rock and roll. They aren’t here to be a one hit wonder, but a staple, a seminal rock band that makes you curse and sweat.
The band has remained silent about all of this until now. After some threatened legal action, the management company told them they owned all of their music. They retained an entertainment lawyer and after a few sharp retorts, they ceased talking to their manager completely and the band gathered and kept records of what they wrote so they couldn’t get ripped off. “We weren’t going to talk about it. We don’t even mention that person’s name. It’s not worth it,” he says quietly. After two years of being signed under that management company, countless accounts of intimidation, lawyers, and plenty of heartache, the contract expires May 15, 2020.
The initial introduction into the business part of the music was depressing. It can be more about money, than talent and for someone like Ryan that chooses to see the good in people first, that was a bitter pill to swallow. “Domino would be a good label because they give the artist the ability to do what they want, but you have to know what you're doing”, he says modestly, but after their recent experiences with the business side of things they’ve come out more mature. Sometimes you have to lose it just to get it. The Stedwells now get it, even if getting it was rough.
Stuck inside during the pandemic, Ryan is trying to find ways to amuse himself and keep writing. “Personally, it’s not inspiring to write about staying inside all day. When this is all over, I don’t want to listen to people singing about it. It’s hopping on a band wagon that never existed. It’s relatable but like...cringe-ly relatable”, he says with a laugh. He’s been teaching himself piano to stay busy and practicing every day. When asked if this would lead to music outside of his current band he laughed. “I think about musical aspirations outside of The Stedwells, like play bass in a funk band, or just sing maybe. I haven’t thought of it too much”, he admits.
“Right now, I’m really grateful for my friends and family being safe. But this is all just completely crazy”, he says. The band is dying to play a live show to get that energy back and can’t wait to even jam again, which they haven’t been doing either. In general, they want to get back to being rock musicians. When asked what they have been up to he laughed out loud. “I got dared on a Skype call to shave my head and I did it!” He admitted that it doesn’t look too bad and even his wife, Kate agreed.
They already had another five song EP tracked before shut down began and it’s currently being mixed. There is no specific release date yet, but excitement about it is palpable. An educated guess is that they wait until after May 15 to release it, just because. Once they lost it and then get fought to get it back, the last thing they want to do is lose it again.