For up-and-coming producer Ryan Little, whose melodic, electronica-tinged sound is somewhere between the works of 9th Wonder, a Final Fantasy soundtrack and Nujabes, putting music before medical school was the only answer. As his early run of successes continues, The 10,000 sat down with the aspiring artist to talk about his roots, his connection to YouTube, his future and more.
How did you get started?
I started producing music – or at least getting my head into production – during high school when I was 16 or 17. A lot of my friends were using FL Studio, which is what I use right now, so I got my hands in it and started dabbling before taking a year off. At the time it wasn’t really my thing, but then later it clicked for me and I’ve been producing ever since. Back then my music wasn’t really going anywhere, and I was scared to put my music out, so I was just producing for myself.
Then during my freshman year of college (2010-2011), I was watching this stream on Ustream and there was this guy named Adande Thorne; most people know him as the YouTuber Swoozie, but he started out as a gamer. During college I was playing video games all the time, and my favorite game was Street Fighter. At one point I was actually one of the top players in the world in the online community. So on his stream, Swoozie called out his followers and challenged us to a game of Street Fighter. I responded and he happened to choose me to play against, and I destroyed him! After we played we were talking and I told him that I loved what he was doing and how I not only made music, but that he could use any of the music I produced in his videos. Of course he says “Sure, I’ll check it out,” but I’m not thinking anything will come of it. However, during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year I would always wake up and check YouTube. One day I went to Swoozie’s channel, and the video that pops up is “Virgin On Campus,” which is actually still one of his most famous videos, and the music in the video is my music! It was at that point that it dawned on me that I could actually make a career out of my music.
Where did you go to college?
I went to Wake Forest University, where I studied biology. I had originally intended to be a doctor. I’m not really sure why, maybe to say I was doing something important or to please someone. Eventually it hit me that I didn’t really want to do this. Also, I didn’t know if I had the grades to even be accepted [to medical school]. After college I found a job in pharmaceuticals, but my passion is still music. It allows me to do something that’s still helpful to the community and still within the medical field, but also frees up time for me to do what I truly enjoy. If it does come to the point where I can pursue music full time that would be amazing. There are quite a few people who are pushing me to do so, but for now this is a great fit for me.
What’s your creative process?
Usually when I sit down to work on something, a lot of times I’m influenced by what’s going on in my life – good or bad. Emotions aside, I’m pretty big on sampling. You mentioned 9th Wonder earlier. He’s a big influence for me. Guys like 9th and Apollo Brown. Sampling’s my forte. Of course I can do all original music, but usually I’ll start by sitting down and start digging and searching for samples. I’ll go in and chop it up, and once I have the melody, drums come easy. Then I get into sound effects and tags. At that point it just comes out to mixing and mastering. I do my own mixing, because for a producer it gives an added element to your sound. Once it’s done it’s just about getting it out there, which usually happens on Mondays during my New Music Monday’s series on my SoundCloud account.
Producers are starting to come into their own and get more credit for their work, and a big part of that is producer/DJ tags. How did you create yours?
My Ryan Little tag actually came from when I did a video for this YouTube makeup guru named Michelle Phan, who was the most-subscribed female YouTuber at the time. After that, I received an email from a British YouTuber named Tootsie Time (real name Diana), and she says she heard the song in Michelle’s video. Her channel is dope so I make her a few beats and she likes them. Later on I began to notice a trend in the industry for producers to create their own tag as a way to set themselves apart, and I thought about how cool it would be to have someone British do it. I put two and two together when I realized the work I had done for Tootsie, so I hit her up and she did a bunch of recordings of my name for a potential tag, and it just worked. Shoutouts to Diana!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Firstly, again, much love to Master & Dynamic for the opportunity. Secondly, shoutouts to everyone who listens to my music and supports what I do. Oh, and a special shoutout to my crew Daydreamers (Commoninterest and Mr. Chase). We have some things planned. Love y’all.